Thursday, November 14, 2002

Part III of Life…at Conception

Well, again, which is it? Is abortion a safeguard against sexism, and a tool for empowering women and increasing their earning power (and, presumably, the consequent political power), or is it a failure?

If legal abortion is responsible for improving the position of women in society, advances should be celebrated by abortion advocates. If it is not, then abortion advocates should be honest enough to admit that an improvement of $0.10 on the dollar does not compare favorably to thirty pieces of silver, and look for alternatives.

So, what do we see? An improvement in the political, economic and social lot of women that began decades before legalized abortion. And a curious silence—actually, more of an active hostility—to data that a neutral observer might suspect is favorable to the women’s case. Something else is clearly going on.

“Abortion” (the issue, not the act) has given a select group of women a great deal of political power, out of all proportion to their numbers or ideas. The have sold a bill of goods to women, insisting ever more loudly not only that women can have it all, but that they must. “You can be wife, mother, business owner, political leader and host of your own talk show, all at the same time, and if you aren’t, well, you’ll be deeply unsatisfied, and will have let down your ‘sisters.’”

Why? Well, it may be true that a woman can’t yet be elected President (though I think the right woman probably could be; but whoever she is, she is probably off doing more important things than amassing a political base for herself, since politics seems to attract a disproportionate share of silly people). But there are precious few other positions in government or business that a woman can’t achieve. It used to be said that a woman has to be twice as good as a man to get paid half as much. Now, you can be just as dumb and venal as any man, so long as Patricia Ireland and Gloria Steinem sign off on your candidacy and extract promises in return.

In many ways, the feminists have won, and good on them for much of it. But to call attention to their victory is to make them irrelevant. When you stand for “change” where do you go when you have gotten it? Where do you go when you have acquired a taste for the power you no longer need? So the curious paradox of denying victory while promising to safeguard it, all managed with the judicious use of the ultimate trump card: the coat hanger.

Tomorrow: the conclusion.


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