As yesterday's New York Times article on the Cheney women confirmed, strong women abound in the Bush administration, and the Cheneys are no exception. Lynne Cheney has long been a force in her own right, of course, from author to president of NEH to roving intellectual; daughter Liz is highly placed, and regarded, at the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs at State; daughter Mary served as one of her father's most trusted advisers throughout the election campaign, and is now working to expand gay outreach for the Republican party. [Memo to Mary Cheney: get Bush out of his anti-gay-marriage-initiative lockbox.]
Think the Cheney women are really anti-choice? Think any of the Bush women are? Think that in their hearts, any of the women in the Bush-Cheney clans are afraid of what would happen if gay people fully embraced family values, settled down and had children?
Watching padres Bush and Cheney pitch politics to their core conservative bases -- whose women, and views on women, resemble the women Bush and Cheney know and live with very little, it seems to me -- reminds me of what happens when I go see classical ballet. I experience a disconnect. I like the ballet, except for what happens between dancers in almost every piece: the men -- strong, virile, poised, their eyes following the women with tender longing -- hoist, twirl, drag (artfully), and carry the women to music. The women, in turn, fall gracefully into a series of postures that seem to freeze gender roles in the 1950s: compliant, beautiful and at the happy endings, trusting, protected by their muscular partners.
There's an ideal at work in ballet that I recognize as inherited and simple to continue. Instead of women standing on their own two feet, it's more aesthetically pleasing to see them swept off them by men(and certainly easier to execute than the other way around).
For Bush and Cheney, it's easier to posit that women be treated as a weaker sex on choice, unable to make their own decisions on what's best for them. Venerated as mothers, controlled by fathers.
Dancers, at least those I saw in last night's New York City Ballet, are superb athletes, wholly capable in their professional lives. What I'm talking about is feeling them trapped in form, forced to communicate essences that don't play out much in people's real lives, and which in fact can be counter-productive to our maturing sensibility of men, women and family, and the varied experiences of love.
Who am I to be a killjoy for classical ballet? A gay woman.
Who am I to say that President Bush and Vice President Cheney are disingenuous on women's and gay issues in order to solidify their power base? A gay woman who reads the paper.
Here's to hoping that the women in the Bush and Cheney clans continue to exert their native strength. Their men could use a leg-up on some key policy issues.