Friday, June 11, 2004

Reagan's Legacy to Women

I don't think that he intended to leave one. Women were not one of his concerns. But many of the current administration's policies regarding women have their roots in the Reagan era. It was then that international family planning programs became a target for the Republican pro-life base. Reagan put Clarence Thomas (of later Supremes' fame) in charge of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, EEOC, and cut the EEOC's budget by half. Talk about putting the fox in charge of the chicken coop...

Poor women also suffered because of Reagan's general economic policies. Reagan didn't believe in raising the minimum wages or in welfare payments for single mothers, and it was during the Reagan 80's that it became fashionable to call women on welfare 'welfare queens'.

But some things that Reagan tried to accomplish were indeed ahead of his time:

Reagan welcomed the New Right, headed by ultra-conservatives from The Heritage Foundation, American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research and the Free Congress Foundation. They wasted no time putting forth their agenda in the form of the so-called Family Protection Act, introduced in 1981.
It would have dismantled equal education laws, banned "intermingling of the sexes in any sport or other school-related activities," required that marriage and motherhood be taught as career choices for girls (but not, of course, marriage and fatherhood for boys) and banned legal aid for women seeking a divorce. The act never passed. These ideas were seen as out of the mainstream back then. But the seeds were sown.

Indeed, they were sown. And the conservatives have tried to harvest the yield ever since. Just consider the recent attempts to modify Title IX which requires gender equality in education, or the most recent attempts to make sex-segregated and unequal education acceptable. It would be just a small step from this to programs that advocate different educational choices for girls and boys.