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Home Issues 12 Mapping gender. Old images; new f History in the making; great live Ronald Reagan is renowned for the conservative revolution he launched in the United States. His conservative ideology had a strong economic component, but it was also moral and cultural. He consequently expressed the utmost incomprehension towards the motivations and aspirations of feminist activists and he made his opposition to their demands like abortion rights one of the main themes of his political message. However he failed once in the White House to advance this anti-feminist agenda as American society was much more open-minded than its president on such issues.
This tended to give him a very traditional vision of gender roles, rather typical of the white, middle and upper-class post-war United States. Both men and women had clearly-defined specific functions, which were mutually exclusive: men belonged to Adult want real sex Regan professional world and had to succeed since they were solely responsible for supporting their family, while their wives belonged to the private and domestic sphere where they should nurture the children Dicker The influence of this ideological framework was obvious when Ronald Reagan married his second wife, Nancy Davis, in he had divorced his first wife, actress Jane Wyman, in Nancy was an actress herself.
Given this very particular background, Ronald Reagan was no friend of the feminist movement which had emerged in the Sixties. Its demands regarding work, reproductive health, or political participation, threatened to weaken the foundations of his idealized interpretation of gender roles. But his anti-feminist initiatives ran into many obstacles and his presidency paradoxically marked a period of progress for many American women.
This was in great measure the result of the political mobilisation of conservative Evangelical Protestants in the s and the emergence of the Christian Right—by the Moral Majority, the main Evangelical lobby, had almost half a million members Diamond In the late s, Ronald Reagan quickly understood the incredible electoral potential of the Christian Right. More than any political leader before him, he explicitly wooed Evangelicals in the run-up to his presidential campaign and showed them he shared their culture and their vision of the world by resorting to the Evangelical message he had learned as.
Thus, when he met Jerry Falwell, the head of the Moral Majority, for the first time inhe made a strong impression when he confided to him that he shared his eschatological interpretation of the Book of Revelation Strober and Strober He also became a vocal presence in the Christian press of that period, assuring its readers that the cultural excesses of the Sixties had been an aberration Adult want real sex Regan that it was time to go back to a more traditional way of life:.
We need to forces to reclaim the great principles embodied in the Judeo-Christian traditions and in Holy Scriptures. The first one was abortion, and he promised to support, if he were elected, a constitutional amendment banning abortion everywhere in the country. The question had become central for the Christian Right and, as it happened, Reagan had a lot to expiate in this regard. Despite his moral conservatism, as Governor of California, he had ed a law in which had legalized abortion in the state interestingly, it seems that Nancy Reagan played a relative role in convincing her husband to this law Colacello During his presidential campaign, Reagan found an interesting way to explain this decision.
But he had learned his lesson, he was sorry, and he was now staunchly opposed to abortion Reagan The following step was its ratification by three-quarters of the states, which many conservative groups were trying to prevent—an effort enthusiastically supported by Reagan in The first thing to stress is that Reagan was a smart politician and that when he criticized the ERA, he took pains to say that this did not mean he did not believe in gender equality. Rather, he believed the ERA was the wrong way to guarantee gender equality and that it would actually hurt women.
Traditionally, a divorced woman with small children has been entitled to support payments from the father, since caring for her children prevented her from holding a job. Thus… she might be forced to place her children in day care centers eight hours a day so that she could work to support them. The first one to sound the alarm, in the spring ofwas Dodie Truman Livingston. Most of the women Reagan had appointed to the Board were moderate Republicans who supported abortion rights and the ERA.
When they realized this, Christian conservative groups loudly complained, which pushed the campaign into panic mode. For Reagan himself, this made no sense and, rather condescendingly, he blamed them for this situation.
His election in November marked the political history of the United States by giving birth to a new phenomenon, the gender gap. And indeed they proved to be one of the social groups who suffered the most from the dramatic economic reforms he launched in These reforms were theoretically gender-neutral. But the conservative budget voted in June primarily targeted social programs which happened to mostly help women, in particular single mothers and poor minority women, such as: food stamps, Medicaid, AFDC Aid to Families with Dependent Childrenenergy-assistance payments in the winter, milk programs and summer food programs in poor neighborhoods, federal subsidies to school lunches, or training programs for the unemployed.
As he confided in his diary one night:.
