A Woman’s Nation?

A Woman’s Nation?

The year 2010 has arrived at last, but before proceeding we must clear up some unfinished business. In late 2009, the Center for American Progress published the Shriver Report, named after Maria Shriver, a celebrity and California’s First Lady. The subtitle, A Woman’s Nation Changes Everything, begs some very important questions.

In this report, Shriver and an entourage of liberal journalists, academics, and activists declare that America is now “a woman’s nation” because, for the first time ever, our workforce has more women than men. The study concludes that this great shift necessitates monumental change in our laws and government policies. It comes as no great surprise that all of the proposed changes include a much larger role for the federal government.

Indeed, it is truly enlightening how many different aches and pains Shriver and company propose to heal with the soothing balm of federal regulation. Shriver reports that women “feel increasingly isolated, invisible, stressed, and misunderstood” due to a collective “lack of recognition that there is no longer anyone at home who can care for free for our children, our ill family members, and our elders.” The majority-female workforce, coupled with the near disappearance of the traditional family, saddles American women with too many responsibilities, and too little help. The only solution, of course, is to unleash the Nanny State.

“Women’s rights,” according to the report, now include the “right” to universal government childcare, healthcare, and, eldercare, as well as full-pay maternity, paternity, family, and sick leave. Liberals present these policies as “women’s rights issues” in the hopes of sidestepping reasonable debate about the cost, feasibility, and morality of their ideas. Simple reflection, however, reveals that these are not rights at all, but policies that benefit one group at the expense of another. After all, “a woman’s nation” includes female taxpayers, business owners, and entrepreneurs, does it not? What about their rights?

The report gushes with optimism that government intrusion, at the expense of American businesses, will ensure a more flexible workplace for women. This is an odd conclusion given the recent technological advances that American businesses have given us. The workplace is more family-friendly today ever before, due to the increased mobility that cell phones, laptops, and email provide. The federal government should work with this new economy, not against it, by eliminating the preferential tax treatment given to employer-based insurance and retirement plans. As it stands now, our benefits system punishes women who go part-time or leave the workforce temporarily to spend time with their families.

The Shriver Report concedes that women often choose flexible careers that enable them to arrange their work schedules around the needs of their families. This means that, as we have often noted, intelligent, educated women are doing what they believe is best for them, regardless of feminist orthodoxy. One of the report’s authors derides this exercise of choice as a “fearful clinging to joyless gender norms,” and portrays it as a burden for the federal government to relieve. In this vision, women must outsource all familial responsibilities to Big Brother, also known as the federal government, and only then are they finally free to work more than ever before.

I do not doubt that at one time, the women’s rights movement actually fought for women’s rights. At some point, however, a noble fight for equal opportunity morphed into a shameless promotion of big government, and women allowed their interests to take a back seat to the leftist agenda. Of course, much of the original rhetoric remains intact.

The militant left has enjoyed great success in camouflaging its polices in order to make them appear more attractive to the American people. Promoting the interests of big government under the banner of “women’s issues” helps to soften and smooth those rough edges of statist policy that most Americans find unpalatable.

We have often observed in The Contrarian that the feminist movement is the women’s auxiliary of socialism and the Shriver Report only reinforces that observation. The report reveals a movement adverse to facts, fearful of independent thought and action, indifferent to economic reality, utterly incapable of change, and wedded to statist ideology.

If partisans of this reactionary vision get what they want, all of us will have to surrender a greater portion of our earnings, and our freedom will be diminished. So in 2010 and beyond, whenever anyone invokes the Shriver Report, guard your wallet and reaffirm your commitment to facts, liberty, and limited government.

Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.