Gloria, Geraldine and NOW Do Not Speak for Me

Karin Agness

3/19/2008 11:00:34 PM - Karin Agness

Feminists have been on the prowl this month, making lots of noise. Gloria Steinem bashed John McCain during a campaign rally for Hillary Clinton in Austin, Texas, saying, “I am so grateful that she [Clinton] hasn’t been trained to kill anybody. And she probably didn’t even play war games as a kid. It’s a great relief from Bush in his jump suit and from Kerry saluting.” Steinem continued, distinguishing race and sex in America, “a majority of Americans want redemption for racism, for our terrible destructive racist past and so see a vote for Obama as redemptive...I don’t think as many want redemption for the gynocide (killing of women).”

Geraldine Ferraro had to resign from her position on Clinton’s campaign after her controversial comments on race and sex, “I think what America feels about a woman becoming president takes a very secondary place to Obama's campaign — to a kind of campaign that it would be hard for anyone to run against. For one thing, you have the press, which has been uniquely hard on her. It's been a very sexist media. Some just don't like her.”

Finally, Marj Signer, President of the Virginia Chapter of the National Organization for Women, said at an Ohio rally, “Hillary Clinton's taken every bullet they can fire at her. They try to bury her, to vaporize her. They make her out to be a bimbo. I guess the message is that women are still fair game. It's an atmosphere where this is still okay.”

Based on these comments, it sounds like sexism runs rampant in America today and women are just helpless victims. These loud feminists grab headlines, as if they are in the mainstream, speaking for all women. But they do not speak for us. Just as it is necessary for leaders of organizations to confront members who make ridiculous comments, rational women must distance ourselves from our feminist sisters and their comments.

It is especially timely for women to take a stand this month as we celebrate Women’s History Month and reflect on the victories women have won and battles that lay before us. As women, if we want to be treated equally in the political realm or any other realm, we must be serious players. In pursuant of this goal of standing up to the radical feminists and in celebration of Women’s History Month, women must challenge the weaknesses in feminist thought today, especially the victim mentality and the nasty rhetoric.

As American women, we are in a better position today than we have ever been in. Life is good. We have many options ahead of us, both in terms of careers and motherhood. One way to specifically measure this is by examining the educational achievements of women as compared to men. According to the Census Bureau, since 1979, women have represented the majority of college students. For the 2007-08 school year, women are projected to earn 59% of bachelors degrees, 61% of masters degrees and 52% of first professional degrees, such as law and medical. The number of women in institutions of higher education does not just equal that of men, it surpasses men and the dominance of women continues to increase.

Yet on college campuses and in the larger society, feminists continue to adopt a victim mentality, as if there is a good ol’ boys club ready to knock women down as soon as we reach too high. Although women dominate college campuses, there is still an unbelievable amount of institutional resources spent on women, including Women’s Studies departments and Women’s Centers. These were started when women were in the minority. Since men are in the minority now, by the same logic, we should be closing down the Women’s Studies departments and creating Men’s Studies departments. Think the feminists will ever let this happen?

Unfortunately, this adoption of the victim mentality is a widespread cultural phenomenon beyond college campuses. It is so widespread that after a poor debate performance at Drexel University this election season, Hillary Clinton’s campaign claimed she was being picked on by the men.

Who will accept a woman as a serious competitor if she is going to claim the game is unfair when she loses? This victim mentality hurts women overall by making us seem weak and desperate.

Besides rejecting the victim mentality, feminists should drop the nasty rhetoric. During a 1970s debate over the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), Betty Friedan, a feminist pro-ERA leader, said of Phyllis Schlafly, the STOP ERA leader, “I'd like to burn you at the stake. I consider you a traitor to your sex. I consider you an Aunt Tom.” Unfortunately, as shown above, the rhetoric has not become much better in the last 30 years. As women, we challenge each other, which can be very constructive. But screaming shrilly that every debate and challenge to a woman candidate is just sexism is not constructive. Statements like these only relegate women to the periphery of debates. To be truly equal, female candidates must accept criticism and defend their policies, just like the men and not cry foul and bias anytime they are criticized.

Gloria Steinem, Geraldine Ferraro and NOW proudly claim to represent women and are widely celebrated during Women’s History Month. It is up to all women, but especially the young women who will soon be the next leaders in this great nation, to challenge feminism and let it be known that these women do not speak for us.