March 29, 2007
Phyllis Schlafly: wrong again
Phyllis Schlafly was at Bates College in Maine last night to give a lecture entitled “Conservativism vs. Feminism: The Great Debate.” I think a couple of the commenters on the article on Sunjournal.com discussing the lecture had the right of it, stating that it’s a good thing that Schlafly is out there speaking, because she demonstrates the utter absurdity of the anti-feminist viewpoint. That said, I wanted to call attention to a couple of the points she made in her lecture.
…Schlafly asserted women should not be permitted to do jobs traditionally held by men, such as firefighter, soldier or construction worker, because of their “inherent physical inferiority.”
“Women in combat are a hazard to other people around them,” she said. “They aren’t tall enough to see out of the trucks, they’re not strong enough to carry their buddy off the battlefield if he’s wounded, and they can’t bark out orders loudly enough for everyone to hear.”
One of the basic tenets of good argumentation is that sweeping generalizations are problematic at best. I’ve known plenty of women who are as tall or taller than the average man, just as strong if not stronger than the average man, and can bark loudly enough to put a man to shame. I’ve known women who fought forest fires, and were damn good at it. How does it make sense to tell a woman that because some women can’t perform a particular task or do a particular job, no woman should be allowed to?
That’s not the worst of it, however. This is:
At one point, Schlafly also contended that married women cannot be sexually assaulted by their husbands.
“By getting married, the woman has consented to sex, and I don’t think you can call it rape,” she said.
I don’t think I could disagree more. People often use the phrase “x is a privilege, not a right,” and this is a situation in which I feel that phrase is exceptionally apropos: sex is a privilege, not a right. I don’t care how much a man shelled out taking a woman out to dinner. I don’t care how long they’ve been married. No one is ever entitled to have sex with another person. Signing a marriage certificate does not equal giving a lifetime of blanket consent. I imagine there are cases of spousal sexual assault over which Schlafly and I could argue until the cows come home and never reach a consensus, but what about cases where the woman has obviously been violently raped? (I don’t think I need to spell out what that would entail, do I?) Would Schlafly tell this woman that she merely received what she’d signed on for when she got married?
So, which is worse: the possibility of unisex public bathrooms, or the idea that a woman should lose all autonomy–including the right to feel secure in her person–when she marries?