News Religion

Phyllis Schlafly: Bring Back Shotgun Weddings!

Robin Marty

Because man, the problem with the world today is more women don't marry out of lack of other options.

Want to know what the biggest problem is facing our society today? Well, Phyllis Schlafly knows — it’s the lack of shotgun weddings!

Via Shakesville:

The trends toward non-marriage and toward same-sex marriage are a direct attack on fathers. The bond between a child and his mother is an obvious fact of nature, but marriage is the relationship that establishes the link between a child and his father.

There are many causes for the dramatic reduction in marriage, starting with unilateral divorce, which spread across the United States in the 1960s and ’70s, putting government on the side of marriage breakup. Then came the legalizing of abortion, diminishing the custom of shotgun marriages, which in earlier years was often the response to surprise pregnancies.

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The feminist notion that women should be independent of men, followed by affirmative-action/female quotas in employment, tended to carry out the goal stated by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg that the concept of husband-breadwinner and wife-homemaker “must be eliminated.” These feminist ideas and practices demean marriage by discriminating against men and also against fulltime homemakers.

More shotgun weddings!  Darn right! In fact, we should force every woman into a shotgun marriage if she isn’t married by 20, pregnant or not.  That will bring back the golden days!

Commentary Family

Divorce Rates Keep Declining. Thanks, Birth Control!

Amanda Marcotte

Feminism has led to lower divorce rates over the decades, because independent women have better marriages. Yet conservatives keep insisting that the struggle for equality is driving families apart.

Divorce rates are down, and we have feminism to thank for it. Social scientists have known for a long time that half of all marriages are not actually destined to end in divorce. Even so, the myth that matrimony is in peril persists—and that falsehood is unlikely to die anytime soon.

At the New York Times, Claire Cain Miller has gallantly tried yet again to get it through people’s thick skulls that feminism has not, as conservatives claim, uprooted family life by creating a bunch of marriage-allergic women who seek a divorce the minute their husband farts in front of them the first time. Her piece is incredibly thorough and should be bookmarked to be sent to anyone and everyone who laments how modern marriage is supposedly falling apart.

That said, I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for those people to wise up to the facts. The myth that divorce is on the rise has been repeatedly debunked, but people, particularly conservatives, cling to it anyway. And usually, in their version of events, feminism is to blame for this imaginary state of affairs. Miller offers one reason why this may be so: It’s true that the initial surge of divorces in the ’70s were partially the result of feminism, both because feminists pushed for no-fault divorce laws and because women who had been stuck in unhappy marriages for a long time felt empowered by feminism to leave them. Thus, the fable took root that feminism, by raising women’s expectations, generally leads to more divorces.

In retrospect, however, that divorce rate surge was probably more of a great correction that wiped the slate clean so we, as a country, could start over and try to do better next time. Many of the very same forces that led to the rise in divorce numbers in the ’70s, Miller reports, are the very same ones lowering it now. (Ain’t life a complex beast?) Because women are growing up with feminism in their lives, they’re able to reject bad marriage decisions before they make them. In turn, divorce rates have fallen, though with the unpleasant side effect of embittered misogynists creating online communities to gripe about how they lost out because women started wanting equal treatment.

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Miller only briefly mentions it, but reproductive rights also played a huge role in all of this. This chart from the hyper-conservative “Knot Yet” project is trying to raise the alarm about “out-of-wedlock” births—which is kind of silly, especially since many of the mothers live with their child’s fathers or marry them shortly after the birth—but it does demonstrate the remarkable increase in the age of first birth and first marriage:

Based on this data, it’s apparent that people are waiting longer to have kids. The teen pregnancy rate is at its lowest in decades too. While half of pregnancies remain unplanned, women are clearly using their access to contraception and abortion to be more confident that they want to have children with the men of their choosing. That’s a good thing, even if the exact moment in time the wedding ring gets slipped on doesn’t meet the preferences of the priggish “Knot Yet” folks. Without reliable, legal birth control—and abortion—many women would end up tied to men through their shared offspring, and even marrying them, even if they aren’t really sure this is the guy for them. And thus, more divorce. In short, feminism has done way more than just shift women’s expectations about relationships. It’s also given them the tools to set those expectations for themselves.

So why, exactly, is all this common sense failing to sink in with so many people? Jesse Singal at New York writes, “There’s a weird appeal to the idea that society is falling apart, especially among people who are convinced that things were better back in the old days, and/or that some sort of cultural rot has taken hold.” He cites the belief that crime is on the rise, when it’s actually on the decline, as an example.

I agree with Singal, but would add that it’s more than just a fist-shaking, back-in-my-day kind of mentality. Sadly, I think that a lot of this ignorance of reality is purposeful and ideological in nature. To use Singal’s example, choosing to believe, against all evidence, that crime is up supports a racist, anti-urban ideology—it allows people who want to flee racially diverse cities to justify their choices by saying that they’re avoiding “crime,” when that is not what they’re doing at all. Similarly, believing the divorce rate is going up allows people who want to hate feminism to feel vindicated in doing so: They can declare that they’re against feminism because it is ruining families.

What the actual evidence suggests, however, is that feminists are only ruining “the family” if you view women as little more than a support system put there to serve the interests of men. If you define marriage as an institution in which men put out a minor outlay of cash in exchange for having a live-in servant who does all the housework and most of the heavy lifting of childcare, so that a man can pursue his career and hobbies unimpeded, then absolutely, feminism has done some real damage there.

