W is for Women

One of the most cunning accomplishments of the Bush administration has been undermining the notion that the GOP, that great bastion of male dominance, has put to bed the last remnants of sexism within its ranks.  I dare you to call us sexists, its very appointment of a female Secretary of State seems to say.  (Or, for that matter, racists.)  Never mind that she is resoundingly incompetent and arguably lacks the requisite qualifications for the job.  Questioning her credentials is off limits; do so at the peril of having your subconscious sexist tendencies exposed for all the world to ridicule.

It is, of course, simply a grand façade, masking an insidious agenda against women’s rights, including the slow but steady erosion of abortion rights, both at home and abroad.

The latest news (hat tip Ms. Julien) comes as governments from around the world prepare to convene in NYC with the purpose of examining progress in women’s rights since the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women, which met in Beijing in 1995:

Leaders from human rights and women's development organizations are sounding the alarm about the possible U.S. withdrawal from a historic women's human rights agreement currently under review at the United Nations. … Late yesterday, in quiet negotiations out of the public eye, the Bush administration signaled to other nations that it would not unequivocally reaffirm the commitments made by the United States to the world's women a decade ago.

The question such a signal raises is which commitment(s) are so objectionable that the Bush administration would consider withholding support for this historic agreement.  The platform, including all the associates strategic objectives and actions, is long and very detailed in the issues it addresses, but the objectives themselves are not so specific as to warrant much criticism from anyone genuinely interested in pursuing equality of the sexes.  A typical action item reads thusly:

Protect and promote the equal rights of women and men to engage in political activities and to freedom of association, including membership in political parties and trade unions.

Not exactly controversial stuff.  But each of these small steps add up to form a collective determination to eradicate the victimization of women the world over, some instances of which are so extreme that the pedestrian tenor of the strategies to prevent them belie their tragic nature: women condemned to death by stoning for sexual acts outside of marriage, gang-raped by rebel forces, sold into the sex trades, forcibly married at prepubescent ages, subjected to clitoridectomies and other forms of genital mutilation in an effort to prevent promiscuity, denied access to healthcare, reproductive education, and birth control, subjected to AIDS, denied divorces, killed or abandoned at birth in favor of male children, and a host of other indignities that range from glass ceilings to being sold into slavery.

The prevention of these grievous injustices is what the Bush administration is considering turning its back on.  The mere possibility of such an action is a betrayal of women everywhere, even those who face struggles that pale in comparison to those mentioned above—equal pay for equal work, the right to private medical records, the right to family leave—including the millions who cast their votes for their continued leadership.  It’s tempting to say those women are only getting what they deserve, but the rest of us must suffer the consequence of their decision as well.


-- Shakespeare's Sister