After a Generation of Extremism, Phyllis Schlafly Still a Leading General in the War on Women
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Of the Moment
Not one to rest on her laurels, Schlafly continues on the hustings, determined to remain relevant in the midst of the 2012 presidential campaign -- "maybe the most important election year of our lifetime," she said. So while a good chunk of her talk, titled "Defending Morality: With discussion points on feminism, traditional marriage, abortion," was devoted to condemning and/or mischaracterizing the feminist eminences against whom she did battle during the ERA fight (she really can't seem to say one true thing about Gloria Steinem, with whom I had the privilege of working at Ms. magazine), she didn't hesitate to insert herself into the flame wars of the day. The recent media flap over comments made by CNN commentator Hilary Rosen about the wife of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney offered her a natural jumping-off point.
Rosen, responding to Ann Romney's attempts to court the women's vote by using the economy as her rallying point, famously said that the wealthy Republican had "never worked a day in her life." (President Barack Obama disapproved of Rosen's barb, saying that spouses of candidates should be "off-limits.") Republicans jumped on Rosen's comments, characterizing a ham-handed attempt to make a point about Romney's wealth as a condemnation of motherhood. (Ann Romney was among those who saw the dudgeon potential; she was overheard calling Rosen's remark "an early birthday present.")
"Rosen's gaffe was no mistake," Schlafly said. "It's what the feminists really think of any mother who would say, as Ann Romney said, 'My career choice is to be a mother.' And the feminists are always telling you they're for choice but they are not for that choice to be a full-time homemaker or a mother." As proof, she went on to quote Linda Hirshman, author of Get To Work: A Manifesto for the Women of the World, who argues that for the sake of society and their own sanity, women belong in the workforce.
Schlafly accused Obama himself of saying that Republicans are waging a war on women, but I haven't been able to find a quote from the president where he makes that claim.
Race and Sex: Full Circle
In 2008, the election of Barack Obama elicited a race-tinged backlash from from the right that was folded into the raging and often incoherent Tea Party movement -- a movement that was founded to enlarge the circle of the right beyond its religious base -- much as the founding of the religious right in the 1970s was a strategy to enlarge the influence the New Right beyond a tight circle of elites who found their power in secular institutions. Any Democratic president faces a Herculean task in marshaling the forces of a liberal coalition comprising a range of constituencies, not least among them, the women's movement. That the president is African American offers Schlafly the opportunity to play her old hand, and she is not one to miss an opportunity for fear-mongering in the name of God and country.
"The feminists are very much in control of the Obama administration," she said. As evidence, she pointed to the stimulus bill, whose funds, she claimed, went to mostly jobs occupied by women, the result of feminist protests over the likely gender distribution of job funding for projects deemed "shovel-ready." (While she's right that feminists, such as Linda Hirshman, did raise concerns about whether stimulus money for shovel-ready projects would keep women off the unemployment lines, the truth is that Congress has refused to fund the major infrastructure projects the administration had envisioned.)
Feminists, whom Schlafly described as "anti-man, anti-male, anti-masculine, anti-marriage, anti-motherhood and anti-morality," sought to create dependency on government because it renders men irrelevant, she said. "The feminists believe that society's expectation that women should look after their own children illustrates the oppression of women by the patriarchy," she said, "and that's why legislating taxpayer-funded daycare as an entitlement for all kids is a major and longtime feminist goal."