Stealth Misogyny

Bush's War on Women

"You'd think Saddam would keep Bush busy, but he's attacking women left and right," says Carolyn Maloney, the congress member from Manhattan's East Side and one of the House's most active feminists. This week, Maloney will issue a fact sheet about Bush's global war on women's rights. One notorious example is our failure to sign the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. America is one of only three nations in the world to disavow this compact, which Kofi Annan calls "a milestone" in the quest for "universal norms of gender equality." But the Independent Women's Forum calls this treaty "big sister," and so far Bush has sided with them.

The administration has also objected to UN family-planning and AIDS-prevention programs that offer or merely mention condoms. According to Planned Parenthood, the U.S. even opposed efforts to provide special rehabilitation for female victims of war crimes, because the measure might be construed as offering information about abortion to girls who have been raped. Then there's Bush's expansion of the global gag rule—even at home. A bill passed by the Republican House would allow health care companies to prevent their doctors from discussing abortion. Here is this decade's version of silence = death.

image: ©2003 Guerrilla Girls, Inc. Courtesy

The consensus among activists is that the women's rights portfolio has been given to the vice president and his wife, Lynne Cheney. She is a board member of the Independent Women's Forum, whose policy papers deny the existence of a gender pay gap and demand the dismantling of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission. Bush is dedicated to this agenda. But his administration still fears alienating soccer moms. If feminists can convince these middle-class voters that Bush's policies hurt them as well as the poor, he will pay for his stealth misogyny. A good place to start the fightback is where politics begins and ends in America: the pocketbook.

Next week: the Myth of Progress

Research assistance: F. Timothy Martin

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