Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Gloria Steinem and Phyllis Schlafly

I found the contrast between both Gloria Steinem and Phyllis Schlafly’s articles on the Equal Rights Act to be quite interesting. Both women are extremely passionate about the subjects and both make strong interjections, yet they also both are completely opposite of one another. Gloria Steinem points out the way that women are mistreated and looked down upon in society, while Schlafly argues that women have nothing to complain about, given the fact that they already have such easy lives. Phyllis Schlafly writes, “The fact that women, not men, have babies is not the fault of selfish and domineering men, or of the establishment, or of any clique of conspirators who want to oppress women. It’s simply the way God made us” it comes off as very condescending and superficial. Yes, women can have babies. But the key word there is can. Just because women can have babies does not always mean that they do. It does not mean that they are just machines that must wait around for a man to come and impregnate them. Whether a women wants to have a baby or not is her choice. She can decide to do it with a partner or alone, or not at all. In addition, Schlafly seems to forget that women cannot actually have babies without the help from a man, and the fact that the baby is a product of both the woman and man’s genes combined. Although the woman may carry the baby for nine months, it does not mean that it is solely her responsibility to take care of the child forever.
Contrastingly, Steinem writes about how the importance of raising children is not based on the quantity of time spent with the children, but the quality. “If laws permit women equal work and pay opportunities, men will then be relieved of their role as sole breadwinner. Fewer ulcers, fewer hours of meaningless work, equal responsibility for his own children: these are a few of the reasons that Women’s Liberation is Men’s Liberation too.” She writes about how having the man live in the house and take care of the children will allow him some quality time with his children and help strengthen his bond with them.
Another part I found interesting was when Schlafly writes, “The wonderful advantage that American women have is that we can have all the rewards of that number-one career, and still moonlight with a second one to suit our intellectual, cultural or financial tastes or needs.” Schlafly is only talking about white, upper class, American housewives who want to work as a homemaker. And there is nothing wrong with that profession at all. But she is forgetting the millions of single mothers, women who identify as LGBTQ+, and the women whose dreams and passions stem much further than the typical family. Steinem revokes this whole interjection in her article when she compares the struggles to women in society to that of “blacks.” She talks about how both are seen as their sex or race before they are seen as a hard worker or a passionate, smart person.
I found these contrasting articles very interesting because I was brought up in a home with a father who works full time and a stay at home mother. For some of my early years, I thought it was weird when my friends' mothers worked because I did not think of mothers to be people who actually had jobs. That opinion has changed immensely as I have grown up and made close friends who have mothers that work full time as well as friends with single mothers. It has even made me wonder why my mother, who met my father at work doing the same job, chose to quit and raise the family when she was just as qualified as my father to work. And looking back on my younger years, I agree with Gloria Steinem when she says that children sometimes have too much mother in their lives and not enough father. Although both my parents were around me a lot, my father often travels for work and works late at night, which meant he had to miss a number of school plays, concerts, and sports games. Although this is my experience, Phyllis Schlafly is not incorrect when she says that the feminist movement can sometimes drown out the voices of women who want to remain in their traditional roles. Sometimes the push for equality in the workplace drowns out the voices of the women who want to stay at home and work as mothers, because that is what they believe their calling is. Although I do not believe that Steinem herself is saying that, I understand why Schlafly could feel that way. Steinem is arguing for the basic right of choice; to be looked at as equally when following a dream or exploring a passion or just entering an interesting field. The “noisy”, “sharp-tongued, high-pitched whining complaints” (as Schlafly prefers to call them) by the women who side with the ERA, are simply calls to demand, and once their dreams have been achieved, it will not be looked at twice when a woman wants to pursue her passion outside of the home.

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