Salvo 06.25.2024 5 minutes

Phyllis Schlafly’s Last Laugh

Phyllis Schlafly

Don’t let your daughter die for Boomer feminism.

The second-wave feminists’ mad pursuit of complete equality between the sexes may be achieved after all—but on the backs of today’s young women. The U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee recently announced plans to require women to register for the draft in the next annual defense authorization bill. Perhaps the most infamous boy’s club of them all—the U.S. military—will receive an influx of the nation’s young women during the next major war, which seems fast approaching.

In many ways, the news is a massive triumph for the sort of equality pursued by feminists since the late sixties and seventies. These Boomer feminists were always very blunt about the logical conclusions of their sexual social experiment. Your daughters dying on the front lines is simply the price they will pay for the liberty to talk like men, work like men, and sleep around like men.

The much-maligned Phyllis Schlafly predicted all of this in her fight against the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in the seventies. It was her contention that the ERA would lead to women being expected to register for the draft just as men do. In the midst of the carnage of the Vietnam War, feminists found her argument hard to evade. 

“The only ERA issue I had a hard struggle with was the draft,” Betty Friedan recounted. “‘Well, do you want women to be drafted?’ I would be asked time and again. Now I could not see marching with a banner saying I wanted women to be drafted. I had been very opposed to the Vietnam War, after all. But I worked out that while I was not for anybody being drafted, if there was again such a thing as a just and necessary war like World War II, then there would be no reason for women not to be drafted.”

During a televised debate with feminist Pat Schroeder, Schlafly argued that under the ERA, “Congress will be constitutionally required to draft women on the same basis as men.” Schroeder hemmed and hawed in the exchange, calling the draft “brutal” because it “tears apart families,” but ultimately conceded that a proper application of the ERA would have to subject women to the draft. 

Schlafly’s well-founded concerns over the draft were part of her overall unease that the ERA would lead to the destruction of all single-sex spaces such as restrooms and locker rooms which women often inhabit in a vulnerable state. She was mocked, and the feminists of her day accused her of trumping up fake emergencies to score political points. “There’s been a lot of distortions about the Equal Rights Amendment,” President Jimmy Carter said. “It doesn’t say anything about bathrooms.” After all, the ERA merely holds that “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.” Whatever could be wrong with that? 

A 2016 Politico article on Schlafly’s strategy in opposing the ERA’s destruction of single-sex spaces recounts in mocking tones how she warned of “rapists and pedophiles hiding out in public restrooms ready to attack unsuspecting women and girls” and “summoned the fear of homosexual predators stalking boys’ restrooms, and refashioned it for a new crisis.” So successful has been the Boomer feminists’ campaign against male-only spaces that even the term “boy’s club” is a pejorative even to those on the Right.

But Schlafly was right. Women living in the sexless hellscape that is the post-Ms. Magazine world are living proof of that fact. A teammate of transgender-identified male swimmer William “Lia” Thomas, who stole trophies from female athletes, recently noted that she was forced to “undress with him 18 times a week.” Female students recount being leered at by visibly aroused men pretending to be women in their sorority houses. A trans student raped a girl in a bathroom at a Virginia public school in 2021. 

The issue with the old feminists’ campaign against male-only spaces is not only that these spaces are necessary for fostering healthy male camaraderie, but that their destruction will inevitably place women in a dangerous position. Women, just as men, need a space to let their guard down, but for the fairer sex, needing a space all their own can be a matter of life and death. 

In her book Feminism Against Progress, Mary Harrington notes, “We simply need to recognise that the effort to eradicate all-male social spaces, norms and aesthetics, or to treat such phenomena as malign by definition, is antithetical to women’s broader interests.”

Schlafly and her cohort may have defeated the ERA, but its tenets are alive and well, and now bolstered by the Senate Committee on the Armed Forces. It appears that Schlafly’s warnings were more prophetic than even she knew. Though never passed, the ERA’s principle of equality—i.e., sameness—has nevertheless warped our country’s understanding of the very grounds of nature itself.

Boomers are often ridiculed for the economic and political legacy they have left younger generations. Indeed, ideas have consequences, and the limp equality-at-all-costs liberalism of the seventies and eighties has reached its inevitable conclusion. Women are a genderless class, treated as interchangeable with men. The law sees no distinctive dignity in femininity, and the vision of the Equal Rights Amendment is more fully realized than even Friedan herself could have hoped for. The last generation’s political rallies will be this generation’s prisoners of war.

The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.

The American Mind is a publication of the Claremont Institute, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, dedicated to restoring the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life. Interested in supporting our work? Gifts to the Claremont Institute are tax-deductible.

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