Must be nice growing up female in France
Along the left-hand side is a handy chart published with the article The Republican Rape Advisory Chart (AlterNet). It features some of the most stupefying and misogynistic things that politicians have said about rape in the last year or so. We will return to it soon, but let it provide contrast to the French social policies detailed in the article French teens to get the Pill for free (France 24).
The main point is as follows:
“French teenagers aged 15 to 18 will have their contraceptive pills reimbursed 100 percent by the state from the beginning of 2013, Health Minister Marisol Touraine announced on Tuesday. […] French Minister for Women’s Rights Najat Vallaud-Belkacem added that the teenagers’ anonymity would be “guaranteed” under the new rules.”
I can imagine half of America shuddering at the thought of any of this:
- Putting a woman in a position to decide on women’s health issues
- Two women! Madness!
- Even creating the position of Minister for Women’s Rights
- Anonymity rather than slut-shaming? Are you trying to make Jesus cry?
- A state health insurance system that reimburses people
- A state health insurance system that covers contraceptives for women
- A state health insurance system that covers contraceptives at all
- A state health insurance system at all
Don’t you ever feel like America got gypped when it came to handing out governments? While one Republican after another redefines rape and takes aim at abortion, planned parenthood and public health care, the French have a Minister of Women’s Rights who says:
“Providing free contraception is just as important for these teenagers as getting good sex education at school”
Instead, the U.S. gets troglodytes like Treasurer of Indiana Dick Mourdock, wanna-be Senator Akin whose clearly rational and science-based world-view is exactly what they’re looking for on the Committee on Science, Space and Technology where he’s currently serving. Hell, even Libertarian darling Ron Paul—who’s a doctor—feels the need to help women distinguish between kinds of rape. A Wisconsin state representative who garnered Paul Ryan’s endorsement (and didn’t lose it after his statement) was heard to say that “Some girls rape easy.” He went on to clarify that some girls change their minds so easily, turning a fun night into a rape when they regret what they’ve done. You know how some girls are.
With so many politicians volunteering their wisdom in national television interviews, Jon Stewart weighed in with the following segment:
In it, he addressed the Romney campaign’s continued support of Mourdock, despite his utterly reprehensible views:
“Not often do you hear someone say: …you know, I disagree with your views on rape and incest, but, um, … it’s not a deal-breaker.”
The Republicans as well as the Romney campaign are right to be somewhat surprised that this is such a big issue. Romney’s running neck-and-neck with Obama in the latest public-opinion polls and it’s not like he hasn’t been quite up-front about his positions—as has his running mate Paul Ryan, who’s even more extreme and uncompromising. The Republican Party just published their platform at their convention several weeks back and they were quite explicit there as well. No room for misinterpretation: the misogyny is intentional and baked right in.
Jon Stewart explains:
“I mean, where does Mourdock get his crazy, fringe ideas about rape and abortion anyway? I don’t know, maybe from Mitt Romney’s running mate, Paul Ryan, who co-sponsored a Sanctity of Human Life Act so severe it not only could outlaw all abortions, it also could effectively ban in-vitro fertilization. Or from the platform of the Republican Party, which states that the ‘unborn child has a fundamental right to life’ and calls for a ‘human-life amendment to the Constitution’. Nothing in there about rape, incest, life of the mother or … feelings of swing voters. In other words, according to the Republican Party platform—and the man who wants to be a heartbeat away from the presidency: if a woman wants to have a baby [by] in-vitro fertilization, she cannot; rape? she has to. (Emphasis added.)”
The segments ends with a shorter version of this credo: “In-vitro? Can’t. Rape? Must.” It would fit on a T-Shirt—a stocking-stuffer for the more extreme members of your family.
On the same evening, Stephan Colbert interviewed Mitch Daniels of the Republican Party and current governor of Indiana.
