Thursday, November 4, 2010

Post-election thoughts on Phyllis Schlafly, Tea Parties, and our American future . . .

Tom Swogger, a.k.a. Swogdog, runs an interesting Wikispace on which I found the American flag logo (pictured left), and the following concise take on Betty Friedan's motivation for writing The Feminine Mystique.

Women's Liberation 
  • Women started admitting they felt "a sense of dissatisfaction" being housewives.
  • The "housewife's syndrome" was characterized by a mixture of frustration and exhaustion.
  • "Queen For A Day" TV show found unhappy women, and based on their situation, treated the most unlucky like a queen for a day, and then gave this woman cosmetics and appliances, because they were considered to be the necessary supplies for them to be a better housewife.
  • Betty Friedan was one viewer of the show who was unhappy with her life as a housewife, and began to question other women, and to realize it was a common problem.
  • In 1963 Friedan published The Feminine Mystique, which answered the question that she continually asked, "Why were American women so discontented?"
P. Schlafly (Getty)
Second Wave Feminism erupted post haste, culminating in the Equal Rights Amendment being passed by Congress in 1972, and being ratified  by 35 of the 38 states necessary to make it an official amendment of  the U.S.Constitution.

At that point the ERA ran smack into Phyllis Schlafly and her well-organized battalions of  formerly apolitical homemakers. Ms. Schlafly effectively sold these women on the idea that their familiar (although legally subservient) position in society was threatened by guaranteed equality. She convinced millions of homemakers and their husbands that the passage of the ERA meant they would no longer control their own family life.

Ms. Schlafly's strategy worked.  That effort to pass an Equal Rights Amendment finally died in 1982. It was one of fear-mongering's finest political hours.

Zooming up to the present . . .

Look at that sign in the photograph to the right, "Preserve The Family, Our Heritage." Haven't I seen similar at recent political rallies as well? Who cares that there's no consensus on what family and heritage mean, they are terms with which we're comfortable and familiar. They don't scare us, by asking us to deal with the real world today as it really is.

2010 political sign
I think it's pretty clear that frightened Americans voted in droves on Tuesday, sweeping back into power in the House the leadership they voted out four years ago as having gotten us into the mess we're struggling to get out of. We voted our fear of this mess four years ago, and we voted our fear of this mess again last Tuesday. Different takes on what to be afraid of, perhaps; but fear is fear is fear.

Fear appears to be a highly effective motivator in American politics. So here, it seems to me, is today's challenge for those of us who deplore fear-mongering: We've got to quit condescending and carping and criticizing, and come up with something realistic and useful that's as practically marketable to a majority of American as fear. If we want leaders who practice informed, dispassionate decision-making, we have to find a way to make such tactics seem as cozy and comfortable as "family" and "heritage."

One  problem, of course, is that embracing these kinds of leaders requires us to  do some responsible, informed thinking, which is a lot of work. Embracing fear-mongers, on the other hand, requires nothing but . . . well . . .being afraid.

Any ideas?

By the way, back in 2007 there were rumblings of a new attempt at passing an Equal Rights Amendment . . .

1 comment:

  1. I couldn't agree more, though I have no ideas at the moment. Would like to find a poster-sized rendition of the "Think--It's Patriotic" flag/sign :-)