While protecting Big Oil and billionaires, right-wingers brazenly push cuts to programs – many life-saving – that largely affect women: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, nutrition programs for women and children (WIC), and prenatal care. A woman’s right to choose is under intense attack with Planned Parenthood and Title X on the chopping block, despite providing low income women with birth control, cancer screenings, and tests for STDs, including H.I.V. And then there’s Rep. Joe Pitts’ proposed bill allowing hospitals to refuse to terminate pregnancy even to save a woman’s life. All famously reported in a New York Times piece entitled “The War on Women.” Nothing’s gotten any better since.
Why attack women?
Balancing the federal budget on the backs of the middle-class and poor (where so many women reside) so that wealthy interests and campaign contributions may thrive seems like a good deal to many politicians.
But why the laser-like focus on limiting women’s reproductive rights? Not a lot of money in that. But it’s a vote getter. Still, why is this stance so appealing?
Karen McCarthy Brown, Professor of Anthropology of Religion at Drew University, suggests that limiting women’s reproductive rights creates a sense of stability and empowerment for many. In command of the bodies of women, the power of the flesh, and life, itself, it’s a big deal. Plus, those who value order and stability benefit by “understanding” that men are men and women are women, each in separate spheres, and each knowing their place. So the world becomes simpler and more manageable in black and white. It can all be a huge psychological relief to those doing the controlling and for those who feel the world is under control.
Pretty sad that some coerce others to gain this relief. Surely there’s a better way.
Relatedly, on an interpersonal plane, men who seek to feel empowered by dominating their partners sometimes destroy contraception, hoping their wives or girlfriends will feel more trapped and dependent by the need to care for children.
And then there are your political tyrants. Steven Conn, Associate Professor of History at Ohio State, tells us that in the 20th century the most despicable regimes were fixated on controlling women’s reproductive lives. Outlawing abortion and closing family planning centers were among the Nazis’ first moves. Eventually abortion became a capital offense. Stalin outlawed abortion in 1936. Romanian tyrant Nicolae Ceausescu banned contraception in 1966. By 1986 miscarriage became a matter of criminal investigation. China still coerces women into abortion and sterilization. Interesting that Conn observes:
The day after the evil Ceausescu had been executed, the National Salvation Front issued two decrees; it lifted the ban on the private ownership of typewriters, and it repealed the laws that policed pregnant women.
The eerily similar workings of right-wing extremists lend an ironic twist to their claim of being all about freedom through free markets. Women must be controlled, but markets must be free?
But what’s a little nonsensical hypocrisy among right-wing despots?
This post is part of a web carnival promoted by a coalition of women’s organizations to discuss the current attacks on historic gains for women and mobilize women voters in 2012. See the Twitter hashtag #HERvotes.