The Republican party declares war on women

The Republican party declares war on women | Diane Roberts | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk.

What is up with these people? What’s with the creepy misogyny on display in American politics these day?

I can never quite wrap my head around the thinking of people who propose to punish women (and only women) for sexual activity. Insurance cover for birth control pills has suddenly become a bridge too far for many Republican political figures, but no one seems at all upset that insurance plans also cover Viagra and other drugs for erectile dysfunction. So sex is fine for men but not for women.

Women legislators’ funny and smart reactions (as quoted by LostintheUS in the comments to The Guardian article) to the recent efforts to push through crap legislation in various States, show just how egregious the hypocrisy and double standards are:

One woman legislator introduced a bill to require a rectal exam and a heart stress test before they could get a prescription for an erectile dysfunction drug. (Erectile dysfunction drugs ARE covered by most employer insurance policies including at Catholic institutions.)

Another woman legislator in Oklahoma got so overwrought she made a poster reading, “If I wanted a Republican legislator in my womb I would ___ one.” And walked around the capitol building with is. This in OKLAHOMA of all places.
Also in Oklahoma the “Every sperm is sacred” campaign.

GA state African American woman legislator (Yasmin Neal) proposed a ban on vasectomies.

“Thousands of children are deprived of birth in this state every year because of the lack of state regulation over vasectomies. It is patently unfair that men can avoid unwanted fatherhood by presuming that their judgment over such matters is more valid than the judgment of the General Assembly, while women’s ability to decide is constantly up for debate throughout the United States. Women, our bodies, and what we do with it are always up for debate”.

Digby, a leftish blogger talks about the recent attacks on women’s rights in the US as part of a wider backlash against equality. She quotes Gloria Steinem:

“Classically speaking, resistance to change comes at two points,” Gloria Steinem explains. “The first is right in the beginning, when you break the rules and people say, ‘No, women can’t do that!’ And the second comes when you reach a critical mass, because then the dominant group thinks, ‘Wait a minute!’ Up until then, it hasn’t seemed as if the other group might have great influence or, in the case of women, might actually outnumber them. We’re now at the second stage of resistance.” Gloria Steinem in “Women and the Leadership Gap” by Leslie Bennetts

My own curmudgeonly, mid-life sense of the world fits with this analysis. There’s a violence in the anti-women rhetoric and in the actual physical treatment of women that wasn’t so overt back in the more hopeful days of the 70’s and 80’s.

I heard Helen Ready’s “I am Woman” in a bookshop the other day and felt sad because it’s such an incongruous song these days. It’s so hopeful, tub-thumping with an enthusiasm that just wouldn’t be possible now. Sample lyrics:

I am woman, hear me roar
In numbers too big to ignore
And I know too much to go back an’ pretend
’cause I’ve heard it all before
And I’ve been down there on the floor
No one’s ever gonna keep me down again

In the 80’s Madonna was doing her thing. All large and in charge. Owning her sexuality and her career and taking the world by storm.

In the 90’s we had Gwen Stefani singing “I’m Just a Girl.” Only 20 years later and Stefani is singing about limitations and constraints, about being less than men, rather than about hope and change and growth. Sample lyrics:

Take this pink ribbon off my eyes
I’m exposed
And it’s no big surprise
Don’t you think I know
Exactly where I stand
This world is forcing me
To hold your hand
‘Cause I’m just a girl, little ‘ol me
Don’t let me out of your sight
I’m just a girl, all pretty and petite
So don’t let me have any rights

And what do we have in the 2010’s? Rihanna releasing duets with her abusive ex. And Beyonce’s “Single Ladies.” Sample lyrics:

Cause if you like it then you shoulda put a ring on it
If you like it then you shoulda put a ring on it
Don’t be mad once you see that he want it
If you like it then you shoulda put a ring on it

Ouch. That’s a huge shift, and not a positive one.

My hope is that the backlash represents the death throes of a discredited movement rather than a sign that the gains women made in the later part of the 20th century are under permanent threat.

Updated to add that I don’t want to imply that Rihanna is somehow to blame for Chris Brown’s violence. What disconcerts me about her situation is the ready acceptance of him back into the music fold, despite his apparent lack of self-awareness or remorse or responsibility. He received a Grammy this year and was invited to perform two musical numbers. Rihanna was in the audience and wasn’t invited to perform this year. That’s an uncomfortable message to send people caught in abusive situations.

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2 Responses to The Republican party declares war on women

  1. iamroewan says:

    I’m with you in your hope. Sometimes I wonder if women a generation or more younger than I are simply not aware of what it was like for us before the liberation.

    My thoughts on Rihanna and Whitney Houston and many others, not just women, stuck in abusive relationships are that we have had this problem in our society for a very long time and it’s not going to go away anytime soon. Some of it has to do with mental health issues. Some with low self-esteem and imbalance of power and fear and so on… I don’t know what it would take to fix it. However I really do think it will require a change in what we’re willing to ignore or tolerate as acceptable within private and intimate relationships.

    • Janettes says:

      Yes, you’re right about abusive relationships. There’s a tacit acceptance of violence within families in many places. New Zealand has appalling rates of family violence and things that would get you charged with human rights abuses if you did them to strangers in a public place, seem strangely invisible when done at home to members of your family.
      And, the most disconcerting thing about Rihanna and her ex is not Rihanna’s actions (although I didn’t make that clear above) but the way the music industry has shuffled the violence under the carpet.. He beat her so bad she required hospitalisation, then showed little awareness or remorse, but a couple of years later he’s receiving awards and performing at the Grammy’s as if nothing ever happened.
      Maybe the point here is that very little has changed in the way women are treated in intimate relationships despite the efforts of feminists over the last few decades. If so, that’s a very depressing point indeed.

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