It's depressing that in the 21st century, so many people still think women controlling their own lives is a terrible, terrible thing.
Women shouldn't be allowed to vote
. Women shouldn't have the choice whether to have children. Women should never leave the home
. Women shouldn't make their own medical decisions
. Women shouldn't be allowed to refuse sex with their husbands
. Women are too stupid
to be in charge of anything. Decades after "second wave" feminism launched the screams of opposition to women's equality refuse to die.
For an extreme and repellent example, we have Roosh, a pick up artist and anti-equality activist who says online that since women are inferior decision-makers, men must control
all their choices: "Systems must now be put in lace where a woman's behavior is monitored and her decisions subject to approval of a male relative or guardian who understands what's in her best interests better than she does herself."
Unfortunately Roosh isn't so extreme as to be unique. Some Islamic sects might be horrified at his sex life, but they'd be down with his view that women should never leave the house unchaperoned. Or consider Jared Wilson, a Christian U.S. extremist who believes laws that limit a husband's absolute power fly in the face of God and nature
For Wilson, equality is bad because of men's God-given right to be in charge. Other sexists prefer to cloak their language, as Roosh does, in kinder, gentler terms. Those poor dear women are so simple, so incapable of making the right call, it's just compassionate to take decisions out of their hands. Then they don't have to trouble their pretty little heads about anything except what to wear.
Republican Mike Huckabee took that line, for instance, in defending Paraguay's decision to deny a 10-year-old pregnant rape victim an abortion. Huckabee, in his infinite arrogance--er, wisdom--just knows she'd regret it later, so it's much better to deny her choice than have her choose wrongly.
I suppose these attitudes aren't surprising, really. The image of the father/husband as head of the house and alpha in the family is a longstanding one, as is the idea women are just fluffy little creatures who just don't have any capacity for logic. The idea of the man in the family outranking the woman is still important to a lot of people, and that makes women's rights a problem. In the 21st century USA, even if a woman is a full-time home-maker who defers to her husband, it's conditional. If her husband doesn't hold up his end of whatever their commitments are, she can walk out. Even if she stays, she can assert the right to make her own decisions, independent of him.
For Wilson, the lack of guaranteed
male dominance is unacceptable. He's not alone. Forbes once published an article warning men against marrying "career women." One of the reasons was that if the marriage doesn't work out, an independent woman with her own income can afford to leave; it's safer to have your spouse depend on you for everything.
The time-honored double-standard -- men can sleep around, women should stay virgin until marriage -- plays a role too, I think. Roosh brags in his writing about the numerous women he's laid, but he's also very down on unchaste women: the bad decisions he think women make include showing off their bodies and sleeping around before marriage.
Religion is another factor. Sexism certainly isn't unique to religion, but religion intensifies things: it tells people such as Wilson that their views on women are God's views, and therefore beyond question or argument (as Susan B. Anthony once said, it's very easy to decide that God's will happens to coincide with your own wishes).
And then there's politics. Secular arguments against women voting boil down to too many women voting liberal or Democratic. Some conservatives specifically cite the power of the women's vote to elect Democrats as a good reason to end women's suffrage. Of course, selecting Republican candidates who support women's equality might work just as well, but that would require old male conservatives to admit their demographic can't always win elections by itself. That would only drive home that men don't run the world as much as they used to, and I think that's very much part of the problem.
Not that male dominance has disappeared, but society no longer gives it the same applause as 60 or 70 years ago. When I was born, saying men should be paid more than women for doing the same job wasn't a controversial stance. Men, the argument ran, were supporting families; women were working for pin money, or to land a husband. Now even right-wingers as right-wing as Rush Limbaugh and Pat Robertson claim they support equal pay for equal work. The usual argument today is not that a pay gap is okay, but that it doesn't exist. That's quite a change. And for some, I think, an unwelcome one. Because if manhood doesn't come with superior status, how can you know you're special.
For all those reasons, I think it'll be a long time before some people are willing to admit that women's rights are human rights.