NEW YORK – Bush administration efforts to pass new tax cuts and revamp rules on welfare and equal access to school sports, among other issues, have prompted feminist groups to label President Bush as "anti-women."
The National Organization for Women says the administration’s position on Title IX is just the latest evidence that Bush’s policies aren’t friendly to the female 51 percent of the population.
"Bush is very much anti-women," said NOW vice president Olga Vives, pointing to the group’s Web site on the subject, www.thetruthaboutgeorge.com. "We don’t have a voice."
The Bush-appointed Title IX commission issued a review in January recommending sweeping changes to the 31-year-old law that requires public schools and universities to provide equal access to sports teams for men and women.
The controversial recommendations prompted two dissenting commission members to announce last week that they would prepare a minority report in protest.
But other women advocacy groups say feminist ideologues are out of touch with reality.
"I don’t think Bush is anti-women at all," said Margaret Carroll, press coordinator for the Independent Women’s Forum. "He acknowledges the successes of women in society, culturally and in the workforce."
Carroll said IWF believes the current Title IX law not only hurts men by slashing some of their teams to achieve the required proportionality, but also shortchanges women by creating sports teams they aren’t necessarily interested in joining.
"A lot of schools find the cheapest way to comply with Title IX," said Carroll. "The first way is they just cut men’s teams and don’t add women’s teams. And if they do add a women’s sport, it’s typically a sport with a large roster -- like crew, bowling or Equestrian -- that doesn’t interest all types of women."
The White House defended Bush’s record on women's issues, saying that what matters to women matters to the entire population.
"The White House has very aggressive outreach programs with women’s groups," said White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan. "Issues that are important to women are issues that are important to all Americans."
Buchan said that Bush’s tax relief proposal will benefit single mothers because it is aimed at helping middle and lower-income families. She also said the president has taken steps to increase opportunities for small businesses, many of which are owned by women and minorities.
"The president has pursued policies that will provide tax relief to all Americans and puts more money in people’s pockets," Buchan said.
Vives said the president’s tax policy is hurting women -- and the entire nation.
"His tax cut is bankrupting this country," she said. "[That means] a lot of people will lose benefits -- food stamps, Head Start, programs that service women mostly. And the unemployment rate is higher for women than for men."
Vives rattled off a list of other Bush-administration moves that NOW sees as proof the president is not pro-women: the elimination of the Office of Women’s Affairs in the White House; a failed attempt to dissolve the Labor Department’s women’s bureau; the cutting off of U.S. funding to international family planning groups overseas; and the new welfare bill that would increase the working-hour requirements needed to receive benefits, mainly affecting single mothers who make up the majority of welfare recipients.
"It’s about having a women-friendly agenda for families, women and children," Vives said. "This is supposed to be a compassionate conservative. What is compassionate about this?"
Carroll points to the president's proposed changes to the Family and Medical Leave Act as evidence of the president's compassion toward women. The administration has proposed changes that would extend maternity leave and expand other aspects of the law.
"The biggest crisis among women right now is the balance between work and family. What’s needed are more options," Carroll said. "Overall, we’re pleased with the way that Bush is handling women’s issues."
IWF also contends that federal laws aren’t the key to equal opportunity, a position shared by the president.
"He doesn’t think that women need federal laws to achieve gender equity," Carroll said. "Everyone in America is given the same opportunities -- it’s what they do with them. I don’t think we should have handouts, regardless of sex."
Vives complained that the president will only listen to women who share his political views.
"We don’t have an opening to the White House -- no women’s group that is progressive does," she said. "He only meets with conservative women. This man campaigned on being a uniter. This country is more divided than ever."
She discounted the claim that feminist groups like NOW don’t know what real women want.
"When you have some success in advancing women’s rights and changing people’s attitudes about women, you’re a victim of attacks," Vives said. "But our work will continue until women are equal."