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April 29, 2004

Making Women's Issues Go Away

Some of this post is a rehash of a post I made on my old blog on March 13, 2003. Reflect on the damage the Bush administration has inflicted upon women over the past 365 days while you read.

The Bush Administration had "quietly removed 25 reports from its Women's Bureau Web site, deleting or distorting crucial information on issues from pay equity to reproductive healthcare." Jeanne at Body and Soul remembered when "a Bush appointee began removing references to sexual orientation from the U.S. Office of Special Counsel's website, complaint forms, brochures, etc., and then later announced that anti-discrimination laws don't cover federal employees who are fired because they're gay."

The removal of these documents from the Women's Bureau is the latest of a long string of assaults the Bush administration has made against American women. One of the first actions undertaken by Bush when he came to office what to shut down the White House Women's Office of Initiatives and Outreach. He did this quietly and with no media attention. The White House Women's Office of Initiatives and Outreach was created in 1995 by President Clinton. Betsy Myers, its first director, had described the valuable role it held: "The White House Office for Women's Initiatives and Outreach gave women a seat at the president's table, allowing them to make important contributions on issues that have an impact in people's daily lives. But that wasn't all. The office served as a focal point in coordinating programs of federal agencies that addressed the interests of women and recognized the importance of women's involvement."

Bush's closing of this office held great symbolic significance. Women no longer had front-row access to discussions about policy that affected their lives. Women's concerns are no longer heard. In the year and a half since that office has closed, women's rights and welfare in this country have been under constant attack. This lack of access to important policy discussions has led to horrendous abuses against women that have been inflicted by this administration, including John Ashcroft's attempts to diminish the importance and influence of the Violence Against Women Office (VWO). Ashcroft had set up federal violence against women programs, offices, and committees for failure by stacking them with people who denigrate victims of violence and who are hostile towards VAWA. In moving the Violence Against Women Office to the equivalent of a sub-basement room with no windows, Ashcroft and Bush have given credence to those who look upon abused women with disdain, including anti-feminist women and their organizations who support backlash policies harmful to women's welfare that are promoted by right wing and the Bush administration.

The VWO oversees the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), an Act that has stuck in the craw of anti-feminists and some conservatives since its inception. One anti-feminist group that has been very vocal in its condemnation of VAWA is the Independent Women's Forum (IWF). IWF has written several amicus briefs designed to destroy VAWA, most notably Brzonkala v. Virginia Tech, which lead to the Supreme Court declaring VAWA's federal "gender crimes" provisions unconstitutional. Ashcroft had appointed IWF president and CEO Nancy Pfotenhauer to the National Advisory Committee on Violence Against Women. IWF board member Margot Hill was also invited to join the committee, which advises the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services on implementation and enforcement of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).

Betsy Hart dismissed VAWA, claiming that it would do "nothing to protect women from crime. It will, though, perpetuate false information, waste money and urge vulnerable women to mistrust all men." Sally Satel had dismissed violence against women in her Summer, 1997 Women's Quarterly article "It's Always His Fault: Feminist Ideology Dominates Perpetrator Programs" by stating that VAWA " money is being used to further an ideological war against men--one that puts many women at even greater risk." It's the old "feminists think all men are abusers" put-down. She claims that the "feminist theory of domestic abuse... holds that all men have the same innate propensity to violence against women." That propensity is not held by feminism, but it has been expressed by David Blankenhorn in his book "Fatherless America." On page 34, he cited research claiming that male violence is "rooted primarily in 'male sexual jealousy and proprietariness." In his eyes, "married fatherhood emerges as the primary inhibitor of male domestic violence." This derogatory view of men currently influences welfare reform fatherhood initiatives. IWF commissioned Blankenhorn to co-direct (with Maggie Gallagher) a study of the attitudes of college-age women towards sex and courtship. [The completed study is here] IWF must not see the irony of attacking feminism for expressing a negative view of men that it does not hold, yet that same view has actually been vocalized and supported by an ideologue it has commissioned for a study.

The Bush administration had set the stage over a year ago to destroy hard won gains that protect women and that educate the public about domestic violence. One of the reports that had been hidden is "Don't Work In The Dark - Know Your Rights." I found it this morning at the Women's Bureau web site. Maybe the Salon article scared the Department of Labor into putting the missing reports back online.

"Don't Work In The Dark" is a popular public education campaign that covers job discrimination in the areas of disability, pregnancy, sexual harassment, family and medical leave, and age.


Posted on April 29, 2004 at 09:12 AM | Permalink

Comments

Im sure that Bill Clinton was a much better candidate for the right's of women. Especially women like monica lewinsky..he gave her plenty of opportunities..LOL!!!! There are even ramblings about mister kerry being a bit mischevious himself. But im sure he wouldnt cheat on Mrs. Heinz she would surely cut off his manhood.

Posted by: "dave" at Apr 29, 2004 10:57:31 AM

The adoption of anti-man rhetoric that we are accused of is often found in the pro-life "feminist" community, as in "abortion benefits men," and "men convinced NOW to make abortion rights a priority." So, we're supposed to resent men for being pro-choice? Feminists were just duped by men? Whatever.

Posted by: Lauren at Apr 29, 2004 11:17:44 AM

No wonder the few remaining big businesses left in the U.S.
believe that they can write their own rules regarding women's
rights in the workplace. The Boys Club Office Politicos
would rather defend the male sexual harassers of women than to
confront these men and make permanent changes to this behavior.
Washington Mutual Bank is a prime example of this ongoing and
dangerous problem. When those powers that be see the example that
our United States Government Administration sets, I guess that
'Turning a Blind Eye" has become their new mantra.

Posted by: C. Marie at Sep 22, 2004 6:46:34 PM

No wonder the few remaining big businesses left in the U.S.
believe that they can write their own rules regarding women's
rights in the workplace. The Boys Club Office Politicos
would rather defend the male sexual harassers of women than to
confront these men and make permanent changes to this behavior.
Washington Mutual Bank is a prime example of this ongoing and
dangerous problem. When those powers that be see the example that
our United States Government Administration sets, I guess that
"Turning a Blind Eye" has become their new mantra.

Posted by: at Sep 22, 2004 6:47:30 PM