Hulu’s Mrs. America isn’t just a story about the polemic powerhouse Phyllis Schlafly and her campaign to stop the Equal Rights Amendment, it’s a cutting commentary on our current political landscape, a treatise on how we got here, and a dire warning for the modern pro-life movement. Schlafly, played with ferocious poise by Cate Blanchett, led a movement of conservative women in a campaign to stop an amendment intended to help women. In doing so, they built the framework for the Moral Majority and, in many ways, wrote the template for the modern pro-life movement. Except it’s not a template we should hope to follow.
*The following is an analysis of the limited series Mrs. America and contains some minor spoilers.*
Stop Taking Our Privileges
In episode 3, Schlafly is approached by her friend Alice Macray (a fictionalized character played by Sarah Paulson) with concerns about racist comments made my other members of their organization. Alice is concerned about the optics of using such language at their meetings. They won’t be seen as respectable if they are crude. But Schlafly manages to appease all parties involved, placing both Alice and her racist opponent in positions of power. Although the STOP ERA movement wasn’t explicitly about race, the whiteness and wealth was no accident. They literally spelled it out in the name of their movement “Stop Taking Our Privileges.”
This is distressingly similar to the pro-life movement, which often centers on concepts such as “personal responsibility” while denying the reality of privilege. There is no greater contributor to abortion than cyclical poverty, and activists would do well to focus their efforts in ending this cycle for countless women.
We Don’t Want Our Daughters to Be Drafted
STOP ERA’s biggest talking point was the idea that the ERA would result in women being drafted for war. This was not a factual premise. The ERA had no bearing on the draft. It required lots of legal and logical backflips to get to the point where it did. The pro-life movement loves to do this. Take a single ugly statement from a governor, for example, and you can now argue that the pro-choice movement wants to euthanize children. This is not a platform of the mainstream pro-choice movement, and we all know this. Stick to the facts – they are ugly enough.
Mrs. America Under Attack
In Mrs. America, Schlafly and her friends spend a lot of time discussing how put upon they are. Feminist icons such as Gloria Steinem (Rose Byrne) seem to exist for the sole purpose of putting them down. But Steinem’s life is far from the glamorous parade of parties and magazine shoots it appears to be. She’s not concerned with crushing housewives; she’s just trying to make life better for women.
I often hear fellow pro-life women express frustration at what they feel is a society poised against them. All celebrities are pro-choice. All musicians are pro-choice. It must be that we’re under attack. We’re not. Keep your focus on improving the quality of life for all people, which will result in saving lives long term.
What Are We Fighting For?
At the end of the day, women in conservative movements are going to stand in opposition to other women. What we need to remember is that the people we’re fighting against also want a more just, more equitable, and more life-affirming society. It’s easy for passion to justify unsavory tactics, but we can’t allow that to happen. Phyllis Schlafly has gone down in history as a self-absorbed opportunist who used her privilege to halt the progress of others.
I fear the pro-life movement has already gone too far in this direction.
*You can binge Mrs. America on Hulu*