WOMEN

We Don't Have To Valorize -- Or Demonize -- Phyllis Schlafly

Let her legacy speak for itself.
Phyllis Schlafly in 2007. 
Phyllis Schlafly in 2007. 

Shortly after the death of conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly, people on both ends of the political spectrum voiced their opinions of her with dramatic and excessive rhetoric. 

It’s not hugely surprising, though, considering how contentious of a character the Eagle Forum founder was in U.S. politics. She was staunchly anti-abortion rightsvirulently homophobic and transphobic, and more or less built an entire career out of telling women that they shouldn’t actually have careers. In a 1972 essay, she said that the greatest achievement of women’s rights is “accomplished by the institution of the family.

Among all of this, history will likely remember the late activist for her involvement in making sure the Equal Rights Amendment never found a home in the constitution. Schlafly spent decades of her career battling against it

Schlafly sporting a "Stop ERA" badge in 1977. 
Schlafly sporting a "Stop ERA" badge in 1977. 

In the wake of her death, conservative figures have applauded her commitment to maintaining outdated traditional gender roles that kept women out of the public and inside their homes. Donald Trump went as far as calling her “a champion for women” in an official statement after her death.

Ann Coulter tweeted a gushing, impassioned obituary. “Schlafly is unquestionably one of the most important people of in the twentieth century ― and a good part of the twenty-first. Among her sex, she is rivaled only by Margaret Thatcher,” she said.  

Hmm. 

Schlafly endorsed Donald Trump for president in March, 2016. 
Schlafly endorsed Donald Trump for president in March, 2016. 

Liberals have responded to Schlafly’s death as well, but just because Schlafly is known for her anti-feminist beliefs and was an adored member of the Christian right doesn’t mean that she needs to be so aggressively vilified by progressives. The left has responded with disparaging, violent, and even sexist comments celebrating her death.

(For the record: using sexist commentary to celebrate the death of a woman who herself was inherently sexist actually honors her legacy more so than mocking it.)

Neither the right’s accolades, nor the left’s insults, are productive responses to Schlafly’s death.

She shouldn’t be celebrated for her politics ― after all, she dedicated her entire life to causes that limited the rights of marginalized Americans. But she also doesn’t need to be burned in a dumpster. 

Let her policies be her legacy: the misogyny, the homophobia, the xenophobia, how she remained adamantly against any semblance of equality. 

Applauding Schlafly’s death, or any other kind of violent and excessive response, is unnecessary when her legacy is already so ugly. 

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