Social policies of Phyllis Schlafly

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Schlafly in 2011

It has been said that Phyllis Schlafly's social policies are a response to feminism.

According to feminist Rosalind P. Petchesky, "The New Right", which includes Phyllis Schlafly and her political group the Eagle Forum, "must be understood as a response to feminist ideas and to their strong impact, in the 1970s, on popular consciousness".[1] During the 1970s, while Schlafly worked against the Equal Rights Amendment and pro-ERA feminists, she formed a definitive stance on women's rights in direct opposition to feminist views of the time.

Development of anti-feminist policies[edit]

Symbol used for signs and buttons by ERA opponents

Schlafly's social policies, especially those towards women, were largely formed during her crucial years as one of the main leaders of the anti-Equal Rights Amendment ("ERA") opposition front. Schlafly's policies were in dispute with those of feminists like Betty Friedan; for instance, Schlafly argued that the ERA was "a direct threat to the protection that mothers and working women enjoyed in American society".[2]

During the 20th century, including during her anti-ERA campaign, Schlafly was able to spread and implement her policies through her personal activities such as radio broadcasts, interviews on public television, circulation of her monthly newsletter, and organization and mobilization of churches and local communities. These activities "unleashed an intense and seemingly irrepressible culture war"[3] during the volatile 70s and early 80s. In these crucial years, the New Right implemented its policies as "opposition to...the Equal Rights Amendment...[was] used to galvanize a substantial segment of voters, funds, and resources on behalf of right-wing candidates and against candidates associated with liberalism and feminism".[4]

Schlafly also relied on her Eagle Forum, the "alternative to women's lib",[5] to implement her anti-ERA social policies. While Schlafly was working against the ERA, both STOP ERA and the Eagle Forum were held together by "Schlafly's personal leadership plus their organ of communication, the Phyllis Schlafly Report, which each month presented news and new arguments against ERA, kept a running tally of votes by the states, and advised on campaign strategies and tactics".[6]

Modern development and implementation of Schlafly's social policies[edit]

Schlafly's influence didn't end with the ERA; the Eagle Forum continues to be a medium for the development and implementation of Schlafly's social policies, including her policies regarding women's rights. In 2005, the Eagle Forum included "a membership of 50,000 women who [could] be mobilized for conservative causes and candidates".[7] Schlafly's radio broadcasts and her monthly Phyllis Schlafly Report, which includes "essays on politics, education, national defense, feminism, the judiciary, and immigration",[3] still operate, and are important devices in Schlafly's attempted realization of her social policies. Her main focus continues to be "issues related to sexuality and the family...not only on a rhetorical level, but also on the level of mass organizing, intraparty and legislative struggles, and organizational alliances".[8]

Schlafly's writings[edit]

Schlafly has also nationally published several books detailing her anti-feminist stance and her social policies. Those that particularly pertain to women's rights and Schlafly's social policies include the following:

For a complete list of Schlafly's writings, see Eagle Forum.

Differences between men and women[edit]

According to Schlafly's social policy writings, "men and women are different, and...those very differences provide the key to...success as a person and fulfillment as a woman".[9] Schlafly's stance was a reaction to feminist proponents of the ERA, who argued that men and women should be treated equally in all circumstances, from employment to home living,[10] and that they should be referred to using gender neutral terms.[11] Schlafly, however, exalts the differences between men and women: "Feminine means accentuating the womanly attributes that make women deliciously different from men. The feminine woman...knows that she is a person with her own identity and that she can seek fulfillment in the career of her choice, including of traditional wife and mother".[12]

Schlafly holds the position that men and women are fundamentally different, and resists what she terms the "feminist [propagandist]" assertion that "we must redesign society to become gender neutral and that men must shed their macho image and remake themselves to become househusbands".[10] Instead, she believes that nothing can eradicate the differences between men and women. She says in The Power of the Positive Woman, "It is self-evident...that the female body with its baby-producing organs was not designed by a conspiracy of men but by the Divine Architect of the human race"[13] Furthermore, "the Positive Woman looks upon her femaleness and her fertility as part of her purpose, her potential, and her power. She rejoices that she has a capability for creativity that men can never have".[14] Schlafly argues that although her feminist opponents seek to minimize the differences between men and women, "they will have to take up their complaint with God," because "no other power" can alter the fundamental and necessary differences between men and women.[15]

