October 31 2012
Portrait of a Modern Feminist: Tammy Bruce
A few minutes into conversation with Tammy Bruce, a gun-owning lesbian and former NOW chapter president turned conservative radio host, and you begin to appreciate what Fred Dickey once wrote about Bruce in a Los Angeles Times profile:
If Bruce were in the Mafia, she'd be assigned all the hits.
Outspoken is a tepid way of describing Ms. Bruce’s conversational style.
She spoke to IWF a few days after the Obama campaign launched its infamous ad comparing a young woman’s thrill at casting her first vote for President Obama to that of losing her virginity. True to form, Bruce doesn’t content herself with merely calling the spot distasteful.
“It is a reflection of President Obama personally,” she says. “You are looking at a group on the left—Obama’s generation—that is so detached from any kind of sense of right and wrong that there is a kind of narcissism that makes [this election] about him personally. The ad is a reflection of what they think will appeal to women. It’s also a reflection of Obama’s strange view of other individuals in general. I think you are seeing an attitude coming out about what [Obama and his White House] think women are worth.
“We know that women have left jobs in the Obama White House with complaints that this White House is a hostile workplace for women. Liberals who claim to believe in feminism and women’s rights are the worst offenders when it comes to sexism,” she says. “I think what you are seeing with these complaints is that Obama doesn’t like women—just like Bill Clinton didn’t like women. I think you are seeing an attitude about what women are worth.”
Unlike many conservative women, Bruce, 50, doesn’t hesitate to call herself a feminist. She has an interesting resume for a conservative radio host: In 1989, Bruce was chosen president of the Los Angeles chapter of the National Organization of Women. She was the youngest woman ever to lead a chapter in a big city. She admits now that she was attracted to NOW by what she now sees as the organization’s emphasis on victimhood. “You are a victim and you can belong here, and we are going to avenge you,” is the message she says she heard.
“That’s a much more appealing message to some individuals,” she says, “than the conservative message that there’s hope, that you can better yourself, that you are an individual and that something is expected of you. Look, bad things happen to people, but the left has always crafted a message that appeals to the damaged, and when you move towards them, they exploit it even more..”
In her own life, Bruce perhaps had reasons initially to regard herself as a victim. She was raised by a financially-struggling mother and never met her father. Bruce eventually got around to obtaining a bachelor’s degree in science from the University of Southern California—but only in 2002, when she was in her late thirties.
Congenitally unable to toe a party line, Bruce frequently found herself in hot water with other NOW leaders. The break was occasioned by the O. J. Simpson trial. Bruce made no attempt to soft pedal her belief that Simpson was guilty and harshly criticized Simpson lawyer Johnnie Cochran for invoking “racial issues at the trial, when the real issue, as Bruce saw it, was domestic violence.”
Some of Bruce’s reported remarks were--needless to say, if you know Bruce’s propensity for speaking her mind--colorful. NOW officials voted unanimously to censor Bruce for making “racially insensitive comments.” Bruce resigned. Her first book, The Death of Right and Wrong: Exposing the Left’s Assault on Our Culture and Values, is a former insider’s view of what comes across as a harshly intolerant left. She says that conservative women are particular targets of hostility.
“I’ve been attacked by the left as have most conservative women in the public eye. There have been vicious, obscene attacks against Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin, Michele Bachmann, and even Ann Romney,” she says. “The only people who have consistently tried to ruin my career are liberals.”
So far they have failed, though there have been rough patches in Bruce’s career. One came after she berated Camille Cosby for Cosby’s 1998 claim in a USA Today column that her son Ennis had been murdered because, “America taught my son’s killer to hate blacks.” Bruce lost her job at a Los Angeles radio station. (For the record, Ennis Cosby’s murderer was a Ukrainian immigrant.)
Bruce currently hosts The Tammy Bruce Show (which is subscriber-supported), appears on PJTV, speaks, and has signed a new one-year contract with Fox. When somebody asked Bruce why she wasn’t ever tapped to guest host the O’Reilly Factor, she tweeted that it is because she is gay. A kerfuffle ensued. Bruce says she was joking and adds that, when Fox first signed her seven years ago, she was the first openly-gay commentator in network broadcasting. She says that the left “is desperate” not to give Fox credit for this.
She has emerged as a Tea Party champion. “I’ve found that both the Republican and Democratic machines don’t like the Tea Party concept,” she says. “What the elite saw was people rising up who hadn’t paid their dues in terms of the elite trajectory. They hadn’t gone to the right schools or maybe they didn’t have college degrees at all.
“I think that is why the elites look askance at those regular citizen candidates—Allen West, Rand Paul, and Sarah Palin—and anyone who opposes the old guard is attacked. They fear citizen candidates moving into D.C. It’s like turning on the lights and seeing the cockroaches scamper away. They don’t want that light turned on, and they resent it. There is an overwhelming resentment at what they see as the presumption of regular people.”
Bruce thinks that the move to extend the amount of time kids spend in school is aimed at keeping children away from a specific set of regular folks known as parents. She argues American parents, left to their own devices, tend to raise right-of-center kids. “We don’t need Big Brother or big government to tell us what to eat and what should be in a child’s lunch pail or what subjects your children should learn,” she says.
“Maybe it used to be classically liberal, but now it is conservative to say that women make good decisions,” says Bruce. “They are the ones who know how to raise children and they know where they want to live and what they want to feed their children.”
Bruce speaks frequently—and fondly—of an “American sensibility” which includes the idea that people can do better, that people can be trusted, that individuals are sovereign and supported by faith (though she rejects “organized religion” for herself). She favors civil unions, believing that what she calls a desire for equality on the part of gay citizens can be accommodated without “invading” churches.
And one thread runs through her entire career—both NOW Tammy and Tea Party are advocates for women—but perhaps not in quite the same way.
“I want women to have all doors open, whether they are stay-at-home moms, lawyers, doctors, or teachers. I want to see every door unlocked. What I found is that the left is just the opposite. There is an investment in victimhood. There is a very specific idea of what women are supposed to be and stay-at-home mothers are for some reason not good enough.”