It doesn’t involve cigars or a stained dress. But the nomination of Harriet Miers has created a woman problem on the Right every bit as big as that which faced feminists during Bill Clinton’s presidency.
For years, conservative women’s groups such as the Independent Women’s Forum have opposed feminist visions of female equality. We opposed affirmative action in the workplace, believing women had to be held to the same standards as men. We rallied against quotas, with the reasoning that if there were fewer female firefighters than male, this was because women didn’t wish to take these jobs, and not because of discriminatory hiring practices by the fire department. We recoiled from the theories of Catharine McKinnon and other so-called “difference feminists” that women deserved special breaks because their personalities were said to be innately more intuitive and sensitive than men’s, and that the female sex is incapable of reasoning logically the way men do. We were disgusted with feminist groups when they stood by Bill Clinton through all his women troubles–when the National Organization for Women, for example, jettisoned all its previously stated principles on sexual harassment in order to retain political power.
Now conservative women face a similar dilemma with Harriet: President Bush has asked us to stand by a woman who is unqualified for the Court because he knows what’s in her “heart”–not in her head.
We are asked to stand by her because, simply, she is a woman–a “pioneer,” a “glass-ceiling breaker”–even while other more qualified women were rejected for the position (and interestingly, rejected by Harriet herself, who headed the “search” committee).
That her pioneering had nothing to do with gathering expertise in constitutional law–well, no biggie. We must swallow the idea that quotas and affirmative action are justifiable policies for the highest Court in the land.
We are asked, further, to stand hypocritically by this decision as Patricia Ireland did when she stood by Bill Clinton–going so far as to sign letters with other “accomplished” women saying we believe Harriet Miers is qualified for the Court. Whatever our principles, we must jettison them in order to retain political power.
The president’s insistence on pushing ahead with this nomination is dragging conservatives down many legal avenues they don’t wish to go. But it is also setting back the arguments conservative women have been waging against feminists for more than a decade.
Why take any of us here–including, most damagingly, Harriet herself?
–Danielle Crittenden is author of What Our Mothers Didn’t Tell Us: Why Happiness Eludes the Modern Woman and Amanda Bright@Home