Eagle Forum founder Phyllis Schlafly put her foot in it big time yesterday when she said single women are “welfare queens” and President Obama is trying to create more of them, just so they’ll be dependent on what Schlafly refers to as “big daddy” government. After blacks, she claimed, they’re his second biggest voting block. The O’Reilly Factor on Fox News invited me to share my thoughts on the matter. Read TPM’s news report and watch the video of her remarks here if you have the stomach for it.

She’s wrong on at least two counts.

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In my previous post suggesting an “Obama for Women” agenda, I suggested Barack Obama incorporate an initiative to pass the Equal Rights Amendment, which was first introduced in 1923 and still hasn’t been ratified into the Constitution. John has posted a couple of times to say that he sees giving equality to women under the law as imposing one morality on all. Further, he’s pointed out that women are 51% of the population, so we should act like the majority we are and know our own power.

Though his first point is ludicrous, the second raises some questions worth considering. I began to ask some of them in an article I wrote for Elle magazine’s upcoming September edition (time out for self-promotion: check newsstands the first week in August). In my research, I found that political doors are now open for women, but women aren’t walking through them, let alone racing through them toward parity in elected office as I’d like to see. So when my friend and WomenGirlsLadies panel colleague Deborah Siegel asked me to guest post on her Girl With Pen blog while she’s off getting married, I decided to ask some tough questions which I will cross post here on Heartfeldt. To wit, and I look forward to your thoughts as to the why and what’s to be done about it:

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I’ve been interviewed many times over the years by AP reporter David Crary, and he always does a great job of capturing sensitive and complex cultural issues that many other journalists can only simplify into polarized extremes.

His byline article today, in which he also interviews several of my most esteemed colleagues and fondest friends-with whom I don’t necesarily agree on this issue–is no exception.
Feminists sharply divided between Clinton, Obama


NEW YORK (AP) — No constituency is more eager to see a woman win the presidency than America’s feminists, yet — despite Hillary Rodham Clinton’s historic candidacy — the women’s movement finds itself wrenchingly divided over the Democratic race as it heads toward the finish.

At breakfast forums, in op-ed columns, across the blogosphere, the debate has been heartfelt and sometimes bitter. Are the activist women supporting front-runner Barack Obama betraying their gender? Are Clinton’s feminist backers mired in an outdated, women’s-liberation mind-set?

Read the rest of the article here… and tell me a) what you think and b) so what you think women ought to do, not about this disagreement necessarily but about using our voting power?

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Continuing the intergenerational conversation among women I jumped into on this blog below in “What’s That About a Sisterhood Split?“, two young writers who have already distinguished themselves as influential feminist thinkers, Courtney Martin and Deborah Siegel, have penned an op ed published in the Washington Post today. It’s entitled “Come Together? Yes We Can”, and definitely worth a read. Not just your “can’t we all get along?” plea, but rather a look at the generational divide revealed by the Democratic primary competition. An excerpt:

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In The Nation today, Jessica Valenti had an article called “The Sisterhood Split”. Much has been written about feminists dividing their votes between Clinton and Obama. Jessica, a fabulous young feminist and a founder of one of my favorite blogs, Feministing, made interesting points and certainly her passion for finding better ways to advance feminism and a feminist agenda shines through. But there were several statements in her piece that I thought begged for a response, especially since she quoted me in one of them. I’m sending my thoughts to Jessica also in hopes that we can dialogue more about this.

I didn’t have time to critique the entire article. What follows are excerpts (“J”) and my replies (“G”). Particular phrases of concern are in italics:

J: Gloria Feldt, former president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, penned a piece for The Huffington Post [NOTE: also posted here on Heartfeldt] in which she warned women they would be missing out on a historic moment if they didn’t vote for Clinton . “Will women give this Moment away freely once again?” she pondered…

G: Actually, I warned about missing a strategic opportunity to achieve important feminist goals (electing a woman president, amassing political clout so we can influence the agenda) if we fail to mass the potential strength of women’s votes. To be sure, I gave historical precedents as examples, but personally I don’t give a fig about enshrining history; I just try to mine it for what it can teach us. And I stand by my warning, based on what I learned from several decades as an advocate from the lowliest grassroots to the highest halls of power.

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It’s the quintessential difference between Republicans and Democrats. I don’t mean beliefs or legislative platform. I mean their ability to coalesce around a candidate and move forward expeditiously to get him or her elected.

Super Tuesday came and went without a resolution to who will be the Democrats’ standard bearer, while John McCain’s ascent to front-runner status was aided by the Republicans’ winner-take-all-delegates primary rules. The Democrats–we both love then and hate them for this characteristic–are more, well, democratic. So they have a complex if not downright Byzantine, proportional formula for awarding delegates to their nominating conventions.

Which brings me to the importance of women in this election this year. Check out the state-by-state breakdown in Women’s e-News today. Women are the majority in the population, even more so the majority of voters because a larger percentage of women then men actually cast votes. And this year, the intersection of race and gender has made the breakdown of how women cast their votes more volatile than ever, as African American women–a pivotal Democratic constituency–are choosing to vote for Barack Obama in epic proportions, as high as 80%.

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For the last few days, the internet has been buzzing with impassioned presidential endorsements by feminists, many of whom have been in or even leading the movement for decades and others who are the bright young voices of the present and the future. This extraordinary piece of cultural criticism by Robin Morgan is my personal favorite.

Seems the women of America have found their voices concerning whom they do and don’t support, thank you very much.

So where then does Andrew Sullivan yes, the conservative (though gay and hiv positive—put those together with “conservative” for an amazing oxymoron) pundit get off in his thinly veiled misogynist attempt to instruct feminists on how to vote?

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