Point of View Columns

Are Women Missing in Action?

It is time to stop thinking that the spectacle of the Teapublican Party lurching ever farther to the right is a momentary phase that will soon be corrected by more moderate factions within that party and within this country. And while the cold blue flame of hatred for the very existence of Barack Obama in the White House may have fueled the initial conflagration, the fire has spread through a forest of policy issues, incinerating everything in sight. For an example we need look no further than the undeclared war on women that is now in full view.

During the past year we have witnessed the right wing of the right wing make the eradication of Planned Parenthood an article of faith during the Teapublican presidential campaign. That would be the same Planned Parenthood that provides millions of women with affordable health care that would otherwise simply not receive. While less than 5% of Planned Parenthood’s services have anything to do with the termination of pregnancies, the holy warriors of the right are demanding the death of this provider of vital services for women and girls – without any thought of accommodation or compromise.

Numerous local and state legislatures have engaged in the hideous charade of protecting the rights of the accused while redefining and restructuring the definition of rape. The results of this gerrymandering of the borders of sexual conduct will only make it more difficult for female victims of sexual abuse and rape to obtain justice. And the clear result (and the intent of the proponents of these changes) is that even more women will remain in the silent shadows of shame and fear knowing that Teapublican justice for women in just a hologram and not really there.

We have seen Saint Santorum and his fake apostles rail against contraception because it enables people to “engage in sexual behavior that they shouldn’t be doing”. It would be bad enough if this latter day Savonarola was content with controlling the sex lives of men and women. What is clear from his comments and those of his believers is that women should accept pregnancy that is the result of rape as a “gift from God” and that abolishing contraception will return women to their rightful childbearing, obedient and disenfranchised status.

As you are reading this the Teapublican majority in the United State House of Representatives blocked the attempt to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act. This Act has been deemed responsible for reducing domestic violence rates by 58% since it was initially passed (with almost unanimous bipartisan support) in 1994 (how times have changed). That there could be any political philosophy that argues against preventing rape and violence against women is obscene. That the sewage-filled mainstream of American politics can seriously discuss denying health care to women and referring to pregnancies that are the result of rape as “gifts from God” is blasphemous and monstrous.

There is one thing missing from this sad and dismal landscape. Where are the female warriors who are leading the hand to hand battle to wrest the self-righteous standard from the clutches of the self-appointed wardens of women?

Where is the Queen Boudicca or Golda Meir or Harriet Tubman or Benazir Bhutto?
It is difficult for me to imagine Margaret Thatcher or Carrie Nation or Mary McLeod Bethune standing by in muted protest while the rights of women were being sacked and pillaged in broad daylight. Perhaps the successful struggles for the rights of women have left the movement tired and satisfied. Perhaps there has been a feeling that rights, once obtained, could never be taken back.

Frederick Douglass correctly stated that power concedes nothing without demand. The companion thought is that rights are never retained without power. And certainly, the history of humanity shows that the rights of women have never been freely accepted or granted. And so, the Teapublican assault on women should not have been a surprise.

Nevertheless, the “muted protest” of women is puzzling in the extreme. The Teapublican agenda regarding women is clear in its steel-toed strategy, kicking women back into line and into the 19th century. Misogynist and sexist thoughts that could not be openly spoken in the public arena a few years ago are now part of the public policy debate.

On this Planet Earth nothing is promised, nothing is guaranteed and nothing is forever. Women and men who believe that the rights of women are firmly embedded in the rights of all humanity need to wake up as the Teapublican fires threaten to burn down the forest of rights that it has taken so long to establish and preserve.

Remember November 6th!