Phyllis Schlafly has made a long and successful career for herself by telling other women to get back in the kitchen. At this point, the fact that she’s been singing the same anti-feminist tune for decades — not to mention her apparently shameless hypocrisy — makes it a little hard to take her seriously anymore. So I couldn’t get too worked up when she wrote an op-ed last week claiming that closing the gender pay gap would prevent women from finding a “suitable mate.”
Thankfully, the youth of America don’t have such Schlafly fatigue. In an open letter, 12-year-old Madison Kimrey offers ”the perspective of one of the young women who will be taking over this country soon.” She uses a, um, fitting bra analogy (couldn’t resist) to let Schlafly know just how damaging her message is to the next generation. A taste:
Well, making choices in our lives as young women is kind of like finding that favorite bra. Not all of us are going to fit into the same kind and not all of us are going to find the same style attractive. We all deserve to have as many choices as possible, and as women, we shouldn’t be judging the choices made by other women. Choosing a bra is a very personal choice and is none of anyone else’s business. We should be, as women, looking for ways we can expand the choices both for ourselves and other women, just as Megan Grassell did when she started Yellowberry. Equality doesn’t mean women will all make the same choice. It means women will be treated the same no matter what choices they make.
This brings us to the idea you have that women shouldn’t have equal pay because it will make it more difficult for them to find husbands. What you’re doing is attempting to limit my choices, and I don’t appreciate that. Let’s get one thing straight here. When I’m thinking about what kind of career I want to have, it’s a lot like shopping for a bra. I want to find something that fits me and appeals to me, and I’m not thinking about pleasing a man. Anyone who wants to be my partner in life is going to have to truly respect me, appreciate me for who I am, and honor the choices I make.
What you’re doing, Ms. Schlafly, is contributing to something very disturbing I see happening with some of the teenage girls I know. At a time in their lives when they should be free, independent, and exploring and preparing for the possibilities they have in the future, many of them are worried about getting or keeping a boyfriend. There are young women my age who are extremely smart but they hide it because they get messages from women like you that if they are too smart or successful, boys won’t like them. They get messages from women like you that pleasing a man should be their number one goal. You’re contributing to making young women uncomfortable when they go bra shopping because they’ve learned to analyze every choice based on what other people will think instead of having the freedom and confidence to choose what’s best for them.
Read the rest here. I’m not holding my breath, but here’s hoping Schlafly feels a small twinge of embarrassment that a 12 year old understands feminism better than she does. The future is bright.
Maya Dusenbery is an Executive Director of Feministing.