© Josh Sager – June 2012
In politics, we often see competing political parties attempt to label the actions or beliefs of the other in a negative or unpopular light. In many cases, these attempts at labeling the opposition are false and little more than shallow political posturing—unfortunately, the GOP’s “war on women” is not one such fictional situation.
Nobody—not even most Republicans—is able to deny that the Republican Party is home to many politicians who have a serious problem with women. In the past election cycle alone, numerous right wing politicians made extremely controversial statements about women that illustrated the systemic problem of misogyny in the GOP. For example, here are a few of the worse anti-woman comments:
- Todd Akin, explaining why he thinks that abortion laws shouldn’t have rape exceptions – Interview, 2012: “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
- Michelle Bachmann, explaining how her husband ordered her to go into tax law and why she agreed – Political Speech, 2006: “My husband said, ‘Now you need to go and get a post-doctorate degree in tax law,’” Bachmann said: “Tax law! I hate taxes. Why should I go and do something like that? But the Lord says, ‘Be submissive, wives, you are to be submissive to your husbands.’”
- Rick Santorum – CNN interview, 2012: “I’ve always, you know, I believe and I think the right approach is to accept this horribly created — in the sense of rape — but nevertheless a gift in a very broken way, the gift of human life, and accept what God has given to you.”
- Dana Loesch, justifying the forcible and unnecessary application of trans-vaginal probes on women seeking abortions (even rape victims) – CNN talk show, 2012: “They had no problem having similar to a trans-vaginal procedure when they engaged in the act that resulted in their pregnancy,”
Whenever GOP leadership are presented with this list of terrible and offensive comments (and it is much longer than just these few people’ quotes), they tend to deflect such accusations with a combination of two arguments:
First, they label the offensive politicians’ statements as “out of the mainstream for the party” and attempt to marginalize him as not representative of the true beliefs of the GOP.
Secondly, they will deny that the GOP has made any attacks on women in the area of actual policy (RNC Chairman Reince Priebus even compared the ‘war on women” to a fictional “war on caterpillars” and argued that the war on women is purely fabricated by the media).
In a way, the GOP leadership is actually a third correct in their assessment of the GOP’s war on women—while they are wrong in saying that the GOP’s attacks on women aren’t mainstream and asserting that the GOP hasn’t passed any anti-woman legislation, it is true that rhetoric does not make a war. Making offensive comments may indicate a serious lack of judgment and morals, as well as an un-qualification to hold public office, but, unless it is backed up by policy, it is just offensive hot air.
The true GOP war on women lies not in the horribly offensive quotes listed above, but in the massive state and federal campaigns to assault women’s rights, equality, and economic security. On every level of government, right wing politicians and activists have dedicated huge amounts of time to rolling back current protections on women and stopping the passage of new equality-protecting legislation.
The GOP Battling Against Pay Equality
In recent years, there have been several major attempts to increase pay equality between men on women. These attempts are very highly supported by the public, eminently fair, and have consistently been blocked by the right wing’s concerted obstruction of the attempts.
Currently, women only make $.77 for every dollar that men make, for the exact same occupation. When one considers lifetime earnings, this means that women are paid an average of $434,000 less than men who are doing the same work.
Most Americans can recognize that the pay gap is not only terribly unfair but a burden on households that rely on a woman to remain above water (ex. single-mother homes). While the numbers shift depending upon how the question is asked, support for the idea of gender-based pay equality regularly tops 80%.
Despite the high level of public support for gender-based pay equality, the Republicans have blocked in committee and filibustered every single attempt at addressing the problem. This reticence to support pay equality is either indicative of misogyny or simply a desire to let corporate entities exploit a demographic of workers without worrying about potential lawsuits.
When the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, was introduced in 2008, 250 Congressmen voted for the bill—only 3 of them were Republicans. Similarly, the GOP threatened a filibuster against the bill in the Senate and, of the 64 Senators to vote for the final bill, only five were Republicans.
The Paycheck Fairness Act—another bill aimed at addressing the systemic bias against women in the workplace—is currently being held up in the legislature because Republicans are united in opposing it. GOP legislators are simply unwilling to bring the bill up for a vote in the House and are currently filibustering the bill in the Senate—as Democrats cannot force their way through either impediment, the bill has simply stalled and will likely remain stalled until further notice.
It is entirely fair to look at the partisan voting records of the modern Republicans and to conclude that they are fighting against pay equality. In all recent legislative fights, Republicans have been on the side of stopping pay equality and have gone to extreme lengths to make sure that even minor steps towards equality are killed in the legislature—beyond simply voting against the bills, the GOP has been united in doing everything possible to stop votes from ever happening.
To further drive the point home that the GOP has no interest in pay equality, they haven’t even attempted to suggest their own pay equality bills as a fig-leaf for their obstruction (as they have done in budgeting and immigration fights).
