The Democratic Party’s special relationship with women is an unquestioned part of our political fabric. The size of the gender gap in voting may fluctuate, but the direction never does. Democrats enjoy a solid and sizable lead with female voters, as they do in party affiliation. The lion’s share of elected female officials are also Democrats. Beyond the explicitly political realm, the left dominates the culture that surrounds women. Open any women’s fashion magazine, turn on a daytime talk show, or enter any classroom with a “women’s studies” theme, and you are guaranteed to be steeped in a dogmatic progressive worldview.
Women may generally favor the Democratic Party, but as that party lurches leftward, it’s increasingly obvious that the Democratic Party isn’t terribly interested in women.
With the advent of intersectionality, women–particularly white and heterosexual women, who still constitute the majority of American women–are viewed by progressives as among the privileged and oppressive class, rather than as a group in need of any particular special attention. Beyond their rote allegiance to abortion rights, progressives have stopped prioritizing protecting biological women against violence. They’ve also stopped promoting women’s success in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics or on athletic fields, and only half-heartedly bother pushing for economic benefits, like paid leave or government daycare, which used to be central to their agenda.
Instead, they are busy eliminating women as a distinct category to make way for biological men who identify as women. They’ve moved beyond simple tolerance and anti-discrimination protection to attack the logic that there is ever a legitimate reason to separate those born biologically female and those born biologically male. Somehow the party that claims to love science has rendered taboo any discussion of the most basic facts of life, including the fact that female mammals have greater physical vulnerabilities–they are weaker, slower, and smaller–and also have the capacity to give birth and breastfeed, which is a tremendous power but also comes with many complications and increased vulnerabilities.
The public has seen this most clearly in the sports arena, as women’s athletic competitions are now routinely won by biological males. Female athletes who recognize that they are doomed to lose to these innately physically advantaged athletes are told not to complain or they risk losing their spots on the team, in addition to being publicly smeared as bigots. Girls are expected to tolerate–even welcome–biological males into their changing rooms.
It receives far less attention even among supposed human rights champions, but female prisons are also loosening their protections for female inmates and allowing biological males who claim to identify as women into their facilities. Some of these biological males are convicted sex offenders who have not undergone any surgery as a part of the transition, which leaves female prisoners vulnerable to rape and other forms of abuse. Scholars like Abigail Schrier have noted that even accounting for the growth in these incidents will be difficult, if not impossible, since prisons will record forcible rapes as “female-on-female violence.”
This may seem like a sudden turn with the Left abandoning women in order to elevate the interests of other identity groups now seen as more sympathetic, particularly non-gender conforming communities. Yet the Left always had an awkward relationship with women in that, while it claimed to champion women’s interests, it has always rejected the actual feminine.
Making Women Act Like Men
Betty Friedan’s seminal book, The Problem With No Name, published in 1963, described a deep dissatisfaction with the limitations women felt in society, particularly in being a housewife. Her words connected with millions of women and contributed to the social revolution that loosened expectations for women’s roles and encouraged a significant uptick in women’s workforce participation.
Clearly millions of women wanted the chance to participate more fully in all aspects of society beyond childrearing and the domestic sphere. Yet much of the Left mistook this desire for more opportunities with a rejection of motherhood and traditional family life. Feminists promoted the idea that marriage and children were traps and that careers and other public pursuits would give women the fulfillment that they lacked. Much of society joined the chorus.
They also advanced a policy platform designed to free women from the burdens of childrearing. In addition to abortion rights, which were meant to ensure that no woman ever had to become a mother who didn’t want to, feminists championed universal paid childcare so that mothers could immediately free themselves from needing to care for their children and could get back to paid work. They fought for companies and other institutions to ensure, through official quotas and public pressure, that women are represented in positions of power. Feminist groups championed paid family leave benefits and other regulations meant to make workplaces more accessible for working mothers, and to discourage workplaces from rewarding behaviors—such as working longer hours and taking less time off—which are harder for working parents, and particularly mothers, to do.
Putting aside the merits of these policies, they are designed to make women follow a life course that traditionally has historically been followed by men so that the sexes would be more interchangeable and more equal in terms of life outcomes. This is most vividly on display with the feminist obsession with the wage gap. Women–not just in the United States, but everywhere–consistently earn less, on average, than men earn. Feminists and politicians frequently cite the wage gap as evidence of workplace discrimination, misleadingly implying that it means that when there are two coworkers, working the same hours, with the same responsibilities, the woman is consistently short-changed. That’s not what these statistics show.
Rather the wage gap statistic reflects the reality that women, even those working full time, tend to make very different decisions about work than men do. Women working full time still log significantly fewer hours than men. Women also choose jobs in industries that pay less but that are safer and more personally rewarding. While stereotypes and social pressure may contribute to some of these decisions, women also clearly make thoughtful choices based on their own preferences, needs, and values.
It frustrates feminists, but women consistently say they are willing to trade higher pay for more personally fulfilling work and want flexible work opportunities so that they can be hands-on mothers. In fact, women still cite children and family as their greatest source of happiness. Some men are embracing these values too–men are increasingly taking on more parenting responsibilities–but there remain significant differences in behaviors between the two sexes.
In a different context, we would celebrate women’s wisdom in prioritizing values like community and caregiving rather than chasing material goods and public recognition. Yet feminists and the Left see women as letting down the cause of achieving true equality. Since they haven’t been able to cajole women into acting more like men, today they seek to render these distinctions meaningless, even if that means sacrificing women’s interests.
Women in the Woke New World
Women need to recognize how they, and their daughters, are affected by the shifting realities in our increasingly woke world. Women who had embraced the earlier notion of government using its power to ensure that women are fully represented in all halls of power will see that simply being a woman isn’t good enough. Now to show a commitment to equity and inclusivity, each company board needs to check a multitude of boxes—multiracial, gender non-conforming, disabled, and multiple ethnicities. Women, in particular heterosexual and white women, will find that rather than benefiting from this approach they will be losers. Women are an increasingly educated and powerful force in the work and political world; the discounting of merit toward ensuring representation of identity groups will impede their rise into powerful positions.
Women have benefited from the great American jobs machine and economy, which created a multitude of life-enhancing products and services and plentiful job opportunities that allowed women to find positions that work for their unique situations. As the Left prioritizes equitable distribution of goods, rather than continued economic growth and more standardized job benefits and relationships, women will find their options dwindling. Most centrally, our increasingly sexless world, combined with Woke policies such as defunding the police, will be a much more dangerous world for women.
Most bizarrely, today it’s the woke Left that seems to be increasingly embracing a retro, cliched view of what being a woman means. Serious, Second Wave feminists lamented women’s interest in beauty and fashion. But now that has become almost the main hallmark of womanhood. Women who aren’t interested in these pursuits are increasingly encouraged to contemplate that they may be mis-sexed and might better transition into men. Men who wish to identify as women pile on the eyeshadow and lipstick (and stilettos). Makeup has literally become the core of womanhood in this view. Not motherhood. Not the impulse to nurture. Not some notion of a virtuous matriarchal society… But lipstick. Surely this impoverished worldview will not prevail. Surely women who are serious about the lives of real women will take back the Democratic Party.
Failing that, it is time for women not yet captured by the Woke to put all of their political power behind the reality principle, and to truly stand up for women.