This article considers the rhetoric of Phyllis Schlafly and her STOP ERA movement. Despite the early success and broad popularity of the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s, Schlafly and her colleagues were able to prevent its ratification. In their many clashes with proponents of the women’s liberation movement, these traditionalist women successfully appropriated and redeployed an ideographic argument that had been the province of their foes. Specifically, Schlafly claimed that traditional gender roles were freeing to women, ensuring their rights, while “liberation” could lead only to bondage. Drawing on the work of philosopher Isaiah Berlin, I argue that Schlafly’s upbeat, “positive” campaign advanced a “positive” conception of freedom against the “negative” freedom proposed by second-wave feminists. The success of this effort demonstrates the utility of such arguments, especially in a nation that values freedom as both opportunity and exercise. I close by suggesting that Schlafly’s rhetorical strategy has been embraced by subsequent conservative “culture war” movements, ensuring her legacy into the new millennium.


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 277-300
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.