Why should women vote for a party that’s actively working against their needs and interests?
On Monday, the GOP released a report detailing its “Growth and Opportunity Project,” a new initiative that explores reasons for the party’s November defeat and posits strategies for winning future elections. If it wasn’t evident before, it is now abundantly clear that the Republican establishment officially attributes its November loss to a failure in style, not substance. The 100-page report details the party’s inability to effectively communicate its policies and priorities to women, immigrants, young people, and people of color. It largely ignores the possibility that what motivated the majority of American voters, and in particular women, to give President Obama a second term was an aversion to the GOP’s outdated vision for the nation.
Acknowledging that Obama won the single women’s vote by a “whopping 36 percent,” the report’s authors suggest ways the party can be more inclusive of this critical voting bloc: Making a better effort to listen to female voters; fighting against the Democratic rhetoric against the “so-called War on Women”; doing a better job communicating the GOP’s policies and employing female spokespeople to do it; and using Women’s History Month to “remind voters of the Republican’s Party historical role in advancing the women’s rights movement.”
I’m glad they specified “historical” role in advancing the women’s rights movement, given that their current role seems squarely focused on rolling back women’s rights. It’s encouraging that GOP strategists in Washington want to spend more time listening to women voters, but there is no indication that Republican lawmakers will respond to that feedback. As Rachel Maddow said on her program this week, while Beltway leaders are “preaching about how to appear more reasonable to the womenfolk among us,” Republican governance has become a competition – a race – “to see who can get the most extreme the fastest.”
And a race it is.
This week Andrew Jenkins of RH Reality Check reported on some of the most recent Republican efforts to chip away at women’s access to care:
Arkansas just passed a bill banning abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy, while South Dakota just passed a bill to expand its 72-hour waiting period, which was already one of the longest in the country, in a state with only one abortion clinic. The North Dakota Senate just approved a ban on abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, the most restrictive in the country. And in Kansas, a state House committee just passed a 70-page bill that defines life at fertilization and requires that physicians lie to their patients.
That’s not all.
Republicans in Texas remain hard at work leading national efforts in steamrolling access to women’s health care. Previous budget cuts and funding restrictions have already closed more than 50 clinics and are making it more difficult, if not impossible, for nearly 200,000 women to access care. Last week the Texas Senate Education Committee moved a bill forward that would ban Planned Parenthood and other organizations from providing sexuality education in schools, and the governor recently promised to advance a 20-week abortion ban.
In Wisconsin, four Planned Parenthood clinics closed as a result of a GOP-led ban that prevents the organization and other clinics from receiving state funds. In Oklahoma, a major Planned Parenthood facility closed after the state’s department of health cut off funding through the WIC program, forcing low-income women to go elsewhere to obtain vouchers for themselves and their children. Last month, Republicans in Michigan introduced a bill that would require women to get a vaginal ultrasound at least two hours before obtaining an abortion.
Mississippi is about to close its only abortion clinic thanks to a requirement that abortion doctors have admitting privileges at a local hospital (and local hospitals’ refusal to grant those privileges) – a move the Republican governor has applauded as being the first step in ending abortion in that state. Earlier this year, a Republican (female!) representative in New Mexico proposed legislation that would have allowed for women who terminated pregnancies resulting from rape to be charged with a felony for tampering with evidence. (She promptly rescinded and then proposed a new bill that would instead charge abortion providers with facilitating the destruction of evidence.)
The new GOP report also suggested that Republicans “talk about people and families, not just numbers and statistics.” In releasing his 2014 budget proposal last week, Paul Ryan certainly provided an interesting perspective into how the GOP proposes taking care of women and families. According to the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), the Ryan budget includes significant reductions for “childcare and Head Start, K-12 education and Pell grants, job training, civil rights enforcement, women’s preventive health care, domestic violence prevention and more.” It would dismantle Medicaid, Medicare, and the food stamp program. It would repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), denying nearly 15 million women access to affordable health insurance and Medicaid and forcing women to pay more for prescription drugs, including family planning. As NWLC pointed out, repealing the ACA would “allow insurance companies to continue charging women higher premiums than men, deny coverage to women with so-called pre-existing conditions like domestic violence, and refuse to cover maternity care.”
