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The Late Phyllis Schlafly’s Othering of Badly Behaved Women

Yep, I’m afraid I’ve gotta agree with Betty Friedan here: Phyllis Schlafly should probably have been burned at the stake for her heretical anti-feminism—at the very least in a figurative sense. Schlafly was on a crusade to chew away at the Equal Rights Amendment until her incisors drew blood. The EPA died on the floor of both houses of Congress on June 30, 1982, and was scourged from the get-go by Schlafly and her misogynistic ilk.

An aspect of symbolism that I teach my English 102 students is called “othering,” and relates directly to the barbaric treatment of a fictional character named Huang Bowen in Ha Jin’s short story “The Bridegroom.” Mr. Bowen is summarily dumped in a Chinese hospital for “treatment,” due to his “criminal” offense of actively engaging in homosexual activity. And while some might say I’m a hardcore conservative myself when it comes to the English language (the practice of turning nouns and/or adjectives such as “other” into verbs usually turns my stomach), “othering” in this sense neatly applies to Ms. Schalfly’s raison d’être.

What she successfully did was alienate women who had ambitions that she considered to be either unladylike or unwomanly, and which, moreover, flew in the face of her antiquated and warped vision of what a “well behaved” woman should aspire to be. That’s “othering” in a nutshell.

Well now Ms. Schlafly, as a bumper sticker I have long admired cheerfully informs the masses: “Well behaved women seldom make history.”

R.I.P Ms. Schalfly. But please: ease up on the “othering” in the after life, wouldja?

Phyllis

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