President George W. Bush is out campaigning with the slogan “W is for Women.” But Sunday afternoon, Gloria Steinem, one of America’s leading women’s rights activists, noted journalist and contributing editor to Ms. magazine, unmistakably told me that calling John Kerry the better choice as far as rights for women are concerned is “perhaps the (biggest) understatement of the Western world.”
Steinem once famously said, “A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle.” She is quite knowledgeable and no less outspoken about women’s rights.
This Sunday she spoke briefly during a stop on Michael Moore’s appearance at the USF Sun Dome on behalf of Planned Parenthood Action Fund and punkvoter.com.
She said “If you vote for John Kerry, you support reproductive rights for women,” a right she called as basic as “freedom of speech or freedom of worship, or any of our other rights.” She does not make big distinctions between such civil rights, as she said, “It isn’t about what we ourselves would choose, but who has the power to make that decision.” Therefore it doesn’t matter what civil liberty is infringed upon; in the end it is bad news for all.
Specifically on the topic of religious freedom, but also in regards of civil liberties in general, she said the Bush administration is the sort of “people our ancestors came here to escape from,” and called it “our version of Ayatollahs.”
The only way the Bush administration is getting anything done, she said, is by camouflaging their initiatives with Orwellian names.
“Bush will say we have to preserve our forest when actually he is opening 60 million acres of virgin forest to exploitation,” she said in regards of the attempt to declassify pristine protected wildlife reserves as so called “no-roads” areas in order to open them up for the logging industry, a large lobby group which has been actively funding Bush.
A very interesting point she raised was that Bush is careful to speak of “innocent life” every time he is pushing for legislation on abortion. That way, he apparently reasons, a ban on abortion does not hamper executions of prisoners on death row (While Bush was governor of Texas he set a new record for executions: 152).
The only reason that “security moms,” stay-at-home moms formerly know as “soccer moms,” lean toward Bush is because they are uninformed.
Steinem says this is in part due to the media being what she calls “evenhandedly negative.” If something negative is said about Bush, the media feels compelled to report something negative about Kerry in order to appear “fair.” As a result, “people don’t really know what the effect on our lives really is” by either candidate.
Even though there are hardly any sectors that have not been adversely affected by the Bush administration, women still seem to think Bush is a better choice.
Bush, for example, has overturned, undermined or simply ignored virtually every environmental law on the books. Steinem’s example of “getting a glass of water” is one of those that affect everybody. Bush has been undermining the Clean Water Act, passed in 1977, and is putting more and more pollutants into our drinking water supply.
Steinem also hit the nail on the head when she said, “We are a rogue nation.” What else would you call a nation that quits international alliance and treaties on a whim and has invaded a country while knowingly withholding information from its own citizens that may have undermined its reasons to go to war with a sovereign nation?
It will be problematic to mobilize women voters for Kerry because they often believe issues like abortion do not belong in politics in the first place and therefore tune out when raised by politicians. But once an organization like Planned Parenthood endorses a candidate they may listen after all.
Until then, women will likely vote who they perceive as the better choice, even though the candidate is not representing their best interests. In that regard they are probably not much different from their male counterparts.
But maybe that’s Bush’s idea of equality, you never know.
Sebastian Meyer is a junior majoring in environmental science and is the Oracle Opinion Editor. firstname.lastname@example.org