To start with, let me be clear: The oppression and general subjugation of women is not an exclusively Republican issue. The Stupak-Pitts amendment, which is an attack on women’s reproductive rights and was drafted by a Democrat from Michigan, makes that clear. Nor is the oppression and subjugation of women even an exclusively male issue. I don’t want to get into an argument about the “blame the victim” mindset, but the fact is, a lot of women adhere and/or contribute to the doctrine of male domination. Now, is that because they have been indoctrinated to do so? Sure. However, the same can be said of sexist men. Despite all the calls for political correctness and the efforts of feminists throughout the country and the world, everyone who has grown up in the United States has been influenced, in one way or another, by the pervasive and prevailing mindset of masculine domination. Some of us are more resistant to indoctrination than others, but few, if any, are entirely immune. We are all subject to the influences of gender stereotyping, no matter how careful our parents may have been to prevent it. Every day, we are inundated with indoctrinating images and ideas, through television, literature, music, and innumerable other mediums. What is most important isn’t that we are completely free of assumptions about the opposite sex, or even our own, but that we strive to understand the causes and effects of sexism and rail against it when we perceive it.
So let’s make sure I am being sufficiently transparent about this issue and my overall take on it. I am not writing this diary to “blame men” in general. I happen to be very fond of men, and in fact, most of my friends are male. But while both men and women in this country are confronted with a nigh constant deluge of sexist and/or stereotyping information and behavior, and while people from both parties occasionally participate in attacks on women’s rights, it is the GOP which has specifically made the oppression, domination, and even degradation of women a party platform.
One more point of clarification — I am referring to the Republican party as I know it. I understand that the Republican party was not always what it is today, and that some (perhaps much) of what I now consider rather… evil about the GOP was not always the case. But I was born under Ronald Reagan, and 12 of my 24 years — yes, half — were lived under Bushes. This is the Republican party I know: A party that, frankly, sometimes seems to truly loathe the female sex.
Now let us begin with the most obvious example.
The Republican party calls itself the pro-life party. Many of us on the left prefer to think of it as “anti-choice,” or “pro-forced birth,” but the GOP has in many ways successfully framed the issue as “pro-life,” implying that they alone stand for the preservation of the sanctity of human life. Interestingly, it is primarily people on the Left who truly believe in preserving the sanctity of any human life by opposing the death penalty. But because many of us do not believe in forcing women to carry unwanted fetuses, which many of us do not consider human lives and which would be incapable of surviving outside the mother’s womb, Republicans have seized control of pro-life terminology and turned the positive connotations of that all-too-false claim to their advantage.
The 2008 Republican Party Platform addresses the issue of abortion as follows:
Faithful to the first guarantee of the Declaration of Independence, we assert the inherent dignity and sanctity of all human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed. We support a human life amendment to the Constitution, and we endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children. We oppose using public revenues to promote or perform abortion and will not fund organizations which advocate it. We support the appointment of judges who respect traditional family values and the sanctity and dignity of innocent human life.
What Republicans fail to understand (or fail to give a damn about) is that, in prioritizing the “life” of an partially formed fetus, they necessarily infringe upon the rights of an unwilling mother — a fully formed, entirely conscious, independently living human being. I don’t feel it necessary to explore the more technical specifics of why the right to abortion is needed in this country and around the world, as I am assuming that most Moose are well aware of those facts and statistics. I do, however, wish to highlight what opposition to reproductive freedoms says to women.
Whether you personally are opposed to abortion or not, denying women the right to make that determination for themselves implies that women are morally and perhaps even intellectually inferior. Though many American conservatives use the Bible as their justification for opposing abortion, the belief that women are inferior and less capable of making responsible decisions and judgments about their lives and the world around them has much earlier origins. Patriarchal societies have been the norm across thousands of years of history around the world, and the codification of female subordination goes back at least as far as ancient Sumerian culture. From the laws of ancient Mesopotamia to the Bible to the writings of Sigmund Freud, the concept of male superiority has been regarded as truth and fact in both religious and intellectual circles for the vast majority of recorded history. It’s not the fact that Republicans consider abortion immoral that I take issue with — it’s the fact that they consider me incapable of making a moral choice to begin with, a choice about my own body which arguably affects no one else. Republicans consider me morally incompetent and disregard the psychological (not to even mention the physical) harm associated with the inability to make such a personally significant choice. To them, my body is not my own — once impregnated, it is a breeding ground belonging to the state. I am a second class citizen.
In recent years, Republicans have opposed fair pay legislation in far greater numbers than Democrats. They cite a multitude of
reasons excuses for their opposition, but it all comes down to the same thing: Voting against pay discrimination. The most prominent example recently is Senate Republicans’ opposition to the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act, only enacted and signed by Obama in 2009 due to overwhelming support from Senate Democrats.
Subprime Mortgages and Foreclosures
The subprime mortgage crisis has disproportionately affected women, particularly single women.
Though women and men have roughly the same credit scores, the Consumer Federation of America found that women were 32 percent more likely to receive subprime loans than men. The disparity existed within every income and ethnic group. Blacks and Latinos are also more likely to get subprime loans than comparable white borrowers.
