SUCH A LONG WAY, BABY
by Joyce Marcel
American Reporter Correspondent
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- It's the best of times, it's the worst of times. Condoleezza Rice, the Cold Warrior Woman, will be America's second female Secretary of State. What can feminists make of this?
Yes, we "Femin-Nazis" wanted equal opportunity for women, and now we have it. But who knew it could get so complicated? Who knew it would end up as it did for poor Margaret Hassan, the CARE director in Iraq recently assassinated by terrorists. Should we be grateful that at least they didn't cut off her head?
All the things we fought for in the streets such a long, long time ago have come to fruition, and many of them have also come back to haunt us.
I was never the kind of fuzzy-headed liberal who thought that a world run by women would be a warm and nurturing place. I always remembered Euripides' "The Bacchae," with the scene where Agave returns from a wine-fueled orgy holding up the severed head of her son. It's always been clear to me that women can be just as brutal as men.
But still, Condi? The woman who refused to take al Queda and Osama bin Laden seriously? The woman who was our National Security Advisor when our national security was horribly breached? According to The New York Times, she now believes she is "helping to preside over nothing less than the struggle between modernity and fundamentalism."
"In Dr. Rice, the world will see the strength, the grace and the decency of our country," President George Bush says. Yet isn't this the same woman who, in the spring of 2003, during the buildup to our insane Iraq war, said "Punish France, ignore Germany and forgive Russia"? Isn't she the woman who now believes that the way to spread "democracy and freedom" in the Middle East is to bomb a few countries straight into hell?
Speaking of the struggle between modernity and fundamentalism, Condi, haven't you become an enabler, propping up a man who, in the name of religious fundamentalism, is waging one of the most vicious wars against women this county has ever seen?
When President Bush is given the chance, he will try to lard the U.S. Supreme Court, as he has done with other courts, with half-cocked faux-Biblical nutjobs who believe a woman's place is barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen. Revoking Roe vs. Wade and returning abortion to the back alley seems to be their sole mission in life.
But abortion isn't the only thing on the chopping block. My heart sank recently when USA Today ran a story about pharmacists refusing to fill prescriptions for birth control pills on "moral" grounds. It's a national trend. Mississippi - just ranked as the worst state for women by the Institute for Women's Policy Research - enacted legislation last July allowing health care providers, including pharmacists, to refuse to participate in procedures that go against their "conscience." Ten other states have considered similar bills.
"We have always understood that the battles about abortion were just the tip of a larger ideological iceberg, and that it's really birth control that they're after also," said Gloria Feldt, the president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, in response.
Simply put, we're looking at a world-view, clothed in religious terms, which believes men are made to rule the world and women's bodies are made first for their pleasure and second for breeding. Talk about slippery slopes. Can you say burqua? Can you say clitorectomy?
Abortion will never go away. It will always remain the right of wealthy women. You can bet your bottom dollar (which may be all you have left after the administration's economic policies) that the Bush twins are, at the very least, using contraception. As with so many Republican "values," this is "Do as I say, not as I do."
In his first term, the President forced his anti-woman's rights agenda on the poorer countries of the world. No foreign aid money for reproductive education and family planning. No money for condoms to protect against AIDS. Now Condi will be the kinder, gentler face of these policies while President Bush tries to bring it all back home.
But how can the President be anti-woman, you say, when he's appointed so many women to powerful positions? Weren't we told during the election that "W stands for Women"? Here is where things get complicated.
The triumph of feminism is that women have won the right to make the same choices for themselves that men do. Unfortunately, it also includes the right to be boneheaded and dead wrong.
It is a stroke of brilliance that Bush and his cronies place women in power to carry out anti-woman policies, and that these women are so eager for power that they will happily comply. Remember, this is a president whose female Secretary of Labor did away with pay inequalities in the workplace by ordering her department to stop keeping statistics on pay inequalities in the workplace.
Rice's foreign policy ideas are as bad as Dick Cheney's and Paul Wolfowitz's. Cut her no slack because she's a woman; she's just Donald Rumsfeld with better legs.
So as we write our checks to Planned Parenthood and the National Organization of Women, let's be amused that we've come such a long way, baby.
Joyce Marcel is a free-lance journalist who writes about culture, politics, economics and travel.