Unable to convince either the majority of Americans or the majority of lawmakers to support their radical feminist agenda, the National Organization for Women (NOW) Foundation has turned to the United Nations for support. The UN Human Rights Committee reviewed U.S. conformance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in early June, and the NOW Foundation, in keeping with their “all women are victims” philosophy, issued a shadow report entitled “Sex-Based Employment Discrimination in the U.S.”
Written with the same thinly veiled hysteria that characterizes most of NOW’s complaints, the report alleges that “benign neglect and willful government actions” have led to continued wage and salary discrimination. NOW uses the report to systematically revive every favorite liberal feminist complaint from the past 30 years. For the most part, these issues never received enough popular support to be written into legislation. This hybrid of dissatisfied feminist sensibility and liberal big-government solutions can best be attributed to the fear that American women will never accept the agenda that organizations like NOW have been pushing for decades.
From the defeat of the Equal Rights Amendment led by Phyllis Schlafly and her grassroots activists to a more subtle rejection of Hillary Clinton’s “It Takes a Village” model of childcare by mothers around the country who quietly chose to remain home with their young children, feminism has taken some hard blows. The feminist agenda has been upheld largely by activist judges, university Women’s Studies departments, and small panels of taxpayer-funded feminist “experts.” Feminists prefer to forego the democratic process, and ignore the realities of women’s lives. An appeal to the UN is simply one more attempt to push the American people into reform they neither want nor need.
The report claims that a sex-based wage gap (a perfect example of statistical research gone horribly wrong) is the result of widespread discrimination. Using all the same rhetoric that has for years propped up their increasingly irrelevant movement, the NOW Foundation claims that women are victims of the infamous “glass ceiling” phenomenon which shut women out of the most prestigious jobs. They attribute “the glass ceiling,” and the alleged general wage disparity, to a wide variety of social evils. These include poor enforcement of sex-discrimination laws, lack of an Equal Rights Amendment, low federal minimum wage, lack of women in top faculty positions which contributes to “female student attrition,” insufficient family leave coverage, and lack of government subsidized childcare for working mothers.
The complaints outlined in the report reveal what many women in their 20s have already figured out: feminism must deny real lifestyle choice to remain relevant. According to the prevailing feminist orthodoxy presented by women like Kim Gandy, president of NOW, a woman can only be allowed to choose if she makes the choices feminists want her to make. A woman can have as much sex as she wants with whomever she wants and abort her unborn child afterward and her choices will be lauded as real liberation. However, should a young mother decide to stay home with her young children instead of jumping back behind her desk as soon as her maternity leave is up, feminists must come up with several dozen factors to explain why she would do something so passé.
As the NOW Foundation explains it, women stay home not because they want to, but because “a basic cost-benefit analysis would steer even neutral (neutral in terms of predispositions to child care responsibilities) families to opt more often for females to take the time off” (Sex-Based Employment Discrimination in the U.S., 5). In other words, women don’t really want to raise their own children, but are forced to by a discriminatory wage gap and the lack of affordable childcare. This logic ignores women’s choices, reducing the precious task of raising children to a purely economic consideration. It ignores the sacrifices many families make to be able to keep one parent at home. It ignores the fact that, given a choice, women with young children overwhelmingly prefer tax policies and careers that allow them to either stay home or work only part time. When feminism reduces itself to the simple goal of pushing all women into the workforce, it ignores what women actually want.
The disconnect between what many women view as priorities, the subsequent choices they make, and the feminist talking points of what women ought to be doing is the real reason that women reject the feminist label. Rather than changing their agenda to one that actually reflects the problems and choices women face, the NOW Foundation turns to the UN to impose policies like comparable worth, an equal rights amendment, prevention of single-sex education, creating government programs to involve more women in math and science (under the assumption that a preference for the liberal arts is a result of discrimination), and federally-subsidized childcare. If the NOW Foundation wants to understand why feminist policy suggestions haven’t gained the popular support they need to make it through the democratic process, they need look no further than the disconnect between their 21-page submission to the UN, and the reality of American women’s lives and choices.