- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 9, 2005

NEW YORK (AP) — America’s feminist leaders and their critics agree on at least one current political fact: These are daunting times for the women’s movement as it braces for another term of an administration it desperately wanted to topple.

“The next four years are going to be tough, so we must be tougher,” National Organization for Women President Kim Gandy recently told supporters. “Our health, our rights and our democracy are teetering on the brink.”

NOW, the Feminist Majority Foundation and numerous like-minded groups campaigned zealously against President Bush, contending that his agenda would inflict disproportionate harm on women and that his potential judicial appointments could jeopardize abortion rights.

Ms. Gandy said the Republican Party’s “primary allegiance is to corporations and the wealthy.”

“Giving tax breaks to them means the economic burden falls more on women,” she said.

To the feminists’ dismay, Mr. Bush not only won, but he sharply reduced Democrats’ “gender gap” edge among female voters. Republicans also increased their majorities in Congress, and new Republican senators include several staunch foes of abortion.

Marcia Greenberger, co-president of the National Women’s Law Center, says the Republican agenda doesn’t reflect women’s interests.

“The issue isn’t whether they’re mean-spirited or anti-women,” Ms. Greenberger said. “What I do see is an administration with policies that are fundamentally out of touch with what women really need. … They have other priorities that consistently outweigh and trump the everyday concerns that women have.”

But it is feminists who are truly out of touch, says Carrie Lukas of the Independent Women’s Forum, who says groups like NOW “have increasingly marginalized themselves” by supporting a government-oriented agenda.

“They see government as the answer to all problems — as the national health care provider and day care provider,” Miss Lukas said.

Feminist groups, their critics charge, have failed to update their agenda to reflect decades of professional and economic gains by women. A majority of U.S. university students now are women, who also make up roughly half the enrollment in U.S. medical schools. The “wage gap” between men and women has been sharply reduced in the past 25 years.

“Feminist leaders have failed to keep up with the times,” said Christina Hoff Sommers, a resident scholar with the American Enterprise Institute.

“Women have achieved parity with men in most fields,” said Mrs. Sommers, author of “Who Stole Feminism? How Women Have Betrayed Women.”

“You’d think the feminists and women’s studies professors would be celebrating, but in many ways they’ve never been more despondent. … Their ‘March for Women’s Lives’ last year seemed like a celebration of abortion.”

Ms. Gandy, a NOW activist since 1973, said she is amused by suggestions that the feminist movement is moribund.

“They’ve been writing headlines about the death of feminism since the ‘70s,” she said in an interview. “It’s a lot of wishful thinking on their part.”

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