Convinced that the United States was a mature democracy, we feminists were certain that the gross inequality under which American women lived, now identified by hundreds of us, would tomorrow surely be acknowledged by thousands and the day after that by millions. How could it be otherwise? Only people of serious ill will or intellectual deficiency or downright political greed would oppose the obvious. And, after all, how many of them could there be?
We soon had our answer in the form of the formidable Phyllis Schlafly, the rock-ribbed Republican whose violent denunciation of the feminist movement we found both frightening and incomprehensible. Talk about paranoia replacing the paranoid position. Phyllis Schlafly was a Midwestern constitutional lawyer and a tireless activist on behalf of conservative causes, one of which was the preservation, at all costs, of the family as she had always known it. For Schlafly, feminism was the Antichrist, and she would rather have seen America come apart at the seams than submit to our godless demands. In ranting against the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, she sounded like the nineteenth-century churchmen who reviled the suffragists in exactly the same terms: unnatural, unholy, barbarism at the gate. Schlafly wanted America to remain—as God would have wanted it to remain—safe for Mom and apple pie. She wanted the protective laws that ensured inequality for women to stay in place. She wanted Roe v. Wade overturned. She said there was no such thing as rape in marriage and that labor-saving devices such as indoor clothes dryers had provided all the necessary improvements in life that a woman needed.
More: Feeling Paranoid