What Is The Purpose Of The Republican Women's Policy Committee?
When a notion like this one gets major media and political play, things become...absurd. Republicans angrily protest accusations of a “war on women,” presidential candidates are labeled sexist, and public comments relating to women in any way are pounced on by people looking to proselytize.
Needless to say, I was skeptical when House Republican women unveiled their Women's Policy Committee (WPC) last week. (The fact that the background at the beginning of their promotional video is reminiscent of Home Ec. made me cringe a little too, but I'll let that one slide.) Like most people who promote equality between the sexes, I'm all for organizations that recognize women's progress and continue to narrow the gender gap by ensuring women have access to opportunities and resources. But the WPC seems to be an invention of a slightly different breed.
As of yet, I'm not entirely sure what that breed is. Right now, it seems to be mostly about saving female GOP face. This isn't because of the particular reputations of House Republican women, but rather the reputation of the entire Republican party, which historically has been criticized for having no place for women. While this is a hyperbolic statement based, again, on the incorrect idea that women are some sort of all-or-nothing political bloc, it is a criticism the GOP tends to take very seriously these days, given the high profile of women's issues.
The WPC promotional video seems to be entirely focused on that idea. It is a series of statements by House Republican women, edited together, describing their commitment to Republican principals and their efforts as lawmakers. Their message to the American public is clear: Republican women do exist, they do get elected to Congress, and they do participate in conservative reform and lawmaking in the same way Republican men do.
What neither the video nor the press release mentions are any of the typical accoutrements you would expect of women's committees, political or otherwise. The WPC does not propose to encourage the involvement of young women in politics, or develop a more coherent conservative policy on women's issues, or even make the voices of Republican women who aren't serving in Congress heard. As specifically stated in a press release, the WPC was formed “with the goal of raising the profile of GOP women in their roles as lawmakers.”
Beyond that, the House Republican women don't seem interested in doing much else—other than continuing to be House Republican women. Personally, I question the purpose of forming a committee that exists solely for the purpose of patting its members on the back. The Women's Policy Committee seems to me mostly a political gambit, designed not to help women (even Republican ones) at all, but rather help the party seem less hostile to women. It's an interesting concept when you consider that most of the women on the WPC voted to roll back the Violence Against Women Act, backing instead a less comprehensive version of the bill; and all of the women score low on Planned Parenthood's evaluation of voting records for issues related to reproductive health.
While I won't condemn the Women's Policy Committee yet, I don't see what real good it does for women or for the House. There's nothing inherently wrong with House Republican Women highlighting their achievement. What makes me wonder, of course, is why they feel the need to do so.
Reach Contributor Francesca Bessey here.