WHY DID FEMINISTS OPPOSE HUTCHISON? The Sunday Oregonian (Portland, Oregon) June 13, 1993 Sunday



Copyright 1993 The Sunday Oregonian

All Rights Reserved

The Sunday Oregonian (Portland, Oregon)


June 13, 1993 Sunday

FOURTH Edition




LENGTH: 780 words











We may be approaching the 21st century, but in Texas an ambitious career woman who has the nerve to run for the U.S. Senate against a white male can expect to encounter vicious comments that no man would ever have to endure.


Kay Bailey Hutchison won the special election to fill the seat vacated by Lloyd Bentsen, who became treasury secretary, but not before weathering a barrage of sexist abuse. She was called ``a female impersonator,'' ``just the same old thing in a skirt'' and the ``Breck girl.'' Voters were warned that despite her gender, Hutchison ``is no good for women and children.''


Progressive women in the rest of the country will not be stunned to learn that a macho culture like Texas' fosters such retrograde attitudes. They may be surprised to discover that the remarks I quoted came not from men but from women, and feminist women at that.


In order, they were Gloria Steinem, ``Designing Women'' star Annie Potts, political columnist Molly Ivins and actress Cybill Shepherd.


What do these feminists have against Hutchison? She certainly knows something about the value of the women's movement: When she graduated from law school in 1967, she had to take a job in TV journalism because Houston's law firms wouldn't hire women. She says that if, as a child, she had told her father she wanted to be a senator, ``he would have patted me on the head and said, 'Kay, there are a lot of wonderful things you can do with your life, but that's probably not one of them.' ''


Hutchison, however, is a conservative Republican, so even though she favors abortion rights and sponsored state legislation to toughen rape laws and promote equal credit opportunities for women, feminists behave as if she were the greatest danger to women since the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.


Which raises the question: If women's groups would rather elect a moderate Democratic male than a conservative Republican female, what is it they really care about?


Just last year -- the Year of the Woman, you recall -- we were told that women had something unique and precious to bring to our governing councils. ``Women represent a new way of doing things and a focus on a different agenda,'' said California Treasurer Kathleen Brown. ``Their agenda is close to home, close to issues that are very much on the public's mind.'' Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., said, ``We speak in a different voice.''


But not, apparently, in different voices. Hutchison made the grave error of assuming that a free adult female has the prerogative of making up her own mind on political issues. Feminists, who fought for the right of women not to be told they may live only one way, now presume to dictate to women politicians, and women in general, that they may think only one way.


Transgressors are condemned and ostracized. The message sent out by the feminist posse in Texas was that a woman who is not a liberal is not a woman. She's an impersonator, a traitor, a quisling. Men may be free to range across the political spectrum without having their Y chromosomes questioned, but a woman who departs from the feminist agenda forfeits her membership in the female sex.


Such gratuitous malice for women who march to their own drummer is doubtless one reason so many females who endorse many of the goals of the women's movement have no use for the movement itself. A 1989 poll found that while 77 percent of American women think the feminist movement has improved the lot of females, only 33 percent consider themselves feminists.


The dictionary defines feminism as ``the principle that women should have political, economic and social rights equal to those of men.'' Most women, though, have come to see it as just another word for liberalism.


In 1988, notes editor Karlyn Bowman of The American Enterprise magazine, women voted 50-to-49 for George Bush over Michael Dukakis. Among women who called themselves feminists, the ratio was 71-to-26 for Dukakis. Conservative feminist women, upon learning that there can be no such thing, stop regarding themselves as feminists and continue regarding themselves as conservatives.


Steinem opposed Hutchison because, she said, ``having someone who looks like us but thinks like them is worse than having no one.'' The argument that biology should determine ideology didn't persuade the women of Texas. They generally supported Hutchison, having concluded that she looks and thinks a lot more like one of their own than some women they could think of. < Copyright1993, Creators Syndicate Inc.


Stephen Chapman is syndicated as a libertarian columnist. He writes for the Chicago Tribune.


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