Here’s something you don’t hear from a conservative every day: I’m a feminist.
Wait -- don’t go scrambling for the emergency exit just yet. This doesn’t mean I’m joining NOW. But, having recently welcomed a daughter into the world, I want nothing but the best for her.
Of course, what’s good for an individual woman isn’t necessarily going to be good for women in general. But, by definition, a “feminist” should support policies that benefit women in toto.
For example, across the millennia humans have evolved so that roughly 105 men are born for every 100 women. Don’t ask me why that works, but it does. So, as a feminist, one ought to oppose China’s one-child policy, which has encouraged millions of families to abort daughters.
There are now roughly 120 boys born in China for every 100 girls -- a “gendercide,” as some call it. “In eight to 10 years, we will have something like 40 to 60 million missing women,” U.N. resident coordinator Khalid Malik warned in 2004. “Missing” means gone forever -- killed simply because of their gender. This fact alone ought to have feminists up in arms.
Instead, “feminism” has allowed itself to become a one-issue platform. Support abortion on demand, you’re in. Oppose it, you’re out.
Remember Bill Clinton? Sure, he took sexual favors from a vulnerable, younger woman in the Oval Office, the sort of behavior that would seem to reinforce gender stereotypes and set back the cause of women’s rights to the Mad Men-era.
Yet, “the President’s behavior, offensive as it was, does not rise to the level of an impeachable offense,” declared the National Organization for Women’s executive vice-president in 1998. “In fact, the conservative majority in Congress, with their relentless attacks on women’s rights, is a far greater threat to women and our families,” Kim Gandy added. Clinton wasn’t only the ultimate survivor, he was, apparently, the ultimate feminist.
Small wonder that others are also trying to recapture the word “feminist.”
In its latest hit piece on Sarah Palin (perhaps its last such attack before it quietly folds) Newsweek magazine declares that, “Palin has been antagonizing women on the left of late by describing herself as a ‘feminist,’ a word she uses to mean the righteous, Mama Bear anger that wells up when one of her children is attacked in the press or her values are brought into question.”
This is likely to become more than a pedantic debate over the definition of a particular word. And Palin’s version seems more likely to benefit women than traditional feminism does.
For evidence, flip a few pages deeper into the same magazine. Jessica Bennett and Jesse Ellison (two women who are reportedly tired of being invited to weddings) take the usual liberal feminist stand. They write that “marriage is -- from a legal and practical standpoint, anyway -- no longer necessary.” Is that so?
“According to the U.S. Census, the poverty rate in 2008 for single parents with children was 35.6 percent. The rate for married couples with children was 6.4 percent,” writes poverty expert Robert Rector in a recent paper from The Heritage Foundation. “Being raised in a married family reduces a child’s probability of living in poverty by about 80 percent.”
Again, what works for some individual women isn’t what’s best for women in general. Yes, “In 2010, we know most spousal rights can be easily established outside of the law, and that Americans are cohabiting, happily, in record numbers,” as Bennett and Ellison write. But the majority of American women, and women in general, benefit from marriage.
But maybe not for long.
The July edition of The Atlantic declares “The End of Men” on its cover. Women are, purportedly “taking control of everything.” Oh, good. Does this mean we can finally end the discriminatory Title IX that has eliminated hundreds of men’s college sports programs? Or, even better, have it applied to women, to ensure that no more than 50 percent of all college graduates are women?
In any event, assuming men stay around a bit, “To reduce poverty in America, policymakers should enact policies that encourage people to form and maintain healthy marriage and delay childbearing until they are married and economically stable,” Rector concludes. “Marriage is highly beneficial to children, adults, and society. It needs to be encouraged and strengthened, not ignored and undermined.”
That’s a good description of policies that could make more conservatives into feminists in the years ahead.