The ACA is certainly providing fertile ground for GOP lawmakers to show how much they care about women. Twenty states now restrict abortion coverage in health insurance plans that will be offered through the insurance exchanges, and 18 states restrict abortion coverage in insurance plans for public employees. Nearly all of those states are Republican-led. Additionally, 14 Republican governors have reported they will not participate in the Medicaid expansion programs that are a critical part of the ACA, denying access to a broad range of health services to millions of women.
On top of all this, 22 Republican senators and 138 Republican members of the House voted last month against the Violence Against Women Act, a critical piece of legislation that provides assistance to victims of domestic and sexual violence.
In their report, the GOP strategists recommended developing training programs in messaging, communications, and recruiting that address the best ways to communicate with women. “Our candidates, spokespeople and staff need to use language that addresses concerns that are on women’s minds in order to let them know we are fighting for them,” they state. Given the above-mentioned pieces of legislation, the GOP will be hard-pressed to convince women the party is fighting for them. It’s patronizing to think that using different language, new messaging, and female spokespersons will convince women to support a party that is so clearly working against their best interests. Women are smart enough to know that a party that calls itself home to lawmakers relentlessly fighting to chip away at family planning and abortion access, food stamps, affordable health care, education, civil rights, and a social safety net providing tenuous stability to millions of marginalized individuals is not a party committed to truly understanding or addressing their priorities.
Maybe next year the GOP will make a more earnest attempt at celebrating Women’s History Month. Although, by that time, their state leaders might have alienated half the women in the country, and it will be too late.
By: Andrea Flynn, Fellow, The Roosevelt Institute; The National Memo, March 20, 2013
Of all the feminist ideas that draw ire, one would think that “don’t rape” is a fairly noncontroversial statement. It seems not.
Last week, Zerlina Maxwell, political commentator and writer, went on Fox News’ Hannity to talk about the myth that gun ownership can prevent rape. Maxwell made the apt point that the onus should not be on women to have to arm themselves but on men not to rape them:
I don’t think that we should be telling women anything. I think we should be telling men not to rape women and start the conversation there…You’re talking about this as if it’s some faceless, nameless criminal, when a lot of times it’s someone you know and trust…If you train men not to grow up to become rapists, you prevent rape.
And with that, the floodgates of misogyny opened. Right-wing media outlets like TheBlaze oversimplified Maxwell’s comments, writing that her call to teach men not to rape was “bizarre.” Online, Maxwell started receiving racist and misogynist threats—including, ironically enough, threats of rape.
The reaction to Maxwell’s comments, while horrific, are not entirely surprising. Women who speak their mind—especially women of color—are often targets of harassment and threats. But what I find most telling is the incredulousness people are expressing over the notion that we teach men not to rape. Crazy talk!
Here’s the thing—when you argue that it’s impossible to teach men not to rape, you are saying that rape is natural for men. That this is just something men do. Well I’m sorry, but I think more highly of men than that. (And if you are a man who is making this argument, you’ll forgive me if I don’t ever want to be in a room alone with you.)
And when you insist that the only way to prevent rape is for women to change their behavior—whether it’s recommending that they carry a weapon or not wear certain kinds of clothing—you are not only giving out false information, you are arguing that misogyny is a given. That the world will continue to be a dangerous and unfair place for women and we should just get used to the fact. It’s a pessimistic and, frankly, lazy view on life. Because when you argue that this is “just the way things are,” what you are really saying is, I don’t care enough to do anything about it.
Do people making this argument really want to live in a world where we just shrug our shoulders at epidemic-levels of sexual violence and expect every woman to be armed? (And little girls, do we give them guns too?)
The truth is that focusing on ways women can prevent rape will always backfire. Not only because it’s ineffective—what a woman wears or what she drinks has nothing to do with whether or not she’ll be attacked—but because it creates a culture in which women are responsible for men’s actions. Because when you say there are things women can do to prevent someone from raping them—owning a gun, not walking in a certain neighborhood—you are ensuring that rape victims who don’t take these steps will be blamed.
