March 29, 2007

Phyllis Schlafly: wrong again

Posted in Feminism, Sex, Wingnuts at 5:33 pm by The Lizard Queen

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?

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3 Comments »

  1. DavidD said,

    You’re right, Liz. Her view of marriage is the worst part.

    I listened to an anti-abortion Methodist minister explain his position once, about 15 years ago. He saw a woman’s right to abortion as a property right related to her uterus or her body more generally. Meanwhile the unborn child’s right is a right to life, so obviously that takes precedence, right? I am momentarily speechless in contemplating how to talk about a point like that, one that is so purely abstract, not even letting the real experience enter into one’s mind, much less any emotion. I see Schlafly’s thinking about rape in marriage to be exactly the same.

    I’m not actually speechless, of course. I’ll leave it to lawyers to explain that there is indeed rape in marriage, though it might be harder to prove to a jury. I get more upset that the non-legal side of this isn’t necessarily heard amid those who argue about what the law should be. Marriage is much more than a contract, even to someone like me who doesn’t see it as sacred. It’s a partnership, not like a business partnership, but much more personal. Pregnancy isn’t a contract at all and is even more personal. Those who would tell others their obligations regarding those two as if only some rigid legalism mattered, with no regard to people’s biology, including the biology of love, are being both proud and heartless. A lot gets lost that way, just so people can feel superior and comforted by their unrealistic logic.

    This is why I wish advocates for same-sex marriage would talk more about the love involved in that rather than mostly framing it as a matter of civil rights. If both sides are just arguing about something abstract, even if the anti-gay vote is much more visceral than intellectual, my reasons for favoring same-sex marriage, bleeding heart liberal that I am, remain unknown to those against same-sex marriage. It may not be wise politics, but I know love is left out of many discussions of marriage and pregnancy. It’s seems like a critical omission to me.

    Rape doesn’t fulfill a marriage contract in our culture. It destroys any reality of a marriage beyond the legal definition, until the woman gets a divorce. Then the marriage is completely destroyed. Any victim of domestic violence I’ve seen tells this story, though it’s drawn out more if there isn’t a rape.

    I’m sure the vast majority of people understand that. I bet Phyllis Schlafly understands that, if she weren’t determined to manipulate reality by speaking in the abstract. I wish people would stop doing that and admit that the actual experience beyond the abstractions count, as emotions count, too. I bet even God says so.

  2. Cara said,

    Is her husband dead? I can’t believe he lets her out of the house at night… she must have left a casserole in the oven.

    It’s a real mystery to me what makes such an intelligent, educated woman work so hard to promote a limited, inferior existence to other intelligent, educated women.

  3. pavlov112 said,

    Cara: How about “I got mine”?


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