Once asked to render her opinion on the feminist movement, Ayn Rand responded, “it’s a phony movement. To begin with, it’s Marxist-Leninist in origin. It wants to have its cake and eat it too. It wants ‘independence’ for women— government-funded independence, supported by taxes.”
Hers is a harsh libertarian critique of feminism. Yet, Rand’s words seem almost prophetic in light of the fact that she made this observation in 1978 and has been dead for thirty years. After all, today’s so-called “feminists” have evolved from demanding the elimination of state restrictions on contraception and abortion to demanding state sanctioned funding for contraception and abortion. It is this relatively new expectation that the state appease radical feminists, by trampling on the First Amendment rights of individuals and religious institutions that now serves as the centerpiece of the left’s fabricated war on women.
This issue hasn’t always served as the cause célèbre of leftist gender-baiting though. In the fall of 2008, the Obama campaign released a thirty second ad attacking Senator and then Republican presidential nominee John McCain for opposing “a law guaranteeing women equal pay for equal work.” I have no interest in digressing into the campaign ad’s failure to note that this is already guaranteed under the 1963 Equal Pay Act or that the legislation in question now has the potential to create a logistical nightmare for the court system. Nor do I think it necessary to dwell upon the fact that this legislation—like most policies designed to address the discrepancy in pay between the sexes— fails to take into account that women tend to earn less because they are more likely to leave the work force in order to raise children.
For a while, I was kind of confused as to why President Obama and the Congressional Democrats dropped this issue in favor of one far more divisive. Sure, they passed the Lilly Ledbetter Act, but isn’t there always more to be done in the fight to liberate “womyn” from the slave wages imposed upon them by their corporate patriarchal oppressors? (Non-women’s studies major translation: “can’t liberals always find something to bitch about on any given subject?”) After all, even if this problem has little basis in reality and no practical policy solution, who in their right mind would oppose an emotionally charged faux crackdown on discrimination against women? Would any Republican politician really come out against “equal work for equal pay?” Why create a firestorm over an issue that is guaranteed to alienate Catholics (a key constituency in Obama’s 2008 election), when you could fabricate a war on women based on a fluff issue like wage discrimination?
Then a news story broke a few days ago and it all began to make sense. Last week, the Washington Free Beacon, a nonprofit online newspaper project of the Center for American Freedom, released an article by Andrew Stiles noting that “female employees in the Obama White House make considerably less than their male colleagues…” According to the article which cites the 2011 Annual Report on White House Staff, “female [White House] employees earned a median annual salary of $60,000, which was about 18 percent less than the median salary for male employees ($71,000)?” You heard it right; President Obama is doing the very thing that he has repeatedly attacked his opponents for opposing legislation to prevent!
But it gets better. On the same day that the Beacon broke Mr. Stiles’ story, the Obama campaign brought the issue of wage discrimination out of retirement in order to attack Governor Romney via YouTube for his hesitance to endorse the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. In response, Romney for President Press Secretary Andrea Saul tweeted: “Women account for 92% of jobs lost under Obama. Of course @MittRomney supports pay equity for women. Does Obama support jobs for women?” To which Obama for America Rapid Response Director Lis Smith shot back: “@andreamsaul That is not the issue. Does @MittRomney support Ledbetter Act & ability of women 2 enforce in court their right 2 equal pay?”
Question for Ms. Smith: has your boss considered the possibility that he may now be vulnerable to litigation under his prized legislation? Also, is replacement of the word “to” with the number “2” part of the Obama campaign’s youth outreach strategy?
It’s fairly easy to find and publicize hypocrisy on the left, especially within the Obama Administration. But what is most interesting about Obama’s relationship with women is that, for all his talk about preserving a woman’s right to choose, for all the buzz over legislation “guaranteeing” equal work for equal pay, nothing can negate the fact that hundreds of thousands of women have lost their job on Obama’s watch. If Third-Wave feminism means anything more than state support for infanticide and poorly interpreted labor statistics, if feminism in its current form is an ideology truly geared toward the well-being of women, how can any feminist vote to reelect the president in good faith? To quote an often misunderstood philosopher, “it’s a phony movement.” Today, she might have added, “supporting a phony president.”
Nick Mignanelli | University of New Hampshire | Durham, New Hampshire