Daniels started off by stating—seemingly without irony—that “[t]the point, Stephen, is that democracy only works if people are allowed to make their own decisions […] It’s more consistent with human dignity to give people the opportunity to make choices for themselves”. This is a lovely sentiment that I stand behind 100%. Mitch Daniels, however, as a Republican, cannot. Because he doesn’t believe that a woman should be able to make her own choices. He believes that a blastocyst has more rights than a full-grown woman. When he says “people”, he likely means “people who matter” and would probably filter them into two groups remarkably reminiscent of those created by the founding fathers of America (white, mail, landed gentry in the “people” pile—and everyone else in the other).
The interview continues:
“Stephen: Now we had a surplus, uh, when Bill Clinton left office. And you were George W. Bush’s director of management of Management and Budget. Who came in and chloroformed you and stole all the money?
“Mitch Daniels: The answer is, that the dot-com bubble broke and the money that people thought was coming did not show up.”
I include this quote not because it is relevant to the discussion of women and women’s rights but because it illustrates the utter hypocrisy—at best, a massive cognitive dissonance—that affects all politicians, but more grossly and obviously Republican ones. The excuse that Daniels gives is 100% acceptable in the Republican sphere—remember that Republicans desperately wanted Daniels to run for president at the start of the year—but the same exact excuse is utterly rejected when used by Obama. The bursting of the housing bubble in 2008 makes the dot-com bubble crash of 2000 look like peanuts in comparison but, because Obama is not Republican, the increased deficits on his watch are the result of his socialist agenda whereas those on Bush’s watch were the unavoidable consequence of a beleaguered Republican president cleaning up Clinton’s mess.
After this opening salvo on deficits and debt, Stephen honed in on the issue of abortion and rape:
“Stephen: [p]eople have their own feelings about abortion and I’ve been very clear how I feel about it on this show.
Mitch Daniels: Listen and I guess I would say this, and I say it in my book incidentally, that this is a question—and there are others—on which people have very sincere—on both sides—and deep personal views. And … we’re not going to agree about them. And, um, frankly, I don’t think anything’s going to change in any direction fairly soon.
Stephen: I agree with you. Abortion is a very divisive issue. People aren’t going to agree on it. Rape we’ve generally agreed on in the past. Rape has not been a divisive issue. (Emphasis added.)”
Daniels waffles hard on the question, trying desperately to defend the Republican platform without getting any of it on him. He does not succeed because his interviewer is not a soft-balling patsy from the mainstream media but Stephen Colbert, who is a master of pretending to agree with you while eviscerating your position. How can Daniels have so little principle as to find himself defending rape because he wants so badly to outlaw abortion? Does he really not lend any credence to the power of reductio ad absurdum? Or is there nothing too absurd for a Republican to believe?
If you haven’t gotten enough of Republican misogyny, there’s the article How the GOP’s Real Agenda Is Revealed in Their Nasty Rape Comments by Jill Filipovic (AlterNet), which digs beneath the superficiality of support for a “right to life”. During the debates, Obama accused Romney of having a social policy from the fifties. This probably sounded harsh to Romney supporters, but in their hearts they know it’s true. It’s what they’re voting for. Barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen. With their fool mouths shut. Opposing abortion is just one facet of a more general approach to dealing with women.
“Mainstream GOP leaders, including Mitt Romney, campaign with conservative activists who lament the fact that women today no longer fully submit to the authority of their husbands and fathers, mourn a better time when you could legally beat your wife […]. Senate Republicans, including Republican vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan and “legitimate rape” Todd Akin, blocked the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.”
Other than smacking around, what are women good for? Well, that’s why abortion has to be illegal: they’re still the only way we have of making babies.
“Underlying the Republican rape comments and actual Republican political goals are a few fundamental convictions: first, women are vessels for childbearing and care-taking; second, women cannot be trusted; and third, women are the property of men.”
Does this all sound extreme? Sure. Are these arguments hyperbolic? Perhaps. But honestly, the weight of evidence—cheerfully and voluntarily provided by Republicans themselves—supports the hypothesis that they consider women to be second-class citizens and want to anchor this concept more firmly in law. The burden of proof is on these Republicans to disprove it by finally distancing themselves from their stone-age principles.