"Women Who Want To Be Women": The Social And Political Antifeminism Of Phyllis Schlafly
Not all feminists were women and not all who opposed the feminist movement were men. The latter is illustrated by the life of Phyllis Schlafly, nicknamed the “Darling of the Silent Majority.” Schlafly, educated at Radford, Harvard, and Washington University is a brilliant woman who had a long and influential career as a political writer and activist, but she made her name battling the very movement that helped her interests the most. Schlafly gained notoriety with the publication of A Choice, Not an Echo. Released in 1964, it contends that a small entourage of “Eastern-king makers” had denied conservatives the Republican Party’s nomination for president since the end of World War II. This tract gained immediate recognition and was credited with securing Barry Goldwater the Republican nomination in 1964.1 However, Schlafly’s greatest area of influence was not in insider politics, it was in the battle between Christian fundamentalism and feminism. Schlafly was in the vanguard of a larger-than-you-would-expect segment of the female population of the United States that despised the feminist movement and the principles on which it rested. Her famous Phyllis Schlafly Reports, which she published from her home, led to a movement of conservative, Christian women who were against the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. Many would claim that because of the relative simplicity of her ideas and the format of her texts (they are usually loosely arranged essays of a page or two in length), Schlafly’s thought does not constitute a political, social, or theological theory. However, one cannot gauge the worth of a body of writing based simply on a lack of complexity or voluminous length. After all, Ludwig Wittgenstein, arguably the greatest philosopher of the 20th century, used plain language and straightforward explanations as well. Additionally, although Schlafly’s writing is far from systematic, it presents ideas that have aided in the construction of a philosophical basis to the Religious Right. This alone makes Schlafly’s work important. In constructing Schlafly’s often-disjointed writings into a systematic whole, I will begin by describing the metaphysical basis that forms the foundation of her thought. Next, I will elaborate on Schlafly’s social thought, which is necessary to understand Schlafly’s political ideology.