To start with, let me be clear: The oppression and general subjugation of women is not an exclusively Republican issue. Measures proposed, adopted, or supported by some Democrats, such as the Stupak-Pitts amendment and the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, make that clear. Nor is the oppression and subjugation of women even an exclusively male issue. The fact is, a lot of conservative women adhere and/or contribute to the doctrine of male domination, perhaps because it is politically useful (see Palin, who is no feminist), or perhaps because they have simply been indoctrinated to do so. Despite all the calls for equality and the efforts of feminists throughout the country and around 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 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.
Note: This is an update to a diary I did a loooooooong time ago. It’s got plenty of new articles, new stats, new pics, etc, so hopefully the updates will be of interest to some. Cross-posted at GOS.
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.
This is the Republican party I know: A party that, frankly, sometimes seems to truly loathe the female sex.
Let me begin with, perhaps, 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 such policy positions as opposing the death penalty, ameliorating the suffering inflicted by poverty, providing extensive foreign/humanitarian aid (yes, even to clinics which perform abortions), etc. But because many of us do not believe in forcing women to carry unborn children to term – for whatever variety of physical, psychological, and pragmatic reasons the mother may have – 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 a partially formed fetus, they necessarily infringe upon the rights of an unwilling (or unable) 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 all of you 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 fairly recent news, there have been numerous attacks on women’s right to choose. Here are the three anti-women’s health bills Republicans have recently introduced, all of which could impact abortion rights:
Rep. Chris Smith’s (R-NJ) misleadingly titled “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion” bill (H.R. 3), which would take comprehensive private health insurance coverage away from millions of American women, even those who face serious health problems from a pregnancy; would impose new tax penalties on individuals and small businesses that purchase comprehensive private health insurance coverage; and would prohibit existing abortion coverage to many women who are raped and become pregnant.
Rep. Mike Pence’s (R-IN) bill, which would deny access to preventive care for millions of women by prohibiting hundreds of community-based health centers, including Planned Parenthood health centers, from receiving federal funding for preventive care, including annual exams, lifesaving cancer screenings, contraceptive services, and testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections. This funding, called Title X, has been available since 1970 and provides this basic, preventive health care to five million women a year.
Rep. Joe Pitts’ (R-PA) bill, which revives the failed Stupak abortion ban from
two years ago – cutting off millions of American women from the private health insurance coverage they have today by effectively banning abortion coverage in state-based health insurance exchanges established under the health care law. Representative Pitts’ bill could also prohibit states from ensuring women have access to information about how to get access to abortion services.
Planned Parenthood, original emphasis
There are countless state-level examples of this form of discrimination against women as well, but each deserves its own diary. Feel free to share some of the multitude in the comments.
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 fair pay. One of the most prominent examples recently was 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.
As an aside, a bit of good news from more recently, though:
The Federal Government says it will not do business with companies not actively pushing gender equality in the workplace.
Reforms announced today include spot checks on businesses to assess fair pay and working conditions for women.
Businesses with more than 100 staff will be required to report on how many workers are female and how their conditions compare to male employees.
The Minister for the Status of Women, Kate Ellis, says businesses that do not comply with the laws will not be eligible for government-funded grants and industry assistance programs.
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 sensibly make the argument that Republican policies did much (very much) to get us into this mess, but since hindsight is 20/20 and everyone makes mistakes (hah, how’s that for leniency!), 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 powerful 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 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, Financial Crisis, and the Economy
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 co
nsider 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 viable 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.
Now they’re trying to cut spending, and many of those cuts would disproportionately affect women.
House Republican leaders have released their plan for funding-or defunding-the federal government for the remainder of fiscal year 2011, and their draconian cuts are devastating to women and girls at every stage of their lives. The same House Republican leaders who voted to extend lavish tax breaks for the very wealthiest are now insisting that those who can least afford it sacrifice the most.
[. . .]
For more than forty years, for example, the Title X program has provided family planning services, breast and cervical cancer screenings, and other preventive health care to low-income women. But H.R. 1 eliminates the Title X program, abandoning the more than five million low-income women and men who are served each year by Title X-funded health centers. It also eliminates funding for teen pregnancy prevention, creating yet another barrier for young women in need of resources to help them make responsible decisions about their health and their lives.
