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Last weekend, I attended the Smart Girl Summit in St Louis, MO. It was a bit of a last-minute decision to participate, but something I felt really strongly I wanted to do. One of the speakers was Phyllis Schlafly, founder of the Eagle Forum and author of too many books for me to count on my two hands (and my feet!). I picked up a copy of her latest book, The Flipside of Feminism, and if the speech she gave is any indicator of how good the book is, let’s just say that I am really looking forward to reading it. What’s most amazing to me is that she has been at the forefront of the pro-family movement since before I was born, yet for some reason remained unknown to me. She was a prominent figure in helping to defeat the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s and has just an amazing life story to tell. What I connected to the most is that her message (and life) exemplifies something that I have felt my entire adult life, but was unable to express, either because I couldn’t find the right words or because I felt almost every other woman I had met in my life disagreed with me, that my life experiences were, in some way, unique. Her message is simply this: that women are capable of succeeding entirely on their own, without the help of men (or even, imagine this…the government) to pave the way forward. That’s right. You heard me. Men did not give women the rights and power and freedom that they have today. It was there all the time, waiting for them to seize it.

See, I was born in 1977 and, while growing up, I repeatedly heard the message that the feminist movement had opened all these doorways that are available for me today and without them, I would simply be stuck raising children and cooking and cleaning. I considered myself fortunate to be born at such a great time, and still do, though not because of women’s rights, but because of all the modern conveniences that make our lives so leisurely. I was doubly fortunate to have parents who encouraged me in whatever interests I chose to pursue and taught me that the whole world was open to me. I had only to choose my dreams and work hard to pursue them.

If you would have asked me growing up if I was a “feminist,” I would have agreed quite heartily, “Of course, I believe in equal rights for women.”

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