Our policy forum last week – Women in the Wilderness – generated a lot of media attention, largely from left-leaning outlets. There seems to be consensus among the “lefty feminists” bloggers at sites like Jezebel and Daily Kos that our panel was more concerned with addressing a conservative – and by extension Republican – “image problem,” than with tackling a serious GOP “content problem.”
Jezebel’s Katie Halper wrote: “I’m happy that conservatives enjoy sex, but that doesn’t mean the policies they and their party support aren’t ‘anti-reproductive freedom.’”
And Kaili Joy Gray had this nasty – and largely inaccurate – bit over at Daily Kos:
Yeah, laugh it up ladies. Because it's freakin' hilarious how the Republican Party has been so god-awful on women's issues… All those attempts to restrict and defund women's health care, supported by lady Republicans. Blocking renewal of the Violence Against Women Act, supported by lady Republicans. Attacking women who use birth control, supported by lady Republicans. Trying to redefine rape and explain how some rape is't really rape because, you know, chicks, man, they're always lying about being raped so they can cash in on all the fabulous government-funded gifts and prizes. Yup, lady Republicans have been right there, lock-stepping with the party. Damn shame about the men though, isn't it?
It’s moments like this when I realize that women on the left and women on the right are truly talking past each other. Or, more accurately, progressive women don’t actually want to hear what their “antifeminists” have to say.
Both writers fixated with laser-focus on an off-the-cuff comment an audience member made about how Republicans have to stop coming across as anti-sex. It served for a good laugh, but that’s it. How absurd to ignore the entirety of the panel discussion. (In fact, it makes me wonder if these writers were even in the audience?)
There wasn’t a woman on the panel that night (and I was one of them), who didn’t feel frustrated and angry about absurd – even extremist – comments made by members of the Republican party during the presidential election. Moderator Christina Hoff Sommers tackled it head on in her introduction: “Well I’m not sure what’s worse, conservatives ignoring women’s issues or conservatives addressing them. I mean, is there anyone more tongue-tied than a Republican official trying to talk about women?”
The larger point is that 40 years after Roe v. Wade became settled law the women at IWF and our fellow panelists (who cover the spectrum in terms of their personal views on abortion) simply don’t agree that “women’s issues” should be defined by reproductive rights, ultrasounds, and domestic violence.
What we argue – and what Carrie Lukas and I wrote in our book Liberty is No War on Women that was for sale at the event (!) – is that the real “war” on women is big government, which truly undermines women’s progress and financial security – a failed education system, excess regulations and taxation, a $16 trillion debt, and a government-run health care system.
As I said last week:
If I saw one issue as a woman’s issue this year, it was energy policy. Women are the leading consumers of everything, from groceries to electronics, to cars. Moms like myself, I have three small children, we do the laundry, we pay the bills, we shuttle our children around to and from school. These are all activities that put in the sharp relief the cost of energy.
But our critics don’t address energy policy or health care or the looming fiscal crisis. They don’t address how it hurts women and their families when government picks winners and losers in the energy industry – favoring wind energy over coal, for instance. Shouldn’t feminists care that this is inefficient and drives up costs of food, gas, and basic goods for families?
The real difference between me and my feminist critics on the left has nothing to do with reproductive rights. It’s the fact that I don’t believe America is a country of inequality for women and girls. I don’t view men’s and women’s interests in conflict. I don’t want to play gender politics because we all want a healthy society that provides opportunity for everyone. And ultimately I believe returning power to the individual and to families is the real key to women’s freedom.
Maybe the lefty feminists should take a minute to respond to that.