Anti-feminist urges 'traditional' female role
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Phyllis Schlafly, a "pro-family conservative, " attacks feminists and praises stay-at-home moms at CAS last night.
When aging anti-feminist Phyllis Schlafly, 83, took the podium last night, a few in the packed audience adjusted aprons they had worn in protest, others rolled their eyes and some just sat quietly, waiting for Schlafly to tell them exactly why she believes feminism is bad for America.
Over the course of an hour in which the atmosphere in the College of Arts and Sciences classroom ranged from polite to confrontational, Schlafly detailed her life history, explained her opposition to the defeated Equal Rights Amendment and answered some hostile questions from those who had come with the belief that her lecture, "Feminist Follies: Why Women Belong in the Kitchen," was in itself a folly.
Schlafly, a self-labelled "pro-family conservative" with six grown children, said women can choose whether to pursue careers or be stay-at-home moms, but made clear her belief that family should always come before work.
"I don't think that whatever you do in the workforce is a substitute for children and grandchildren, " she said.
Schlafly, who wrote her first book, A Choice, Not an Echo, about the flaws of the ERA, said the amendment would have wrongly forced women to register for the draft, among other reasons.
"The women pushing [the ERA] obviously did not have any daughters," Schlafly said. "I want young women at BU to get another point of view, since many seem to only have the view taught in women's studies classes."
She said many of the feminists she debated in the 1970s, such as Gloria Steinem, are still repeating the same old arguments today, and are only looking to portray women as victims of an oppressive patriarchal society. She also said feminists are not looking for "equal rights," and instead aim to have women compete only against other women to fill quotas -- and not compete against men as equals.
Using the U.S. military as an example, she cited the lower physical requirements women must meet to be considered for service. She drew a laugh from the crowd with her observation that "45 percent of [women in the military] can't even throw a hand grenade far enough to keep from killing themselves."
Opponents of her rhetoric made themselves known throughout her speech. A group of Boston University students in women's rights advocacy group Voices for Choice dressed up as 1950s housewives in protest.
"We wanted a creative way to show that while we agree with free speech, we do not agree with [Schlafly]," said School of Hospitality Administration junior Christy Nolan, one of the protesters.
College of Communication senior Kasia Zabawa, the president of Boston University College Republicans -- the group hosting the speech -- said she was glad Schlafly fit an appearance at BU into her schedule.
"Last semester, I took a women's studies course, and I wanted a new perspective, so I read her book," said Zabawa, who has written for The Daily Free Press. "I don't agree with everything she says . . . but our job is not to indoctrinate but to get different viewpoints."
Many students said they disagreed with Schlafly's views, and when Every Person Counts Vice President Carrie Chiusano, a COM junior, asked why changes in feminism were not addressed and why the ERA, which was defeated years ago, was featured so prominently in her lecture, applause erupted from the audience.
"Here at a university where women are being educated, it's a little late [to try to talk about giving up careers]," said CAS freshman Alison Huggins. "We spent too much money to turn back."
Annie Mackin contributed reporting for this article