Politics & Policy

Our Brave New Feminists

Price on Capitol Hill in 2015 (Reuters photo: Joshua Roberts)
‘Buy me stuff!’ they cry.

If you were an inquisitive space alien who decided to drift down to visit America in 2016 — as a tour guide, I probably wouldn’t recommend this year in particular, as people are kind of crabby, and good-natured hijinks are at a general low, but that’s another story — you could be forgiven for thinking that women simply can’t do a thing for themselves. You could be forgiven, that is, if your only human contacts were today’s leading “feminists.”

Take Tuesday’s news regarding the nomination of Tom Price, a pro-life congressman from Georgia, as the incoming Trump administration’s secretary of health and human services. To hear feminists tell it, if Price gets confirmed, we lady folk might as well call it a day, don sackcloth and ashes, and wail while we wait for the fearsome and inevitable arrival of the tsunami of patriarchal oppression.

“Trump Health Czar Tom Price is a Nightmare for Women,” declared Erin Gloria Ryan on Tuesday in the Daily Beast. “Price helming HHS is a nightmare scenario for advocates of reproductive choice,” she continued, “and a dream for those with a nostalgia for the time before Roe v. Wade, if not Griswold v. Connecticut.”

Yikes. This Price guy sounds pretty retrograde! Did he announce an improbable plan to singlehandedly overturn Roe v. Wade, thereby banning abortion, even though he’s not on the Supreme Court? Has he unleashed a scheme to outlaw contraceptives, even though Griswold already declared that unconstitutional? Has he proposed a forced nationwide return to modest poodle skirts and drive-ins and people who exclaim things like “Gee, Linda, I sure don’t trust the punch at this sock hop!” in a completely un-ironic fashion?

Well, no. Get ready, America, and prepare to be shocked: Tom Price doesn’t think you should be forced to pay for everyone else’s abortion and contraceptives.

Price, as McClatchy news service reported on Wednesday, “would be able to repeal one of President Barack Obama’s most controversial initiatives: free birth control for women under the Affordable Care Act.” Because of this — and likely because her organization received a whopping $500 million in tax dollars last year, which would be a real bummer to lose — Planned Parenthood’s Cecile Richards served as one of the first to sound an alarm at the news. “Tom Price poses a grave threat to women’s health in this country,” she announced. “Price would take women back decades.”

Get ready, America, and prepare to be shocked: Tom Price doesn’t think you should be forced to pay for everyone else’s abortion and contraceptives.

Actually, Price would likely take women back seven years, to the notorious hell-scape of 2009, when people actually had to shell out around $10 a month for birth control. Also, in 2009 — gird your loins, for this way horror lurks — you couldn’t just waltz into your doctor’s office and demand a $500 IUD for “free.” (The IUD is never “free,” of course. Other people pay for it, or you pay for it in quieter, more indirect ways. Amazingly, for much of the political Left, this lesson never seems to sink in.)

Let’s set aside, at least for now, the Left’s many fears about the socially moderate Trump’s supposedly incoming reign of hardcore social-conservative terror. Let’s look at the real subtext beneath the panic. It’s the sad truth that feminism, once a plucky movement with worthy elements dedicated to fighting structural inequities faced by women, has collapsed into an often-sulky shambles with one overarching, consistent demand: “I’m helpless! Pay for my stuff!”

“Every little girl dreams of one day growing up and falling in love,” writes Ryan in the Daily Beast, “and one day, when a squeamish insurance executive decides it’s time to stop paying for healthcare that enables women to have non-procreative sex, getting accidentally pregnant.”

Ryan’s being sarcastic, of course, but she reveals much more than intended. It’s strange: Her imaginary “little girl,” all grown up, seems to have no individual agency. Things — like, say, getting “accidentally pregnant” — just happen to her! How could she possibly have prevented this unfortunate, mysterious development without the money and approval of a squeamish insurance executive? If you read many such panicked feminist think pieces, in fact, it would seem fair to assume that women are essentially wandering, slightly confused uteruses with zero personal control.

Doesn’t seem feminist or empowered at all, does it?

#related#Is there a chance that Planned Parenthood, that holy of holies for movement feminists, could lose federal funding under a President Trump? Perhaps. Personally, I’ll believe it when I see it. Here’s the real question: If Planned Parenthood did lose funding, and the nation disintegrated into a nightmarish dystopia straight out of The Handmaid’s Tale — this second part wouldn’t happen, of course, but let’s entertain the fantasy for now — what would feminists do?

They’d impress me, for one, if they rolled up their sleeves, got to work, and raised the money themselves. If Planned Parenthood is the marvelous and necessary charitable organization they say it is, this shouldn’t be a problem, right?

Last time I checked, alas, feminists weren’t making these plans. In outlets ranging from Time to the Daily Beast to New York magazine to Vogue, they were urging their sisters as a tip-top priority — wait for it, for I’m not making this up — to rush out and get a “free,” government-funded IUD while they still could.

Apparently, that’s what modern empowerment is all about.

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