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The Laura Bush We Don't Know

by Carey Roberts    --show me more like this




The First Lady recently weighed in on the faltering support for Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers. Asked on NBC's Today show if sexism might be at the root of the criticisms of Miers' legal qualifications, Mrs. Bush coyly replied, "I think that's possible."

Excuse me, but somehow that remark struck a nerve. Because every time a woman hits a hiccup in the long march for female emancipation, it seems that someone trots out the specter of knuckle-dragging males trying to send their womenfolk back to the Cuissinart.

If male sexism is rampant throughout the hinterlands, then why did the CWA -- the Concerned Women for America -- come out expressing wonderment that a woman who has never written a single article on constitutional law is now being considered for the high court? [www.cwfa.org/articles/9148/LEGAL/scourt/index.htm] Are the CWA members male cross-dressers who have failed to connect with their inner feminine?

But now that Laura Bush has raised the issue of sexism, maybe it's time to turn the spotlight in the other direction.

Don't get me wrong, Mrs. Bush. I have a great love for books and a high regard for teachers and librarians.

But during last year's Presidential campaign, you seemed to revel in jokes at your husband's expense. Remember that story about George stretching out his feet on the living room table, and Barbara ordered him to put them down? That one brought down the house -- but somehow I can't imagine Bill regaling audiences about the time he ordered Hillary to remove her pantie-hose from the shower stall.

And then at last April's White House Correspondents' Dinner, it seems you ordered the Commander-in-Chief to sit down so you could crack crude jokes about you and other well-appointed ladies waving greenbacks at male strippers.

Sexist? Probably not, but certainly in bad taste.

Then there were your high-profile efforts to promote the rights of women in Afghanistan. Of course that's important and good. But when you paid that visit to the Women's Teacher Training Institute in Kabul, were you mindful of the arrests, torture, and executions that the Taliban had visited on many thousands of innocent civilian men?

Somehow it doesn't make sense to call attention to the right of girls to get an education, but ignore the right of defenseless men to not be pulled out of their homes in the middle of the night, never to be heard from again.

This past July you gave a speech in South Africa that decried violence against women. [www.state.gov/g/wi/50199.htm] But what about violence against men? Surely one of your advisers warned you that the domestic violence issue has become distorted by the rad-fems whose aim is to convince women that they live under the constant threat of being brutalized by their husbands and boyfriends. [www.ifeminists.net/introduction/editorials/2005/0629roberts.html]

Then there's your gender health initiative.

As you know, the health of men is in pretty sad shape these days. Men die an average of five years before women. As a result, elderly widows soon end up in a nursing home, left to wonder how things might have turned out differently.

When they find out those facts, most women I know say, "What can I do to improve the health of men, and especially the men in my life?"

But instead, you opted to promote your Women's Health and Wellness Initiative. [www.whitehouse.gov/firstlady/women.html]

Even more mind-boggling is your endorsement of the Heart Truth, the women's heart disease awareness program that features fashion queens in showy red dresses. [www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/hearttruth/index.htm]

It's well-known that men have a far higher risk of dying from heart disease than women. [www.ifeminists.net/introduction/editorials/2005/0202roberts.html] Just last week I heard about a local man - a husband, a breadwinner, and father of three -- in his 40s who just had a triple coronary bypass operation.

But you don't hear about women that age with life-threatening heart disease. That's because heart disease is a disease that affects older women.

Although no doubt well-intentioned, your women's health program carries a message that is demeaning to fair-minded men and women alike: men's medical necessities command less social priority than women's fashion statements.

Maybe your flirtation with radical feminism wouldn't be so bad, Mrs. Bush, except for the fact that you showcase these programs as examples of Enlightened Womanhood. Caring and intelligent women everywhere may think otherwise.



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