Last Friday, the White House announced an "It's On Us" initiative aimed at combating sexual assaults on college campuses. I'm all in favor of combating sexual assault, but the first priority in combating a problem is understanding it.
That's not the White House's first priority. Roughly six weeks before Election Day, its chief concern is to translate an exciting social media campaign into a get-out-the-vote operation.
Accurate statistics are of limited use in that regard because rape and sexual assault have been declining for decades. So the Obama administration and its allied activist groups trot out the claim that there is a rape epidemic victimizing 1 in 5 women on college campuses. This conveniently horrifying number is a classic example of being too terrible to check. If it were true, it would mean that rape would be more prevalent on elite campuses than in many of the most impoverished and crime-ridden communities.
It comes from tendentious Department of Justice surveys that count "attempted forced kissing" and other potentially caddish acts that even the DOJ admits "are not criminal."
According to one Department of Justice survey, more than half the respondents said they didn't report the assault because they didn't think "the incident was serious enough to report." More than a third said they weren't clear on whether the incident was a crime or even if harm was intended. But President Obama uses these surveys to justify using the terms "rape" and "sexual assault" interchangeably.
And yet those who question the alleged rape epidemic are the ones who don't take rape seriously? I would think conflating a boorish attempt at an undesired kiss with forcible rape is an example of not taking rape seriously.
The "It's On Us" PR stunt is not an exception; it is par for the course. To listen to pretty much anyone in the Democratic Party these days, you'd think these are dark days for women. But by any objective measure, things have been going great for women for a long time, under Republicans and Democrats alike.
Women earn 57 percent of bachelor's degrees, 63 percent of master's degrees and 53 percent of doctorates. They constitute the majority of the U.S. workforce and the majority of managers. Single women without kids earn 8 percent more than single men without children in most cities. Women make up almost half of medical school applicants and nearly 80 percent of veterinary school enrollees.
The recession -- a.k.a. the "mancession" -- hit men much harder, and women recovered from it much more quickly. When you account for hours worked and job choices, pay equity is pretty much here already. Sure, this is a snapshot, but few serious people think it isn't a snapshot of a race in which women are surging ahead.
A broad coalition of feminist groups, Democratic Party activists and the journalists who carry water for them refuse to recognize the progress women have made unless it is in the context of how "fragile" these victories are. Going by the endless stream of fundraising emails I get from the Democratic Party, Emily's List -- never mind New York Times editorials -- and other usual suspects, we're always one election away from losing it all. If Harry Reid isn't the majority leader next year, it's back to wearing corsets and churning butter for you.
Obviously, this isn't all about elections. There's a vast feminist industrial complex that is addicted to institutionalized panic. On college campuses, feminist and gender studies departments depend almost entirely on a constant drumbeat of crisis-mongering to keep their increasingly irrelevant courses alive. Abortion rights groups now use "women's health" and "access to abortion on demand" as if they are synonymous terms. The lack of a subsidy for birth control pills is tantamount to a federal forced breeding program.
Sure, women still face challenges. But the system feminists have constructed cannot long survive an outbreak of confidence in the permanence of women's progress. The last thing the generals need is for the troops to find out that the "war on women" ended a long time ago -- and the women won.
Jonah Goldberg is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and editor-at-large of National Review Online. His email is email@example.com. Twitter: @JonahNRO.