One of the very first things President Obama did when he took office in 2009 was sign the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. He remarked signing this legislation was in honor of his own grandmother, “who worked in a bank all her life, and even after she hit that glass ceiling, kept getting up again,” and for his daughters, “because I want them to grow up in a nation that values their contributions, where there are no limits to their dreams.”
I applaud this because I too experienced wage discrimination when I worked in corporate America. I have walked in Ms. Ledbetter’s shoes, and am thankful to have a leader in the Oval Office who wants to better the world for women. Obama is one of the biggest advocates for women’s rights this nation has seen. Based on recent GOP candidates, I am wondering if “Republican feminist” is an oxymoron.
A lot has changed, considering the first three Presidents to support the Equal Rights Amendment were Republicans -- Eisenhower, Nixon, and Ford. This kind of support was short-lived. It all took a turn for the worse for women and the Republican party in 1980. And so began the gender gap in politics. The Republican party will tell you the argument is solely based on abortion, but I imagine there are deeper, underlying issues around sex and women’s changing roles in society. Apparently “traditional family values” means keeping women folk barefoot and pregnant. Rick Santorum has said that “radical feminists” are responsible for undermining families and for trying to persuade women that they could find fulfillment only in the workplace instead of at home.
I am astounded that in the year 2012, women are still fighting for the right to have access to birth control. It astonishes me that many insurance plans do not cover birth control while Viagra and its ilk are covered. Perhaps if there weren’t so many wantonly erectile men out there, women wouldn’t need birth control! I’m just sayin’. And I can’t help but ponder how Newt Gingrich, a man who does not support the use and availability of contraception, has had three wives and only two children. Hmmm....
This recent cadre of Republicans will hurt women in myriad ways. This isn’t just about sexism in politics; this is about creating a society that is dangerous and oppressive to women. Since when are women's rights and human rights not synonymous?
Our bodies. They play political warfare with our bodies and our choices. Our bodies are their pawns. Remember when Republicans wanted to redefine rape? This isn’t over. Gingrich wants a national version of Mississippi’s shunned personhood amendment, making all abortions illegal, even in the case of rape, incest, or to save a woman’s life. It would also potentially outlaw all stem cell research and in vitro fertilization. Gingrich and Santorum have pledged to only appoint pro-life cabinet and executive branch positions. This includes Supreme Court justices, who have a long term effect on the direction of our country. These candidates are not pro-life as much as they are pro-fetus. Where does it end?
Our military service. Rick Santorum thinks women and emotions don’t mix in combat. Has he not heard of the thousands of service men who battle PTSD that menacingly manifest itself as domestic violence and can lead to suicide? To claim that men would focus on being chivalrous instead of focus on combat if women fought beside them is ludicrous. There are some badass soldiers out there, men and women, who do their jobs skillfully, passionately, and fiercely.
Our families. Republicans want to cut the Head Start program that supports low income preschool age kids. Maryland Republicans already support such a plan because women belong at home with their children. Republicans seek to pull funding on Title X, the nation’s only family planning program to provide preventative health services, including contraception, to low income families. And I could write a tome about how these Republican candidates have a one-dimensional definition of family, vowing to make it illegal constitutionally to ban gay marriage.
The GOP candidates simply do not support women. Worse than that, they seek to disenfranchise us. How can they possibly represent us? Oh, but on the bright side, I should tell you that while Republicans do not support access to contraception for women, Representative Dan Burton of Indiana does support providing contraception for wild horses. Paid for with our tax dollars. I can’t make this crap up.
This post is part of a weekly conversation with our 5 Moms Matter 2012 political bloggers. Read the original question and find links to all their responses here: How Will the Next President Affect Women's Rights?
Image via Joyce N. Boghosian/Wikimedia