Of all the roles that Phyllis Schlafly has played in her storied career, her newest is one of the most unlikely — and inadvisable.
Here’s what she had to say in a speech last week at the Citadel:
Schlafly talked to a group of Citadel students about the culture of conservatism and the history of the religious right. She told the all-male group that “feminist is a bad word and everything they stand for is bad.”
And she warned them about having personal relationships with feminists. “Find out if your girlfriend is a feminist before you get too far into it,” she said. “Some of them are pretty. They don’t all look like Bella Abzug.”
Where do you start here? With the fact that few in her audience would have even known who Bella Abzug was, given the fact that her congressional career ended more than a dozen years before they were born? Or that Schlafly herself was hardly a model of the ideal she seems to admire? As our colleague Annie Groer noted in this piece for Politics Daily, Schlafly is the author or editor of 20 books, holds both a Washington University law degree and a master’s in political science from Harvard, and built a political empire. Which must have left precious little time for baking cookies.
Actually, I think that Schlafly’s own conservative movement has passed her by on this one. These days, many of the women who lead on the right actually embrace the term feminism — and in fact, argue that they represent its truest embodiment.
Take this, written in 2011 by Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, an organization that aims to mobilize and elect pro-life women:
But the remarkable political trends at work in 2010 involve more than a swing of the pendulum in a conservative direction. Masked by the debate over deficits, health care reform, immigration and “tea parties” is a development of potentially far-reaching significance: the redefinition or, if you will, the restoration of an authentic feminism that is pro-equality, pro-woman, pro-opportunity and pro-life.
Agree or disagree with this contention, pundits from across the political spectrum are taking a fresh look at a key development in Campaign 2010: the nomination and strong competition for major office of vibrant, pro-life women who both embody and embrace a vision of womanhood that bridges the modern feminist divide between motherhood and selfhood.
No, they don’t look like Bella Abzug. But they don’t look like Phyllis Schlafly either.