The War on Women and Mothers 2012
So, the war on women. Right? There’s a war on women. That’s what the media are telling us, that’s what politicians are talking about, that’s what’s been in the national news for the last month or so.
This is new?
Those with economic and political power have been battling women’s rights for centuries. Hell, it’s only been about 100 years since women were given a constitutional right to vote throughout the country. The Equal Rights Amendment – which would have strengthened Constitutional protections against discrimination – was never ratified or enacted. As Mad Men will sexily remind you, it’s only in the last 40 or so years that it’s become common or acceptable for women to pursue a career outside the home.
It’s only in the last few hundred years that common-law countries stopped treating women as chattel.
America was built on paternalism and puritanism, and this country still struggles with basic womanhood. Locally, it’s only a few months ago that local ruin-hugging ex-columnist Donn Esmonde incurred women’s wrath by expressing the icky feelings he gets when he sees women breastfeeding – naturally feeding their children – in public. We had a locally-sourced gubernatorial candidate who routinely shared misogynistic emails with captains of politics and industry.
Mitt Romney is saying that President Obama has been really waging a war on women, because the 2008 financial meltdown – which predated his presidency – disproportionately affected women in the workplace. Politifact says that claim is “largely false”.
This year’s traveling vaudeville act of a Republican primary season revealed that the GOP still struggles with the concept of women’s rights. As usual, they scrambled to out-oppose each other on any form of abortion rights. It got so bad that a debate over contraception that people thought was dead, revealed itself merely to have been dormant, as Republicans pounced on a rule of general applicability that required even religious employers to include contraceptive coverage as part of their health care plans.
While the right wing presented this as a fight over religious freedoms – part of the “Muslim Obama war on Christianity” meme – it came across as a battle over chastity. The Republican id, Rush Limbaugh, crystallized it when he called Sandra Fluke a “slut” and “prostitute” because she explained how the cost of contraceptives was prohibitive for many people, including students.
Apparently, Limbaugh and his followers confused the use of female contraceptives with the way men use Viagra – as if Fluke was having so much sex, she couldn’t afford to take the pill each time. Again, it was semi-informed, ignorant men trying to control a narrative over something they barely understood.
Yesterday, Arizona – the most tea partyish of the tea party states – passed an insane law that has nothing to do with science, health, or safety, but is called the “Women’s Health and Safety Act”. I remember 20 years ago, people would debate the morality and legality of abortion by discussing when life begins – conception? Viability? Some other time? Well, Arizona has firmly decided on “some other time” – namely, life begins at the end of the pregnant woman’s last menstrual period. The state will not only artifically re-configure nature itself, but will also attempt to bully and coerce women into not undergoing an abortion – a perfectly legal medical procedure that enjoys specific legal protection.
And so we turn to Hilary Rosen – someone I’d never heard of before this week – who clumsily accused Mitt Romney’s wife, Ann, of never working a day in her life. Rosen has since apologized, and explained that her words were poorly chosen and she meant to underscore the fact that the Romneys lived a multimillionaire’s life and have absolutely no real-life understanding of the struggles that regular, middle-class people have.
One could make the argument that Ann Romney’s laudable choice to be a stay-at-home mom is a “choice” that a great many American families don’t have the luxury to consider. Just like most American families don’t have the choice to participate in the “rarified world of upper-level dressage“.
The right pounced on Rosen, and much of the left establishment criticized her, as well. But the Catholic League – a detestable religio-fascist collective led by horrible person Bill Donohue – had this to say:
I don’t even understand that. Is Donohue criticizing adoption itself as being less than proper, natural motherhood? Is Donohue saying that adoptive parents don’t “work” in raising their kids, but that biological parents do? Remember the story I wrote about the school assembly, where some Catholic cleric derided adopted kids as “sociologically unstable”? Why are Catholic leaders attacking adoption and adopted kids? I think for Donohue, it has more to do with simple rank homophobic hate, as evidenced by this Tweet, from later the same day, which goes to this post from Kristen Becker:
Planned Parenthood said this:
Ann Romney wrote these Tweets:
No, only some women get to choose their own path. A great many women can’t afford to do that. In the meantime, we ensure that people like the Romneys only pay a 15% income tax rate on their non-payroll investment income. Entitled? If Romney was a Democrat, Republicans would be deriding stay-at-home motherhood as just another socialist welfare entitlement program.
Hilary Rosen took to Twitter to directly address Romney:
The whole thing could be solved quite simply. If, as Romney says, women are “entitled” to make the choice, then they should be entitled to make the choice. If the Republicans are now suggesting that motherhood is real work, it’s time for the federal government to make funds available to supplement household incomes in order to enable every American family to make the same choice that the Romneys were wealthy enough to make. The median annual income for a woman working full-time in America is just over $33,000. The federal government should expand social security to give women a choice to claim annual stay-at-home benefits equal to that figure, with annual cost-of-living adjustments. If we’re for school choice and vouchers, we should be for this.
Obviously, that’s never going to happen – we as a society can’t even agree on whether or not people should have universal access to quality health care without the fear of going bankrupt. Michelle Obama wrote,
There’s been a war on women going on for centuries. It’s still a big part of our society. I don’t think Mitt or Ann Romney are this generation’s catalysts for changing that shameful problem.
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