American Theocracy Devalues, Controls Women

Stop the war on women!

The disturbing Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu April 26) hinges on misogyny and controlling women and their bodies.

The main events of the tale have actually happened at some point in history, as I have written about before.

Unfortunately, the story also reflects our current political moment.

Plot highlights:

Religious fundamentalists stage a coup and establish a theocracy called Gilead — a patriarchal theocracy that forces women out of the public sphere and into their homes. Some of these women were once strident antifeminists in the pre-Gilead United States. They have more power than most women, yet have very few rights and face everyday humiliations. They were hypocritical then and they are hypocritical now — disobeying as many of their new restrictions as they can (their one good attribute).

Since environmental degradation has left most people infertile, “handmaids” are forced to mate with powerful men. They aren’t seen as people so much as vessels. So handmaids are “re-educated” to feel worthless, and always at fault. “Aunts” use tasers to make the handmaids condemn each other. Even if they are raped, its “her” fault. 

Unfortunately, some of this rings true today:

Women’s health and lives don’t matter

The women of Gilead were made to feel like they didn’t matter.

Republicans today can make us feel the same way. Like eliminating insurance coverage that women need:

  • No mammograms
  • No prenatal care
  • No maternity care

Republicans constantly fight to defund Planned Parenthood, which provides care to 1 in 5 American women. I used their services right out of college for basic healthcare when I had no insurance.

But defund it! Even though no federal money goes to abortion.

So many women can expect:

  • No mammograms
  • No cervical cancer screenings
  • No care for sexually transmitted infections
  • No birth control — and more abortions

Other PP services vary from place to place but some clinics include:

  • anemia testing
  • cholesterol screening
  • diabetes screening
  • physical exams, including for employment and sports
  • flu vaccines
  • help with quitting smoking
  • high blood pressure screening
  • tetanus vaccines
  • thyroid screening

In early April Trump signed legislation to cut federal funding to Planned Parenthood. Now states and local governments can withhold funding for breast and cervical cancer screening, pregnancy care (pro-life?!), fertility, contraception, and STIs — even if clinics DO NOT also perform abortions.

Anti-life. Anti-woman.

Republicans PURPOSELY say: women don’t matter

Men against women’s healthcare.

When Republicans proposed defunding women’s healthcare a photo went viral which revealed the bill’s proponents to be all white men.

Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) quipped,

I wouldn’t want to lose my mammograms! (ha ha)

And White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, “explained,”

Well, I think if you’re an older man, you can generally say you’re not going to need maternity care.

Oddly, images of Republican men cutting women’s rights may be purposeful.

These sorts of images pop up so many times that Jill Filipovic at the New York Times suspects a deliberate push to disempower women with the aim of male privilege and male entitlement:

If women can’t decide for themselves when and if to have children and are instead at the mercy of men and nature, there will simply never be 50 percent of us at that table, or in any halls of power. Republican men know this as well as women do.

Apparently women and our lives are trivial. And a laughing matter.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on April 24, 2017, in politics/class inequality, reproductive rights, sexism and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 27 Comments.

  1. Cristiana palmieri

    Honestly, I was furious to learn that Republicans were talking about women’s healthcare in a destructive and sarcastic way. The fact that in politics it is necessary to talk about women’s health is a sign that we are a gender that “needs” control; apparently, as human beings, women cannot have a choice on how to protect their own body. Under what logical reasoning men or politics need to limit women’s right to their health? Women have different bodies and biological processes than men and at the same time both, men and women are subject to the same health hazards (excluding pregnancy); however, they have different health status. Perhaps, the answer can be searched in the past. Historically women’s bodies functions (example menstruation) were considered defective or to be ashamed of. Over time, this aspect has been medicalized, but still, men dominated the medical field; they built a powerful image as expert and policy maker on women’s health and consequently their right to control women’s bodies. The publication in 1971 of Our Bodies, Ourselves prompted to the women’s health movement to empower women through self-knowledge, to have the rights to decide what to do with their own body, and to create a supportive network. With the much discussed and contested health care plan Affordable Care Act, passed in 2012, women finally saw a much-needed parity, which include extended coverage for maternity care, preventive care, domestic violence screening, and contraception. After centuries of inequality and discrimination, women were gaining the rights to access to a more egalitarian healthcare, and now, we are going back into time, when men were in control and women were not considered independent and self-determined human beings. The series “The disturbing Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu April 26) hinges on misogyny and controlling women and their bodies” is a disturbing blurred image of what is going on in the US. Women are considered “hosts,” how discriminating is this comment? The US boasts a great sense of democracy while criticizing other countries for their extremism on social and religious views, which is very hypocritical considering that the government is on the same direction. The government should look after its citizens and not to impose its power based on ancestral sexism and discrimination behavior; politics should be superior, but I guess I am asking too much for a group of men whose age reflects the value of their childhood when discrimination was intermingled into any societal aspects and slavery was not that distance occurrence. Women must keep fighting.

