Washington University in St. Louis decided that one of the recipients of an honorary degree at this year's graduation ceremony would be Phyllis Schlafly. Some of you may remember that during Women's History Month, Schlafly was one of the stars of our Anti-Women Obscurity Wish List. If you're not familiar with her, she's a 'conservative activist' and founder of the Eagle Forum, who has made a career out of arguing that women should stay home and not have careers, or in other words has enjoyed many of the benefits of feminism while claiming that feminism sucks and trying to deny other women the same opportunities. Really, does she need an honorary degree when her Queen of the Hypocrites crown fits so well?
Quick Schlafly review:
~She doesn't believe in the concept of marital rape, because she says that when a woman gets married she is automatically consenting to sex with her husband anytime he wants it, forever.
~She was a leader in the fight against the ERA.
~She opposes gay marriage.
~"Sex education classes are like in-home sales parties for abortions."
~She doesn't think that sexual harassment is a serious issue because "non-criminal sexual harassment on the job is not a problem for the virtuous woman except in the rarest of cases."
~She thinks that feminism 'teaches women to be victims' and is "incompatible with marriage and motherhood". (Keeping in mind that this is a woman who has a law degree and has had a career pretty much the whole time she's been a wife and mother.)
Sounds like a fun lady to have a cocktail with.
Obviously, many members of the Washington University community were opposed to the decision to honor Ms. Schlafly with a degree. They created a Facebook group that now has over 3000 members (I mean, so we've heard, since we know nothing of Facebook), and lots of angry letters and phone calls came the university's way. So they came up with a simple and silent way of getting their message across. When Schlafly was introduced and her degree was presented, they simply stood up and turned their backs on her.
Some applauded while Schlafly was hooded. But about a third of the graduating students draped in the school’s green and black robes turned their backs to her, along with some faculty members sitting on the stage behind her. Many family members in the audience also took part. Three faculty members made the extra point of walking off the stage and then turning their backs from the audience.
One of the protesters was Darla Dale, an assistant dean and a faculty marshal at the ceremony. Dale said she decided to participate after making sure the protest was intended to remain respectful.
Dale said she strongly disagrees with Schlafly’s views on the role of women in society as well as with her work to defeat the Equal Rights Amendment. And students encouraged her to join them.
"It felt good," Dale said of turning her back.
There's a local news story with video here, and also a bunch more videos on youtube from people who attended the graduation. Based on the videos and some of the comments made on the feministing piece about this, it seems like the "hundreds" of protesters that the media identified were more like thousands.
Ms. Schlafly took the respectful and silent protest in stride, calling the protesters "a bunch of bitter women" who are "still whining" about the ERA and need to "get a life". Oh, and also "a bunch of losers" who are not "mature enough to graduate". Stay classy, "doctor" Phyllis.
For more information, some of the protesters have started up a great website at noschlaflydegree.com. Or you could just give in and go Gay for Phyllis. You know you want to.