Rape can be prevented by focusing on men and misogyny. All rapes, ever? No. But creating a world with less sexual violence starts with abandoning the awful idea that rape is an inevitable part of life. That’s not naivete—it’s hope and it’s action. And that’s better than complacency any day.
By: Jessica Valenti, The Nation, March 12, 2013
Sunday, March 3 will mark the 100-year anniversary of the Woman Suffrage March on Washington by brave women demanding the right to vote. The fight for women’s rights didn’t begin in 1913; in fact, the movement had over 50 years of history prior to this momentous event led by the National American Woman Suffrage Association.
Two prominent women in American history—Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton—were introduced by abolitionists William Lloyd Garrison and George Thompson in 1851 during an anti-slavery gathering in Seneca Falls, and from there they began their friendship and partnership. At the Seneca Falls Conference in 1848, Stanton wrote in The Declaration of Sentiments, “The history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward woman, having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over her. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world. He has never permitted her to exercise her inalienable right to the elective franchise. He has compelled her to submit to laws, in the formation of which she had no voice…”
In letters between Stanton and Anthony, Stanton described the challenges she faced in her personal life. Women’s suffrage weighed on these women; the political issue affected their everyday lives, and family and friends began opposing the movement. Nothing would stop them from moving ahead two decades to the founding of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, aimed at promoting amendments to the Constitution that would ultimately give women the right to vote.
On March 3, 1913, led by American suffragist activists Alice Paul and Lucy Burns, men and women from across the country met in Washington, D.C. to march down Pennsylvania Avenue in support of women’s rights. Taking place the day before President Wilson’s inauguration, this historic march and subsequent demonstrations across the country succeeded in bringing national publicity to the issue through protests and speeches, proving that women deserved an equal place in politics. But they faced angry opposition from a faction of Americans – mostly but not all male — who resisted social progress for women. What came of this opposition was an all-out war on feminism.
Women marching in the Washington parade were physically assaulted, spit on, hit, and heckled by spectators. Accounts detailed police ignoring edicts from Major Richard Sylvester, D.C.’s Chief of Police, who gave orders to protect those marching. Men who supported the movement were targeted as well. A report from Major General Anson Mills, who marched with some of his men, said in a New York Times article, “Crowds of hoodlums sneered at my division in the parade and made insulting remarks. The police made no effort to rebuke them. They were ruffians whom I had never seen before and who seemed to be strangers. I think they were Baltimore hoodlums. They charged us with being henpecked. They indicated their determination to send us home by breaking up the parade. The crowd was lolous [sic] and made vicious attempts to break up the ranks of the marchers, with practically no interference from the police.”
A separate article featured in the Times from March 4, 1913 details, “At times fighting its way, the suffrage procession passed through a narrow channel with walls of spectators on either side. They effect of the parade was spoiled, the marchers were greatly inconvenienced, and at times were subjected to insult and indignity. Many persons were injured. The leaders of the suffragists are very indignant, and their sentiments are shared by many members of Congress. Many men here who do not believe in the suffrage cause say that the treatment given to those who marched yesterday was an insult to American womanhood and a disgrace to the Capital City of the Nation.”
From groups who resisted the movement came unrelenting assaults on women’s femininity—painting them as either lesbians or unattractive, lonely women incapable of finding husbands. Such misogynist propaganda infiltrated the news, portraying suffragists completely unfairly. Opponents claimed that women should remain out of politics and find a man to speak for them, since allowing women into the political process would be detrimental to the state.
Despite the fear-mongering, proponents of woman’s suffrage were able to draw the attention of members of Congress, and with the support of President Wilson gained momentum. Susan B. Anthony would never see the result of her efforts, but the Nineteenth Amendment, drafted by her and Stanton, was finally ratified in 1920.
From Seneca Falls to the first National Women’s Rights Convention in Worcester, MA, to the founding of the National American Woman Suffrage Association by Anthony and Stanton, women’s rights have come a long way. Yet today women’s issues are still hotly debated—abortion, access to birth control, the Violence Against Women Act (which finally passed in the House on Thursday)—with profound implications for the future of women in the United States.
