During the hearing itself, Ms. Rice did not appear to take issue with Senator Boxer’s comments. During the interview, she addressed them only in response to a question. But the White House spokesman, Tony Snow, suggested earlier on Friday that Senator Boxer’s comments were antifeminist.As I said yesterday, I don't think it's good feminism to require greater sensitivity toward women than toward men when it comes to political arguments like the one Boxer made. The "Who pays the price?" argument is either a good one or a bad one, and calling attention to childlessness shouldn't be any worse for women than for men.
“I don’t know if she was intentionally tacky,” Mr. Snow said in an interview on Fox News. “It’s a great leap backward for feminism.”...
Senator Boxer’s comments and the claims and counterclaims about what she meant have captivated the blogs and received extensive coverage on Fox News and other cable channels. One blog, called Swampland, labeled it “Womb Wars.”
Conservative blogs and commentators were quick to seize on the issue. “One Great Leap (Backwards) for Womankind,” read one blog, Bikini Politics. “They will be known by their Fruits,” read another, Macsmind, which billed itself as “Conservative News, Commentary and Common Sense.” Rush Limbaugh also got into the act. “Here you have a rich white chick with a huge, big mouth, trying to lynch this, an African-American woman, right before Martin Luther King Day, hitting below the ovaries here,” Mr. Limbaugh said on his radio show.
But let me make three new points:
1. Boxer served up a juicy nugget, and it should have been predictable that blogger types -- and Rush -- would gobble it up. I'm sure she regrets saying it and that this incident will tend to reduce these kinds of statements in the future. It's stupid to give your enemies this kind of raw material. Politicians need to become more savvy about what's bloggable. And the already-savvy Snow did a great job of flagging the bloggability.
2. Women in power should stand on the same level as men and not demand special outrage for insults, but we know that people will say some things about a woman precisely because they think it will hurt her more or because it will stir up prejudices about women. I don't think it's clear that in this case Boxer had that sort of nasty intent, but we can see in some of the reaction to Boxer's statement -- including that quote from Rice, above -- that people continue to think there is something tragic and unnatural about a woman who has not formed a family around herself.
3. Heightening sensitivity to implicit insults in statements made about women can serve the interests of the Democrats. They are the ones with an important female presidential candidate. Now that Republicans have had this little huff over Rice, Democrats will have more power to claim offenses to feminism whenever anyone says anything mean about Hillary Clinton.