Of course, you’re not going to get many people these days to admit that their affection for an era when marriage was more compulsory is rooted in an unwillingness to see women as full human beings who deserve a chance to achieve their own dreams. Instead, you get all this feigned “concern” for single women and pressure to commit to an unhappy marriage rather than stay single. Take W. Bradford Wilcox and Robin Fretwell Wilson, in the Washington Post, unsubtly warning/threatening women that they will suffer horrible violence if they don’t get married as quickly as possible. Or Mark Regnerus, in the same publication, trying to paint young marriage as romantic, in a desperate bid to trick women. Or the baffling media popularity of “Princeton Mom” Susan Patton, just because she was willing, without a shred of evidence, to suggest that you’re a washed-up and unwanted hag if you’re not married by college graduation.

No one should be fooled by any of this faux worry. The overwhelming evidence shows that using birth control, dating around, and waiting until you’re older and know what you want before you marry makes for happier marriages. Yes, men have to take the garbage out and do the dishes more, which is a massive tragedy in some eyes. But if the real goal is “happy marriages” instead of “subservient women,” then feminism is the clear winner.

Commentary Human Rights

Phyllis Schlafly: Still Wrong (and Mean) After All These Years

Carole Joffe

A recent column by Phyllis Schlafly—arguably nation’s, if not the world’s, most famous hater of the feminist movement—shows just how woefully out of touch she and the conservative spokeswomen who have followed her are today.

“The best way to improve economic prospects for women is to improve job prospects for the men in their lives, even if that means increasing the so-called pay gap.”

The above quote is from a recent column by Phyllis Schlafly, arguably the nation’s, if not the world’s, most famous hater of the feminist movement. I had not seen mention of her in the media for some time, and this column has caused me to reflect both on her long career and her relevance. Her column also sparked thoughts about the larger problem that U.S. conservatism has had in finding credible spokeswomen.

I confess to some grudging admiration for Schlafly, given that at nearly 90 she is still active politically—but that is the only thing about her I can admire. Ever since the 1970s, Schlafly has devoted her considerable energies to vilifying the women’s movement and those who identify with it. Here are some of her positions on various items of the feminist policy agenda:

On marital rape:By getting married, the woman has consented to sex, and I don’t think you can call it rape.”

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On sexual harassment:Non-criminal sexual harassment on the job is not a problem for the virtuous woman except in the rarest of cases.”

On domestic violence: “When marriages are broken by false allegations of domestic violence, U.S. taxpayers fork up an estimated $20 billion a year to support the resulting single-parent, welfare-dependent families.”

To be sure, Schlafly is hardly unique as an opponent of feminist policy initiatives. What is particularly off-putting, however, in both her writing and her personal appearances, is the vitriol with which she attacks her enemies. Schlafly, with her frequent cattiness, may in fact be the original “mean girl.” When I saw her address a conservative student organization at UC Berkeley a few years ago, she took pains to tell the audience that after feminists pressured the airlines to modify appearance guidelines for female flight attendants, “they all looked fat.” As a press account of her speech two years ago to an all-male group at the Citadel, a military college, reported, “She told the all-male group that ‘feminist is a bad word and everything they stand for is bad.'”

“Find out if your girlfriend is a feminist before you get too far into it,” she said. “Some of them are pretty. They don’t all look like Bella Abzug.” At the same event she said, “Feminists are having a hard time being elected because they essentially are unlikable.”

Though Schlafly’s influence has peaked, as has, apparently, her political savvy—what portion of contemporary Citadel cadets know who the late Bella Abzug was?—at one time, she did wield significant political power. Her most successful political venture was the Stop the Equal Rights Amendment campaign, which she led throughout the 1970s, when the measure was close to ratification by the requisite number of states. She also in the early ‘70s established the Eagle Forum, a national “pro-family” organization with numerous state chapters. In addition to the issues mentioned above, the organization has over the years taken strong stands against abortion, gay rights (despite having a gay son), and attempts at gender equality in public schools.

But, as her statement calling for a widening gender gap in wages suggests, not only has Schlafly’s moment passed as a credible leader—she and other younger conservative women leaders, trapped as they are by the Republican Party’s free-market ideology, simply are unable to address the economic realities facing women today. When Schlafly emerged as a political activist in the ’70s, there still existed the possibility for many American families to function on one man’s salary. Furthermore, a key message of the emergent women’s movement of that period—which urged women to pursue careers—was met defensively by those who were “just housewives,” to use a phrase of that period. So Schlafly’s messages, which glorify women who stay home, raise children, and support their husbands’ endeavors, deeply resonated with many.

But, to put it mildly, the world of 2014 is very different, in both economic terms and cultural ones, from that of the 1970s. The stagnation in wages for most American workers means that most families need two paychecks, where once one would have sufficed. And, of course, there has been a continual rise in single-parent households, the vast majority of which are headed by women. There now exist many more households, compared to the 1970s, of same-sex couples, many of which are composed of two women—not to mention single women, without children, who also could hardly be expected to endorse the idea of a widening gap between male and female pay.

But the most visible women in the contemporary Republican Party are as helpless as Schlafly in acknowledging these realities. Both Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, the highest ranking Republican woman in the House, and “rising star” Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee have opposed raises in the minimum wage—though, much to observers’ amusement, the latter inadvertently made the case for a raise, failing to realize that her teenage years’ wage of $2.15 an hour, which she idealized in a speech opposing such a measure, in today’s dollars would be worth somewhere between $12.72 and $14.18.

In the lived reality of American women, reproductive issues and economic ones are deeply entwined. Women need access to reproductive services, among other reasons, to be able to participate in the paid labor force. And women, like their male counterparts, need jobs that pay a living wage. Phyllis Schlafly and the conservative spokeswomen who have followed her are woefully out of touch on both counts. Let’s hope that those who disagree with them show up for the midterm elections, as they did in 2012.