Where are the Feminists when we need Them?
by Jan Baughman

I got a letter today from Eleanor Smeal. Every year, she sends me the National Feminist Census, and asks me to contribute to The Feminist Majority. This year, she is particularly concerned about the Religious and Radical Right and the anti-affirmative action legislation that is seeping through the country like a California mudslide. The right to abortion remains at the forefront of the agenda, and The Christian Coalition continues to lurk dangerously in the background threatening feminist interests. In the meantime, not enough women are in power (i.e., Congress). A pathetic 11%, said Ellie. So much doom and gloom. Wasn't it at least a minor victory to see the Promise Keepers go bankrupt?

I scoured the letter for a compelling concern that I, as a woman, should grasp hold of, yet the issues at hand could line the agendas of numerous factions. The Equal Rights Amendment will never happen (though hopefully because we achieve equality without the mandate of the Constitution). Abortion will remain a bone of contention in our pious society, even if the gender lines were somehow to become blurred. And until the victims of anti-affirmative action band together rather than act unilaterally in parallel, the majority will remain several minorities with weak voices.

So is there anything that pushes my feminist button? Yes, there is. It's Paula Jones. It's Monica Lewinsky. It's the notion that a woman without a lawyer is like a spineless porcupine. It's the notion that a woman whose career is allegedly destroyed by an unwanted sexual advance seeks retribution -- even revenge, and on the way to the courthouse makes a few dollars and takes a detour for a makeover so that she's more beautiful, with the hope of being perceived as more credible.

It's the lingering belief of some women that sex with a powerful man gives them power. Actually, it diminishes the power of both and it certainly doesn't lead to more women in Congress. It's the possibility that the Radical Right has sought out and made pawns of these women in order to weaken their enemy. And it's the media's blow-by-blow minutia on the women who were perhaps able to inspire the libido of the President of the United States, and the women who were perhaps unable to repel the libido of the Governor of Arkansas.

No, Ellie, I'm afraid I'll not contribute today. The issues you present - abortion, affirmative action, the frightening power of the Religious Right - are more far-reaching and humanist than simply feminist. I'd much prefer that The Feminist Majority work to clarify the confusion regarding which attributes define a woman's power. A challenging task, indeed, and not something that a tax-deductible contribution or a referendum or a Constitutional amendment can resolve.

Published March 7, 1998
[Copyright]-[Archives]-[Main Page]