Questions for Phyllis Schlafly
Correction Appended Below
The University’s announcement that alumna and leader of the national conservative movement Phyllis Schlafly will receive an honorary degree has spurred students to protest and led several professors to announce their intention to boycott commencement exercises. Student Life spoke with Schlafly earlier this week about reasons for protest, her ideological issues with feminists and her political history.
To start off with, how would you respond to the students that have been protesting you?
When I went to Washington U. I worked my way through college firing and testing 30- and 50-caliber ammunition and all I’ve got to say about students today is that I think they have too much extra time. I don’t know what college students do with all your extra time, but I guess one of them is go out and protest, while somebody else is paying their fee.
How did you first become involved with politics?
After I graduated from Harvard I worked for a year at the American Enterprise Institute and then I came back to St. Louis and I ran the campaign of a Republican candidate for congress in 1946 and we won. That was very exciting, that took me into politics. Things were simple then-I was the campaign manager, the speechwriter, the scheduler-and he won.
In a larger sense, when did you know that you identify with the Republican Party?
My father used to say that we left the Democratic Party in the depression of Grover Cleveland. So we have a long history-my family was not a political family, but they were all Republicans. That was just normal, I just voted the Republican ticket all through the depression, all through Franklin Roosevelt.
What do you mean when you say, “Feminists want women to think that they can’t succeed”?
Everything that they are teaching in Women’s Studies and in those courses is that women are victims and that marriage is unfair to women and that it makes them second-class, that men are naturally batterers and that if you get married you’ll probably get beaten up. It’s a dreary picture that they paint for women of the life of a married women or a mother.
So you see the feminist position as saying that there is one acceptable path for women in the world, the path of the career woman?
That’s right. Because they think that if you give them the choice, too many will pick getting married. They don’t even look up to women like Margaret Thatcher, Condoleezza Rice, Elizabeth Dole, Jeane Kirkpatrick. You don’t hear them identifying with really achieving women, it’s only ones that are whining around.
Could you clarify some of the statements that you made in Maine last year about martial rape?
I think that when you get married you have consented to sex. That’s what marriage is all about, I don’t know if maybe these girls missed sex ed. That doesn’t mean the husband can beat you up, we have plenty of laws against assault and battery. If there is any violence or mistreatment that can be dealt with by criminal prosecution, by divorce or in various ways. When it gets down to calling it rape though, it isn’t rape, it’s a he said-she said where it’s just too easy to lie about it.
Was the way in which your statement was portrayed correct?
Yes. Feminists, if they get tired of a husband or if they want to fight over child custody, they can make an accusation of marital rape and they want that to be there, available to them.
So you see this as more of a tool used by people to get out of marriages than as legitimate-
Yes, I certainly do.
What was the greatest political victory of your career?
Our victory over the Equal Rights Amendment is a tremendous story of grassroots action that can overcome the powers that be in both parties. We had Nixon, Ford and Carter all against us, we had anybody who was anybody against us and we beat them all. And they just can’t get over that.
Do you think they’re still bitter about that?
Yes, they’re still bitter about it. It was a dumb idea in the first place.
INTERVIEW CONDUCTED, CONDENSED AND EDITED BY SAM GUZIK
Check back for further coverage of student plans to protest and for an in-depth article about Schlafly’s politics.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled the first name of former US ambassador to the UN Jeane Kirkpatrick; the correct spelling is Jeanne, not Gene.
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