War on Women?

Sarah Palin
Sarah Palin
Sarah Louise Palin, born February 11, 1964, is an American politician, commentator and author. As the Republican Party nominee for Vice President in the 2008 presidential election, she was the first Alaskan on the national ticket of a major party and first Republican woman nominated for the vice presidency. | Photo: Archives | Sarah Palin, Republican, Alaska, Presidential Election,

It's a reasonable metaphor

It's not news that Republicans do worse with women voters than with men. It's not surprising either, given some of the opinions many Republican politicians and pundits express about women voting (bad!), women working (bad!) and women having sex "without consequences" (eeeevil!).

With an election ahead, a number of conservatives are loudly declaring the "war on women" is a lie made up by Democrats. Maybe some Repubs don't quite accept the way women live now, but it's totally unfair for Dems to say that's some kind of sexism! Besides, liberals only talk about women's issues to get votes. And Obama's birth-control mandate (requiring workplace health insurance cover birth control for female employees who want it) is the real war on women--the White House is treating women like they're sluts who won't keep their legs closed!

In the sense of "war" as an organized, cohesive campaign ("This year we target birth control. In 2017, equal employment, then they lose the right to vote in 2025."), I'd agree that Republicans are not waging war. It's more that many Republican politicians, pundits and activists operate in the same sexist mindspace. And the sexism is common enough and passionate enough that "war" is perfectly legitimate metaphor. Just look at the past few years:

In 2011, Georgia politician Bobby Franklin proposed a bill requiring the legal system refer to rape victims as "rape accusers" until someone was actually convicted.

Franklin also proposed that police investigate any miscarriages and demand the woman or her family explain how it happened. Likewise, in 2009, Virginia state Senator Mark Obenshain proposed a bill under that would have given women 24 hours after a miscarriage to notify the police, with a potential year in jail if they didn't comply.

In 2012, Georgia State Rep. Terry England defended a bill that banned abortion even if the baby would be born dead: after all, farm animals give birth to dead babies all the time and they do fine, so no biggie. That same year, Missouri Representative Todd Akin declared that a "legitimate" rape couldn't lead to pregnancy. GOP candidate Tom Smith told voters that having your daughter bear a child out of wedlock was just as horrifying as if she'd been raped.

Earlier this year, Virginia Republican Richard Black said spousal rape shouldn't be a crime (Todd Akin said the same thing some years back, arguing it would be a weapon for wives in divorce).

Republicans have constantly pushed to defund Planned Parenthood, a major source of birth control and health services for poor women. While the justification is usually "Planned Parenthood provides abortions!" I've yet to hear anyone suggest that if the abortions stopped, funding would keep flowing.

A number of conservative pundits have declared America would be better off if women couldn't vote. Ann Coulter, for instance, says women losing the vote is her personal fantasy. More recently Fox pundit Jesse Watters declared that single women only vote Democratic because liberals will give them free stuff: "They depend on government because they're not depending on their husbands."

The declarations that women who want their workplace insurance to cover their birth control are sluts are too legion to count (and ignore that this insurance is something employees earn with their work, not a government handout).

Certainly not all Republicans are sexist and many sexists aren't Republican. For instance, Tennessee Democrat Doug Henry complained in 2008 that instead of defining rape as the violation of a chaste woman "by someone not her spouse," we define sex as rape any time the woman said no. Stephen A. Smith of ESPN said earlier this month that when discussing spouse abuse, we need to discuss how women can avoid provoking men to violence. Cops, prosecutors and judges all over the country treat pregnant women like aquariums that have zero rights compared to the precious fish swimming inside.

But that's all the more reason to fight hard for women's rights, something I don't see Republicans doing any time soon. True, Democratic support for women's issues is often grudging and reluctant, driven by the need for votes, but so what? That's how politics works. Sure, I prefer voting for politicians who sincerely care about supporting women, but I'll settle for support based on the need for re-election.

Because it's still support. And support is way better than opposition.

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Updated May 22, 2018 1:43 AM UTC | More details


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