Men's and women's roles in marriage[edit]

In marriage, Schlafly argues, men and women's roles are different and should remain so, in spite of ERA-related feminist efforts to equalize their roles. In an article on the New Right, Rebecca Klatch explains Schlafly's view of marriage and the difference between men and women's roles: "Social conservative women believe in a strict division of gender roles as decreed by the scriptures. Gender is envisioned as a hierarchal ordering with God and Christ at the top, followed by men, and then women".[16] Schlafly defends her stance as one necessary to order instead of a threat to equality; she says, "If marriage is to be a successful institution, it must...have an ultimate decision maker, and that is the husband".[17] Klatch further states that, according to Schlafly, "It is women's role to support men in their positions of higher authority through altruism and self-sacrifice".[16]

Some feminists, like Petchesky, have criticized Schlafly's patriarchal stance, saying the New Right stands for male domination and female bondage, or "the right of the white male property owner to control his wife and his wife's body, his children and their bodies, his slaves and their bodies. It is an ideology that is patriarchal and racist".[18]


Though a woman should be able to expand her talents and "join the competitive world" if she desires,[19] her primary role, according to Schlafly, should be that of wife and mother, of homemaker rather than career woman. Her stance is summarized by Susan E. Marshall in an article on anti-feminists, who states, "Females are uniquely suited for their domestic duties of home maintenance and child care, and conversely the domination of the public sphere by males is justified by their inherently superior aggressive, analytical, and logical abilities".[20]

Schlafly also believes that motherhood is crucial to the well being of society; she states, "The career of motherhood is not recorded or compensated in cash wages in government statistics, but that doesn't make it any less valuable"; in fact, just the opposite is true: "[Motherhood] is the most socially useful role of all".[21] Schlafly's view contrasts directly with what she claims is the pro-ERA feminist perspective that caring for children and a husband is demeaning, and that women should not have to be directly responsible for their children if they desire to instead pursue a career.[22] Instead, "the dependent wife and mother who cares for her own children...performs the most socially necessary role in our society. The future of America depends on our next generation being morally, psychologically, intellectually, and physically strong".[23]

Feminists have criticized Schlafly for this stance, claiming that her "'pro-life' and 'pro-family' ideology represent the urge to restore the values of motherhood as they haven't been propagated since the late eighteenth century".[24] Schlafly, however, stands firm that woman's main role should be that of a mother, even in this modern century; she states, "Marriage and motherhood have their trials and tribulations, but what lifestyle doesn't?...The flight from home is a flight from self, from responsibility, from the nature of woman, in pursuit of false hopes and fading fantasies".[25]


Schlafly acknowledges that motherhood and family life are difficult, but contends that the family is still the place of greatest growth and satisfaction for women.[26] Schlafly rejects what she claims is the feminist view that the family is an "anachronism" that binds women down.[27] Instead, she says, "Faith, commitment, hard work, family, and children, and grandchildren still offer the most fulfillment, as well as our reach into the future. Feminism is no substitute for traditional marriage...Careers are no substitute for children and grandchildren".[28] The family doesn't destroy women's rights; rather, according to Schlafly, the institution of the family as "the basic unit of the greatest single achievement in the entire history of women's rights".[29]

Schlafly believes that the family supports society as its meets women's needs: "The strength and stability of families determines the vitality and moral life of society; thus, as the family goes, so goes the nation".[30] The family, as well as standing "at the center of this world" and "representing the building block of society," also teaches children "moral values" that will benefit them and society as they grow to become moral citizens.[31] Schlafly states unequivocally that "the future of our nation depends on children who grow up to be good citizens, and the best way of achieving that goal is to have emotionally stable, intact families".[32]

Schlafly rejects the 70s and 80s-era feminist "rejection of the family" as an outdated establishment, which she believes "flies in the face of all human experience"; instead, she believes that "the family is the proven best way for men and women to live together on this earth. A family provides people who care about us, a nest and shelter from which we can face life's challenges".[33]

Women and employment[edit]

Schlafly believes that motherhood is the best job option for women seeking career fulfillment, and that "it is ludicrous to suggest that [other jobs] are more self-fulfilling than the daily duties of a wife and mother in the home".[34] Though it can be necessary for some women to work outside the home, Schlafly states that motherhood proffers the most satisfaction of any job, and "most women would rather cuddle a baby than a typewriter or factory machine. Not only does the baby provide a warm and loving relationship that satisfies the woman's maternal instinct and returns love for service, but it is a creative and growing job that builds for the future".[35]

Schlafly objects to what she sees as the feminist assertion that women are paid less than men or are otherwise discriminated against in the work force; she says, "a deceitful propaganda campaign has been orchestrated by the feminist movement to convince the American people that" women who take paying jobs receive fewer wages on the dollar than men who do the same work.[36] This, she claims, "is part of the feminists' denigration of the role of motherhood...[It] is designed to eliminate...motherhood by changing us into a society in which women are harnessed into the labor force both full-time and for a lifetime".[36] In fact, Schlafly believes, even if men really do earn more than women, this is beneficial to society as a whole, because, "we want a society in which the average man earns more than the average woman so that his earnings can fulfill his provider role in providing a home and support for his wife who is nurturing and mothering their children".[37]

Klatch theorizes, "Because social conservatives adhere to a hierarchal ordering, they believe positional difference between women and men do not imply inequality, and, therefore, they deny the existence of discrimination".[38] Schlafly explains, "Just because there is a small percentage of women in senior management does not prove discrimination. It proves instead that the majority of women have made other choices—usually family choices".[39] Schlafly also objects to wage and other equality for women in the work force because they destroy mothers' protection from over-time work, which makes it "more difficult for women to perform their domestic duties".[40] Similarly, Schlafly states, "We certainly don't want a society in which the average wage paid to all women equals [that of] men, because that society would have eliminated the role of motherhood".[21]


The Issue Schlafly's View of the Feminist Stance Schlafly's Stance
Women's Roles "...the women's liberation movement [believes]...that there is no difference between male and female...and that all those physical, cognitive, and emotional differences you think are there, are merely the result of restraints imposed by a male-dominated society...The role imposed on women is...inferior, according to the women's liberationists".[14] "A Positive Woman cannot defeat a man in a wrestling or boxing match, but she can motivate him, inspire him, encourage him, teach him, restrain him, and reward him, and have power over him that he can never achieve over her with all his muscle".[41]
Marriage "Feminist literature paints marriage as slavery, the home (in Betty Friedan's words) as a 'comfortable concentration camp,' the husband as the oppressor, the family as an anachronism, and children as the daily drudgery from which the modern woman must be freed in order to pursue more fulfilling careers".[27] "What does a woman want out of life? If you want to love and be loved, marriage offers the best opportunity to achieve your goal...Marriage and motherhood give a woman new identity and the opportunity for all-round fulfillment as a woman".[42]
Motherhood "Feminist ideology teaches that it is demeaning to women to care for their babies, and therefore the role of motherhood should be that women can fulfill themselves in the paid labor force".[22] "[No measure] of career success can compare with the thrill, satisfaction, and fun of having and caring for babies and watching them respond and grow under a mother's loving care".[42]
Family "Except for the unfortunate women who were caught up in the feminist foolishness of the 1970s, most women don't want to be liberated from home, husband, family, and children".[43] "Society simply has not invented a better way of raising children than the traditional family...[The] division of labor is cost efficient, the environment is healthy, and the children thrive on the 'object constancy' of the mother".[44]
Employment "...the propaganda of the women's liberation movements [states that] motherhood is the least attractive role a woman can choose, and that the work force offers more rewards and more fulfillments".[45] "After twenty years...a mother can see the results of her own handiwork in the good citizen she has produced and trained. After twenty the business world, you are lucky if you have a good watch to show for your efforts".[26]
Women and the Military "The push to repeal laws that exempt women from military combat duty must be the strangest of all aberrations indulged in by...the woman's liberation or feminist movement. The very idea of women serving in military combat is so unnatural that it almost sounds like a death wish for our species".[46] "There are many cultural, societal, family, pregnancy, and practical reasons why women should not be drafted. Women have more important things to do, such as taking care of their babies and keeping their families together".[47]
Gender Neutrality "Operating like a censorship gestapo, the feminist movement has combed primary grade readers, school textbooks, and career-guidance materials to eliminate any mention of the natural gender traits of youngsters".[48] "...despite all the attempts to blur gender identity...and even to pervert the English language by forcing schoolchildren to use such annoying pronouns as he/she or s/he, there is no evidence that human nature is changing. The attempt to change it confuses youth and frustrates adults".[49]


