Favorite

Schlafly's influence 

click to enlarge PHYLLIS SCHLAFLY - GAGE SKIDMORE VIA CREATIVE COMMONS
  • Gage Skidmore via Creative Commons
  • PHYLLIS SCHLAFLY

Phyllis Schlafly, mother, attorney and longtime antifeminist, died recently. What Schlafly promoted was not novel or new. Men had been saying that men and women were not equal for years. However, anti-feminism, anti-women language had much more power coming from a woman who professed to be looking out for the good of all women and families. Schlafly's words hurt women and set us back, right when it seemed the Equal Rights Amendment had the momentum to pass.

My first introduction to Schlafly was in the mid-1980s, when one of my older sisters' classmates put on a wig, a scarf around her neck and a homemade "STOP ERA" lapel button to portray Schlafly in a presentation for National History Day. My sister and her friends did a take on Steve Allen's "Meeting of Minds" television program and imagined a conversation on women's rights between Schlafly, Susan B. Anthony, Gloria Steinem and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. I came away from that experience in awe of Gloria Steinem and with a negative impression of Phyllis Schlafly.

Over the next few years, Schlafly earned my scorn as she ranted about the evils of early education, equal pay and abortion. By the time I got to college in the early 1990s, I had chosen my path. I was Gloria Steinem and natural hair and Riot Grrrls. Third-wave feminism was here. I thought Schlafly and her meticulous grooming and old-fashioned ideas could not survive much longer.

Obviously, I could not have been more wrong. Schlafly's brand of anti-feminism continued to be prevalent in politics over the years and still flourishes today, especially in Arkansas. It lives in the claims of state Rep. Brandt Smith (R-Jonesboro), who opposes pre-K education because he believes children should be home with their families. We all know what he really means is those children should be home with their mothers.

Schlafly's influence is in the anti-feminist claims U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton made while a student at Harvard that a woman's greatest fear is being left by her husband. His votes against the Violence Against Women Act and his sponsoring of legislation designed to ban some birth control pills show he is still squarely in Schlafly's corner. Sen. John Boozman is there, too. When he isn't worried about naming post offices, he is voting against the Paycheck Fairness Act. 

It flourishes in the words of the preacher at the small evangelical church in Northwest Arkansas I attended several years ago on Mother's Day as a guest of a family member. During the sermon, the preacher chastised the women in the audience who worked outside the home while completely ignoring the economic reality that those second paychecks were probably necessary to keep the households afloat. I still regret not asking him after the sermon why he didn't encourage the men to make more money so that their wives could stay home. I have not heard anything that egregious since, but I still hear many Arkansas preachers using the complementarian ideals Schlafly promoted to justify her view that women should take on lesser roles at work, home and church.

Schlafly's influence also remains in the "do as I say, not as I do" mentality that seems to permeate our state government. Republicans who ran for office claiming we need smaller government turn a blind eye to Treasurer Dennis Milligan spending over $50,000 of taxpayer money on designer furniture and fancy desk sets. Republican state Sen. Jason Rapert of Conway cries for religious freedom while he attempts to place a statue of the Ten Commandments on the Capitol grounds. Numerous self-proclaimed pro-life, pro-family politicians vote to cut food assistance and limit unemployment benefits every chance they get.

Schlafly was the master of this hypocrisy. While arguing a woman's place was in the home, she attended law school, ran for political office and traveled the country to promote her agenda. 

After years of observing Schlafly and her attempts to prevent women from having the same choices and freedoms as men, I can only hope that I am correct this time in thnking that we are in the last gasps of this "War on Women" and that the death of its matriarch is more than symbolic. 

Autumn Tolbert is a lawyer in private practice in Fayetteville.

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Speaking of...

Comments (5)

Showing 1-5 of 5

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-5 of 5

Add a comment

More by Autumn Tolbert

  • The line

    Well, it looks like we found the line. We found the line drawn by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and other GOP members of Congress to separate acceptable and unacceptable behavior from an elected official.
    • Nov 16, 2017
  • Racial targeting

    "The extension of slavery is the vital point of the whole controversy between the North and the South. ... They believe slavery a sin, we do not and there lies the trouble." Those are the words of Arkansas Gov. Henry Massey Rector at the Arkansas Secession Convention in March 1861 in his plea to the delegates to vote to leave the Union. A few weeks later, Arkansas delegates voted to secede.
    • Nov 2, 2017
  • Trust and obey

    This past week marked an anniversary of sorts for the country. A year ago, the Access Hollywood audiotape of then-candidate Donald Trump claiming to get away with sexually assaulting women finally exposed the truth about man the GOP had chosen as the nominee.
    • Oct 12, 2017
  • More »

People who saved…

Readers also liked…

  • Seven

    The controversy over the Ten Commandments monument on the Capitol lawn just won't go away.
    • Feb 9, 2017
  • Why a change of leadership at the LRSD now?

    Johnny Key's abrupt, unilateral decision to not renew Baker Kurrus' contract as superintendent strikes us as shortsighted, misguided and detrimental to the education of our children and the health of our community.
    • Apr 21, 2016
  • Another Jesus

    If you follow the logic of Jason Rapert and his supporters, God is very pleased so many have donated money to rebuild a giant stone slab with some rules on it. A few minutes on Rapert's Facebook page (if he hasn't blocked you yet) also shows his supporters believe that Jesus wants us to lock up more people in prison, close our borders to those in need and let poor Americans fend for themselves for food and health care.
    • Jul 20, 2017

Most Shared

Latest in Guest Writer

  • Tax truths

    The idea that a tax cut for the wealthy will help everyone, though false, is a stubbornly marketable notion.
    • Nov 9, 2017
  • Can't afford to gut ACA

    The Affordable Care Act was passed into law with the promise that it would make insurance affordable. Because of bipartisan leadership in Arkansas, we continue to strive to achieve that goal. While rhetoric abounds, it is important to understand the Arkansas experience.
    • Sep 21, 2017
  • Tipping point

    I was extremely cautious before engaging in the educational debate about the State Board of Education's decision to take over the Little Rock School District.
    • Sep 14, 2017
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »

November

S M T W T F S
  1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28 29 30  

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: The smell of the swamp

    • I did as you suggested and read several articles about "consultant" Solution Tree and their…

    • on November 19, 2017
  • Re: The line

    • Thanks Autumn for your article and viewpoint that I totally agree with because I have…

    • on November 19, 2017
  • Re: The smell of the swamp

    • Interesting how Republicans always bleat about their support for "free market" competition, but really are…

    • on November 18, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation