New York Post

Thursday, June 8, 2000

DIFFERENT ISSUES FOR THIRD WORLD WOMEN

By DANIELLE CRITTENDEN
New York Post

NEW Yorkers are used to streets clogged with large-sized tourists and convention-goers in funny hats. So few probably noticed this week's invasion by thousands of feminist activists - except maybe to wonder whether "The Vagina Monologues" was pulling in more busloads than usual.

The women are in town for a special U.N. session on women's equality. The last such session was held in Beijing in 1995; this meeting is supposed to assess the progress made in the five years since.

Granted, it's hard to summon up much interest in international hot-air sessions. The majority of American women say they don't identify with feminism, no doubt because they identify it with gripe-fests like these: affluent Western women, living in the best and most equal society in the world, complaining to their Third World sisters that they are oppressed. Hillary Clinton, who spoke at the session, joined in singing "We Shall Overcome."

But as dull as they may seem, these proceedings should not go unwatched. The public show of sisterly solidarity is belied by the fierce struggle taking place in the backrooms of the United Nations.

Delegates from Western countries (the U.S., Canada and the European Union) are attempting to bully delegates from Third World countries into supporting a radical sexual agenda.

Among the demands being made: a U.N. endorsement of free, confidential access to birth control and abortion for even the world's youngest girls. The Westerners have fought to defeat any proposals calling for the promotion of sexual abstinence.

In fact, the Western delegates regard the whole notion of marriage as inherently unjust to women. The object to the word "mother" being written into the final draft of the session's report, and have refused to endorse a statement that acknowledges "the family as a basic unit of society."

The Western delegates' ideological obsessions seem horrifically beside the point to women from societies struggling with child prostitution, female infanticide and virulent sexual diseases. They also offend delegates whose religious beliefs and traditions value marriage and family.

As British journalist Anne Applebaum reported of the Beijing conference: "Most of the Third World women were interested in very basic issues: the horrors of female circumcision, legal systems which prevent women from owning property, hunger and illiteracy. The Western agenda ... ranged from lesbian rights to the need for women's studies at universities to ‘Gender Stereotyping and Sexism in Advertising.'"

The arguments in the hallways of the U.N. resemble the arguments inside Western countries between ordinary women and the ideologues who claim to represent them. Laura Ingraham, the NBC correspondent and former Supreme Court clerk, sets this out nicely in her feisty new book, "The Hillary Trap: Looking for Power in all the Wrong Places" (Hyperion).

Ingraham writes that Hillary Clinton incarnates the sort of feminism that seeks to use government to advance an agenda at odds with women's true interests: "Hillary's actual policy prescriptions depend on liberal big government solutions that have a 30-year record of failure. We need to be very suspicious of a world that penalizes marriage and stay-at-home moms; a world where economic outcomes must be mandated by new laws and bureaucracies; a world where balancing work and child-rearing is to be a federal concern, not an individual choice."

Unfortunately, this is the sort of world the feminists at the U.N. would have us all live in. New Yorkers can at least vote against Hillary.

But women from less democratic countries are not so fortunate - and their situations will only be made worse by the terms of "equality" Western feminists are attempting to impose upon them.

Send e-mail to dcrittenden@nypost.com

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