As you have likely already learned, Phyllis Schlafly died Monday. Perhaps you’re planning a pilgrimage to her grave to dance on it.
I come not to praise Schlafly, but to bury her. Much as she did to the Equal Rights Amendment, which was within three states of passing until she jumped into the fray.
Phyllis told her biographer that she had initially been inclined to support the E.R.A. until she learned about the societal degradation it would unleash.
Perhaps I shouldn’t admit this because I look a lot younger than my years–look, ma, no hair dye!–but I am old enough to remember some of the ludicrously specious arguments laid out during the E.R.A. debates. I was just a kid, but I was an unusually political child. Indeed, I considered myself a feminist even before I entered puberty.
I remember being heartbroken when the E.R.A. finally went down to defeat.
The irony is that Phyllis Schlafly herself lived a politically active, thoroughly modern, life that was feminist in all but name. Far from a traditional model of a demure housewife straight out of the 50s–despite her manner of dress, pearls and all–she was forcefully independant.
Yes, the E.R.A. was in large measure symbolic, it would’ve sent a very potent message. In fact, most of the discriminatory laws the amendment was intended to abolish have long since been wiped off the books, though women still don’t earn equal pay for equal work.
The signature strawwoman of the anti-E.R.A. fight, however, was unisex bathrooms. Imagine the horror of restrooms that can be used by either gender. Oh, you don’t have to because they’re now commonplace. This is something to remind people of when they start complaining about the alleged perils of trans-friendly bathroom facilities.
And speaking of LGBT rights, Phyllis lost big on that one, as well. Though her gay son, John, hasn’t condemned his mother’s intolerant stance again homosexuals, she didn’t moderate her rigid opposition to LGBT rights and marriage equality when he was outed.
But of course, the failure of the Religious Right’s culture war wasn’t Schlafly’s fault. The country has moved on. Phyllis railed against cultural legacy of the 60s, but the hippy credo of love and tolerance she so despised has won out. The last hold-outs are dying one by one.
And it’s fitting that Schlafly died just as we’re on the edge of electing the first female president of the United States. That’s the final monument to the defeat of her brand of reactionary, far right politics. The E.R.A. lost, but the values it represented live on.
I’d say rest in peace, but for some people I wish there really were a Hell they could burn in. Isn’t it fun to picture Phyllis Schlafly roasting on a spit side by side with Jerry Falwell? Sigh.
Tradition says that you shouldn’t speak ill of the dead. So, in lieu of dancing of Phyllis Schlafly’s grave, I will celebrate the fact that her ideals are being buried along with her.