SEX AND GENDER….Last week I invited several guest bloggers to post about the issue of women in the opinion biz (or, rather, the lack of women in the opinion biz). One of the reasons I did it is that I’ve long been fascinated by the fact that although issues of gender and sex are at the core of so many contemporary hot button social issues, this simple observation rarely bubbles up to the surface. The dominance of op-ed pages, blogs, and opinion magazines by men is almost certainly one of the reasons.

Now, it’s true that not all hot button social issues are gender related. School prayer and guns aren’t, for example, except in a fairly abstract way. But take a look at the other social issues that raise blood pressure the most and the sex/gender basis underlying them is striking:

  • Sex education

  • Abortion

  • Sex/porn on TV

  • Contraception

  • Gay rights

  • Welfare (overwhelmingly a problem of single mothers)

This is not just a random, unconnected list. For the most part, social conservatives have made their peace with racial equality ? in theory if not always in fact ? but are still adamant about enforcing traditional sex and gender roles. This is the glue that binds all these issues together. The latest example came a couple of days ago from the Washington Post in an article about the growing “Pharmacists Rights” movement:

An increasing number of clashes are occurring in drugstores across the country. Pharmacists often risk dismissal or other disciplinary action to stand up for their beliefs, while shaken teenage girls and women desperately call their doctors, frequently late at night, after being turned away by sometimes-lecturing men and women in white coats.

Needless to say, there don’t seem to be any pharmacists out there who object to filling prescriptions for Viagra. Last year, Michigan even considered a bill called the “Conscientious Objector Policy Act,” which would have allowed pharmacists and doctors to refuse to perform treatment they considered unethical. Notably, the act specifically prohibited doctors from withholding treatment on the basis of race, but not on the basis of sexual orientation. It was practically an invitation to discriminate against gays and lesbians.

This is why gender equality per se should get more attention from the liberal community: because it’s the underlying core of so many emotional, election-deciding issues. I know, I know: this kind of talk is just so 70s. And it’s true that the tone of feminist rhetoric ? especially academic feminism ? probably puts off a lot of liberal men, including me from time to time. But it’s hard to make headway on all these disparate issues without understanding the core sensibility that drives so many of them. We shouldn’t allow pique to get in the way of that.

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