  1. ^ Petchesky 1981, p. 223.
  2. ^ Critchlow 2005, p. 218.
  3. ^ a b Critchlow 2005, p. 4.
  4. ^ Petchesky 1981, p. 208.
  5. ^ Critchlow 2005, p. 221.
  6. ^ Critchlow 2005, pp. 220-1.
  7. ^ Critchlow 2005, p. 3.
  8. ^ Petchesky 1981, p. 207.
  9. ^ Schlafly 1977, p. 99.
  10. ^ a b Schlafly 2003, p. 60.
  11. ^ Schlafly 2003, pp. 126-7.
  12. ^ Schlafly 2003, pp. 4-5.
  13. ^ Schlafly 1977, p. 12.
  14. ^ a b Schlafly 1977, p. 13.
  15. ^ Schlafly 1977, p. 12-3.
  16. ^ a b Klatch 1988, p. 676.
  17. ^ Schlafly 1977, p. 50.
  18. ^ Petchesky 1981, p. 222.
  19. ^ Schlafly 1977, p. 56.
  20. ^ Marshall 1984, p. 575.
  21. ^ a b Schlafly 2003, p. 99.
  22. ^ a b Schlafly 2003, p. 223.
  23. ^ Schlafly 2003, p. 94.
  24. ^ Petchesky 1981, p. 233.
  25. ^ Schlafly 2003, p. 197.
  26. ^ a b Schlafly 1977, p. 52.
  27. ^ a b Schlafly 2003, p. 195.
  28. ^ Schlafly 2003, p. 142.
  29. ^ Schlafly 1977, p. 33.
  30. ^ Conover & Gray 1983, p. 70.
  31. ^ Klatch 1988, p. 675.
  32. ^ Schlafly 2003, p. 102.
  33. ^ Schlafly 2003, p. 141.
  34. ^ Schlafly 1977, p. 51.
  35. ^ Schlafly 1977, pp. 51-29.
  36. ^ a b Schlafly 2003, p. 98.
  37. ^ Schlafly 2003, p. 79.
  38. ^ Klatch 1988, p. 679..
  39. ^ Schlafly 2003, p. 136.
  40. ^ Marshall 1984, p. 572.
  41. ^ Schlafly 1977, p. 127.
  42. ^ a b Schlafly 2003, p. 196.
  43. ^ Schlafly 2003, p. 31.
  44. ^ Schlafly 2003, p. 207.
  45. ^ Schlafly 1977, p. 53.
  46. ^ Schlafly 2003, p. 161.
  47. ^ Schlafly 2003, p. 180.
  48. ^ Schlafly 2003, p. 12.
  49. ^ Schlafly 2003, p. 13.


  • Connover, Pamela Johnston; Grey, Virginia (1983). Feminism and the New Right: Conflict Over the American Family. New York: Praeger Publishers. 
  • Critchlow, Donald (2005). Phyllis Schlafly and Grassroots Conservatism. New Jersey: Princeton University Press. 
  • Klatch, Rebecca (1988). "Coalition and Conflict Among Women of the New Right". Signs. 13 (4): 671–694. doi:10.1086/494463. 
  • Marshall, Susan E. (1984). "Keep Us on the Pedestal: Women Against Feminism in Twentieth-Century America". In Freeman, Jo. Women: A Feminist Perspective. California: Mayfield Publishing Company. pp. 671–694. 
  • Petchesky, Rosalind Pollack. "Antiabortion, antifeminism, and the rise of the New Right." Feminist Studies (1981): 206-246. in JSTOR
  • Schlafly, Phyllis (1977). The Power of the Positive Woman. New York: Arlington House Publishers. 
  • Schlafly, Phyllis (2003). Feminist Fantasies. Texas: Spence Publishing Company.