Author: Lauren Batchelder
As the end of Women´s History Month draws nearer, I think it is imperative to examine the lives of women whose ideas are hard to reconcile with. How do we deal with females who actively attempted to dismantle the rights of women and what can we take away from their lives?
I have never agreed with Conservative icon and anti-feminist Phyllis Schlafly who is famous for making statements such as, “Sexual harassment on the job is not a problem for virtuous women” and “Sex education classes are like in-home sales parties for abortions.”
In fact, I could never like someone who is most famous for playing a decisive part in defeating the Equal Rights Amendment during the 1970s. I admit, Phyllis Schlafly was a force of nature. She graduated college in just three years and went on to receive her law degree in 1978.
As reported by the New York Times, during her wedding ceremony, “Mrs. Schlafly said, she did not promise to obey, only to cherish” which was incredibly progressive for a time when women were expected to stay at home and listen attentively to their husbands. I respect her for having such a strong sense of self, even if only years later she became an advocate for maintaining classic gender roles and was vocal in her disgust for members of the LGBT community even after it was revealed that she had a gay grandson.
Many people seemed to share my dislike for Ms. Schlafly. After she died in 2016 the internet began to rejoice over her death. Jeb Lund of Rolling Stone wrote bluntly saying Schlafly was the “spawn of Satan and had gone to Hell to spend eternity with her master.” People tweeted “Ding Dong the witch is dead” and some promised to throw parties during her funeral.
Indeed, many have called her the female version of Donald Trump. Her extreme anti feminist views were even more confusing due to her being a woman. After all, how can any female not support feminism, which is just the belief that women are equal to men? Yet, I still feel the need to recognize her ability to thrive on the world stage, even as she advocated the importance of women existing only in the private sphere.
Phyllis Schlafly taught me toleration and the importance of listening to everyone, even members of the human race who are filled with an inconceivable amount of hate. Opponents of this woman did not always give her the courtesy afforded to all people. Frequently those who vehemently opposed her ideas took such extreme measures to express their disgust. Not surprisingly, she was met with violent protesters and numerous death threats.
There was a time when I would have fought against Schlafly. Her extreme ideologies negatively affected the lives of women and her battle against creating a nation of equality for men, women and those who refuse to be categorized by gender was deplorable. And yet, as Harper Lee wrote, “It’s never an insult to be called what somebody thinks is a bad name. It just shows you how poor that person is, it doesn’t hurt you.” There’s always going to be a Phyllis Schlafly. There will always be a human being determined to oppress others. I want to learn from her mistakes, choosing instead to focus on raising women up instead of tearing them down.
Ultimately during this Women’s History Month, it is important not to forget these women who do not support the advancement and empowerment of others. They offer us lessons on how to be better feminists and how to live best as citizens of the world.