    • “Under what logical reasoning men or politics need to limit women’s right to their health?”

      Why do you say health is a “right”?

      If somebody could be cured of some disease, but it was going to cost a hundred million dollars and your taxes would have to double to fund it, would you say yeah sure, go for it?

  2. Regarding the defunding and the picture, it strikes me how “everything’s connected”: not only are the social issues like sexism (and islamophobia, and all the others) wrong in themselves, but all the other policies of destroying anything that increases wellbeing and protections in turn increase everyone’s pain and makes people even more selfish, and stoke the flames of sexism and all the other -isms, and again in turn polarize everyone and give the defunders more power. What happens to women should matter to everyone because of principle, and also because what affects some of us truly affects everyone else.

    It’s ironically appropriate to take actions to effectively increase STIs.

    If the point of accumulating power (and controlling, and dominating, and hurting) is having people kiss up to you, it’s because we humans are deeply connected with other humans and that’s why people care what others think of them. How is it not self-defeating to work on increasing your deplorability? This kind of policies and shameful displays degrade us all.

  3. As usual, another excellent, thought provoking post. I reblogged and sharing.

    Seems that we have made a 180° turn and rushing headlong toward the early 20th century, if not much earlier. Xenophobia and misogyny are fast on the rise. It’s astonishing that so many are cheering it on.

  4. Reblogged this on The Benevolent Thou and commented:
    Some of us, especially women, have the feeling that our nation, in terms of both economic and social justice has taken a 180° turn and is careening headlong into the past.

    Take a read and decide for yourselves. Is this what we want for women in our society?

  5. Is the US turning theocratic? The Handmaid’s Tale is obviously figment of a weird imagination, and copies of such fiction must be junked to toilet bins. Let folks stop worrying themselves sick over Brexit and Trump as both these are temporary aberrations. The new star of liberalism blazing on the horizon is Emmanuel Macron, the candidate making waves in French presidential election. So move over Trump and Brexit as Angela Merkel will have just the right reinforcement in the form of Macron, and together they will lead the way of a resurgent EU and, hopefully, rest of the world.

    • I wish it were the figment of a weird imagination.

      Everything in this story has already happened some point in history:Haunting Handmaid’s Tale Actually Happened

      In the story women’s rights are removed gradually. And that’s what the religious right has been trying to do both in the Trump administration and earlier.

      So as I mentioned, They are gradually taking healthcare away from women in the United States and worldwide.

      And if you make it impossible for women to control their reproductive rights you disempower them. Abuse of boyfriends sometimes destroy their partner’s birth control for that very reason — to make them dependent.

      And then male Republicans brag about it — circulating pictures of a bunch of men taking away women’s rights — as if to bolster their popularity with sexist men.

      I was looking through some old Encyclopaedia Britannica’s while cleaning out my moms house. I was shocked to see how women lived in Afghanistan in the 1960s. Many women were doctors and had other types of professions. And they were able to show their faces and not be entirely covered up. What they’re living today looks very much like the Handmaids Tale. It’s not like it can’t happen.

  6. If we Republicans are so God awful, then how is it that we continue to win?

    In most states we even get the majority of women voters.

    Perhaps the world is NOT as your see it.

    • First I will say that not all Republicans are god-awful. But all of the legislation that harms women — their health, and their opportunities — are Republican legislation.

      Here are a few reasons why Republicans constantly win.

      1) Moneyed interests know that Republicans serve the interests of the elite over everyone else (as Trump’s primary campaign pointed out), and give their biggest campaign contributions to Republicans. Most Americans are too busy or bored with politics to pay attention. But Republicans get the best publicity you can pay for.

      2) When they win they gerrymander so that they keep winning

      3) They divide and conquer the working class by using sexism and racism: “The Democrats are helping women and lazy minorities — not YOU!”

      I meet with members of Congress and know that Democrats actually helped the working class much more than Republicans. Democrats always support things like the Earned Income Tax Credit which ensures that no one who was working for a living is living in poverty, and low interest student loans and pell grants that help people move up the ladder, in childcare that helps mothers to work…

    • The Republicans won only because of the odd process we call the electoral college. Everywhere else they count one person, one vote. Under that system Trump would have lost.

