Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Well-groomed paranoid destroyer of woman's rights dead at 92

The obituary page of The Massachusetts Spy

By Luke Reschuss
Obituary Editor

Phyllis Schlafly's life was rich in achievement, if by achievement you mean success in demeaning, degrading, and limiting the lives of her fellow women.  Proof that you don't have to be a man to oppress women, she devoted her entire life to promoting a series of reactionary causes, chiefly successful opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment.

It may be hard to believe today, but forty years ago, the women's movement was only three state legislatures short of amending the U.S. Constitution to prohibit all discrimination, public and private, on the basis of sex.

Coed everything: who could oppose that?  Phyllis Schlafly for one.
Until Phyllis Schlafly stepped in.  Prior to then she had been only a moderately harmful reactionary crank chiefly known for her impassioned advocacy of Sen. Barry Goldwater, today best remembered for his view that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was unconstitutional, as the only man who could have us from the International Communist Conspiracy.  He lost, said Conspiracy took over the world, and life went on.

But Mrs. Schlafly, who made her money the old-fashioned way (she married it), had plenty of time on her hands to cast the ERA as an evil Red conspiracy to deny women their rightful place, presumably in Roger Ailes's gunsights.

To be fair to Mrs. Schlafly, she was able to muster other arguments against the ERA: it would require co-ed bathrooms and legalize gay marriages.  Can you believe there was a time that reactionary bigots tried to stop the march to equality by raising the specter of terrible things happening in bathrooms?   And gay marriage?   It was enough to curl your hair if it hasn't already been curled, styled, and pasted into place with aerosol glue.

Not only that but, according to Mrs. Schlafly, the ERA would have left a woman without recourse should she be booted out by her husband and replaced by a Playboy bunny or even Gretchen Carlson.

Truth be told, we can't inter Phyllis Schlafly anywhere near as well as the great Lucinda Franks did in a 1977 review of one of Mrs. Schlafly's nutty screeds in the New York Times Book Review, so bear with us as we do some extensive, uh, borrowing:
“Whatever the secret of Mrs. Schlafly's appeal, it certainly does not lie in the lucidity of her mind . . . . [In her view, the women's movement] has driven indulgent husbands, disgusted with this display of ingratitude, to the taverns; forced neglected children to drugs and fornication; been responsible for risqué textbooks, socialized medicine and the demise of the Bible.”
Wow: the women's movement sounds almost as terrifying as undocumented immigrants. 
“What is most disturbing about her book is its undertone of contempt for everyone.  She is basically anti-woman; wives can only get the upper hand over their husbands with sexual favors; . . . And she is also anti-men . . . . [whom] she paints as primitives who would run amok if not kept within the restraining wall of the home.”
Can't argue with that last bit, though.

Her ideas were shaggy and wild, but she was always well-groomed
Of course what was really going on was Mrs. Schlafly's relentless ability to mobilize white anxiety about a society changing slowly for the better and straight-up bigotry against a modest change that would help women fight the pervasive discrimination that has held them back, in some cases even if they are married to wealthy white men.

This did not go unnoticed.  In fact, it became the one Republican trick that they have repeated, generally successfully, for four decades.  Think we've gone beyond it?  Imagine if you will the chances of passing the ERA today in the legislatures of Texas, Wyoming, Missouri, the Carolinas, Tennessee, Kentucky . . . .

So now Phyllis Schlafly is buried next to the ERA, but her foul political strategy goes ever bravely on.  One thing you have to say for her: at least she was generally civil, if condescending.  That's some improvement over the raging menstruation-phobic tangerine-faced grifter who has succeeded Mrs. Schlafly as the chief stirrer of the witches' brew of paranoia and bigotry that is today's Republican Party.  Imagine how much better off our political discourse and our nation would be if any of the T.F.G.'s wives had heeded Mrs. Schlafly's sage advice to get her biscuits in the oven and her buns in the sheets, as they say in Slovenia.

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