If a party regularly unites behind voting against protections for women from pay discrimination, then what do we call their actions other than a battle in the war on women? Actions speak louder than words and the actions of the GOP in regard to pay equality are pretty easy to interpret.
Unfortunately, the GOP war on women is not restricted simply to a battle over pay equality, and the GOP is fighting a second, major, front on the issue of a woman’s right to control her own body.
The GOP’s War on Women’s Sexuality
Fully cataloguing the GOP’s war on women’s sexuality is simply impossible in the space that I have for this article. Over the last few years, the GOP has suggested hundreds of draconian anti-abortion, anti-contraception and anti-Planned Parenthood bills—these bills range from unnecessarily restrictive (ex. TRAP laws, passed in numerous states to zone abortion clinics out of existence), to truly disgusting (ex. VA attempting to mandate trans-vaginal ultrasounds).
When taken in totality, the GOP’s war on women’s sexuality can perfectly be symbolized by Daryl Issa’s Panel on contraception. In 2012, Issa convened an investigative panel on women’s health and staffed it with a variety of religious and ideological leaders, but refused to allow any women to speak. Even when Democrats suggested several qualified women, they were rebuffed by Issa under the justification that they lacked the necessary credentials to be relevant.
What the GOP wants for women’s health in general is just that: a bunch of religious, older men getting together and deciding what women will be allowed to do with their bodies and denying women any input on the situation.
There are simply too many anti-woman’s reproductive health policies to cover, but here are a few of the worst:
Forcible Rape Redefinition: In 2011, federal GOP legislators attempted to create two different categories of rape depending upon whether it was “forcible” or not. Rapes that does not involve actual non-rape violence—including date rape, statutory rape and rapes involving drugs or the threat of force—would be considered non-forcible rape and the victim would be barred from getting any public funds for abortion services. If it had passed, this bill would have made it so that only rapes that include additional violence would be considered rapes under the current statutes—this would deny all victims of “non-forcible” rape a great deal of assistance.
Going as far as to redefine and parse rape in order to reduce the ability of poor women to access their constitutionally protected right to an abortion is going extremely out of bounds. Such an attempt
Stalling the Violence Against Women Act: Over the past two decades, the Violence Against Women Act has been reauthorized in an uncontroversial manner. Unfortunately, the GOP has increasingly become resistant to the act, protesting it in 2005 and stalling it for months when it was to be reauthorized in 2012. Largely, this reticence to reauthorize the act involved increasing the coverage to include at-risk categories (ex. illegal immigrants and Native Americans), but it has resulted in it being increasingly difficult to pass the law. Even when it was eventually passed, VAWA was passed primarily along party lines, with Democrats supporting it and Republicans opposing it.
The GOP’s resistance to the VAWA demonstrates that they are increasingly willing to go against protections for all women in order to make a point. In order to persecute at-risk women for ideological reasons, the GOP stopped VAWA for months and threatened to kill the law entirely.
While this isn’t purely a case of misogyny—perhaps if they called it the Violence Against Women Who Aren’t Lesbians, Undocumented or Native American, it could have passed—but it is indicative of the lack of care many GOP politicians have for protecting women as a demographic.
Mandating Trans-vaginal Ultrasounds: It seems almost unbelievable to think about, but the Virginia GOP actually worked to pass a piece of legislation that would mandate every women to seek an abortion getting a trans-vaginal ultrasound—this is a type of ultrasound that is unnecessary in most cases and involves actual penetration of the woman with the ultrasound device.
In effect, the Virginia GOP was so against abortion that they demonstrated a willingness to mandate the rape of women who were attempting to get abortions (rape is non-consensual penetration by a body part or object). To make this just a little bit more heinous, there were no exceptions for rape, incest, or abortions to preserve the life of the mother—if an underage rape victim wanted an abortion to save her life, she would still have to go through this invasive and unnecessary procedure.
Fighting Rape Protection: In response to the terrible Jamie Leigh Jones assault—where Jones, a women working for KBR, was gang-raped by contractors, only to be detained in a shipping container and drugged by KBR to avoid her reporting the assault—Democrats in the legislature suggested a bill that would ban all companies that would hide sexual assault with mandate corporate arbitration (like KBR) from getting government contracts. While this eventually passed, it passed primarily along party lines and every opposing legislator was a Republican.
It isn’t the disgusting and misogynistic things that some GOP politicians say that makes the war on women an issue, but rather the regressive and misogynistic policies that the GOP is pushing on both the state and federal levels.
Alone, each of these anti-women votes taken by the GOP can be considered a bad choice but, taken in totality, they are only describable as a “war on women.” On every front, the GOP opposes increased protections for women and tries to take away their ability to control their bodies.
The GOP’s war on women is real, regardless of what the GOP may attempt to claim in order to mitigate the accusation—their actions speak louder than any words and it isn’t simply a stray faction of the party which has been fighting this war.