In another study
, the National Community Reinvestment Coalition found that women received 37 percent of high-cost home loans in 2005, compared with just 28 percent of prime loans. Preliminary research by the organization suggests that this gap may have tightened as subprime loans crested in 2006.
The findings support earlier research by the Consumers Union, which attributed some of the disparity to instability in women’s credit status because of divorce or family medical emergency. Women also have less wealth than men, which increases the likelihood that they will get subprime loans.
One could easily make the argument that Republican policies did much to get us into this mess, but since hindsight is 20/20 and everyone makes mistakes, I think it more telling to note their opposition to helping clean it up. Republicans have voted against measures prohibiting or limiting predatory lending at far higher rates than Democrats, and in 2008, Senate Republicans blocked a mortgage relief bill designed to give courts more power to prevent home foreclosures. Many of them continue to call for deregulation while people suffer. Many of the single women/mothers affected by this debacle are left to struggle alone.
I think a cogent argument could be made that, while it is important for all young people, the consequences of inadequate sex education are especially harsh for girls. Women who engage in unprotected sex with an infected partner are more likely to contract certain sexually transmitted diseases (especially viruses, such as HIV) than men who have sexual relations with infected women.
A recent review article in the March 22, 2006 JAMA reported that the anatomy of a woman makes them particularly vulnerable to certain sexually transmitted diseases. The larger area of moist vaginal surface allows the penetration of certain viruses.
Pregnancy is a concern which is in many ways unique to women, as the consequences of unwanted pregnancy necessarily hold greater bearing on the mother. In addition to the physical health risks associated with teenage pregnancy, it can also have a number of negative psychological impacts, including anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation (sometimes leading to attempt or completion of the act). Thus it stands to reason that a lack of education about contraception and protection may have higher costs for girls than for boys. Republicans have consistently opposed sex education, and the party platform for 2008 states:
We renew our call for replacing family planning programs for teens with increased funding for abstinence education, which teaches abstinence until marriage as the responsible and expected standard of behavior. Abstinence from sexual activity is the only protection that is 100 percent effective against out-of-wedlock pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS when transmitted sexually. We oppose school-based clinics that provide referrals, counseling, and related services for abortion and contraception.
Recession and Financial Crisis
The US recession and global financial crisis are affecting most people, but women face some unique challenges.
Addressing the CSW, U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Sha Zukang said: “Historically, economic recessions have placed a disproportionate burden on women.”
He pointed out that women are more likely than men to be in vulnerable jobs; to be under-employed or without a job; lack social protection; and to have limited access to and control over economic and financial resources.
Even as many women consider delaying or altogether reconsidering childbirth, some find themselves unable to afford birth control as they had in the past.
Although many women said they want to be more careful about their contraceptive use, nearly one-quarter (23 percent) said they were having a harder time paying for birth control than in the past.
Trying to stretch their limited budgets, 18 percent said they were using birth control less consistently. In addition, 8 percent of the women said they “sometimes did not use birth control in order to save money.”
Four percent of women who use birth control pills said they skipped pills, and 12 percent said they had delayed refilling a prescription. Eleven percent of the respondents said they had stopped taking them.
[. . .]
These practices were more common among the most financially strapped women, the researchers noted.
The recession has been linked to higher instances of abortion, women looking for unusual methods of making money, such as selling their eggs (a considerably more involved process than sperm donation), and dangerous ways of saving money:
With the stock market at record lows and unemployment soaring ever skyward, the economy is also having a negative impact on women’s health. This, according to a new study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Forty percent of women surveyed say their health worsened in the past year, with many disregarding follow-up doctor visits and all manner of healthcare in order to save money. Since women are usually in charge of healthcare for the whole household, this neglect could impact the entire family.
Again, the current financial crisis is arguably due in large part to Republican policies over the past few decades, but the more significant consideration is their unwillingness to do anything to help, either in the form of supporting stimulus packages or coming up with their own ideas (beyond tax cuts and further deregulation, which caused much of the problem in the first place). Remember, it took them forever to even admit we might be in a recession. Republicans have been against economic stimulus packages from the start, but thus far they have failed to come up with any ideas of their own. In January of 2009, every Republican in the House rejected the stimulus package, and only three in the Senate later supported it. In this
case, it is more their ineptitude in terms of lack of original thought than their oppositional/obstructionist tendencies that bothers me.
Anti-feminist groups are overwhelmingly Rightwing, and they are propped up by Republicans throughout the country. Pro-life / “pro-family” groups — including, but sadly, nowhere near limited to, the Eagle Forum (instrumental in killing the Equal Rights Amendment, for better or worse), the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, the Howard Center, the NGO Family Voice, the Family Research Council, and Rock for Life — spend much of their time attacking women’s reproductive freedoms and have appeared at the United Nations to argue against gender equality. While there are plenty of pro-forced birth Democrats in this country, you will more often find the Right becoming rabid about it and bringing their flashiest politicians out to loudly support mandated childbirth in the wake of rape and incest.