By: Allison Brito, The National Memo, February 28, 2013
What a surprise. Men are drowning out women in the public conversation, a new report from the Women’s Media Center tells us.
Actually, it is a surprise to learn just how bad it is, as if there never was a women’s movement launched by Betty Friedan’s classic, The Feminine Mystique, 50 years ago, which decried the quiet desperation of domestic suburbia.
Fifty years ago is long enough for a cultural forgetfulness to fall over us and long enough for a hostile camp of enemies to make their living mocking women’s empowerment—and yes, I mean you, Rush Limbaugh, most of all. You are the self-appointed keeper of the patriarchy’s keys. The medieval archbishops of the Catholic Church are vigilant in the war on women. The mean-spirited men of the Supreme Court can be counted on, too, ready to usurp our human rights if the “right” opportunity presents itself. Meanwhile, Michelle Obama has new bangs.
In other words, ladies, things are not getting better for us in the 21st century. The recession has been rough on everyone, but especially for our place in the workplace world. As a journalist, let me share some numbers that show you how the conversational monopoly works. In the 2012 presidential campaign, male bylines outnumbered female bylines by nearly three to one, according to he Women’s Media Center. Newspaper decision-makers are usually male in these tight times, as are the subjects of most front-page stories, even obituaries. Then the echo chamber takes effect, because men are far more likely to be quoted than their female colleagues in public discussions—especially on politics.
The Sunday talk shows, the power listening posts of the Washington establishment, predominantly invite men as their guests. But here’s the thing: only 14 percent of the interviewed guests and 29 percent of the roundtable guests are women, according to the report. The hosts conducting the dialogue are predominantly male. Avuncular, authoritative Bob Schieffer of Face the Nation is by far the best of ‘em.
Women protested this state of affairs at the ballot box last fall. Twenty women senators are now serving, more than ever before. Is this a critical mass that will change the conversation, or the conversationalists? Let’s see.
I remember being in a panel cable interview after the State of the Union with two good guys—Howard Fineman and Steve Roberts. I had something sparkling to say but even I was drowned out by these older silver-tongued pros, who later apologized for being “the two biggest airhogs in Washington.” It’s a salty slice of memory. Men are just used to talking over women, just as boys talk over girls, like breathing. It happens all the time in Washington. What made Hillary Clinton’s verbal victory over her attacking jousters in her valedictory Senate hearing so extraordinary was because it was, well, extraordinary in this talkative town. She lifted morale all over for Washington women.
To our rescue comes Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook, who is lighting a match to start a “Lean In” movement. More on that another day as it gets underway. Consider the Oscars: Daniel Day-Lewis was honored for playing the greatest president and humanitarian in our history while Jennifer Lawrence won for playing a wifely female stereotype. As I listened to two male critics from the New York Times website comment on every single Academy scene in the show, it felt relentlessly normal. We are such good listeners.
The status of women is stuck in a lull, like a sailboat on a lake with no wind. And we are the ones who have to start speaking our views and telling our stories—to borrow from radical abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison—so that we will be heard.
By: Jamie Stiehm, U. S. News and World Report, February 25, 2013
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, accompanied by fellow House Democrats, discusses the reintroduction of the Violence Against Women Act.
Of all the strange choices made by the GOP in recent years, the sudden opposition to the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is among the most confusing. The act had long counted on bipartisan support for its reauthorization—George W. Bush signed it without incident in 2005—but now Republicans in the House seem intent on killing it. Republicans haven’t suddenly morphed into evil comic-book villains who openly support rape and wife-beating, so what gives?
Obviously, Republicans don’t want voters to think they have it in for victims of gender-based violence. But the objections being offered by VAWA opponents are inconsistent or nonsensical. Some say the law represents an unconstitutional overreach and takes away state and local jurisdiction over domestic violence; in fact, the act provides federal support to local law enforcement, but leaves prosecuting these crimes to local authorities. Others take issue with small provisions in the new bill extending coverage to LGBT victims, and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has been holding the bill up in the House because he objects to a provision that would allow Native American tribal authorities to use their own justice system to prosecute non-Native men who rape or beat Native women on tribal lands.
