Tag Archives: Phyllis Schlafly

If it’s on a spectrum, it doesn’t mean anything

Phyllis Schlafly is a culture warrior.  Long ago, it was about the Equal Rights Amendment.  Nowadays, it's about gender.  Her recent post at the Eagle Forum is about an Oakland elementary school that had a presentation about gender identity.  It was paid for by the California Teacher's Union. 

The major message was that "gender identity" means people can choose to be different from the sex assigned at birth and can freely "change their sex." According to Gender Spectrum, "Gender identity is a spectrum where people can be girls, feel like girls, they feel like boys, they feel like both, or they can feel like neither."

Yep.  That's why there were terms like 'tomboy' and 'girlyboy' and so on.  Schlafly knows about those things, for sure.  Surely she's not objecting to the fact that someone's saying something true. She's objecting, instead, to how this is being presented.

Kindergartners were introduced to this new subject by asking them to identify toys that are a "girl toy" or a "boy toy" or both, and whether they like the color pink. They were read a story called "My Princess Boy.". . . . The lessons seem more likely to confuse the kids about who they are and, indeed, Gender Spectrum boasted that its goal is to confuse the children and make them question traditional ideas about who is a boy and who is a girl.

It is the confusion that's objectionable, you see.  That is, it can't be that Schlafly is objecting to it being made clear that some people are tomboys, it's that it is being taught that it's OK.  That, she thinks, is confusing.  Her thought seems to be: if you are going to educate children, it cannot be in the form of showing them that things are difficult, complex, and confusing.  That's bad. 

I'd like to know what Schafly thinks about teaching long division to third graders, because when my kid was in third grade, she had more trouble with remainders than she did with the idea that her classmate had two moms.  Oh, and she still had to do the long division — being educated means that you have the cognitive tools to face confusing facts, not deny them. 

But, you know, it's never really about the children with Schlafly.  It's all dogwhistling for cultural conservatism.  And the destruction of the intelligibility of sexual reality.  Ready for the conservative culture-warrior dogwhistling money shot?

Gender Spectrum is determined to make children think that boy and girl don't mean anything anymore, and that it's no longer normal to believe people are born male or female or have different roles.

Phew!  Now, I don't think that's possible, if they are on a spectrum.  Otherwise, it wouldn't be a spectrum.  Schlafly's point is confusion. An analogy: Black and white are on a spectrum, and you can have lots of things in the penubral space between the two.  But for it to be a penumbra, the two must be different.  The point of gender spectrum is that there isn't one way to be a girl or a boy.  But that doesn't mean the terms don't mean anything.  It's just that many of the things that we'd thought distinguished the two are irrelevant (playing with trucks, for example) and that a person's sex doesn't determine where that person is on the gender spectrum.  Sure, it's complicated and confusing.  But, geez, the only things that aren't complicated and potentially confusing are the mindsets of conservatives.  Well, to clarify, they aren't confusing, but they are all too often confused.

What refutes what?

Phyllis Schlafly is right about one thing: the Fourth of July is a good time to read the Declaration of Independence.  But she's wrong about pretty much everything else.  First, her timing is a little off — her posting is dated July 9, but she's giving advice about what to do on the 4th.  Maybe her plan was for us to remember what to do next year.   Second, she claims that the Declaration is a 'religious document.'  This seems a little thin, as her evidence is that:

The Declaration of Independence is the official and unequivocal recognition by the American people of our belief and faith in God. It affirms God's existence as a "self-evident" truth that requires no further discussion, debate or litigation.. . . The Declaration of Independence contains five references to God: God as Creator of all men, God as supreme Lawmaker, God as the Source of all rights, God as the world's supreme Judge, and God as our Patron and Protector. The Declaration declares that each of us was created; so if we were created, we must have had a Creator and, as the modern discovery of DNA confirms, each of God's creatures is different from every other person who has ever lived or ever will live on this earth.

Just for the record, I took a quick look at the Declaration, and I counted only four overt references to God.  One in the first paragraph, to Nature's God.  One in the second paragraph, that "we are endowed by our Creator….", and two in the final paragraph, one an oath to the Supreme judge of the world, and another about trusting 'divine providence.'  Now, with each of these, I don't (especially given the widespread deism of the day) see these as strongly theistic as Schlafly sees them.  Regardless, whatever these references mean, they aren't there as core commitments of the Declaration — the Declaration is about human rights and about the role of government (and also to list all the colonial grievances against the crown).  To put it on record that they all love God doesn't seem to be the point, but more a rhetorical element of the presentation of more (ahem) humanistic concerns.  If you use reference to God in making a point, that doesn't by necessity make your speech religious, because I often punctuate my angriest moments with "Goddammit!", but that hardly makes my speech religious.

Schlafly's third error is most troubling.  She claims:

The message of the Declaration of Independence is under attack from the ACLU and atheists because it refuted the lie about a constitutional mandate for "separation of church and state."

Wait.  That gets it backwards, doesn't it?  The whole point of the Constitution was to provide a framework for government that wasn't there in the Declaration. And in putting those things together, wasn't the objective to either supplement or correct the Declaration?  What about the First Amendment, the one that prohibits laws "respecting an establishment of religion"?  If the Declaration had a line that said anything about acknowledging and establishing a religion of the one true God (which seems to be Schlafly's reading), it's the Constitution that would refute that establishment, not the Declaration that would refute the Constitution.