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From nixing ERA to opposing equal pay, Phyllis Schlafly’s still at it

Phyllis Schlafly speaking at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Md.

In the late 1970s, when I was still a girl watching Mary Tyler Moore forge an unmarried career in Minneapolis television, Phyllis Schlafly was fighting to ensure the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) never became a part of the U.S. constitution. “Thanks” in large part to her efforts, the amendment died in 1982, having gained ratification in 35 of the 38 states necessary for constitutional inclusion.

Mary Stanik

More than 30 years later, the nearly 90-year-old Schlafly is still wielding fighting words in her battle against things she deems liberal and destructive to America.

Her latest target is equal pay for women. I guess it’s not enough for her that the Republicans in the U.S. Senate blocked the Paycheck Fairness Act. Schlafly, who used to thank her husband for allowing her to vacate her wifely duties so she could travel the country denouncing the ERA and telling her followers to wear the right lipstick and earrings so they wouldn’t look like feminists or the political activists they actually were, now says women who earn as much as men won’t get husbands. In an opinion for the Christian Post, she wrote that “suppose the pay gap between men and women were magically eliminated. If that happened, simple arithmetic suggests that half of women would be unable to find what they regard as a suitable mate.”

‘Dirty, dangerous, outside work’

Schlafly also said that much of the reason women make less than men is because “women place a much higher value on pleasant working conditions: a clean, comfortable, air-conditioned office with congenial co-workers. Men, on the other hand, are more willing to endure unpleasant working conditions to earn higher pay, doing dirty, dangerous, outside work.”      

I don’t know if Schlafly gets out much these days (and since she is a widow, she doesn’t need permission anymore), but I’m guessing she’s not made much contact with the women who have managed to punch through discriminatory blocks so that they might do dirty, dangerous, outside work where many of them still don’t make as much as their male colleagues. And I didn’t know all of the men making so much more money were doing dirty, dangerous, outside work. Did you? I wonder if the 95.4 percent of the Fortune 500 and 1000 CEOs who are men, men who earned a median total compensation of $9.7 million in 2012, thought it was more important to have a clean, air-conditioned office rather than venture into dirty, dangerous, outside work?

The thing is, in 2011 (according to the Face the Facts project of the George Washington University), 28 percent of wives in two-earner U.S. households made more than their husbands. That figure increased 65 percent between 1987 and 2011. Have any of you heard of mass divorce filings by the husbands of such women, based solely on the fact that their wives make more money? No, you have not.

What people like Schlafly don’t want to realize is that there are a great many reasons why some women don’t marry. I’ll say that instead of “find husbands,” because, to be honest, if getting married is an overwhelming priority for a woman, she will, believe me, “find” some sort of husband. Sites like don’t exist just to provide opportunities for sexual escapades. Now, whether the husband such a woman marries is a decent guy who may or may not make more than she does is another matter rather overlooked by Schlafly and her acolytes.

The reasons are legion

As a never-married straight woman, I can tell you about at least a few of the reasons many women never marry. Some are as you’ve seen in movies, that we’ve never found the right guy. Some of that is because we were looking in the wrong places. Or we wanted Captain Perfection (but not necessarily Captain Makes-More-Money-Than-I-Do; certainly not in these days of the Lingering Great Recession) and we didn’t realize until later that he doesn’t exist. Some of us were focused on careers, careers our mothers didn’t dare dream of, careers that sometimes paid us more than our male colleagues but sometimes did not.

I don’t know if Schlafly would want to know that one (quite successful) man I’ve known for a while told me if my book ever becomes a big success, maybe is made into a movie, and I make lots more than he does, he would be thrilled to let me support him while he goes fishing and smokes cigarillos. He also said he would be happy (enough) to vacuum and cook, because I told him that for as charming as he is, fishing and cigarillos alone won’t cut it.

Ladies, whether you are single or married, it’s OK to make more than the men you are married to and/or like. Some of them might even thank you for your earnings ability.

And if they vacuum and like watching Mary Tyler Moore reruns, so much the better.

Mary Stanik, a writer and public-relations professional, lives in Minneapolis. She is the author of the novel “Life Erupted.”


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Comments (10)

  1. Submitted by Todd Hintz on 04/25/2014 - 03:10 pm.


    Ms. Schlafly merely demonstrates that men aren’t the only ones with hairy knuckles that drag on the ground. In this day and age who give a flip which person makes more money? My former wife made more money than me and my girlfriend does too. And you want to know the shocking truth? None of us give a rip. We both earned, we both contributed to the household, and we both benefited.

