National View: Smithsonian Women's Museum failing to reflect all women
From the column: "The topics, available online, are politically one-sided, ... (including) trans rights and Michelle Obama ... (and) opposing President Donald Trump’s border wall."
In 2020, Congress found that only “9 statues out of the 91” in the U.S. Capitol were women and decided to give ladies our space. The Smithsonian Women’s History Museum Act established a separate Smithsonian museum, to be opened in a decade, dedicated to “women’s contributions” that have “influenced the direction of the United States.”
At first, I was skeptical. Why not include female pilots in the Air & Space Museum or female leaders in the American History Museum? Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said during the debate that he opposed museums “based on group identity” because we should seek “national unity and cultural inclusion.”
But I will admit the Smithsonian Women’s Museum’s “ Picturing Motherhood ” online collection is the only art exhibit I’ve ever felt in my soul. So I’m optimistic. An entire museum dedicated to celebrating womanhood could be unbelievably moving if done correctly.
But the museum is not living up to its potential or its statutory mandate.
In creating the museum, Congress knew what it must avoid — becoming the women’s march, an anti-conservative project with “women” in the title but hostile to tens of millions of women who disagree with leftist ideology. So the 2020 law requires the Smithsonian Women’s Museum to “reflect the diversity of the political viewpoints held by women of the United States.” That’s a lot of diversity. Though the media would portray every woman as a committed leftist, only 49% to 53% vote Democratic.
The museum, on its current path, trashes the law.
The topics, available online, are politically one-sided. The museum’s major “themes” include trans rights and Michelle Obama ; the major “stories” include opposing President Donald Trump’s border wall and celebrating the National Organization for Women . No mention of conservative female pathbreakers, such as Clare Boothe Luce or Jeanne Kirkpatrick. No mention of conservative female activists, like Equal Rights Amendment opponent Phyllis Schlafly, who changed the course of history. And no mention of living role models like Justice Amy Coney Barrett, Sen. Joni Ernst, women’s rights activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali, or former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. No mention of causes in which conservative women played a role, such as defeating communism, opposing the ERA, reopening schools during COVID, and stopping female genital mutilation.
Nor does the museum fairly represent “women’s contributions.” In fact, the museum celebrates men’s contributions that fit the museum’s narrative, like the “Ortho DialPak Oral Contraceptive,” i.e., the Pill. That may constitute American history, but it was invented by a man, Gregory Pincus, alongside a team of men. It does not qualify as a woman’s contribution (except that Margaret Sanger, who advocated eugenic practices to weed out “feeble-minded” African Americans, helped raise money for the effort).
In the museum’s androgynous approach to womanhood, it goes on to recognize men. Indeed, by attaching a trans label, online exhibits feature biological men, including Jazz (Jared) Jennings, who promotes transgenderism for children; LQBTQ+ activist Marsha (Malcolm) P. Johnson; HIV/AIDS and LGBTQ+ activist Cecilia Chung, and former tennis player Renee Richards (Richard Raskind). How utterly offensive to the accomplishments of biological women.
This promotion of men over women must take place elsewhere, or else we should close down the entire project because, clearly, we’ve lost mission control.
The source of the problem lies in the museum’s advisory council, which is tasked by law with enforcing ideological diversity. But the council itself lacks such diversity. I count only three conservatives on a council of 23 members. Asking a team of liberals to leave some space for their political foes will lead to predictable ends. Until the museum adds conservative council members and achieves ideological balance, Congress should delay funds.
In its quest for ideological diversity, the museum need not be bland or non-political. It could absolutely host a women’s-march exhibit, however historically relevant. But to reflect the “diversity of the political viewpoints held by women of the United States,” the museum should also reflect women’s opinions at MAGA rallies and women fighting to reopen schools, preserve girls’ sports, and eliminate pornography in elementary schools. The advisory council does not want to celebrate these kinds of women. They need to. It’s our museum, too.
May Mailman is a senior legal fellow at the Independent Women’s Law Center (iwlc.org), a nonprofit in Washington, D.C., that opposes gender ideology and other legal theories that deny due process, undermine equal opportunity, make the government less accountable, and punish certain viewpoints.