The hit-and-run job that Hillary Rosen did on Ann Romney is, unfortunately, all too common. Sexism and misogyny aren’t just for the boys, and it’s even more lamentable and ugly when they’re perpetrated by another woman. It’s the woman-on-woman crime that no one talks about.
There’s a sense amongst liberals — who read identity politics into most everything — that conservative women are somehow traitors to their gender (much the same way that black conservatives are traitors to their race and young conservatives are traitors to their generation). To be a conservative woman in the 21st century is to be, as Ann Romney found out, ripe for scorn and ridicule by the demonstrably intolerant left.
We’ve seen it before. Gloria Steinem is a repeat offender, having once referred to Kay Bailey Hutchison as a “female impersonator” and then later defaming Sarah Palin as “the wrong kind of woman.” Their fatal flaws, of course, were merely being Republicans. When women like Sarah Palin or Michele Bachmann are subjected to sexist and misogynist comments, by men or women, the women’s groups are noticeably silent. NOW, the National Organization for Women, only stands up for some women. Ann Romney should not expect their call.
The point of second-wave feminism was to give women more choices. When it turned out that some, like Phyllis Schlafly, chose conservatism, suddenly the women’s lib movement turned on women, and of all things, started criticizing their choices. It was as if they were saying that women could do anything they wanted, except vote Republican. That cannibalizing of the women’s movement, dividing them up along political lines and demonizing women who are pro-life or who stay home, like Ann Romney, is why in a 2005 CBS poll, only 24 percent of women said they considered themselves to be feminists, and 70 percent did not. Even more telling, only 12 percent said calling someone a feminist is a compliment.
When women turn on women, and take cheap shots at their decisions purely to score political points it serves as proof that feminism, as a movement, is dead and no longer relevant or credible. But that’s okay. Strong women like Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, and Ann Romney don’t need anyone else’s help. And as long as women like Gloria Steinem and Hillary Rosen keep talking, the true face of feminism will remain well-represented.