Most of us have been so distracted by real (and "real") news -- madmen with bombs (or the desire for them), elections, Madonna's adoption -- that we haven't had time to notice a milestone cultural event. At last, this fall, on the cover of "Ms." magazine, liberal feminism officially jumped the shark.
Most well-informed Americans have had little indication since bra-burning days that old feminism's flagship magazine still existed. It does, unfortunately, and its most recent edition is quite a shameful display. The fall cover proclaims "We Had Abortions," as if it were a badge of honor -- as if anyone could believe such a thing.
If abortion really were so conducive to women's happiness and success, seems strange that we have groups and Web sites dedicated to post-abortion healing. We even have the occasional abortion clinic that gives women a time and place to mourn their lost children.
The "Ms." cover wasn't the first time the magazine has done such a thing.
In its heyday, the gals ran a similar proclamation. In the latest issue, reflecting on the good old days of taking on Phyllis Schlafly and the anti-Equal-Rights-Amendment crowd, the sisters recall, "In its 1972 debut issue, 'Ms.' magazine ran a bold petition in which 53 well-known U.S. women declared that they had undergone abortions -- despite state laws rendering the procedure illegal."
So why scream it again now? Serrin Foster, president of Feminists for Life of America, views the "Ms." antics as a good sign for her (and the rest of us). "We used to react to them. Now they're reacting to us," she tells me. The cover, no doubt, was in part a response to Feminists for Life and pro-lifers like them who have been focusing on a "Women Deserve Better" (than abortion) message in recent years. Feminists for Life, which has Patricia Heaton of "Everybody Loves Raymond," as a devoted celebrity spokeswoman, got unprecedented attention when it was reported that now Supreme Court chief justice John Roberts's wife, Jane, had worked with them in the past.
The "Ms." cover, coincidentally, hit newsstands at about the same time Feminists for Life started an e-mail Q&A featuring "pro-woman answers to pro-choice questions." In it, Foster answers the most frequently asked questions she gets while traveling around the country presenting her pro-life feminist message to college students. She tackles tough stuff like "What if her partner, friends or family have abandoned her? Or what if she's poor?" "What about 'the life of the mother?'" And "What about rape? What if it was your daughter who was raped?"
In one of her answers, Foster says, "Abortion after rape is misdirected anger. It doesn't punish the perpetrator of the crime, or prevent further assaults against other women." She tells the stories of real women who are alive because their brave mothers let them be born, despite the horrendous way they were conceived. Like I said, tough stuff. But real life.
Feminism isn't just jumping the shark on abortion, though. At the same time "Ms." was trying to reclaim relevance - in about the most perverse way they possibly could - students at James Madison University were pushing back against Title IX, an amendment added to an education bill in Congress in 1972.
The law was patterned on the 1964 Civil Rights Act, intended to keep discrimination out of education. Good goals. In subsequent years, however, it devolved into federally mandated quotas in high school and college sports.
Schools, fearful of lawsuits, have complied, being extra cautious, knowing that killing men's wrestling teams is a favorite sport of feminist lawyers. Politicians have largely curtsied in obedience to the feminist police. But maybe not anymore.
Earlier this fall, James Madison announced it was cutting seven men's teams, as well as three women's teams. The cuts would mean no teams for more than 140 students and 11 coaches. It was a response to federal "proportionality" guidelines: If a school's student population is 60 percent women and 40 percent men, the sports programs have to reflect that breakdown exactly -- even if 60 percent of the female students don't want to play sports.
In light of protests there, Title IX reformists have gotten unprecedented attention. Jessica Gavora of the College Sports Council calls the developments "amazing." "A story line is forming in the media around James Madison University's decision to cut ten teams to comply with Title IX and for the first time it's this: That a perverted interpretation of the law -- not football, not sexist university administrators, but the law -- has resulted in a great injustice."
In short -- on issues that have long been monopolized by liberal feminists, mainstream culture may finally be graduating to good sense and reason. No cover antics will save Ms. and the sisterhood now.