August 26, 2012

The Republican party is engaged in aggression against the rights of women.

It’s been called a “war on women”, but that terminology is so overused it’s practically meaningless.  Eyes glaze over when we say “war on…”: war on women, war on science, war on terror. Once upon a time we even had a war on poverty —but that’s over now. Income and wealth disparity tells us poverty won.

Even our real wars affect only a small part of the population: those who fight them, and their families. “War” has become an American term of art meaning any action taken to correct a perceived wrong which we engage in on a political whim. We throw the word around so much it’s lost its sting.

In our presently diminished state everybody feels their ox is being gored so it’s just natural to want to gore back —to righteously mount the ramparts of our conceits and kill-off the opposition. Annihilate it! This is American politics today and it’s largely driven by the Republican Party — a very militant tribe which includes a lot of knuckle-draggers, as John Boehner (R) himself admits.

Culture “wars” aside, this aggression against women by a certain faction of Americans is real. It has a political power base: the Republican party; a moral fig leaf: religious fundamentalism; and financial backing: the billionaire Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson for two.

But having survived ruthless religious and secular patriarchies for centuries, having won their struggle for suffrage here, and having wrung from American males the rights they’ve most recently fought for and won, my guess is they won’t easily revert to the days of being barefoot and pregnant and subject to husbands.

The freshest example of the far-right’s attack on women (and please note the entire Republican Party is now on that fringe) is the quote of Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin. Akin drew a bright line between illegitimate and legitimate rape —between rape that may not be rape and rape that may be rape. It’s unlikely he consulted any women before honing his definitions.

Yes, yes, Romney said Akin’s remarks were off-the-wall, but who really believes anything Romney says? He handles fact like silly putty: something to be mauled and stretched into whatever shape fits his momentary need. And yes, other Republicans have repudiated Akin, but some have defended him —the so-called “Reverend” Mike Huckabee for one. And as far as believing Republicans who’ve slammed Akin is concerned, you’ve got to weigh that repudiation against the relentless trend of Republican rhetoric and action against a woman’s right of sovereignty over her body.

An example of how the politics of power shifts over time is the drift of the Republican Party toward this assault on women’s rights.

“For much of its history,” Frank Rich writes, “misogyny was not the style of the party of Lincoln. For most of the twentieth century, the GOP was ahead of the curve in bestowing women’s rights. …  In 1940, the GOP mandated that women be equally represented in its national and executive committees—a standard not imposed by the Democrats until more than three decades later.”

But that was then and this is now. The GOP’s history is effectively made moot by what it is up to now. Republicans, in the manner of Faust-meets-Judas have sold their soul for thirty pieces of power. They’ve taken the wedge of fear fashioned by the perpetrators of  9/11 and over the intervening 11 years have been driving it relentlessly into the structure and fabric of American society. They use it to feed every historical ghost and demon —virtually any fear that lies dormant in any of us— until some demagogue or faction turns them into imminent nightmares: racism, religious bigotry, misogyny —they wake any dozing hate.

So, for the record, here’s where Republicans stand on a women’s rights of political and economic equity and female physical sovereignty:

Todd Akin (R-Senate Candidate):  “It seems to be, first of all, from what I understand from doctors, it’s really rare (conception from rape). If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down.”

Ban on abortion no matter what: Writing laws that omit reasonable exceptions for a woman’s health or cases of rape, incest or grievous fetal impairment. These laws would require a woman seeking an abortion to be near death, a standard that could easily delay medical treatment until it is too late.

Ban on Contraception: Romney endorsed the Blunt-Rubio Amendment, which would have allowed any employer to claim a “moral objection” and exclude potentially millions of women from getting birth control under their insurance coverage.

Health Care Access: House Republicans rushed to pass bills to eliminate a program that provides millions of women with birth control, lifesaving screening for breast and cervical cancer, and other preventive care. It is a highly effective way of preventing the unintended pregnancies and abortions that Republicans claim to be so worried about.

The GOP nominee has warmly embraced the Ryan budget which ends Medicare in any recognizable form and would throw between 14 million and 27 million people off of Medicaid,
around two thirds of them women.

Pay Equaity: Wisconsin’s Republican Governor signed the repeal of a 2009 law that allowed women and others to bring lawsuits in state courts against pay discrimination, instead of requiring them to be heard as slower and more costly federal cases.

Although American women earn on average 23 percent less than men Mitt Romney’s campaign couldn’t say whether their man would have signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.

… and this is just a Republican misogynistic sampler.

Women who intend to vote Republican in this election might want to consider the wisdom of one Sally Kempton who said, ” I became a feminist as an alternative to becoming a masochist.”

That sounds like an excellent reason for women and women-respecting men to become at least temporary Democrats.

by Jim Culleny


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