I think everyone is familiar with this one: The 30 “Republicans for Rape” who voted against Al Franken’s (D-MN) amendment to the Defense Appropriations bill. I won’t go into this because I’ve written about it in greater detail here. Perhaps it suffices to say that when people are calling your party the “pro-rape party,” you might just have an issue with women. Talk about a complete disregard for women’s rights.
Underrepresentation in Congress
Women are vastly underrepresented in Congress in general, even in the Democratic party. Still, it’s an interesting disparity to note that there are only four female Republican Senators to the Democrats’ 13, and 17 Republican House Representatives to the Democrats’ 57. I can only begin to postulate about what this means. The gender gap between the parties is widening, so if there is truth to the theory of identity politics, it is possible that Democratic women are voting for women. I suspect, however, that it also has something to do with Democrats doing a better job of speaking to women on their terms regarding their issues.
Canadian Gal has analyzed this problem in greater depth here.
I understand that this is a controversial issue, and I know the arguments against it. I see the viewpoints of those who believe that it is in some ways unfair. It is not an issue I have given a great deal of consideration, though perhaps I err in that. NOW has a list of compelling arguments for Affirmative Action on their official website, including:
Affirmative Action levels the playing field so people of color and all women have the chance to compete in education and in business. White men hold 95% to 97% of the high-level corporate jobs. And that’s with affirmative action programs in place. Imagine how low figures would be without affirmative action. Of 3000 federal court decisions in discrimination cases between 1990 and 1994, only 100 involved claims of reverse discrimination; only 6 of those claims were found to be valid.
The Republican party is quite clear about their position as well:
Precisely because we oppose discrimination, we reject preferences, quotas, and set-asides, whether in education or in corporate boardrooms. The government should not make contracts on this basis, and neither should corporations. We support efforts to help low-income individuals get a fair shot based on their potential and merit, and we affirm the common sense approach of the Chief Justice of the United States: that the way to stop discriminating on the basis of race is to stop discriminating.
I do believe there are times when “equal treatment” is not necessarily “fair treatment,” and I find that argument difficult to dispute, whether one supports affirmative action or not. Regardless, the Republican party is adamant in its opposition to quotas which benefit any disadvantaged group, women included.
Here’s the biggie, ladies and gentlemen, and I realize I’ve already been over a lot of this. To recap just a bit, women pay more on the individual market, still have to deal with gender rating in many states, are frequently denied coverage when they become pregnant, have trouble getting health care if they’ve had a C-Section (my mom had two, the poor woman), may be denied coverage if they are victims of domestic violence, and the list goes on.
I don’t know that Republicans really “hate” women, though I joke about it often enough. On some of these issues — health care included — I think it more likely that they just don’t care. Not only about women, but about anyone who isn’t directly lining their pockets.
Last week Senator Judd Gregg, Republican of New Hampshire, circulated a memo to his colleagues advising them on how to use the Senate’s arcane procedural rules to “insist on a full, complete and fully informed debate.”
What it really reads like is a manual for obstructing action. Mr. Gregg advises his colleagues to consider such tactics as demanding quorum calls, raising points of order that require debate, and offering an unlimited number of amendments on any subject, which he describes as “the fullest expression” of informed debate.
The Democratic leadership is on notice that it will need to get its own caucus behind a compromise agenda that can be passed by a filibuster-proof majority without much, if any, Republican assistance.
But that “Don’t-Give-A-Damn-Let’s-Make-It-Hard-For-The-Rest-Of-You” attitude disproportionately affects women, especially those attempting to buy health insurance in a crappy private market that discriminates against them. And just look at some of the garbage that has been coming out of Republican Congressmen’s mouths. Are women really like smokers? Women should really have to pay more because men don’t need maternity care? Why does the GOP think it appropriate to shout down Democratic women attempting to explain how health care legislation could benefit women? Why does every single Republican in the House vote for an amendment that limits women’s reproductive freedoms, just to turn around and vote against the bill to which it is attached, which might have some chance of benefiting women in other ways — just to get that final parting shot in?
I don’t know the answers to some of those questions, and truth be told, I think it’s pretty sad that I’m having to ask them.
So do Republicans hate women?
Probably not most of them, and certainly not all of them. But do they stand behind policies that oppress women and ignore or harm their interests? Absolutely. Maybe DCCC’s Jennifer Crider said it best, not only about Pete Sessions, but about the entire Republican party:
“The NRCC and extreme right wing of the Republican Party are totally out of step with women,” said Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokeswoman Jennifer Crider and former press secretary for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).
“First, the NRCC says that a man ought to put the first woman Speaker of the House ‘in her place,'” Crider added. “I don’t know what’s scarier, whether NRCC Chairman Pete Sessions actually believes women are second class citizens or whether he believes it’s political beneficial for the NRCC to say so.”
That assessment is scary either way you look at it. If he does believe women are second class citizens, it’s truly sad that the voters — some of them women themselves — put him in a position of power. And if he believes that implying that we are second class citizens is politically advantageous… well, that’s even worse. When you can only speak to your party by denying women rights and fair treatment, your party truly has gone off the deep end.