I started out intending to write a column about how extreme Republican politicians have become this year regarding women's rights. But the truth is, that's hardly news.
Take the recent attention focused on Senatorial candidate Richard Mourdock's statement that if a rape victim gets pregnant, it's God's will she have that child. Mourdock is hardly a Republican outlier: Rick Santorum and Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback have expressed similar views in the past and Sen. John Cornyn has endorsed Mourdock's stance. Republican Sharron Angle went even further in 2010, suggesting that if a girl raped by her father gives birth to the child, she'd be "making lemonade" out of lemons.
Likewise Missouri Rep. Todd Akin's belief that "legitimate rape" can't get women pregnant (presumably meaning that if they do get pregnant, they're just lying about it) is nothing unusual: It's been accepted as fact in some right-to-life circles since the 1990s.
Georgia State Rep. Bobby Franklin has proposed rape victims shouldn't legally be called victims but only "rape accusers" until someone gets convicted of rape (he does not however, advocate for "theft accusers" or "attempted murder accusers" entering the legal vocabulary). He also wants the police to investigate every miscarriage, just in case, you know, it's Not a Miscarriage. Fellow state Rep. Terry England said this year that a bill to prevent women aborting even if the baby will be born dead, is no biggie: Cows bear dead calves all the time, so why should women have any problem?
Extreme, sure, but are they any more extreme than South Dakota State Sen. Bill Napoli, who suggested in 2006 that he'd only allow a rape victim to get an abortion if she was a virgin and planning to stay chaste until marriage (thereby proving she's not a slut)?
The simple fact is that since "second wave" feminism kicked off back in the late 1960s, a large chunk of conservatives has hated everything about it. They hate the idea that a woman applying for a job has a legal right to be judged on her merits instead of her gender. They think rape only happens to slutty sluts who dress slutty and thereby have it coming. They're convinced women acting equal to men
or having sex without worrying about pregnancy defies God's law. Some of them, I think, are also freaked out that society no longer endorses male dominance as openly and unquestioningly as it did 50 years ago.
Rick Santorum, one of the candidates for the 2012 Republican presidential primaries. | Photo: |
That said, I do think the Republican right is getting more openly extreme. We've gone from candidates calling for a ban on abortion to Rick Santorum asserting birth control should be banned too (he's far from alone). The idea that women's medical insurance should cover birth control is now a controversy
. A few years ago, I saw complaints about women having the right to vote pop up on minor fringe right-wing blogs. Now it's easy to find high-profile pundits such as Ann Coulter and John Derbyshire asserting we'd be better off if women never had the franchise, as does Janis Lane of the Mississippi Tea Party.
Some of them would be happy if we had a patriarchal, male-dominated society along the lines of the 1950s. A fair number have views closer to the Taliban. Neither attitude works for me.
If I didn't have any other reason for voting Democratic this year (and I have plenty), Republican sexism would be enough.