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Sunday, November 15, 2009
GOP Boys' Club: Blaming Women For All Ills
Posted by Austin Cline
Patriarchal and misogynistic attitudes have been expressed in an unusually concentrated, open, and unapologetic manner in recent weeks. I don't think it's entirely coincidental that racism and neo-Nazism have also become far more public and unapologetic recently: the separation between "reasonable" conservatism and far-right lunacy is disappearing, with the consequence that the lunacy of the far right is getting more traction, more attention, and more legitimacy.
In the past, the far right could be dismissed politically even as we kept a wary, watchful eye on them. Today, however, the far right has become a more significant political force that has to be dealt with directly. In the long run, we should expect more assaults on basic principles of liberty and equality becoming more mainstream — proposals that were once just found on the fringes will increasingly be treated as "serious" proposals from "serious" conservatives. In the name of bipartisanship, liberals will be expected to find common ground with this extremism for the sake of compromise.
Women Should Be Seen, Not Heard
The idea that women shouldn't have an equal voice in the public sphere should be treated as fringe at best, but it's moving more and more into the conservative mainstream. This may have been expressed most dramatically when conservative Republicans in Congress shouted over female Democrats who tried to use the microphone to give a brief statement. With every woman who tried to have a voice, Republicans led by Tom Price (R-GA) shouted "I object" over and over.
It's not plausible that the attitude driving this behavior is not related to the statement from the National Republican Congressional Committee that Nancy Pelosi needs to be put "in her place." Apparently, leading the House of Representatives is not an appropriate place for a woman, just as the microphone before the House is also not a woman's place.
Come to think of it, women are also sometimes treated as if they shouldn't be seen, either. Every so often another conservative comes out to defend the idea that perhaps women should never have been given the right to vote in the first place — a position that is every bit as "moral" and "reasonable" as suggesting that blacks shouldn't be allowed to vote or that only white men should enjoy basic civil liberties. You can't get much more fringe than this, but it's a view that's been moving into what now counts as the conservative "mainstream."
Barefoot and Pregnant
So once women have been restricted to the home, there isn't much left for them to do than pop out babies and care for them, right? Conservatives are getting better and better at moving the goalposts for what qualifies as the "status quo." In a nation where abortion is increasingly difficult for women to obtain, conservatives want to tighten the noose even more by making it harder for even private insurance companies to offer basic abortion coverage.
Class plays an important role here as well because these problems don't impact wealthy and even middle-class women nearly as much. These women can more easily take off the time for multiple visits required by law, travel the distances required just to reach the nearest abortion provider, and if necessary either pay for a private insurance plan that covers abortion or even just pay for the procedure out of their own pockets.
The working poor, however, are given more and more hurdles to jump in order to obtain a legal medical procedure. Obstacles are directed at these women first because they are easy targets — they can't easily fight back because they lack so many basic resources, also partly due to the efforts of conservatives to concentrate economic, social, and political power in their own hands.
It's worth noting that coverage for medications like Viagra will not be restricted. The cost of Viagra has skyrocketed in recent years and each pill costs far more now than when Viagra was first introduced. A man's desire to get an erection and have sex will continue to be funded by health insurance reform, but the ability of a woman to make decisions about what happens to her own body would be further restricted by the same reform if "reasonable" conservatives get their way.
Inferior Treatment for Inferiors
There's no reason to expect this disparate treatment to end here. If the increased restrictions on abortion become law, why not have increased restrictions on birth control as well? We already know that the anti-choice movement is just as opposed to contraception as it is to abortion, both as a matter of theology and as a matter of policy, so why wouldn't they move to demand that next? The exact same arguments could be used and they would have the exact same degree of validity.
That women should be treated as inferiors, undeserving of equality alongside men, has already been expressed rather openly and directly by Pete Sessions (R-TX). According to Sessions, "we're all different" and smokers pay more for health insurance, so why shouldn't a woman pay more for the same coverage a man gets? Smokers pay more because they have an addiction that damages their health; apparently, being a woman is analogous to a dangerous, debilitating addiction.
It's certainly close enough to justify forcing women to pay more for the same products — and remember, women earn quite a bit less money than men, even when performing the same jobs, so in the end they have even less money for basics like food and rent. Why stop at health insurance, though? Why not charge women more for any basic service? Why not charge women more for housing, food, transportation, and everything else?
Maybe we aren't all that far from conservatives openly suggesting that only white men be allowed to vote and enjoy basic civil liberties. Does anyone want to take bets on how long before this appears, and who steps forward to be the first to say what many are probably thinking?
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