Liberal cultural elites have had it out for Phyllis Schlafly since she defeated the Equal Rights Amendment in 1979. Now, producers of the FX/Hulu series “Mrs. America” have hypocritically done to Schlafly exactly what the women’s liberation and Me Too movements complain “the patriarchy” does to women it cannot control: rape and defile them.
The so-called Equal Rights Amendment, or ERA, was a perfect Hollywood cause. It allowed supporters to appear pro-woman, while Hollywood knew the amendment posed no threat to the elite power structure. ERA is touted as an effort to “put women in the Constitution” and ensure women’s equality. Hollywood elites jumped on board supporting ratification, and once the amendment passed Congress in 1972, 32 states passed ratification bills in rapid succession.
Enter Phyllis Schlafly, a Harvard University-educated, anti-communist crusader, who chose to get married and raise her six children instead of pursuing a paid career. Schlafly became a cultural villain when she inconveniently read the ERA and its proponents’ writings.
How Phyllis Schlafly Killed the ERA
Using supporters’ own words and scholarship, Schlafly exposed the stark nakedness of the feminist emperor that is the ERA. She proved that the amendment has never held any benefit for women that was not already deeply entrenched in American law, and that it would not put women in the Constitution, as it refers only to “sex,” the definition of which has no consensus these days. Schlafly discerned that the ERA would negatively affect women by subjecting them to the draft and removing important protections that would disproportionately harm lower- and middle-class women.
Schlafly trained a team of volunteers, many of them homemakers who had never done public speaking or worked outside the home, to debate ERA supporters on college campuses and local television stations, and to lobby their state houses.
Schlafly not only exposed the truth about the ERA, she exposed a reality most distasteful to feminists and cultural elites: Many women actually love their husbands, enjoy their marriages, and consider it an honor rather than a burden to raise children.
Far more women were concerned about being forced into the workforce or having their daughters drafted than were interested in demanding abortion rights and other feminist priorities embedded in the ERA. Even worse, Schlafly empowered and equipped these women, whom feminists scorned and judged as inferior, to beat feminists at their own game.
Cultural elites are still fuming that Schlafly was able to do more with a typewriter, a bullhorn, and an army of housewives than they were able to do with all their intelligence, political power, and the support of cast members from every Norman Lear sitcom on the primetime lineup.
While Schlafly and her team, armed with facts and statistics, motivated by principle and deeply held religious beliefs, wrote thank-you notes and delivered baked goods to supportive legislators, ERA supporters chose a different approach. They indulged dramatic guerilla tactics, such as chaining themselves to legislative buildings. They wrote ERA-opposing legislators’ names in chicken blood on the marble floors, while angrily demanding passage.
Once Schlafly and her team came onto the scene, the ERA train that was on a smooth and certain course to ratification came to a screeching halt. When the statutory deadline for ratification passed in 1979, not only had no more states ratified ERA, but five had rescinded their previous ratification. The ERA was dead.
Schlafly Was the Victor, Not the Victim
In recent years and the wake of the Me Too movement, instead of catalyzing outrage over decades of mistreatment and unifying women to fight actual victimization by crusading against sex trafficking or assisting women abroad who face all manner of political, economic, and physical oppression, the American women’s movement has channeled its intellectual and star power into little more than a seance by demanding ratification of the long-dead ERA and reopening wounds from ERA’s defeat. Hollywood is looking for revenge.
Unable to defeat Schlafly in life, cultural elites in Hollywood are now attacking her posthumously. A recent episode of the Netflix series “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” initially honors Schlafly for having the courage to run for Congress as a young mother in 1952. But the episode then quickly moves to falsely accuse Schlafly of being an antisemite. In truth, Schlafly was never accused of being antisemitic. In fact, she was even criticized by some for being highly ecumenical and a strong supporter of Israel.
The most recent example of Hollywood’s effort to avenge the ERA is “Mrs. America,” set to premiere April 15. This series perpetrates the ultimate act of Hollywood imposing its will on Schlafly, casting her in a role she would never consider playing and urged all women to reject: the victim.
“Mrs. America” portrays Schlafly as the consummate victim, persecuted by her own conservative ideology and even by God, as she desperately inquires of her priest why God “put this fire in her” to fight a political battle — as if it were wrong to do so. They show her belittled by the chauvinist men in the conservative movement, and oppressed, scolded, and even raped by her own husband.
The characterization is intentionally false and would be laughable if it weren’t so patently offensive. Schlafly biographer Don Critchlow — who, in addition to interviewing Schlafly, her family, and associates, had full access to her archives, financial records, correspondence, and family letters — called the series’ depiction of Schlafly’s marriage, “So inaccurate, it’s absolutely shocking.”
Producers never bothered to ask family members or any of the hundreds of living people who actually knew Schlafly about her real experiences, her true character, and her marriage. Instead of risking pushback by depicting any of Schlafly’s supporters who are still alive, producers went the cowardly route, choosing to create fictional characters bearing the names of only deceased ERA opponents.
Had producers bothered to ask, women might learn that Schlafly was respected and treasured in her marriage and the conservative movement, but the cultural elites couldn’t risk letting that word get out. If they had asked her daughter, their caricature of Schlafly and her husband sharing a bedroom but maintaining separate twin beds would be shattered in favor of the reality that the couple shared a bed and that Schlafly drew great strength, fulfillment, and liberation from her marriage.
Regardless of your stance on the ERA or your opinion about Schlafly, any intellectually honest viewer should be outraged by “Mrs. America.” Love her or hate her, Schlafly was a formidable woman who empowered, inspired, and gave a voice to the forgotten women of her generation.
She defeated the most powerful political movement of the 1970s and raised up one of the nation’s most robust movements to date. She paved the way for countless strong, pro-family, female voices on the public stage. Depicting her as a subjugated pawn and victim is yet another act of anti-woman aggression from Hollywood.
Colleen Holmes Holcomb is an attorney and a conservative activist, who served as Executive Director and is now a member of the Board of Directors of Eagle Forum, the conservative volunteer citizen lobbying organization founded by Phyllis Schlafly.