A feminist decries pacifists' 'rubbish'

Times Staff Writer

As the scrappy Ivy League-educated voice behind the blog site www.asparagirl.com, Brooke Schreier lays out her views on subjects ranging from the momentous to the mundane. In one posting she'll muse on her upcoming marriage to her fiance in L.A. In another she'll free-associate about hearing emergency sirens outside her window in jittery Manhattan. "I do have my magic talisman handy, though, to ward off any problems: chocolate ice cream," she wrote the other day. "Solves almost everything."

But it is Schreier's recent postings on what she regards as the myopic attitude of mainstream feminists toward the U.S.-Iraq war that have made her a minor overnight sensation in the small but expanding world of those who keep online journals, or Web logs ("blogs" for short). Criticizing such groups as Code Pink and Women Against War, as well as the international antiwar protest campaign called the Lysistrata Project, Schreier says that "so many women are being told that because of their gender they should support the antiwar movement."

Au contraire, argues Schreier, 23, speaking by phone from New York, where she works as a Web producer and designer for IBM. One of the most compelling reasons for backing the war, she thinks, is that it may help liberate Iraqi women from a tyrannically sexist society. And although a Code Pink organizer has said that "testosterone-poisoned rhetoric" is behind the push for war, Schreier thinks such attitudes smack of a monolithic and "retro" view of femininity.

"What also galls me is that these women are claiming not only sex but femininity itself as a uniformly passive, gentle, loving, pacifist attribute. What rubbish," she writes on her blog in a critique of the Lysistrata Project and related issues. "I shouldn't support waging war on a mass-killing dictator because as a woman my place is to elevate discourse and consensus and eschew 'manly,' messy action? They're even implying that if I am not a peaceful, good-mannered, right-thinking woman like them, a woman for peace, then perhaps I am not really a woman at all?"

Schreier also takes on the National Organization for Women's assertion that American women will be "disproportionately affected" by the war as funds are diverted from education, health, welfare and other social service programs. An odd view, she says, given that American men are far likelier than American women to be doing the actual fighting and dying.

"Being that I am pro-war and in favor of the invasion of Iraq, it was also incredibly disturbing to me to see how much modern feminism, especially modern, feminist, large organizations like the National Organization for Women, have allied themselves to antiwar groups," Schreier says. As one recent measure of women's attitudes toward war, a December opinion poll in The Times showed that 52% of American women supported sending U.S. ground troops into a war with Iraq (the figure for men was 64%). The same poll found that 59% of women surveyed (and 69% of men) thought the U.S. "should retain the right to launch a preemptive strike if it feels under threat."

Though Schreier describes herself as a Republican, her political views don't fit snugly into any conventional template. She says she's "in some degree pro-choice" on abortion and "not necessarily part of the [Andrea] Dworkin camp of feminism that sees pornography as inherently evil.... I think that I am part of that generation that sees freedom in all its various forms as an inherently good thing."

Since posting her thoughts about war and feminism earlier this month, Schreier says, she has been getting about 3,500 page views a day -- an "abnormally high" number for her -- and scores of posted comments in reply. That's only a fraction of what top blog sites like Instapundit.com, the "so-called Grand Central Station of Bloggerville," command. But it's much more than the average dead-tree reporter gets in response to a typical newspaper story. Asparagirl.com also was recently cited in the Wall Street Journal's Best of the Web On-Line and has been linked to by better-known bloggers, including writer and conservative provocateur Andrew Sullivan.

Before she became a blogger, Schreier says, she had a Web site up "in some form or another" for about eight years. She'd also edited the online campus newspaper for her alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania.

Then came Sept. 11. "I felt a sense of personal vulnerability living in New York, and I think I found an outlet for that somewhat by writing," Schreier says. Her blog turned a year old in February.

In the throes of blogging ecstasy, Schreier says, she lets her thoughts and opinions flow uncensored -- jokes, expletives and all -- without concern about shaping an online persona. In one entry she raved over Condoleezza Rice's strategic acumen as well as her looks, describing the national security advisor as "hot." Blogs are the perfect example of "the personal is political," she thinks, because they show how one's "political reasoning" interacts with one's life and vice versa.

That intersection lies at the heart of Schreier's objections to the Lysistrata Project, which began this winter with the aim of preventing war in Iraq. Earlier this month, an estimated several hundred readings and staged adaptations of the ancient Greek comedy "Lysistrata" took place in all 50 states and nearly 60 other countries. In Aristophanes' play, the women of Greece, led by the title character, decide to withhold sex from their husbands until they put a stop to the Peloponnesian War.

Schreier says she found the project "very disturbing on a number of levels," particularly when she read about a splinter group advocating that modern-day women follow the play's example and stop having sex with any pro-war male partner. Schreier's online retort: "And what would their rallying cries be? Frigid for Feckless Foreign Policy? UNdersexed for the UN?" "They were making the presumption that women cannot influence the world through their votes or what they write or what they say or any other means, except through having sex," she says.

Schreier thinks that the war on terrorism may be a "turning point" in forcing Western feminists to make tough choices about how best to support and assist women in countries where they're treated like chattel.

"I think it's increasingly obvious to people in America, both male and female, that much of the Middle East has a large problem with misogyny," she says. "And if mainstream feminist organizations do not step up to the forefront and take this on as a major challenge, which they seem unwilling to do because they're so concerned with being perceived as being antiwar and pro-estrogen, then I think it's going to severely damage their credibility. I think instead people are going to be more likely to say that women's rights are human rights and that it is groups that will be championing human rights and human freedom -- which in this case would definitely be a conservative Republican president -- who are going to be getting the credit for making women's lives better and for paying attention to women's issues."

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