Conservative Phyllics Schlafly and feminist Anita Perez Ferguson weren’t chicken when it came to disagreeing in a debate on Tuesday night.
Organized by the UCSB College Republicans, the debate drew a crowd of over 200, leaving many audience members standing at the back and in the aisles of Engineering I 1104. The debate was centered around the sharply contrasting views of feminism represented by Santa Barbara resident Anita Perez Ferguson, a former president of the National Women’s Political Caucus, and Schlafly, who is well-known for her role in fighting the Equal Rights Amendment.
Schlafly and Ferguson received the questions in advance. In response to the first, “Can you define feminism and do you consider yourself a feminist?” Schlafly responded that she does not.
Schlafly said that feminism is a term that can be defined however one wants, but that she uses the definition that has been created by prominent feminist figures. That definition describes a feminist as someone who is pro-choice, for women in the workforce, and for sending women into combat, among other things, Schlafly said.
Perez Ferguson responded by using several quotes from a wide-range of feminists, and said that the definition of feminism cannot be limited to a certain time period.
The candidates were also divided on issues like Title IX, which was created to foster equal opportunity in college athletic programs, but which Schlafly said has done a great deal of damage to men’s sports. Schlafly said Title IX’s criterion of proportionality, which looks at the number of men and women in a school and distributes athletic funding accordingly despite the fact that many women choose not to participate in sports, leaves many men’s teams short of funding.
“This is a total outrage,” Schlafly said. “They are out to punish men.”
Perez Ferguson praised the benefits Title IX has had for women’s sports, calling it “a blessing.”
Another question concerned the number of women in politics, and the possibility of a woman being elected president within the participants’ lifetimes.
“We’re falling behind other countries in the number of women in political positions,” said Perez Ferguson.
She said that since women comprise half of the population, they should be equally represented in the government.
Schlafly disagreed, saying that the reason more women have not reached high political office is that they have chosen not to seek such positions.
“Most women don’t want to do what it takes to achieve political office,” Schlafly said. “I do think that when and if we have a woman president, it will be a pro-life Republican, not a pro-abortion Democrat.”
Perez Ferguson used her rebuttal to comment on women and the presidency.
“I think we could have [a female president] within the next 10 years,” Perez Ferguson said.
Schlafly, a nationally syndicated columnist and radio talk-show host, was invited by the College Republicans to Santa Barbara to participate in a debate on feminism. When the Women’s Studies Dept. did not respond to the College Republicans’ challenge to produce an opponent for Schlafly, the Women’s Center contacted Perez Ferguson, who agreed to participate just five days prior to the event.
Megan Lamantia, a senior English major, said she found the debate interesting but she did not agree with Schlafly’s opinions.
“Basically, I thought that Schlafly was very narrow-minded and condescending to women,” Lamantia said.
Cassie Shaker, a senior environmental studies major, said she also disagreed with Schlafly, but thought she was more effective in the debate.
“I think that Schlafly did a better job of answering the questions directly,” Shaker said.
College Republican Antony Mascovich said he was pleased with the turnout for the debate.
“Maybe we changed a few minds, maybe we didn’t,” Mascovich said, “but at least we brought a different viewpoint to the students at UCSB.”