Katy Burns: Hey, single ladies! Get hitched!
Republicans have lately been stewing about their problem with the ladies. That is, the fact that they really, really aren’t popular with women.
Look at the results of the last presidential election. The Democratic ticket got a healthy 11 percent more of the female vote than did the Republican. Now, some say this might have to do with the Republican Party’s stance on abortion and birth control or its position on everything from pay equity to guaranteed sick and family leave, and affordable family health care, measures that are particularly important to women. But since we don’t really know why, we’ll just note that the voting statistics don’t look good.
So what can the Republicans do? And do without fiddling with their positions or (horrors!) advocating government spending?
Then someone dug into the numbers a little. And found a ray of sunshine. Sure, single women deserted the GOP in droves. There was a whopping 36 point gap. But married women? They voted Republican! One of the very few groups that did, in fact.
It turned out that it isn’t a GOP problem. It is a women’s problem. They’re not getting married the way they should. And the real culprit in the whole sad saga is – drum roll here – feminism!
And so the Heritage Foundation, a once-respected conservative think tank, last week convened a panel of conservative women to discuss this problem. A very small panel. And, according to Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank, it was attended mostly by reporters and young male Heritage Foundation interns. But it was a start!
One of the three or four panelists was longtime syndicated conservative columnist Mona Charen, who said there was no doubt that “it is the decline of marriage that is the lodestar for why people’s voting behavior is what it is.”
She noted that it was Women’s History Month and then proclaimed “I don’t celebrate Women’s History Month.” But that didn’t stop her from having an opinion about women. And feminism.
“Women know, because of the nature of their bodies, because they carry and raise children, that they need support and protection during that time. The happiest women find that protection.”
Feminists, she said, “disdain” such family life. Thus, “millions of women have taken feminist advice, and it’s led to unparalleled misery.”
About that misery . . .
Unparalleled misery? What about women in slavery, women in feudal bondage? Women in primitive cultures who are sold as child brides, denied education and medical care and brutally beaten and even murdered for imagined violation of society’s norms? Apparently they can’t compare with the tragic victims of feminism.
Charon wasn’t the only one who pointed to feminism as the villain.
Karin Agness, president of the Network of Enlightened Women (that’s the name, honest!) said feminism had failed because it was too combative – too unladylike, probably not even properly enlightened. After all, a lot of feminists encourage women to run for office.
But, Agness points out, women “don’t seek office as much as men and that speaks of how they want to spend their lives – with their children and families.”
Ah, yes. June Cleaver. Or Father Knows Best’s Margaret Anderson. Complete with heels and a nice strand of pearls.
Another panelist was Molly Hemingway, a senior editor at The Federalist, a conservative magazine, who said that “we do not have a sex gap here in voting, we have a marriage gap.”
She noted that women who never married or are divorced are 73 percent less well off financially than married women. So, she exhorted her audience, “Everybody go out right now, if you are not married, go get married and that will solve all these problems” She was kidding, of course.
But she really wasn’t. After all, “If you care about income inequality at all, you basically have to care about marriage.”
She accused the Democrats of succeeding at “presenting government as a kind boyfriend.” Apparently what women in fact need are real boyfriends. Who can quickly be turned into husbands. High-earning husbands at that.
Think about it. Marriage “has enabled elites to have a lot of money and stability.” Therefore we should extend marriage to lower- and middle-class women – you know, non-elite women – so they too can have all that money and stability. Easy! Why didn’t anyone think of that before?
Uh, listen up, Heritage Foundation. Many people have thought of the advantages of marriage. For years, governments and social and religious organizations have tried to increase marriage rates in lower income communities.
One analysis said that the federal government alone has spent some $800 million since 2001 on programs intended to increase marriage rates. State governments have had no more success. And it sure looks as religious groups haven’t made headway either. Marriage rates continue to drop among nearly all demographic sectors.
I believe in the benefits of strong, healthy families (if not necessarily always traditional). But I also believe in facing life as it is, not as we wish it to be.
And here is what struggling lower and middle income women tell pollsters – repeatedly – that they need and want: Dependable and accessible day care. A living wage. Paid sick days. Paid family leave. Equal pay for equal work.
Those who really want to make a difference in people’s lives should work for such improvements.
But, mumble the sages at the Heritage Foundation, those things cost money. Some of us elites might have to pay a bit more in taxes. That will never do.
It’s a whole lot easier to blame feminists for the woes of society. And to go with that free marriage cure-all. Plus look at the bonus – it will make more Republicans!
(“Monitor” columnist Katy Burns lives in Bow.)