Feminism Beyond Feminists

Posted: May 22, 2006 4:29 PM

In a Mothers' Day interview on ABC, first lady Laura Bush told George Stephanopoulos that she considers herself a "feminist." You would have thought she had uttered an entirely different f-word, considering the way some people reacted.

Screenwriter Nora Ephron ("When Harry Met Sally") immediately assumed veto authority over who can and cannot call herself a "feminist." Laura Bush cannot, she blogged. "Laura Bush isn't a feminist. You can't be a feminist if you don't believe in a woman's right to choose."

This isn't the first time the liberal feminist sisterhood has gone after Laura Bush. Earlier this year, shortly after Mrs. Bush had traveled to the Middle East, writer Erica Jong wrote: "it's time to ask why she is promoting freedom for women in the Middle East when the rights of American women are being systemically eroded by her husband's initiatives."

I'm sorry, but Ms. Jong has no sense of reality.

As Laura Bush said in another Mother's Day interview on "Fox New Sunday," in defending American foreign policy and thanking Americans for their sacrifices: "In Afghanistan, women can walk outside their doors now, girls can go to school, and girls and women in Afghanistan are so hungry for education that most schools have three schedules, with little kids going in the morning, and older children going in the afternoon, and then their parents going to school at night."

She summed up: "So those are huge accomplishments that we have been able to make as Americans because of our troops. So I want to thank all the mothers around the country, too, for their love and their strong support for their children everywhere, whether their children are in the military or not."

The ironic thing about the feminist hostility toward Laura Bush is that she may be more with them than against them on their key issue, abortion. Way back in 2001, then wife of the president-elect, Mrs. Bush told "The Today Show" that she did not think Roe v. Wade should be overturned. She spoke in a way some Democrats who want to show less of an extremist side sometimes talk, about reducing the number of abortions, responsibility, and teaching abstinence. But when pressed further she won't discuss her "personal" views on the issue -- she's widely believed to support legal abortion, but doesn't make a political issue out of it.

But the self-proclaimed feminist gatekeepers will have nothing to do with her. They'd have nothing to do with her if she thought Roe is the travesty that it is. They will have nothing to do with her regardless of her views, public or private, because she is married to a president committed to protecting the sanctity of human life.


Feminism, however, is broader than the likes of Ms. magazine and other liberals would have you believe. Heck, I'd call President Bush himself a feminist if I didn't think it would give the Texan the creeps. Heck, I'll do it anyway: George W. Bush is a feminist.

Want to make Ephron and Jong more outraged? The late Pope John Paul II was a feminist; he wrote about the "genius" of the feminine. Actress Patricia Heaton calls herself a feminist and is adamantly against abortion. In one ad for the group Feminists for Life, Heaton appears with the tagline, "Every 38 seconds in America a woman lays her body down, feeling forced to choose abortion out of a lack of practical resources and emotional support. Abortion is a reflection that society has failed women. There is a better way." She's not obsessed with keeping abortion legal like the establishment feminists, but she's seeking to reclaim the word feminism. And Heaton and her approach weren't born yesterday. The suffragettes -- the women responsible for the 19th Amendment that gave women in the United States the right to vote -- were against abortion.

I'm sorry, Ms. Ephron, but "feminism" is not only what you say it is. You'd think that those who hold the "feminist" banners might want to be a little more inviting at a time when most women want nothing to do with their doctrinaire sorority. In a recent New York Times poll, 68 percent of respondents said they do not consider themselves feminists. The sisterhood should embrace Laura Bush merely for being willing to use a dirty word. And they should be willing to rise to the challenge that feminists who follow the maternal instinct to protect all innocent life pose.