H.R. 1 also slashes funding for programs that promote the health of pregnant women, infants and young children. The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) provides food, counseling and other supports to millions of low-income pregnant women, new mothers and infants. Studies have linked participation in WIC with higher birth weight and lower infant mortality. H.R. 1 slashes $747 million from WIC. Each year, more than two million pregnant women and 27 million children receive health services from state and local programs supported by the Title V Maternal and Child Health Block Grant. H.R. 1 cuts $50 million from this program.
[. . .]
H.R. 1 also threatens educational opportunities for women. It eliminates the Women’s Educational Equity program, which helps schools comply with Title IX, the law that prohibits sex discrimination in federally funded education programs. And it makes college less affordable for millions of low-income women and men by reducing Pell Grants by more than $800 per student and eliminating the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant program that provides additional grants to the lowest-income Pell recipients.
I’m already pushing fair use (if not exceeding), so I won’t paste anymore – but please read the full article, House GOP spending cuts will devastate women, families, and the economy.
And considering the relevance these days, how can I avoid mentioning Wisconsin in particular?
This assault on female reproductive liberties does not occur without context. The recent efforts by Gov. Scott Walker, R-Wis., to eliminate collective bargaining rights directly affect public employees such as nurses and teachers who are disproportionately women.
While many of the Republicans’ ill-intended proposals may not appear on the surface to blatantly target women, they disproportionately impact them. This is a fact that Republicans cannot be oblivious to. It’s just that they don’t care. Their legislation is disastrous to the country as a whole – to every man, woman, and child who isn’t already rich – but it’s hard not to notice the unique ways in which some of it specifically affects the female population.
It seems like Republicans are hell-bent on making things harder for parents, perhaps especially mothers. Some interesting analysis of GOP fiscal cuts from an article in The Nation titled The War on Women’s Futures:
Using small-government, libertarian rhetoric, the Tea Party ushered in a new crop of Republican leaders under the banner of fiscal responsibility. But the aggressive antichoice legislation coming from the new GOP majority in the House makes perfectly clear that belt-tightening deficit reduction is entirely compatible with an older social agenda committed to pushing American women out of the public sphere.
[. . .]
Since the introduction of the birth control pill and the legalization of abortion, women in America have significantly reduced the number of children they bea
r. This decrease in fertility has been particularly striking among white women. Fewer white women marry, most marry much later than in previous generations, far more get divorced and the size of their families has decreased dramatically. Along with these changes, white women’s educational achievement has soared, their participation in the workforce has increased and their health outcomes, lifetime earnings and political participation have improved. Today, more than three in five American women work for pay outside the home.
However shrouded in the language of fiscal austerity, the GOP’s social agenda intends to undo these changes, forcing women back into the domestic sphere. While leaving abortion nominally legal, cuts to family planning services and the legalization of terror against abortion providers would create an environment of compulsory childbearing. Women who can’t control their fertility will be unable to compete for degrees or jobs with their male counterparts. Likewise, without affordable childcare women would be less likely to work outside the home. And without basic rights to organize, women teachers, nurses and other public sector workers would be compelled to accept lower wages and harsher working conditions, shoving many women out of the workforce altogether. In the Republicans’ future America, women will be encouraged to marry younger, to stay in difficult (even abusive) marriages and to rely on male wages.
The article above has a much broader scope than I can get into with this diary, so I highly recommend reading it in full. I think the author makes a number of cogent points. It follows intuitively that slashing funding for programs which enable women to work outside the home is a direct swipe at motherhood, women’s rights, and their futures. The implications are far-reaching indeed.
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), 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.
In 2005, Jamie Leigh Jones was gang-raped by her co-workers while she was working for Halliburton/KBR in Baghdad. She was detained in a shipping container for at least 24 hours without food, water, or a bed, and “warned her that if she left Iraq for medical treatment, she’d be out of a job.” (Jones was not an isolated case.) Jones was prevented from bringing charges in court against KBR because her employment contract stipulated that sexual assault allegations would only be heard in private arbitration.
Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) proposed an amendment to the 2010 Defense Appropriations bill that would withhold defense contracts from companies like KBR “if they restrict their employees from taking workplace sexual assault, battery and discrimination cases to court.”
I won’t go into this too much 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 want to have a look at your views on women. Just sayin’.
Talk about a complete disregard for women’s rights.
