Honoring Phyllis Schlafly?May 09, 2008
As an AAUW member and alumna of Washington University in St. Louis, I was outraged to learn that the university is awarding Phyllis Schlafly an honorary degree at graduation. Schlafly has campaigned against the Equal Rights Amendment, gender bias laws, and Title IX. She is not just controversial; she is clearly anti-woman. For example, according to an article in The Sun Journal (Lewiston, ME), Schlafly believes that a woman cannot be raped by her husband: “By getting married, the woman has consented to sex, and I don’t think you can call it rape,” she said.
I agree with Mary Ann Dzuback, one of the professors I had at Washington University. In Inside Higher Ed, Dzuback points out that although the university regularly invites people with a range of views to lecture at the school, Schlafly was invited not to lecture but to be honored. “This tells the world that this administration thinks so highly of the honoree that they give her the highest degrees the university can give, the highest degree of respect. And that,” says Dzuback, “is deeply troubling.”
While the Board of Trustees unanimously decided to give Schlafly an honorary degree, it is somewhat comforting to know that university students are outraged and are taking action. A Facebook group called “No honorary doctorate for anti-feminist Phyllis Schlafly” already has more than 2,200 members. Postings on the site include students’ letters to the chancellor expressing their disgust with the award, as well as pledges never to donate to the university and encouraging their parents not to donate either.
With the decision to honor Schlafly already made, there’s little to do now except to protest graduation. For me, the bigger question is, How did this happen and how do we stop it from happening again? First, we must educate people about what Schlafly and other likeminded people really believe. They adamantly disagree with what AAUW stands for — equity for women.