  7. I am a women that is dependent on Planned Parenthood and I don’t think men should have the right to tell me what to do with my body. Especially if defunding Planned Parenthood does not effect them at all. Not only does it give a women access to birth control, mammograms, and cervical cancer screenings, it also gives women access to basic healthcare. For many women, Planned Parenthood is the only place where they get quality care that they need. Defunding Planned Parenthood take away those important necessities from women and it can lead to unwanted pregnancies and STD outbreaks. Planned Parenthood is essential to achieving equality for all. The war on woman must stop.

    • so-called “pro-lifers” who are actually pro-death where women are concerned.

    • “… can lead to unwanted pregnancies and STD outbreaks.”

      There is a way you can avoid these…how about engagingly in responsible behavior?

      As a man and taxpayer, I am not trying to control anything you do. However, I should NOT be forced to pay for your irresponsible conduct just because you are a woman.

      Imagine if the tables were turned and women were forced to pay for male irresponsible behavior…women and feminist would be howling like wolves.

      Btw, if you are dependent on Planned Parenthood to avoid unwanted pregnancies and STDs, then you seriously need help in other areas of your life. A box of condoms would substantially mitigate these two occurrences.

      • Like Rin, I have used Planned Parenthood as a student without other means of health insurance. And I didn’t even use it for birth control — just basic checkups. But I also have a married friend who is also a student and she does use Planned Parenthood for birth control. Is any of that irresponsible behavior?

        Meanwhile, guys are free from the consequences of their irresponsible behavior.

        And using birth control is not irresponsible behavior.

  8. I just finished reading The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell about the Puritans and the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Provides a 17th century example of the same sort of attitudes toward women that you are talking about. Of course, these god-fearing folks also devalued Native Americans and anybody who didn’t subscribe to same sort of narrow-minded theological interpretation that they did. Sound familiar?

    • Sounds familiar. Racism and sexism tend to go together. People who feel some need to feel superior. Probably grounded in insecurity.

    • “Of course, these god-fearing folks also devalued Native Americans and anybody who didn’t subscribe to same sort of narrow-minded theological interpretation that they did. Sound familiar?”

      Yes Ken it sounds very familiar. It sounds like the regressive Left of today! Anyone who deigns to deviate from their narrow-minded interpretation of reality is labeled a racist or misogynist.

      So yes, it sounds very familiar.

  9. I believe you may be misunderstanding positions on health care insurance and right to life as positions anti-women.

    I think it is unlikely a presidential candidate who had Kellyanne Conway as his campaign manager would be anti-women.

    But if it is any consolation, our next President will be a woman. I’m looking forward to a woman President. Ivanka will make a great President 🙂

    • Not caring about women enough to keep them from suffering and dying is anti-woman, and anti-life.

      To quote a column from Nicholas Kristof, regarding cuts to women’s health ordered by Trump and Republicans:

      When women and girls don’t have access to family planning and reproductive health care, they’re more likely to suffer pelvic organ prolapses, in which the bladder, uterus or bowel may protrude from the vagina. Or they suffer a fistula, a childbirth injury that leaves them leaking urine or feces, stinking and ostracized, and sometimes unable to walk. Women with prolapses or fistulas sit in their huts, humiliated, wondering if they are cursed, waiting to die.

      In a room here in the Haitian capital, women with cervical and breast cancer wait for nurses to examine their ulcerated bodies. Beyond their almost unbearable physical pain is their mortification that they smell of rotting flesh, and in some cases incontinence.

      I’m wondering how men would like to be treated this way?

      Trump does a lot of symbolism to try to make it look like his policies don’t harm women, whether it’s putting Kellyanne in a room that is cutting health care to women or putting his daughter in charge of it – along with crazy Steve Miller. These women are just selfishly trying to gain personal power in the face of other women being deeply harmed.

      Despite any influence Ivanks might have her dad has already done much damage to women’s rights and health. In the United States and in other parts of the world many women will no longer get basic healthcare, or birth control or safe abortions. Meaning that many women will die.

  10. In the UK an anti-feminist Tory MP, Philip Davies, was elected to Parliament’s women and equalities committee.

    This is the man who said that more women should be sent to prison in order to make them equal with men.

    • Grrrr… sexism and racism are both gaining ground in global backlash lately. If you are a woman or an ethnic minority things are looking scarier these days. 😞

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