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

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

  • On to 2020

    I'll add my two cents to the chorus of advice for Democrats in 2020: Do not limit your imagination by falling back on candidates who have previously appeared on the ballot.
    • Nov 15, 2018
  • Big spending

    Earlier this week, smack dab on the front page of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, was Susan Hutchinson, the first lady of Arkansas, showing off the recent $817,000 renovation of the Governor's Mansion.
    • Nov 1, 2018
  • Hey ladies

    Arkansas is a solidly red state. We are near the bottom and poised to drop even lower in education and life expectancy; but, if white women would stop voting for conservative candidates, we could change that.
    • Oct 25, 2018
  • More »

People who saved…

Readers also liked…

  • Banned in 2018

    Here's some arcana reeking of 2017 that I'm banning from consideration, attention, even out-loud mention in 2018. I'm unfriending all this 2017-reminding shit. It's dead to me in 2018.
    • Jan 11, 2018
  • A new statue to represent Arkansas in D.C.

    Like all states, Arkansas has two statues selected by the legislature to represent our state in the U.S. Capitol. Uriah Rose, a successful and innovative lawyer, and James P. Clarke, a former governor and U.S. senator, have represented Arkansas in National Statuary Hall for approximately 100 years.
    • Oct 11, 2018
  • Demand more

    I want you to think of the three biggest challenges facing Arkansas right now. Take a second and get them in your mind. Anything you come up with is great. Got them?
    • Oct 25, 2018

Latest in Guest Writer

  • Seeking a vision to thrive

    It's time for a new social contract that creates a comprehensive vision for thriving communities in both rural and urban places.
    • Nov 15, 2018
  • On school performance

    State Education Commissioner Johnny Key recently announced he intends to ask the state to grant principals the ability to fire teachers, without due process, in what the state considers failing schools. As a parent of a Little Rock School District student, I thought it would be prudent to share my analysis of the data provided by the Arkansas Department of Education
    • Nov 7, 2018
  • The conquering power of love

    I will always be a sports fan. I will always be a baseball guy. I will always be a lover of radio. But I am much more than that. I will also always be Jewish.
    • Nov 7, 2018
  • More »

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: On to 2020

    • I have long been in favor of women running for office. I like women. I…

    • on November 15, 2018
 

© 2018 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation