Women's Forum Challenges Feminists, Gains Influence.

Michael Pugliese debsian at pacbell.net
Tue May 1 01:51:56 PDT 2001

Paula J. Dobriansky of the IWF, was a name I remembered from Iran-Contra. (One of the founders of IWF was Barbara Ledeen, wife of leading Iran-Contra figure, Michael Ledeen. Had not known she split from IWF.) Clinton appointed her to an advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy. (Remember the Office of Public Diplomacy in the Reagan White House and Faith Whittlesey, during the period of Conta aid?)

The PIR intelligence website links http://www.pir.org/ http://www.pir.org/cgi-bin/nbonlin1.cgi?PEARSON_ROGER_ http://www.pir.org/cgi-bin/nbonlin6.cgi?DOBRIANSKY_PAULA_J her to the odious eugenicist, Roger Pearson. (Mankind Quarterly editor, for more on Pearson see the Anderson's book on the World Anti-Communist League.)

I'd imagine she will work with Otto Reich and Richard Armitage.

Michael Pugliese

Women's Forum Challenges Feminists, Gains Influence

By Richard Morin and Claudia Deane Washington Post Staff Writers Tuesday, May 1, 2001; Page A06 Third in an occasional series A loose association of successful, politically prominent women has found its way to the highest levels of the Bush administration carrying a distinctly different view of women and women's issues. The group, the Independent Women's Forum, champions a laissez-faire brand of conservatism that stresses limited government, free-market capitalism and personal responsibility, but with a gendered twist. It is one of the few women's groups willing to challenge the central beliefs of feminist organizations, arguing that contemporary feminism is too willing to cast women as victims. This has resulted, the group believes, in an angry and intellectually rigid feminist viewpoint that believes affirmative action and other government programs are the only way to obtain true equality between the sexes. "It would be political suicide for lots of groups and organizations to get up and say the emperor has no clothes," said Nancy Mitchell Pfotenhauer, the forum's new president and a protégé of economist Wendy Lee Gramm, an influential board member and wife of Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Tex.). But as women, members of the forum can take positions that are "politically radioactive," Pfotenhauer said, giving the group exposure far out of proportion to its $1.3 million annual budget and roughly 1,600 dues-paying members. The Women's Forum opposes the Violence Against Women Act and Take Our Daughters to Work Day. Members argue that it is boys, not girls, who are being shortchanged in schools. And they claim that federal bureaucrats are forcing colleges to fund athletic programs for women at the expense of existing programs for men. The group was formed in 1992 by Republican women angered by the testimony of Anita Hill at confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and the prominent role played by the National Organization for Women and other feminist groups. Today, the Women's Forum has become a favored venue for conservative scholars, writers and policymakers to trade ideas and showcase their latest work on women's issues. The forum's reach inside the new administration exceeds the group's modest size. Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao is on its national advisory board. Linda Chavez, President Bush's first nominee for the Labor job, also is on the advisory board. Lynne V. Cheney, wife of the vice president, is a former member of its board of directors who is now listed as a member-emerita. Wade Horn, who heads the National Fatherhood Initiative, served on the forum's advisory board before he was tapped to be assistant secretary for family support at the Department of Health and Human Services. Diana Furchtgott-Roth, who has advised the group on economic issues, is chief of staff for the White House Council of Economic Advisers. Furchtgott-Roth and advisory board member Christine Stolba wrote a book, "Women's Figures," which highlighted the economic advancements of women in recent decades. They argue that the pay gap between men and women disappears when other variables, including age, education, experience and choice of occupation are taken into account. Paula J. Dobriansky was on the advisory board before Bush tapped her to be undersecretary of state for global affairs; forum adviser Eileen J. O'Connor is the administration's choice for assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Tax Division. Author and commentator Barbara Olson is a founding member; she also is the wife of Bush's solicitor general, Theodore B. Olson, who in 1993 prepared the first friend-of-the-court brief filed by the forum with the Supreme Court. It was a defense of the Virginia Military Institute's admissions policy barring women. More forum members may soon find places within the administration. Sally Satel, a psychiatrist who lectures at the Yale Medical School and serves as the group's science adviser, has been interviewed for key posts at Heath and Human Services. "I have no idea what the job is -- and yes, I'm deliberately trying to be coy," Satel said. In her book, "PC, M.D.: How Political Correctness is Corrupting Medicine," Satel criticized the HHS office of civil rights and office of women's health. Anita Blair, the forum's executive vice president and general counsel, also is under review by White House personnel staffers. Bush appointees who are not Independent Women's Forum members but must face Senate confirmation are dropping by its Arlington headquarters to be briefed on gender issues, Pfotenhauer said. "They call us to say they want one of our staffers to brief them and walk them through the issues," she said. "That's somewhat illustrative that we've carved out a niche." While the forum seems to delight in taking politically unpopular positions, the group is officially silent on abortion. In part, this is a reflection of its libertarian leanings, said Christina Hoff Sommers of the American Enterprise Institute, who heads the group's national advisory board. Besides, Sommers added, other conservative women's groups already are fighting to restrict abortion and forum members themselves disagree on the issue. The forum continues its high-profile but so far ineffective opposition to the 1994 Violence Against Women Act, which was reauthorized by Congress last year as an attempt to combat domestic violence. It argues that the law is not helpful to assault victims, gives too much authority to the government, is based on exaggerated claims of domestic violence and is being used by feminists as part of an ideological war against men. The Bush Department of Justice budget proposed an increase in funding for programs authorized by the act, however, and in his confirmation hearing Attorney General John D. Ashcroft pledged to use it. Forum members are now focusing their opposition at the regulatory level. They have met with Justice Department officials and White House staffers to discuss what they said is a misallocation of resources directed through the department's Violence Against Women Office. Regulatory issues could be "corrected very quickly by having the right person in that office," said Pfotenhauer, who added the group is not "pushing a particular person for the job." The forum has also led a campaign against gender equity in sports under Title IX, a law approved by Congress in 1972 that prohibits sex discrimination in "any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance." Kimberly Schuld, who heads the forum's "Play Fair" initiative, said the broad intent of Title IX to eliminate gender discrimination on campus was laudable. But she said it also produced a "huge" unintended consequence: Instead of boosting athletic opportunities for women, a number of financially strapped schools cut men's sports teams to achieve parity in athletic scholarships and teams among women and men. The group supports a system that matches scholarships and teams to the relative level of interest of men and women, Schuld said. The forum also opposes reauthorization of the Women's Educational Equity Act, which provides schools with materials and programs to combat sex discrimination. They strongly dispute the underlying rationale for the law -- that girls were being shortchanged by schools, pointing to data showing that suggests it is boys who consistently underperform in school and disproportionately suffer from low self-esteem. The legislation is nothing more than a "feminist pork barrel," according to a forum policy summary. The rapidly ascending Women's Forum touched down briefly on Earth last summer when Barbara Ledeen, its co-founder, left in a bitter split with its board of directors. The forum closed its Washington office, and many on the left and right whispered that the group was dying, if not already dead. Nine months later, it seems newly invigorated, in large part because of Pfotenhauer. An economist by training, she has a telegenic smile, a flair for fundraising and a mandate from the board to focus and professionalize the organization. Pfotenhauer is no stranger to Washington. She served as chief economist for the Republican National Committee and worked as an economist in the first Bush administration. In 1994, she was on the cover of National Journal, which called her one of the "Best and the Rightest" thirtysomethings in Washington. She is married and has five children, all under the age of 14. The Women's Forum is a nonprofit foundation and gets the overwhelming majority of its operating funds from other conservative foundations. It is restricted by tax law from aggressively lobbying Congress, which, Pfotenhauer admits, limits its effectiveness. "But we can publish papers, we can do speakers, we can answer questions, we can testify if we are invited," Pfotenhauer said. "We are hopeful that now our time has come." © 2001 The Washington Post Company

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