Thursday, January 27, 2005

I hate women. Let me rephrase that: I hate “women” — the ones who make a career of it, the feminists who like to blow things up and then cry as the pieces rain down, choking on the vapors. Which filled the air, apparently, up at Harvard when big, bad Lawrence Summers — Harvard’s prez, who has just got to stop saying he’s sorry — declared in a meeting that the dearth of women in the hard sciences might have something to do, not so much with (yawn) male chauvinism but with the innate differences between the sexes. “I felt I was going to be sick,” said Nancy Hopkins, a biology professor at MIT who stormed out of the meeting. “My heart was pounding and my breath was shallow,” she informed reporters. “I couldn’t breathe because this kind of bias makes me physically ill.” Why, had she not left the room, “I would’ve either blackedoutor thrown up.”

Clearly, what the hard sciences need to attract more qualified female candidates is a nice, comfy fainting couch. And let’s send one over to the Senate, too, while we’re at it. “She turned and attacked me,” Sen. Barbara Boxer whimpered on CNN in her twisted reprise of the poisonous little temper tantrum she and other Democrats threw along the way to the Senate confirmation of Condoleezza Rice as secretary of state. Having spray-painted Miss Rice a liar —and dashed off a quick fundraising letter about it all on the side — Mrs. Boxer was now depicting Miss Rice as a bully. Why? For a response that exhibited more polish, more civilization than the smearing senator deserved: “I would hope we can discuss what … went on and what I said without impugning my credibility or my integrity.”

That’s ladylike. I like ladylike. Poise under fire, and not a whiff of vapors. This may well be beside the point. That is, sex should be irrelevant in Senate confirmation hearings, even as the media harp on the statistical exceptionalism of nominees who are not men, or not white (or not both). But there seems to be something worth pondering in the fact that both Condi Rice, the new face of American foreign policy, and Barbara Boxer, its most aggressive opponent this week (rather, its most aggressive domestic opponent since I don’t mean Abu Musab Zarqawi), are women. Approaching the Iraqi election this weekend, surveying the challenges that lie ahead in encouraging democracy in the wider Islamic world — a world where power is derived in many ways from a perverted sexual order based on the oppression of women — this fact should mean something.

But — Condi Rice aside — it’s not something to crow about. American feminism, the ideological movement the Barbara Boxers and Nancy Hopkins out there call home, has ignored the plight of women under Islam: the burqa-bondage of sharia law under which a woman’s testimony in a courtroom is worth half that of a man’s; polygamy is legal and divorce is a man’s prerogative; inheritance favors sons; and violence (even the hideously misnamed “honor” killings) against family women is a way of life. Why?

In the case of Professor Hopkins, her privileged horizons end at the faculty lounge, a cosy place where outcries against the mean old patriarchy clatter with the teacups. In Mrs. Boxer’s myopic case, the cause of democracy abroad, indeed, the national interest of the United States, is second to a vital, gnawing Democratic interest — undermining George W. Bush. This is a strange cause in light of what his success would mean particularly for women.

Miss Rice was never in doubt of confirmation. So why more “no” votes (13) than any secretary of state has received in 180 years? The crude message big Dem cheeses (your Boxers, your Kennedys, your Kerrys) sent the White House was intercepted by the rest of the world — our inability to present a united front even on the eve of Iraqi elections unnerving friends and inspiring enemies. “Give America’s national security the benefit of the doubt,” went centrist Sen. Joe Lieberman’s pathetic appeal on Miss Rice’s behalf to fellow Democrats. Little wonder Sen. Dianne Feinstein, another singular Democrat who could see through the scrim of party affiliation to reality’s dangers, worried that Miss Rice’s rough treatment would leave her “diminished in the eyes of the world.” That leaves the United States diminished in the eyes of the world.

For liberty’s sake, it is the Boxer Democrats who should be diminished in the eyes of the world — and particularly the world’s women. Will they notice?

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