November 10 2013

Feminism: Ideology or Interest Group?

Charlotte Hays

The American Thinker’s always interesting Clarice Feldman has taken two separate incidents to draw our attention to what Feldman calls “the pernicious effects” of feminism today.

The two incidents are…

…the skewed married women versus single women vote in Virginia and the increasing pressure put on the military to prosecute meritless charges of sexual assault. In both cases, ordinary men and women and the country as a whole are the victims of upper-class women's drive to power through mendacious claims megaphoned by a credulous, biased press.

Feldman points out that Ken Cuccinelli, who narrowly lost his bid to become governor of Virginia, carried married women 51 to 42 percent. But it was a startlingly different story when it came to unmarried women, whom Cuccinelli’s opponent, Terry McAuliffe, carried an astonishing 67 to 25 percent.

Feldman says—correctly, I believe—that this predicament is occasioned by economic illiteracy, political and class bias, and the “snobbery of upper-class feminists and their friends in the media,” who benefit from feminism. It is also tragic: the economic status of women at the lower rungs of society won’t be improved by Democratic policies. Most likely, they will be permanently trapped into government dependency. Government-dependent is another way to describe a set of voters Democrats see as permanent vote fodder for their policies.  He doesn’t quite put it this way, but Jonathan Capehart realizes that Democrats must depend on voters who traditionally believe in federal intervention. The column to which I refer is headlined “Lesson for Democrats in McAuliffe Win: Bet on Black.”

Interestingly, by the way, Feldman notes something that you’d never know from the Obama campaign rhetoric: the GOP is really the political party of the middle class. Be nice if they’d made the point that President Obama’s policies are destroying the middle class a bigger part of the campaign.

Feldman asked her online friends at Facebook what they’d recommend to overcome the GOP’s women problem. The replies make for interesting reading, though I don't agree with a lot of the proposals. and I certainly don’t agree with many of them. But I do want to quote one because it relates to ObamaCare, which, Democratic rhetoric aside, may turn out to be quite anti-woman (not that we can depend on the GOP to make this point!):

I'd go after the sex-life-snooping questions mandated by Obamacare. The mandate is a "free" annual exam, but the bait-and-switch is that what is mandated is not something guided by the health of the patient but the interests of the government.

Feldman ends the Virginia segment of her column on a note of pessimism and then turns to her section on “muscle and the military.” Because feminists are so politically powerful, Feldman says, the military is bowing to their demands and allowing unwarranted sexual assault criminal prosecutions to go forward. Let me stop to say that any man who assaults a woman deserves the utmost punishment. But it is also crucial if we are to be a just society that we don’t punish men who don’t deserve it to meet the demands of a feminist lobby.

Feminists want to remove commanders from the process of deciding which sexual assault accusations go to trial, thus leaving the decisions up to lawyers, “something that military leaders say would undercut their ability to maintain order in the ranks.” Feminists hope to accomplish this, Feldman argues, by exaggerating the number of sexual assaults in the military:

As they have in so many areas, to our detriment and to that of the middle class in particular, the feminists have used their ability to sway this voting tranche into increasing their political power. Now the military is targeted and it seems also to be bowing to the demand for unwarranted sex-assault criminal prosecutions.

As usual -- see claims about disparate incomes, for example -- the feminists begin with a lie. In this case, the exaggerated claims of the frequency of sex assaults in the military to force prosecutions, which are unlikely to be sustained because the evidence is nonexistent or flimsy. James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal skillfully dissects the issue and claims and attributes the Pentagon's craven response to "moral panic".

Taranto looked at the numbers, which came from the Pentagon, and finds that they are more political and don’t comport with reality:

In exaggerating the problem of military sexual assault, the Pentagon is responding to its civilian masters in both the executive branch and Congress. A moral panic is under way, and military officers -- who are trained to follow orders and whose ultimate commanders are civilians -- are not equipped to resist it. The result is that weak or completely bogus cases go to courts-martial, either producing unjust verdicts or reducing conviction rates -- and in the latter case giving further ammunition to politicians anxious to push the military to "do more" about "sexual assault."

We obviously want--need--to know if there’s a rise in sexual assaults in the military. But we also must recognize that, because the issue has been so politicized, it is going to be difficult to get the real numbers.

What Feldman’s column reminded me of was something that I thought a when I attended a conference in September at the Center for American Progress, the think tank with Obama ties. Feminism is no longer an ideal: it is the basis of an interest group. 

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