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Phyllis Schlafly and New Politics of Family

Conservative stalwart foresaw threats to society

If an icon exists in the conservative world, it is Phyllis Schlafly. The Washington Times recently described her as “arguably the most important woman in American political history,” and a biography by historian Donald Critchlow offers a similar assessment. Few individuals can claim to have defeated, almost single-handedly, a measure as momentous and potentially destructive as a proposed constitutional amendment like the Equal Rights Amendment. And she did it in the face of not only a massive leftist lobbying campaign but of capitulation by conservative Republican politicians.

Today we are faced with an equally dangerous threat, if not a greater one. Sadly, we seem to have learned little, and Mrs. Schlafly once again stands almost alone in prophetic opposition to forces arrayed against the family, social order, freedom, and quite possibly American civilization. Once again it is a challenge to which our leaders are conspicuously failing to rise.

Mrs. Schlafly has challenged a massive abuse of the Constitution that most on the right ignore: the forced, systematic destruction of families and of parents’ rights in the nation’s family courts. This involves much more than “gender bias” against fathers in custody disputes. It represents the logical culmination of what many see as the “totalitarian” tendencies of organized feminism but which few fully understand or confront. “No evidence exists that nearly half of American children were voluntarily abandoned by their own fathers,” she writes. “Feminist organizations and writers have propagated the myth that women are victims of an oppressive patriarchal society and that marriage is an inherently abusive institution…. Feminists made divorce a major component of women’s liberation.”

What we are seeing here is feminism’s attack on those who literally embody the hated “patriarchy”: fathers. It is a direct assault on the family at its most vulnerable point. It has already torn apart families by the millions, and unchecked it will destroy the family altogether –- much more quickly and thoroughly than pornography or television or same-sex marriage.

Yet even today, Phyllis Schlafly again meets resistance –- and not only from the left. Perplexing as it may seem, some conservative politicians have been infected with poisonous feminist propaganda and mouth the vapid platitudes of the left. They have accepted the lie of the evil male and the supposed necessity for massive government action against him.

It is a brilliant ploy. The stock feminist platform on abortion, employment, and affirmative action commands little support today. So feminists have switched tactics and begun posing as damsels in distress in need of rescue by chivalrous male politicians from brutal, “uncaring” and “insensitive” men.

Feminists now pose as defenders of motherhood, and their weapons are children. But the aim is not to strengthen motherhood and the family but to turn them over to the care of government. “The feminists…want to thoroughly politicize the last bastion of personal life in our society: families,” writes columnist Wendy McElroy. “They want to wrest motherhood from its traditional right-wing associations and make it a left/liberal issue, with ‘Mothers Are Victims’ writ-large on its banner.” These feminists argue “for government to ‘economically recognize’ motherhood so that women will not be dependent upon husbands.” Government replaces the father and the husband.

Some conservative politicians find this difficult to resist. To avoid political risk, they posture as champions of families and “women and children” by demanding measures against “domestic violence” and “deadbeat dads,” even when no scientific data indicate that these problems are anything other than creations of the government. “There is a deafening silence from conservatives who pretend to be guardians against federal takeovers of problems that are none of the federal government’s business,” writes Mrs. Schlafly.

What these programs do in fact is destroy families and create the very problems they claim to be solving. The first and easiest step in dissolving the family is to remove the fathers. Mothers then follow, and children become the property of the state. Thus conservative politicians become the unwitting tools of feminist ideologues in their campaign to create a collectivism more total than even Marx envisioned, one approaching the human hatcheries of Brave New World.

This is precisely how extremist movements move from the margins to the mainstream and eventually seize power: not by defeating their opposition head-on but by making an end run around it, by disguising themselves in the values of the mainstream, by claiming to champion traditional values that in reality they are hijacking and perverting. This is precisely what feminism is now doing.

Phyllis Schlafly stands almost alone today among eminent public figures in warning against the feminist-judicial machine. She is calling for a re-evaluation of “no-fault” divorce, for the role and rights of fathers to be respected equally with those of mothers, and for shared parenting laws to discourage the use of children as weapons. “It’s time to stop spending any more taxpayers’ money to promote family dissolution and fatherless children.”

We stand at a crossroads of inestimable importance. We can listen to the prophets of Baal who tell us, as they have told us before, that government must control our lives for the collective good or because of some newly imagined danger or unfairness. Or we can listen to Phyllis Schlafly, who long ago warned of the very evils that are now unfolding before our eyes.

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Written By

Stephen Baskerville, Ph.D., is assistant professor of government at Patrick Henry College and Earhart Fellow at the Howard Center for Family, Religion, and Society. His most recent book, Taken Into Custody: The War Against Fathers, Marriage, and the Family, has just been published by Cumberland House Publishing.

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