GENDER GAP: How Women Will Decide the Next Election by Bella with Mim Kelber Abzug

GENDER GAP: How Women Will Decide the Next Election

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Two leading political feminists, ex-congresswoman Abzug and ex-NOW president Eleanor Smeal, now sound a call for turning the Gender Gap into 1984 electoral power: Abzug with celebration and exhortation, Smeal with a businesslike handbook (below). Most of Abzug's text directly reflects her own activities and perceptions--first, as organizer (with Betty Friedan) of the National Woman's Political Caucus in 1971, at succeeding Democratic conventions, at the Houston women's conclave in 1977; then, as congresswoman, embattled presidential appointee, and unsuccessful Senate candidate. Evidence of the Gender Gap in recent elections, and mention of specific women's issues, is folded into the first-person narrative. And, characteristically, Abzug makes herself an issue: the last chapter is entitled ""The Bella Abzug Agenda,"" after a White House aide's supposed comment that women talking ERA are really talking about more social spending, less defense spending, and such (""contrary to the Reagan philosophy""). ""I call it the Bella Abzug agenda,"" said the source. ""It's the liberal agenda."" The not effect, deliberate or not, is to identify both the women's political movement and women's issues with Abzug, her career and personality--with a predictably different effect, in turn, on admirers and non-admirers. Much is made, correspondingly, of party politics--especially of Carter's failure to follow through on his promises (and in particular, of his dismissal of Abzug from her advisory post)--with an ultimate stress on the difficulties women face in getting elected or elevated to higher office: not only why Abzug lost the Senate race (Moynihan was recruited to run against her, O'Dwyer and Clark split the liberal vote), but Holtzman's defeat in New York and Fenwick's in New Jersey. In the latter instance, Abzug argues--raising knotty questions of principle and practice--against NOW's endorsement of Fenwick's male opponent. So even with statistics like Smeal's demonstrating the Gender Gap, similar denunciation of the Reagan administration's record, and concluding reference to the mobilization of women's organizations for the coming election, the impression conveyed is of an uphill battle against an unjust system--whereas Smeal sees women in a position, today, to beat the system on its own ground.

Pub Date: March 16th, 1983
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin