Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Antifeminism 101 with Phyllis Schlafly and Gwyneth Paltrow

by Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux

I can't believe we're still listening to this woman. Phyllis Schlafly, who was at the forefront of the campaign to stop the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment (which was intended to ensconce gender equality in our constitution - what a crazy idea!) in the early 1980s, was interviewed in Time yesterday and is still spouting views that are breathtakingly wrong and intolerant. According to Schlafly, "[Feminists] have given us divorce, millions of fatherless children and the idea that it's O.K. to be a single mom." She goes on to say that had the ERA been passed, gay marriage would have been legal 25 years ago, directly causing the collapse of the American family, despite the fact that she has a gay son (the gay community tried to make a "thing" about this at one point, she says, but her son understands that keeping marriage rights from people of his sexual orientation is part of the "need for a stable society", so it's ok). But really, the problem isn't with those scary gays - it's with feminists. "The feminist movement," says Schlafly, "is not about success for women. Feminists don't honor successful women. You never hear them talking about Margaret Thatcher. Take Condoleezza Rice."

Right. So wanting women to be paid equally - not about success for women. Wanting women to have control over their own bodies - definitely not about women's independence. Wanting women to have sexual autonomy - really about wanting women to be victims. Let's just venerate Condoleezza Rice because she is a woman (not because we agree with her policies) and forget that women routinely face job discrimination, our reproductive rights are constantly under attack, we are essentialized in motherhood and racialized and sexualized because of our gender.

And while I'm angry: let me just say, Gwyneth Paltrow's blog, Goop, makes me want to tear my hair out and claw the walls. Here's a choice sample from Paltrow's January newsletter:

"It is that time of year, folks. I need to lose a few pounds of holiday excess. Anyone else? I like to do fasts and detoxes a couple of times during the year, the most hardcore one being the Master Cleanse I did last spring. It was not what you would characterize as pretty. Or easy. It did work, however. As I do not wish to subsist on lemon water in the middle of winter, I asked my doctor, a detox diet specialist, for the guidelines he uses to achieve a good detox that is not as hallucinogenic (in a bad way) as the Master Cleanse. He actually thinks that the Master Cleanse can be dangerous because the liver is not supported by the nutrients it needs."

Really? Only drinking lemon water can be dangerous for your body? And are there diets that can be hallucinogenic in a "good way"? Paltrow claims that her blog is there to help us "nourish the inner aspect" but it sounds more like she wants us to "nourish the inner eating disorder." I never thought I would say this, but I wish that Gwyneth Paltrow would start making movies again.

Thanks to Aku for the tips!


At April 8, 2009 at 3:18 PM , Anonymous drd said...

"The feminist movement," says Schlafly, "is not about success for women. Feminists don't honor successful women. You never hear them talking about Margaret Thatcher. Take Condoleezza Rice.""

Well, feel free to prove her wrong. Praise Sarah Palin, a woman who managed to rise in politics and raise a family, to show that feminism doesn't happen to be a pet of the left-wing agenda.

At April 8, 2009 at 3:52 PM , Anonymous Chloe said...

The reason most feminists don't praise Sarah Palin is because, despite her personal success, she shows little interest in helping other women to enjoy the choices and successes she's had. Amelia's point is that we shouldn't be venerating women unless they act in the interests of women. Otherwise, we'd be venerating Schlafly herself - arguably a very successful woman, but one who spent most of her life fighting to restrict other women's freedoms. Feminism isn't just about what body parts you have, it's about what you believe in and what you fight for.

At April 9, 2009 at 7:43 AM , Blogger TommyD said...

Chloe, drd and Amelia have all found the central nerve of the feminism/anti-feminism debate here. The problem is that "feminism" does not have a universally accepted meaning.

Sarah Palin is the executive officer of a state, and was a major party's candidate for the second highest office in the land. If feminism is the belief that women should achieve the same political, social and economic status as men--ignoring all other values--then Sarah Palin's candidacy was a triumph of feminism.


No one--liberal, conservative or somewhere in the middle--really thinks that the feminism issue should be divorced from their other values. Women who supported gun rights, opposed abortion rights, and belonged to conservative churches tended to support Palin--just as they had supported Bush. Pro-choice, pro-gun control, pro-gay marriage women tended to oppose her. Both sides claimed to be feminists, and both sides met the strict definition of "feminism."

Unlike Chloe, I think Palin shows a great deal of "interest in helping other women to enjoy the choices and successes she's had." But I also think that Palin (like everyone else) is biased towards her own preferences: abortion is the wrong choice, having a large family and a demanding career is a good choice, etc. Who is the great decider who gets to decide which choices are feminist?

Feminism is about what you believe in and fight for--but different people are going to fight for different things.


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