Hairy-legged feminists storm the U.N.!

Conservative columnists warn of the dangers of the 51st Commission on the Status of Women.

Published March 1, 2007 10:44PM (EST)

I know I shouldn't go there, but sometimes I just can't help myself: Reading the right-wing press on the advancing armies of "radical feminists" is somehow heartening even when the commentators are being creepy, insulting and stupid to boot. Somehow, I take strange comfort in watching them be bizarrely wrong-headed.

The latest instance of fear-mongering against feminism has been occasioned by the 51st Commission on the Status of Women held at United Nations headquarters, which has gathered organizations working on women's issues and heads of government from all around the globe. (After recent reports on the deplorable and sometimes declining status of women in many countries, this year's meeting seems especially primed for action.) But for Janice Shaw Crouse, writing at the rabidly conservative Town Hall, the meeting portends dark days ahead. "As if we didn't have enough trouble already at the United Nations (U.N.) from feminists pushing a radical agenda on the world, they are now trying to 'reform' the whole 'gender architecture' of the U.N.," she writes, referring to the widely embraced idea of creating a new well-funded women's agency.

This institutional change would bring together organizations to address violence, environmental justice, medical access, poverty and women's rights. Crouse evidently sees these aims as feminazi looney tunes. She quotes a joint statement by African leaders, including Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, president of Liberia, and Graca Machel, president of the Foundation for Community Development in Mozambique, saying, "Surely, ameliorating the lives of half the global population is worth one billion dollars a year -- for a start."

And you can hear Crouse's scorn. Aren't those feminists just so kooky -- trying to help half the world's population!! How selfish and special interest can you get?

By the end Crouse comes clean with her real fears: "Establishing a U.N. agency for women's rights would dramatically strengthen the already-incredibly strong radical feminist influence at the U.N., and it would virtually ensure that abortion would become a human right around the world."

Crouse is downright respectful compared with Carey Roberts, who begins his column for Renew America -- titled "Foul emanations from the U.N." -- with a crack about "backpack-toting, hairy-legged" delegates to the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women. He goes on to suggest that women need not fear the patriarchy, since "patriarchs have spared women from the dirtiest, harshest, and most hazardous lines of work." Oy. Tell that to the millions of poor women who have lived the circumstances described in the extensive U.N. report on violence, inequality and workplace abuses.

Perhaps I should be more afraid of these conservative pundits, but it's hard not to see their inane arguments as evidence of a movement that is marginalized beyond the pale. It's especially hard to take them seriously with the depraved company they keep. Next to Crouse's column: A cartoon of Osama bin Laden sporting a Barack Obama button. Ha ha ha -- get it?

By Carol Lloyd

Carol Lloyd is currently at work on a book about the gentrification wars in San Francisco's Mission District.

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