Women. When you break down the seemingly inexplicable positions taken by the Republican party this year, they all come down to the same question – to what degree are women individuals?
History suggests the inadvisability of making election decisions on the basis of one issue, but in this case the one issue is really all of them. The good news, if there is any in this mess, is that “women” has always been a trigger issue for everyone, both male and female. Current predictions are for an election turnout of over 80%. You have to wonder what in the world would be necessary to attain a percentage close to 100%. If you do not vote this year, it pretty much has to be because you truly and completely do not care about much of anything, including your own future.
The first issue to examine is the right of a woman to make decisions about her own body. That this is so may be amazing in 2012, but the issue is rooted in centuries of history. At a very basic level, who controls? The men (mostly) in power, or the individual? There is so much vehemence from the far right on this that you have to conclude that 2012 marks the electoral backlash of the past 40 years of the quest for women’s rights. Sure, there was the right to vote and to be employed, and other rights issues, but nothing has riled the right more than Title IX, which moved women into sports. In sports you work, you sweat, you win, and you lose – all experiences, like war, historically reserved for men. Now we see women in the armed forces suing for the right to be assigned to combat, one of the final bastions of male entitlement – if that word can be used for such horrible tasks. We can allow women to vote, and to work outside the home (albeit at 70% or so of the wages earned by men) but to make the most basic decisions about life and death for themselves and others – well!
Unemployment affects women more than men. Women are paid less for the same jobs and tend to have lower paying jobs in the first place – which is where unemployment hits first.
Health care is also a women’s issue. If you add abortions as well as birth care to the mix, plus the statistic that women outlive men, women are more likely to need health care of greater expense for longer periods of time.
Education and yes, charter schools, are women’s issues. Women are traditionally under-educated compared to men. Private schools tend to cater to the white male power elite, and charter schools are just another ploy to bleed funding from public schools. The rise of female college enrollment percentages in the past 30 years has alarmed the traditional power base of rich white men, and now they’re fighting back.
To simplify, the election this year is a “no-brainer” for women in two respects. For a woman who respects her own intelligence and life choices, it does not take a lot of thought to make voting decisions. Women who choose otherwise can also be termed “no-brainers.”
And yet it’s more complex than that. As women began to clamor for more rights and less sexism decades ago, it always bothered me that something was missing. Men were routinely criticized for racy pin-up posters in the workplace, for one example, leading to slew of lawsuits and the current situation, where almost anything you say at work needs to be considered very carefully. Is that funny remark really funny? Can it get you fired?
But… What about the women who posed for the posters? Surely they were not all abuse victims forced into a sort of figurative prostitution. Most of them seem to have posed willingly, and in fact eagerly. A current candidate describes her posing topless for Playboy years ago as a confidence-building exercise she does not regret. Recent studies have shown than women can get ahead in the workplace by “flirting.”
The angst over all this reached a peak some years ago with strident statements by a few radical feminists that all men were potential rapists, which made just as much sense as claiming that all women were potential prostitutes.
Do women use their charms and sexual allure to their advantage? Of course they do. I remember a conversation years ago with a male friend about women who were revealing outfits who were too ready to accuse you of sexism, or worse, if you noticed. He pointed out “She wants to be noticed by some men, but you are not one of them.”
Too true, and an occasional source of irritation.
I have simplified here for the sake of brevity of course. Shelves of books have been written on the subject, but to move on, it is not controversial to state that relationships between men and women are always complex and full of wrong turns, whether in person or in the workplace. A way to deal with the complexity and make life easier is to exert control over ½ of the equation – women. Many women seem to buy into this, as it does make life simpler to cede control and decisions to men. The predominantly rich and white and male power structure thinks this is sensible and correct.
To this end, Mitt Romney is the perfect candidate. Whatever your thoughts on the Mormon religion, there is no question that women are not equal as Mormons. Female Mormons might argue that their position is better, and I am not in a position to question, but they are not equal.
The irony of my position, which appears to be in opposition to the demographic of rich white men, is that by most standards, particularly global, I am one of them.
My wife liked the “We are the 99%” slogan that came out some time ago, and was not comfortable with my assertion that we are in the 1%. Perhaps not in this country, but with 150k of equity in a nice house in the suburbs, one nice car and a very nice motorcycle paid for and a new car being paid for by sales of my e-books, and both of us employed with IRA accounts, it’s hard to argue that we’re suffering in any way. We are not rich by the standards of our community or state, perhaps, but the larger the Venn diagram you create, the smaller becomes our circle.
As such, it could be argued that I should vote for the retention of “my” male power and a step back to the kitchen for women, but to do so requires a peculiar myopia I cannot abide.
What if a female candidate ran on a platform that included government control of male reproductive choices, with financial and legal penalties for “wrong” choices? Perhaps mandatory castration for failure to use a condom for sex acts out of wedlock that created a pregnancy? How would that candidate do?
Not that all Republicans share all the views espoused by their party. Nor do all Democrats. I have voted for a Republican this year, have in the past, and will probably do so in the future. However, a reasonably aware person has to see that the core of the Republican Party has been taken over by extreme right wing conservative “Christians,” (notable for their un-Christian approach to so many issues), aided and abetted by older rich white males, the Koch brothers being the most obvious.
I was involved with a variety of sports for several decades, as a participant, coach, and announcer. It was a learning experience for me to coach male and female athletes with skills and determination that far exceeded my own. And yet I have never seen anyone, in any area of endeavor, match the “performance” my wife created with the home birth of our son. I watched her work so hard for several hours, in a difficult situation, and never lose concentration, effort, or even her sense of humor. Could all women do that? Of course not. Nor can I run a 4 minute mile. The fact remains that some can, and denying the right to fully reach your potential, as a woman, man, minority, or any other handy label, limits the potential of the society I live in, and thereby potentially limits me.
Whether you look at abortion rights, unemployment, health care, foreign policy, or almost any other issue, the basic principle seems to be whether or not you think women are individuals who can be, in the main, trusted to think and act with effort, thought, and intelligence.
I think that’s a pretty safe bet.
Copyright 2012 David Preston