    Quite frankly, Ms. Schlafly simply provided reason #3487 why the Republicans have a reputation as being backward in their world view and are conducting a war on women.

  2. Submitted by James Hamilton on 04/25/2014 - 05:57 pm.

    The woman is an enigma.

    Obviously well-educated and with decades in the workplace, one might expect Schafly to be at least a bit more moderate. Looking further back, I found that her mother, too, was well educated and employed outside the home both before and after her marriage. Wikipedia reports that “During the Depression, Schlafly’s father went into long-term unemployment, and her mother entered the labor market. Mrs. Stewart was able to keep the family afloat and maintained Phyllis in a Catholic girls’ school.”

    Strange that Schafly should owe her own education and well-being to a family in which her mother was the primary means of support. One can’t help but wonder whether her father resented that fact and whether it caused strife in the Stewart household.

    In any event, her position clearly is one of “Do what I say, not as I do,” given her own success outside the home.

    • Submitted by Sarah Nagle on 04/25/2014 - 07:35 pm.

      Not to mention a bunch of contradictions

      She was able to put herself through Washington University while working fulltime – this was during WWII, so a well-paying job in a factory (I believe) was available because there were no men. Had she tried to do this five years before or five years after, she wouldn’t have been able to do this. She got a masters at Harvard and was able to do so because – again – the men were all at war and the program needed students. This is not to say that she wasn’t qualified and doesn’t diminish her accomplishments in any way, but she did not experience what so many other women had to go through to get an education. A decade after Elizabeth Dole and Pat Schroeder were told that they were taking places from men at Harvard Law School, she earned a J.D. Her experience is atypical to say the least. And given today’s economy, job market, and education costs, no woman should think about deliberately earning less.

      • Submitted by SA Scheufler on 04/27/2014 - 04:14 pm.

        Contraditions intended? Riveting… or ordinance-explosive . .

        “…she was able to put herself through Washington University while working full time – this was during WWII, so a well-paying job in a factory (I believe) was available because there were no men. Had she tried to do this five years before or five years after, she wouldn’t have been able to do this. She got a masters at Harvard and was able to do so because – again – the men were all at war and the program needed students.”

        You are right. Women entered the workplace during WWII *because* the men were gone. Rosie the Riveter became the war-poster symbol of women overcoming aversions to dirt-&-grime to earn wages like men–because the nation (no the entire Allies) needed them there. Without them we could not remain standing as the Arsenal-of-Democracy. I know Mrs. Schafly’s first name isn’t Rosie, but you placed her as being there–so go ahead and admit it. It was her hard-sweat (during the crucial turning point) that helped earn women opportunities to enter the workplace. By the way, you were also correct to say that it was the same war (the one which pulled men away while she tested ammunition in a factory) during her terms at Harvard. But what was it that “enabled” her The absence of men, or the grit to do a dirty factory job? I mean, did Hillary Clinton gain admission to Yale because there was a on-going (male-only draft) ground war? Or did Ambassador Clinton gain admission because persons with last names like Dole, Schroeder, and Schafly, each pushed through obstacles to help make it obtainable for Hillary?

        I like the idea of pay equality–just like I like the idea of including the majority gender in selective service Registration between the ages of 18-&-25. That’s a citizen’s responsibility, one that the males from the generations of WWII, Korea, and Viet Nam, died fulfilling. I don’t think it’s the voluntary inclusion in combat that will make women equal. It’s the involuntary one.

    • Submitted by SA Scheufler on 04/27/2014 - 04:16 pm.

      An enigma… or a real-world source of experience?

      I like your observations about Mrs. Schafly: “Obviously well-educated and with decades in the workplace…. Looking further back, I found that her mother, too, was well educated and employed outside the home both before and after her marriage.” Whether or not her conclusions are correct, I think ad-hominem attacks are a bit strange. She has the experience, and the choice, to use the term “Mrs.” She has the life experiences to relate to workplace situations as well. Here’s an enigma for me: Hillary Clinton. Did Hillary stand-by-her-man, or dd she merely make a clever political decision? Did she restrain her political aspirations to follow after those of her husband? Is she less accomplished for that choice? Life is full of enigmas… that is if you look for them.

  3. Submitted by Mary Fernstrum on 04/27/2014 - 11:15 am.

    Schlafly VS women

    She worked tirelessly to defeat the ERA much to my puzzlement. She is still as adamant in her work to keep women barefoot and pregnant even though she is ninety. The Republican Party still relies on her to stir up anti women causes, and I wonder who they will find to replace her. I won’t miss her.

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