Watched some TV in bed and saw Gloria Steinem take me over the coals for being a bigot and against women. Either she is totally ignorant of my positions which I doubt or she is a deliberate liar Reagan I think of Nancy Reagan and Pat Buckley. Do you mind? For him, women in politics formed a complicated species which he found hard to comprehend and which he had divided in two.
The arguments against the EEA they used among themselves are helpful to understand the substance of conservative anti-feminism. But the most fundamental problem of the EEA, for the administration, was what it symbolized about the evolution of gender roles in contemporary America.
Its bottom line was to help women work and this was not a good idea. The coming economic recovery was in the eyes of the administration a great opportunity which should not be missed. First, because the unemployment rate would go down; and secondly, and maybe more importantly, because it would finally allow women to go back to their traditional domestic responsibilities. As one White House memo put it:.
This disaffection was interestingly due less to Reagan's old opposition to the ERA than to his stances on concrete everyday life issues. White House opinion studies showed that the main problem in the eyes of his female critics was what they perceived as the lack of compassion in his social policies.
But this is not the same thing as saying that he managed to use the extensive presidential powers at his disposal to successfully stop, or even just slow down, these changes. Far from it actually: rather paradoxically, the Reagan years were, to some extent, years of progress for American women, sometimes despite Reagan, but also sometimes thanks to him.
For the tenth anniversary of Roe v. Wade for example, he published a short book to condemn abortion, Abortion and the Conscience of the Nationthe first book ever written by a sitting President. To those who saw ideological inconsistency in a conservative president opposed to Big Government calling for such an intrusion of said government in the intimate life of American women, Reagan replied that the interests of the fetus had to prime over anything else:.
I know many well-intentioned, sincerely motivated people believe that government intervention violates a womans [sic] right of choice. And they would be right if there were any proof that the unborn are not living human beings. Medical evidence indicates to the contrary.
As for the most symbolic issue of all, Roe, it remained untouched during the Reagan years. Although they shared their boss's deeply traditional and conservative view of women, they refused to push the issue as well. The background to this nomination is rather revealing. At first sight, this decision can be analyzed as crassly political.
It was also the result of a more complex Adult want real sex Regan episode. She admittedly did not pave the way to a massive increase in the of women among American elites. At the same time, it would be a mistake to underestimate her symbolical value.
For her nomination proved a real political gamble on the part of President Reagan. As it happened, her profile proved unacceptable to religious conservatives. In the s, as a state senator in Arizona, she had supported the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment and she had voted twice to strike down anti-abortion laws in the state.
Reagan knew this, and he asked her about it when he first met her. She explained that such votes did not reflect her personal views. This was a crucial moment because it led, in many respects, to one of the worst political and ideological crises of his presidency. For them:. Clearly, American society was ready for a female Supreme Court Justice, and Ronald Reagan had felt this and had been ready to take a real risk to make it happen. I … want to thank you on behalf of all women for making the historic decision to name a woman to the Supreme Court. My appointment has probably done more to give women confidence in true equal opportunity than a thousand speeches.
Yet, one has Adult want real sex Regan admit that he did not transform all walks of life equally. The economy and the international position of the country were deeply changed by his presidency. And in many ways, so were the lives of American women. But this change went in an unexpected direction. But in reality, in most respects, the lives of American women improved during the Reagan years and most of the progress of the s was consolidated, despite the death of the ERA. Women kept their reproductive rights, they entered universities and the professions in record s, one of them was sitting on the Supreme Court, and millions of them benefited from the strong prosperity that returned after In other words, even though Reagan was almost ontologically unable to understand their lives, their struggles, and their demands, he and his advisors were also smart enough to realize that, in contemporary America, it would probably be political suicide to make oneself an obstacle on the path of women.
This calculation worked.
In the end, his pragmatism and political acumen had served him well, a lesson lost on future generations of Republican leaders. Kenneth W. Letter to William F. Abramson, Paul R. Aldrich and David W. Change and Continuity in the Elections. Washington, D. Balmer, Randall. New York: Basic Books, Barrett, Laurence I. Brookhiser, Richard. Cannon, Lou. Governor Reagan: His Rise to Power. New York: Public Affairs, President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime.Adult want real sex Regan
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Who Does the Work? Partner Perceptions of the Initiation and Maintenance of Romantic Relationships