Thursday, June 29, 2006

Bush & Co. Fashion

Are You Pre-Pregnant?

Below the Belt: A Biweekly Column by NOW President Kim Gandy

June 28, 2006

I know you've all been waiting for this week's "Below the Belt" update on what's in style on the right-wing runway. While fashion magazines are paying close attention to recent wide belt trends, NOW is tuning into the latest blunders in this season's Bush & Co. collection. As usual, it's far from haute couture, and it's definitely cramping women's style.

How about that barefoot-in-the-kitchen pre-pregnant look? Last month, Bush and his co-designers kicked off the season with new federal guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control—urging women of certain ages to behave as if they are pre-pregnant at all times, and to take daily precautions to make their bodies the best baby-makers around. The must-have accessory for this pre-pregnant ensemble is a bottle of folic acid vitamins. Chic, no? To heck with keeping chronic conditions like asthma and diabetes under control in the interest of your ability live a long and healthy life—do it for the babies our government is so eager to see you incubate!

That pre-conceptive, Victorian-esque style is just one in a series of attempts by Bush & Co. to bring back old trends that are unfit for revival.

And how can we leave out their new designs for education—sex-segregated public schools—appearing in state legislature across the country? Last week, the Michigan State Senate voted to amend the state's anti-segregation Civil Rights Act to allow single gender public schools, classes and programs. The bill passed 32-5 last Thursday, a punch-in-the-face kind of tribute to the 34th anniversary of Title IX's passage. Bush & Co., predictably, was hot to the segregation-codification trend two years ago, when the administration proposed federal endorsement of single sex public schools across the country. Maybe it's just me, but I thought the whole separate-but-equal approach to education went out like using narcotics in children's cough medicine—permanently, because it wasn't a good idea in the first place.

But that's no surprise—Bush and his designers often reach back in time for inspiration, while filtering out any lessons history has to offer. For example, what's the deal with the stagnating minimum wage? According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the purchasing power of the minimum wage is now at its lowest level since the '55 Chevy was cool. Face it, poverty is just never going to be cool.

The $5.15/hr. minimum wage is less than one-third of the average wage for private sector, non-supervisory workers—and women are twice as likely as men to be working at or below minimum wage. In fact, a single mother with two children who is working 40 hours per week at minimum wage for a whole year receives $5,378 less than the 2005 federal poverty guidelines.

So, put it all together and what do we get? A Bush & Co. promo featuring a pre-pregnant mother popping vitamins and scheduling just-in-case "pre-conception care services"—neither of which she can afford because she's paid far below a living wage—while sending her kids off to sex-segregated public schools.

Let's not forget that in Bush World her children return home from their sex-segregated schools with "knowledge" about abstinence and creationism, and some sporty brochures they got from an army recruiter in the cafeteria.

Complete the picture with a local pharmacist who denies our struggling mother emergency contraception, and a senator who thinks she shouldn't get birth control either, and an administration whose idea of small government is taking up residence in her vagina.

We're not buying into Bush & Co.'s archaic and ugly designs for women and families, and I know you're not either. So pick up one of those chic NOW signs, and a sporty slogan tee from the NOW store and get active in high feminist fashion, because Bush & Co. is so two centuries ago.

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