A Republican presidential nominee hasn’t won the women’s vote since 1988. While most of the candidates vying for the GOP nomination this year say they support women’s rights, a large number of them will speak at an event this weekend hosted by a group that opposes feminism, equal pay, and allowing women in combat.
Six male candidates — Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, Rick Santorum, Rick Perry, Rand Paul, and Mike Huckabee — will speak this weekend at a convention hosted by conservative political group Eagle Forum. The group’s founder, Phyllis Schlafly, notoriously opposed the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in the 1970s and has since been a vocal supporter of a number of radical anti-women beliefs.
Not to be left out of the anti-women conversation, other candidates have expressed interest in sending video messages to the Eagle Council gathering in St. Louis, Eagle Forum President Ed Martin told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
“It’s certainly historic to have this many presidential candidates coming,” he said. “This is one of the great election cycles in terms of competitiveness that we’ve seen in a long, long time.”
If the candidate who wins the nomination supports Schlafly and Eagle Forum’s agenda, however, 2016 could be a scary year for women.
Schlafly and Eagle Forum are opposed to the inclusion of women in combat. In an essay published on the group’s website in late August, Schlafly argued that the thwarted terrorist attack by three American men on a train in France last month proves that women do not belong in combat.
“There’s a reason why no woman has ever won our nation’s highest award for valor,” she wrote. “The Medal of Honor recognizes a willingness to charge toward danger, to seek out and remove a threat, while everyone else is running away.”
She continued, writing that the firefighters who rushed up the stairs of the World Trade Center on September 11th were all men. “All 343 fireMEN perished when the Twin Towers collapsed,” she wrote.
The piece concludes by saying that the world cannot survive “the emasculation of America’s elite combat units.”
Schlafly also believes that women should be paid less than men so they can find husbands. In a 2014 op-ed in the Christian Post, she wrote that women usually choose a mate who earns more than she does, while men don’t have that same preference. If the pay gap were eliminated, she wrote, half of women would be unable to find what they regard as a suitable mate.
“The best way to improve economic prospects for women is to improve job prospects for the men in their lives, even if that means increasing the so-called pay gap,” she wrote.
Eagle Forum also gives out “Homemaker Awards” to honor women who “relish” their roles as wives and mothers, women who marry their high school sweethearts, and women who support their husbands in their “high-profile” jobs. The 2013 winner is married to the president of Hobby Lobby, an organization best known for suing the government for the right to deny its employees access to birth control.
Schlafly rose to fame when she successfully fought for the defeat of the ERA in 1982, arguing that the constitutional amendment would hurt traditional gender roles. The 91-year-old has become an icon of the country’s anti-feminist movement, claiming that feminism is “the most destructive force in our society today.”
She has also been an active opponent of marriage equality. This week, she wrote an op-ed arguing that Rowan County, Kentucky — where Kim Davis was sent to jail for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples — should become “a ‘sanctuary city’ where the biblical view of marriage continues to be honored and respected.”
Since losing the presidential election in 2012, Republicans have tried to enhance the party’s appeal to women. The Republican National Committee’s 2013 “autopsy” report promised that the GOP will work to address “concerns that are on women’s minds in order to let them know we are fighting for them.”
Unless Schlafly is correct and women are really just concerned with finding a husband who earns more than they do, speaking at this weekend’s convention might not be the best way for Republican candidates to win votes from women.