But one more time, because it bears frequent repeating no matter how long ago it happened, the 30 pro-rape Republicans who each delivered a “nay” on the Franken amendment:
This next piece of legislation was mentioned above when abortion was discussed, but it has important implications for women who have suffered sexual assaults. The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, a
. . .broad anti-abortion measure [which] would restrict federally-assisted abortion coverage to cases of “forcible rape,” excluding in that definition instances where women are drugged and raped, where women say “no” but do not physically fight off the perpetrator, and various cases of date rape. It also excludes instances of statutory rape in which minors are impregnated by adults. The victim in all cases would be denied abortion coverage under Medicaid and forbidden from seeking health care tax benefits.
Introduced by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), the bill boasts 173 mainly Republican co-sponsors and has been designated a top priority by House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH).
“It really is — to suggest that there is some kind of rape that would be okay to force a woman to carry the resulting pregnancy to term, and abandon the principle that has been long held, an exception that has been settled for 30 years, is to me a violent act against women in and of itself,” Wasserman Schultz said.
“Rape is when a woman is forced to have sex against her will, and that is whether she is conscious, unconscious, mentally stable, not mentally stable,” the four-term congresswoman added.
Granted, some Democrats are in support of this bill, but the majority of the 173 co-sponsors are Republicans, the lead sponsor being Chris Smith (R-NJ). The bill has been “tweaked” to remove some of the more flagrantly offensive language, but it would still be a setback for women.
“H.R. 3 remains an extreme and extremely harmful piece of legislation for women,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) in an interview with The Huffington Post on Thursday. At Saturday’s Rally for Women’s Health in New York City — where more than 6,000 people turned out — Maloney announced the launch of a new online website and organizing effort called Women Matter, which is attempting to organize against the bill and others at issue.
Arons points out t
hat H.R. 3 would still impose “a permanent, blanket prohibition on any and all federal spending for abortion care,” whereas under current law, only specific programs have such restrictions and they must be renewed every year.
The attempt to redefine rape in the manner the Republicans have chosen is wholly offensive and inherently damaging to women who have been victimized. It is a trivialization of a type of suffering which should never be minimized or discounted. What perhaps appalls me the most, however, is how few (if any) Republican women stand up and speak out against bills like these. It just goes to further demonstrate the damage conservative, introjected values can do to women, both as individuals and as a collective.
Underrepresentation in Congress
Women are vastly underrepresented in Congress in general, even in the Democratic party. Still, it’s an interesting – though possibly intuitive – disparity to note that there are more Democratic women than Republican women in Congress. The gender gap between the parties was certainly widening until recently, though the 2010 midterm elections negatively impacted Democratic female representation in Congress.
In the 112th Congress,
Women hold 88, or 16.4%, of the 535 seats in the 112th US Congress – 17, or 17.0%, of the 100 seats in the Senate and 71, or 16.4%, of the 435 seats in the House of Representatives. In addition, three women serve as Delegates to the House from Guam, the Virgin Islands and Washington, DC.
As of 2011,
A total of 274 women have served in Congress, 174 Democrats and 100 Republicans. Of these women, 235 (149 Democrats, 86 Republicans) have served only in the House of Representatives; 31 (19 Democrats, 12 Republicans) have served only in the Senate; and 8 (6 Democrats, 2 Republicans) have served in both houses. These figures include one non-voting Delegate each from Guam, Hawaii, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
I found these interesting as well, though it doesn’t show statistics for Republicans versus Democrats. From Rutgers:
So women are clearly disproportionately represented period, but it’s still pretty obvious that Democrats have a history of electing more females. And the women elected by the Republican party tend to be like Michele Bachmann, so does it even count?
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.
I realize some of this was addressed in the health care reform overhaul (incomplete as some of us felt it may have been). I’ve also gone into this in great detail elsewhere. To recap just a bit, Republicans fought to keep a system in which women pay more on the individual market, deal with gender rating in many states, experience being 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.
Just as a matter of interest:
Gender and age rating (the latter disproportionately affects women as well) took a hit with the recent reform bill, but it’s not over altogether. And of course, as noted above, health care programs that benefit women and children will be slashed left and right if the Republicans get their way.
So do Republicans hate women?
Maybe not most of them, and certainly not all of them. I don’t know that Republicans really “hate” women, though I joke about it often enough. On some of these issues 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. But that “Don’t-Give-A-Damn-Let’s-Make-It-Hard-For-The-Rest-Of-You” attitude disproportionately affects women. And 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 awhile back, 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. And I don’t think his position is not unusual within the Republican party. Which is a problem.
When you can only speak to your party by denying women rights and fair treatment, your party truly has gone off the deep end.