Ding Dong, She’s Dead and All That

Usually our sense of propriety keeps us properly inhibited from expressing joy at the death of another. It’s better that way; the world would be an even less civilized place if we ran around singing “Ding, dong, the witch is dead” every time some hateful creature left the planet, never to return.

But sometimes the news of a person’s demise sparks an overwhelming need to dance. Disinhibition reigns. Such is the case with the late and singly unlamented Phyllis Schlafly, the right-wing fanatic who enjoyed a full and satisfying life as a professional anti-feminist, all the while playing to an ignorant public’s worst misogynistic impulses.

As many people noted (Betty Friedan, among the most prominent), Schlafly had the means and the time to pursue a law degree only to go on to use that degree to fight against women’s rights; she holds primary responsibility for the failure of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). She was devious. As the New York Times obituary put it, “Mrs. Schlafly’s pronouncements drove her antagonists to distraction, though they suspected that her biting language was calculated precisely to provoke their outrage. She said that ‘sexual harassment on the job is not a problem for virtuous women’ and that ‘sex-education classes are like in-home sales parties for abortions.’ She called the atom bomb ‘a marvelous gift that was given to our country by a wise God.’”


As the Times also noted, “Her son John gained attention in 1992 when a gay activist revealed that he was homosexual. Mrs. Schlafly said she considered the disclosure a deliberate attempt to embarrass her. [No shit, Sherlock.] The revelation did not alter her disapproval of gay marriage. In 2010, she said of gay couples: ‘Nobody’s stopping them from shacking up. The problem is that they are trying to make us respect them, and that’s an interference with what we believe.’”

Actually, the idea of trying to make Phyllis Schlafly respect me is just about the last item on my personal Gay Agenda, which I used to keep on Filofax back in the day, but which I now keep on the infinitely malleable iCal. (You had to physically destroy the Filofax agenda entries that you failed to achieve, but now, through the magic of iCal, everything can be wiped from the record, as though it never existed!) Actually, she was wrong, wrong, wrong about what we were trying to do in her case. We never cared about what Phyllis Schlafly believed. She could believe that the moon was made of cheese for all I cared. What we were trying to do —and what we succeeded in doing —was assuring that the dreaded “equal rights” to which she was so adamantly opposed applied to us as well as to her.

Fortunately, most of Schlafly’s goals were thoroughly thwarted in her lifetime; in other words, she had the horrible (read: wonderful) experience of watching her life’s work go down in flames. Yes, the ERA failed. But all her anti-gay political work came to nothing. Zippo. Nada. She lived long enough to see absurd sodomy laws struck down. Even better, she lived long enough to have her son be granted the right to marry the man he loved, assuming he ever loved anyone as much as he loved his mother. And that must have positively galled her.

As Bette Davis reputedly said —or maybe it was her brilliant impressionist, Charles Pierce —“My mother taught me only to speak good of the dead. Joan Crawford is dead. Good.”

Language is fluid: “More than one thousand new words and phrases have been added to the Oxford English Dictionary —including moobs and gender-fluid.” So reports , Britain’s one-stop shop for all LGBT-related bulletins. “First recorded in 1987, gender-fluid is an adjective that identifies a person who doesn’t identify with a single gender. Moobs has been around since about 2001 and refers to a man who has excess fat on his chest, resulting in a breast-like appearance.” Uh, beg to differ. A moob is not the fat man himself but rather his breast-like appendages.

Important definitional changes, or rather additions, have been made. For instance, “Although cheeseball was originally an American colloquialism for someone who was awkward or lacking style, it also describes a deep-fried cheese appetizer.” I do hope the original sense of the word isn’t lost. “Bocconcini, an Italian word for a small amount of food, will be another food-related word.” Good —one can never have too many terms for morsels. And then this: “Fuhgeddaboudit, meaning forget about it, is another American slang term, heard around New York, that will now feature in the dictionary.” I love the fact that they felt the need to define the term.

Follow @EdSikov on Twitter and Facebook.