Conservative icon dead at 94

Midge Decter, the influential conservative intellectual who attacked both Soviet-style communism and the feminist movement, has died at the age of 94, The Washington Post reported.

She was found dead at her home on Monday.

Along with her second husband Norman Podhoretz and figures like Irving Kristol, Decter was considered one of the leading lights in the neoconservative intellectual movement.

She was best known with her work with the magazine Commentary; originally formed by the American Jewish Committee as a liberal magazine in the 1940s, the periodical turned right and enjoyed its greatest influence with Podhoretz as its editor.

Decter also served as acting managing editor of the magazine for many years, in addition to being executive editor at Harper’s and managing editor of the Saturday Review.

She was also one of the co-founders of Committee for a Free World, a committee dedicated to the defeat of the USSR and its satellite states. The influential committee included figures like Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz.

“She was a cold warrior, very anti-communist and deeply affected by the Soviet Union’s treatment of the Jews,” said Jacob Heilbrunn, editor of conservative foreign policy publication National Interest. “Midge also saw herself engaged in a war against the liberal elites.”

Born in 1927, Decter attended the University of Minnesota, New York University and the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, but didn’t earn a degree.

Her first marriage was to Jewish activist Moshe Decter. That marriage ended in divorce; she joined Commentary as a secretary to the editor in 1956.

In addition to her staunch opposition to communism, Decter was known for her opposition to the feminist movement, which she called a “paper tiger” that spoke for a small percentage of women.

“The fact that the movement has been allowed to speak for women has set back relations between men and women just as the Black militants set back race relations,” she said.

“I mean, women are already working in a lot of offices, and their experience is exactly the same as men’s: The competent ones are at ease, have their self-respect, and are dealing with the problems of competitiveness just as men are.”

She also noted how many of her critics seemed obsessed with how she divided chores in her house, given her stance on the feminist movement.

“Why is there obsession with housework?” she said, noting that she and her husband employed household help.

“Everyone has some unpleasant work to do in life. Everybody’s got some grubby work to do, it’s not the end-all of life,” she added.

“I mean, the movement describes household life as nothing but dirty dishes; it sees a child as nothing but a little producer of dirty diapers. There’s more than that.”

“I’ve put in my time,” she continued. “And as for my husband, he keeps up my courage, and I bring him coffee. How do you think that compares?”

She also noted the growing use of false accusations of racism as a tactic by the left during a 1980 interview.

“People who call us racist know we’re not,” she said.

“It’s just an attempt to defame your ideas by calling you names. Long ago, I decided to live without reference to what people called me since all those characterizations are intended to paralyze me, to shut me up. The only thing I can do is to go on and say what I think.”