One day after President Bush delivered a rousing convention speech, Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women (NOW), declared that a crisis was at hand: “We are in a state of emergency and NOW encourages everyone who cares about women’s rights, civil rights, and the constitution to help ensure that Bush does not have another four years to wreak havoc in the United States and around the globe.”
Gandy is sounding alarm bells because she believes that the president’s second-term agenda–from rebuilding an ailing Social Security system to making his “budget busting” tax cuts permanent–is bad for women. Yet the real state of emergency is within feminist organizations themselves. NOW, the Feminist Majority, the National Council of Women’s Organizations, and other such groups are sadly out of touch with mainstream America. And they’re rapidly sliding toward irrelevance.
It’s no surprise that NOW would issue a scathing press release after the Republican convention. The convention theme of creating an “ownership society” by returning power to individuals through Social Security reform, health savings accounts, and tax cuts is anathema to big-government feminists who seem to believe that women and the free market just don’t mix. They want government to levy hefty taxes, dictate the terms under which people can work, and ration out healthcare, retirement income, and education. As long as the Republicans allow capitalists and libertarians inside its big tent, feminist groups will sulk outside.
But many feminists were also unhappy with this year’s Democratic convention. As Martha Burk, president of the National Council of Women’s Organizations, complained in Boston: “I have been disappointed in the way women’s issues have been addressed at this convention…Once again, the issues have been ghettoized.”
In truth, Democrats have learned a lesson that Burk and her dour sorority sisters fail to grasp: That all issues are “women’s issues.” Women, like men, are concerned about homeland security and winning the war on terror. They want a vibrant economy that produces jobs for themselves and their families. A summer Gallup poll found that women ranked Iraq, the economy, and employment as their top issues for this election. A more recent Newsweek poll of both men and women confirmed that security, terrorism, and the economy are voters’ top priorities, which suggests there’s no big gender gap on the key issues of concern.
But the feminists keep on fighting yesterday’s battles. They fixate on statistical discrepancies like the so-called wage gap, wringing their hands each time the Department of Labor releases data on male versus female wages. Never mind that these figures fail to account for the number of years worked and educational achievement–or for the simple fact that some working moms aren’t trying to maximize pay, but want jobs with enough flexibility to spend time with their children.
Professors of women’s studies complain that “society” views women as baby machines, but it’s the feminists who obsess about reproduction. According to Gallup, just one in twenty women says that abortion will affect her vote. Listen to NOW, and you’d think that abortion is the top priority of nearly every American woman.
The world should celebrate the tremendous strides that women have made in Afghanistan and Iraq, but the Feminist Majority Foundation–an organization that often highlights the truly egregious abuses of women internationally–ridiculed the First Lady for mentioning these gains in her speech. Feminist Majority Foundation President Eleanor Smeal’s smug statement (“Don’t we wish that all is tranquil in Afghanistan? Instead, violence roams and the United States refuses to provide adequate peacekeeping troops”) reveals an astonishingly partisan mindset blind to the progress made for women who had been suffering under brutal regimes.
Those who desire true equality should celebrate the fact that less than one-third of women consider themselves feminists and that women don’t see themselves as a special-interest group that votes in bloc. Like men, they’re concerned about myriad issues that affect the country. That’s what independence means: thinking independently.
Contrary to the feminist complaints, neither the Republican nor the Democratic candidates ignored women at their conventions by failing to pander to them with a specific night or speech on “women’s issues.” The conventions just ignored the feminist organizations, which is distressing only to their dwindling band of members.
–Carrie Lukas is the director of policy at the Independent Women’s Forum.