Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Schlafly and the F-word

What is striking about Phyllis Schlafly's response to the Michigan case (discussed below) is her repeated use of "feminists." Feminism and sport--women's sports--have had a strange relationship over the years. When Schlafly was out campaigning against the feminists in the 1970s, mostly in the form of anti-ERA speeches, Title IX and its proponents (most visibly the AIAW) were waging what seems to be a very separate battle. There was not much crossover between second-wavers and pro-Title IXers.
I have always found this curious and disappointing. Because I know that women campaigning for the ERA and participating in other aspects of the movement must have played sports or enagged in recreational sporting activities of some kind. It was the era of the jogging movement after all.
And I know that members of the AIAW had very feminist outlooks. Just looking at some of their visions for women's athletics indicates a very feminist influence. (Check out Playing Nice by Mary Jo Festle for the specifics.) Whether they called themselves feminist or not is uncertain. It was likely very dangerous, operating in the male-dominated world of intercollegiate athletics, to be advocating for Title IX and to call oneself a feminist in any kind of public setting. Though to me they seem inseparable, this was not the reality of the situation.
The lack of a strong feminist influence on and presence in women's sport has had its consequences, including the precarious position that Title IX occupies in the legal and cultural arenas.
I am not sure if Schlafly railed against Title IX in the 1970s while she was out stumping for the patriarchy (I am in the process of researching this) but if she did it I think it would have been quite disconcerting for the "feminists" (i.e. the participants in the second wave) to be told they were supporting Title IX and girls/women playing sports.
{If you too have a weird fascination with Phyllis Schlafly you should check out the book Republican Women: Feminism and Conservatism from Suffrage through the Rise of the New Right. She's on the cover and the author does a good job of showing how she came to power well before her anti-ERA days.}

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