I noted briefly a few nights ago that long time foe to equality Phyllis Schlafly had died. As one might expect, many right wing and Republican outlets are praising her and some even stating that she "will be missed." I for one will not miss her and, while I won't be drinking a champagne toast to her passing, I do think that the world became a slightly better place with her toxic message of division and hate with one less voice. A piece on the Americans United for Separation of Church and State takes a retrospective on Schlfly and the misogyny she so long peddled. She is a woman who wanted to re-criminalize homosexuality even though she had a gay child herself. Not exactly a pillar of loving motherhood. Here are some highlights from the retrospective:
“Today, Phyllis Schlafly died like she lived – with dignity and a smile,” wrote Ed Martin, president of the Eagle Forum, a group Schlafly founded. “Surrounded by her family, Phyllis passed away and entered her reward with the Lord. Her family, friends and staff will miss her. Her nation will be eternally grateful.”Schlafly was best known for defeating the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in the 1970s, but her larger mission was one of seeking to deny people their rights – just because those people failed to live up to her religious ideals.
In recent years, Schlafly’s Eagle Forum turned its ire on the LGBT community, with a flood of hysterical op-eds and articles. At one point, Schlafly even proposed impeaching judges who upheld marriage equality and called on Congress to cut off all federal aid to any state that permitted the practice.
Firmly grounded in an “Ozzie and Harriet” mythology, Schlafly was clueless about the realities of modern life. In 1981, she told a U.S. Senate committee that women who are sexually harassed have only themselves to blame. Lecherous bosses, said Schlafly, “hardly ever ask sexual favors of women from whom the certain answer is ‘No.’ Virtuous women are seldom accosted by unwelcome sexual propositions or familiarities, obscene talk or profane language.”
She opposed equal pay for women, fought efforts to make child care more affordable and plentiful and opposed programs to give young people sex education in public schools. (Sex ed., she once opined, is “a principal cause of teenage pregnancy.”)
Schlafly’s views belong to an America of the past. They’re anchored in the America she idealized – the fake 1950 vision of a white, Christian nation where school kids prayed on command and God gave us nuclear weapons to scare off the Reds.
Schlafly’s Potemkin Village of 1950s nostalgia collapsed long ago. It collapsed when some Americans had the temerity to point out that the vision didn’t include them – and noted, by the way, the 1950s weren’t so great for lots of people: blacks living in the Jim Crow South, women fighting in court for the right to work in certain professions, Jewish families seeking the right to live in neighborhoods that sought to exclude them and atheists daring to speak against the “God and country” rhetoric of the Eisenhower Era, to name a few.
Phyllis Schlafly does not represent the future. Her vision is firmly grounded in the past, and, with luck, the nation will continue speeding past it so rapidly that soon none of us will even be able to see its vague outlines.
If you doubt that, simply look at the world around you. You will see that Schlafly’s vision has been repudiated. It was repudiated this morning when millions of women suited up for work in a myriad of professions. It was repudiated all over the nation by same-sex couples, now legally married, who woke up and started another routine day.
You can see the repudiation in the eyes of immigrant families working hard to make the American Dream real for them. It’s reflected in the faces of Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, atheist and Wiccan public school students who long ago decided they won’t accept second-class status.
Schlafly dreamed of an America based on rejection and exclusion. That is not our America. Our America is better than Phyllis Schlafly. . . . The story of America is not the story of Phyllis Schlafly. We have repudiated her narrow and mean-spirited vision. We know that it’s a relic of a nastier, more unpleasant time. We won't go back there.
Yes, Phyllis Schlafly helped defeat the ERA. But she lost the larger cultural war. And for that, we can be truly grateful.
As one reader noted in an e-mail to me, Bette Davis is reported to have said about Joan Crawford: Joan Crawford's death "you're only supposed to speak good of the dead... so she's dead ~ good! Phyllis Schlafly is dead. Good! It is far past time that Schlafly be recognized for the toxic individuals that they are and for good and decent people to call them out for what they are. Schlafly damaged many lives and enriched herself in the process.