September 24 2014
by Naomi Schaefer Riley
When Lena Dunham determined she needed to bring a political component to her book tour, according to a glowing profile in The New York Times Magazine, she and her sister decided to “combine their shared interest in women’s health and reproductive rights with their publisher’s interest in selling a lot of books.”
And so her book signings will include “on-site representatives from Planned Parenthood.”
Really, Lena? Couldn’t you be a little more creative? Are reproductive rights really the only issue you that you and every other woman in America care about?
Dunham is just taking her cues from the towering intellects of modern feminism.
Take Rebecca Traister’s breathless contribution to The New Republic’s cover story on feminism: “I don’t think that in my lifetime (I’m 39) I’ve ever seen public, popular feminist discourse more robust than it is now.”
As evidence of the robustness of the feminist agenda, she cites issues from abortion to birth control, from rape to domestic violence. What a range.
“So where do you stand on abortion?” I asked eight smart, politically aware women sitting on an Independent Women’s Forum panel last Wednesday. For a few moments, I was met with complete silence.
It’s not that each of these women didn’t have a view on the issue. From conversations afterward, I’d say they divide pretty evenly between pro-life and pro-choice — but they’re hoping to, well, broaden the conversation.
As Julie Gunlock, one panelist, told me afterward, “Mentioning abortion sucks all the oxygen out of the room.”
It’s in hopes of putting more oxygen in the “room” of women’s issues that IWF has just released the book “Lean Together: An Agenda for Smarter Government, Stronger Communities and More Opportunity for Women.”
With chapters on tax rates, retirement savings, technology and school choice, these ladies seem to be saying that women’s issues are, well, everyone’s issues.
It may not be sexy, but there’s no chapter on abortion or birth control — because contrary to the received wisdom, women in fact care about a host of other issues.
Take the chapter by Vicki Alger: “Expanding Education Freedom, K-12 and Higher Education.”
The quality of our children’s schools is an issue that concerns mothers on a daily (sometimes hourly) basis. But the government, in partnership with public-sector unions, has made our public-education system expensive, inefficient and ineffective.
Pointing to homeschooling, charters, online learning, tax-credit programs and educational savings accounts, Alger argues we “don’t need government meddling in [our] educational choices. If we want a brighter future for students of all ages . . . we should be investing limited public resources in people directly — not through costly ineffective bureaucracies.”
Good point. Why isn’t the National Organization for Women marching for school choice?
Speaking of things women worry about much more regularly than how easy it will be to procure an abortion, there’s also the chapter “Women at Work.”
In it, Sabrina Schaeffer (IWF’s executive director) agrees the life of a working mother often seems to be a stressful balancing act — but argues that we still need to preserve the current menu of options we have about how much to work, how flexible we want our schedules to be, how much time we want to spend out of the workforce, etc.
And demands for “pro-woman” legislation like the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act actually threaten to undermine those choices.
As Schaeffer explained on the panel, “Employers will have to worry about a lawsuit every time they make a decision about giving an employee a raise.”
Taking into consideration things like how long someone has been at a company or how much time they devote to their work will also invite legal action.
The Lean Together Agenda isn’t all-economics. In her chapter, Charlotte Hays considers the state of the culture — something any woman who watched the Video Music Awards awards should be concerned about.
Hays looks at how the longterm welfare programs the government has embraced since the 1970s in effect replaced the man in countless homes — weakening and, in some communities, destroying the two-parent family.
(While welfare reform fixed some of the policy problems in the 1990s, the cultural damage remains.)
Similarly, by becoming the provider of too many social programs, government has pushed civil society to the edges of our lives.
To take back the women’s agenda, the contributors to “Lean Together” agree, women themselves are going to have to do the heavy lifting, rebuilding our communities without the “help” of government.
Which is a lot harder than demanding free birth control. But don’t worry, ladies, sisterhood is powerful.