To get at what’s really going on, one has to look past the empty rhetoric of politicians to the various groups lobbying Republicans to kill the bill. These groups don’t care about jurisdiction or even the issue of LGBT victims. Rather, the right-wing Christian groups leading the charge against VAWA believe it is a piece of radical feminist legislation aimed at undermining patriarchal authority in the home.
As she did in the fight against the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in the 1970s, Phyllis Schlafly, an activist of the Christian right who rose to prominence as an anti-feminist leader in the 1970s, is leading the charge to kill VAWA. She claims the law is not about stopping violence so much as “promoting divorce, breakup of marriage and hatred of men.” She employs the same strategy as she did in the fight against the ERA—lying—to support her arguments, claiming that under VAWA, men can be jailed without trial. She also said that men can be jailed merely for yelling at a woman and that the bill doesn’t offer help to male victims of violence—both outright lies. She also objects to laws that make it easier for prosecutors to proceed in cases where victims retract, even though research shows that guilty men persuade victims to retract in a substantial number of domestic-violence claims.
Other conservative lobbying groups have picked up the charge. As reported at Talking Points Memo, FreedomWorks, the super PAC led by Republican and former House Majority Leader Dick Armey until recently, echoed Schlafly’s claims adding that “supporters of the VAWA portray women as helpless victims—this is the kind of attitude that is setting women back.” The implication: Simply refusing to call raped or battered people “victims” makes the whole problem go away.
Meanwhile, the Independent Women’s Forum (IWF) denies that abusers’ desire to control and dominate their partners is the cause of domestic violence, instead blaming “substance abuse, emotional and psychological disorders and marital instability.” Concerned Women for America (CWA) concurs, claiming domestic violence is caused by “problems in relationships, psychological or social maladjustment, anger, alcoholism, and substance abuse.” The group claims, defensively, that only Islam’s teachings of male dominance contribute to violence, while Christianity’s similar teachings do not.
The IWF and CWA’s comments hint at the thinking among these groups about domestic violence. VAWA focuses almost exclusively on a specific strategy of preventing domestic violence: separating the victim from her abuser. Improving arrest and prosecution rates, establishing shelters and abuse hotlines, pushing for state provisions against stalking, and creating protections for immigrants all have the goal of getting victims out of abusive relationships and into safe situations. Separation-based policy is based on decades of law-enforcement and victim experience about what it takes to prevent future violent incidents.
But many conservative Christians believe that the priority should be reconciling couples in abusive relationships. The Christian right privileges keeping marriages together—even above protecting the women in them. Because of this, the belief that victims should try to reconcile with their abusers is common among conservative Christians. While they do not approve of domestic violence, many do believe that if women embrace wifely submission, they will “win” their husbands over and make them the kind of men who don’t hit women. Rick Warren’s teaching pastor Tom Holladay recently articulated this by characterizing divorce due to battering as “a short-term solution that’s going to involve long-term pain.”
Unfortunately for the right, the facts simply aren’t on their side. Domestic-violence activists have instituted over 2,500 batterer intervention programs with hopes that batterers did have mental-health issues that could be fixed. Disappointingly, activists found very little reason to think these programs work, though some groups have continued the hunt for effective batterer interventions. Futures Without Violence reports that what success has been had in reforming abusers comes from taking an approach diametrically opposed to the one offered by conservative organizations: “[B]attering does not arise from mental illness, anger, dysfunctional upbringings, or substance abuse. Rather, battering is viewed as learned behavior that is primarily motivated by a desire, whether conscious or unconscious, by the abuser to control the victim.”
The question about the sudden opposition to VAWA is: Why now? It’s likely for the same reasons the Republicans have doubled down generally on the war on women, turning up the volume on attacks on abortion, contraception, and equal-pay legislation: A combination of the influx of hard right politicians in recents elections tipping the party further to the right and over-the-top outrage at the very existence of Obama that encourages mindless obstructionism of any Democratic legislation. The conservative base has grown more vocal in its demands that Republicans demonstrate fealty to the hard right cause, and voting against VAWA has, sadly, become an excellent way for politicians to demonstrate their conservative bona fides.
By: Amanda Marcotte, The American Prospect, February 19, 2013