EMILY's List And The Third Wave

Steve Soukup
March 11, 2015
Reproduced with Permission
Culture of Life Person and Polis

This past week, EMILY's List, the political action committee dedicated specifically to electing pro-abortion women to public office, celebrated its 30th anniversary with a conference and a speech from Hillary Rodham Clinton. Mrs. Clinton, as you well know, would like very much to be this nation's first woman president. We are skeptical of Mrs. Clinton's chances, for a variety of reasons, but most especially because of her association with EMILY's List and the sort of feminism that defines women's needs in terms of abortion and abortion alone.

Feminism, as you undoubtedly know, was born of a real and genuine need. Women in this country and indeed throughout the West were treated quite badly for centuries and faced difficult and, in many cases, harrowing circumstances in their struggle to achieve social, political and economic equality with men - struggles which are not yet entirely won, even to this day.

For the last half century or more, however, the struggle for equality has, by and large, been usurped by the radical political Left, which has its own goals and aspirations that are far too often at odds with both the well-being of women and the rights of those innocent and highly-vulnerable individuals whose own well-being has been entrusted to women since time immemorial. EMILY's List provides a glaring example of this conflation of agendas and the promotion of iniquity in the name equality.

Without getting into too much detail here, feminism as a movement is generally divided into three "waves." The first, which took place in the late 19th century/early 20th century, is most often associated with the suffrage movement. The second commenced in the late 1950s, along with other long-overdue and necessary efforts to promote human and civil rights throughout the entirety of American society. Second Wave feminism pursued equal rights under the law for women and equality in all social settings, public and private.

Among the most valuable and long-lasting contributions of Second Wave feminism was its attempt to compel society to treat women as the moral and intellectual equals of men, not as mere physical objects. Part of this attempt, of course, was feminism's battle against pornography and its clear and destructive objectification of women.

In the early 1970s, feminist activists like Andrea Dworkin and Catharine MacKinnon did their best to ensure that ending, or at least curtailing, pornography would be one of the principal goals of the feminist movement. These Second Wave feminists rightly understood that the "business" of sexual gratification was also the business of exploitation. And in this "business" women, in particular, are objectified. Worse still, in pornography, everything about women, except their sexuality, is discarded as irrelevant. In a 1993 speech at the University of Chicago, Dworkin addressed feminism and especially pornography as follows:

For twenty years, people that you know and people that you do not know inside the women's movement, with its great grass-roots breadth and strength, have been trying to communicate something very simple: pornography happens. It happens. Lawyers, call it what you want - call it speech, call it act, call it conduct. Catharine A. MacKinnon and I called it a practice when we described it in the antipornography civil-rights ordinance that we drafted for the City of Minneapolis in 1983; but the point is that it happens. It happens to women, in real life. Women's lives are made two-dimensional and dead. We are flattened on the page or on the screen. . . .

I am describing a process of dehumanization, a concrete means of changing someone into something. We are not talking about violence yet; we are nowhere near violence.

Dehumanization is real. It happens in real life; it happens to stigmatized people. It has happened to us, to women. We say that women are objectified. We hope that people will think that we are very smart when we use a long word. But being turned into an object is a real event; and the pornographic object is a particular kind of object. It is a target. You are turned into a target.

Pornographers use every attribute any woman has. They sexualize it. They find a way to dehumanize it. . . .

I am talking now about pornography without visible violence. I am talking about the cruelty of dehumanizing someone who has a right to more.

Unfortunately, at about the same time that Dworkin was giving this speech and reiterating the destructiveness of pornography, the feminist movement's "Third Wave" was advancing rapidly, promoting its own agenda and its own interpretation of women's well-being. This wave had been building for some time, coincident to, but not coincidently with, the appearance of some highly profitable pornographic magazines and the advent of consumer electronics that made it possible for pornographic films to be viewed at home. By 1992, which featured EMILY's List's first major foray into national politics and an election that was, as a result, dubbed the "the year of the woman," the Third Wave had largely displaced its predecessor.

Third Wave feminism focused explicitly on the "acceptance" of female sexuality, the use of sexual license to acquire and use power, the "right" of women to use their bodies to achieve whatever ends they chose, and, needless to say, the concomitant "right" to abortion. Third Wave feminism was and is explicitly pro-pornography. The Third-Wave activist Ellen Willis, for example, wrote that "the claim that 'pornography is violence against women' was code for the neo-Victorian idea that men want sex and women endure it."

EMILY's List, which is quite likely the most successful and most famous political action committee (PAC) ever formed, stepped into and helped accelerate this changing of the proverbial guard in feminist philosophy. The "EMILY" in "EMILY's List" is an acronym that stands for "Early Money Is Like Yeast," which is to say, that it makes the "dough" rise and thereby scares off competitors. And for nearly 30 years now, the group has been doing just that, scaring off those who would challenge its candidates and a women's "right" to abortion.

EMILY's List was founded in 1985 by the left-wing activist, IBM heiress, and former press secretary for the National Women's Political Caucus, Ellen Malcolm. Her creation became a pioneer in "bundling" donations, which is the process of taking small donations from several members and grouping them, directing them to specific candidates, thereby giving the donating PAC far more influence with the candidate than individual donors would have.

Malcolm did not create such a successful operation on her own, however. Among her most valuable collaborators in the formation and promotion of EMILY's List was a powerful businesswoman named Christie Hefner. Hefner's EMILY's List bio reads as follows:

She has used her influence and resources to work for equal rights and opportunities for women, serving on the board of the National Women's Political Caucus, and then being instrumental in the founding of three powerful women's organizations [including] EMILY's List, which raises money for pro-choice, Democratic women political candidates . . .

We should point out here that Ms. Hefner is the daughter of Playboy founder Hugh Hefner. And the "influence and resources" she wielded on behalf of EMILY's List came as a result of her position as the Chairman and CEO of Playboy Enterprises, Inc. Her bio continues, noting that she "is widely acknowledged as having developed the strategies for reinventing Playboy Enterprises as a successful global multimedia corporation." What the bio does not say, but which is nevertheless true, is that this multimedia empire specializes in the production and distribution of pornography, the erstwhile nemesis of the feminist movement.

Last week, the EMILY's List anniversary made headlines largely for Hillary Clinton's address and for Senator Barbara Mikulski's (D, MD) unfortunate comment about the organization's wonderful "little bundles of joy," by which she meant campaign donations. Frankly, we were surprised by the lack of interest in the proceedings. After all, EMILY's List helped remake "feminism" and in so doing, it helped remake American politics, making our job - i.e. defending and building the "culture of life" - tremendously more difficult.

Top