Saturday, March 3, 2012

How To Control Women

Amid the swirling currents in this year's electoral cauldron, a teachable moment caught the attention of many this week.

Thank you, Rush Limbaugh, for opening our eyes. 

Thank you, President Obama, for making that phone call to Sandra Fluke to support her for speaking in defense of regulations requiring that contraception be available free of charge in the new health care program.

Thank you, Sandra, for your courage.

Without your help, Rush, many people would still be thinking that women have a fair amount of equality in this country.  They might still be thinking that "women's lib," as it was called in 1968, has been accomplished. 

After all, 17% of  our senators are women.  We've seen two women make serious bids for vice president in the last thirty years.

We have the Pill, and women who live near big cities even have access to abortion, unless they go to the wrong hospital or clinic. 

Lots of women, including mothers of young children, have jobs outside the home and earn about 80% of what men earn.  They may even be the sole wage earner for their family if a man has left or been laid off. 

Women with education and ideas are valued almost as much as those with scantily clad bodies, except on television and in films, and in some job interviews. 

It looks good to many, but you opened our eyes, Rush, by calling Sandra "a slut" and "a prostitute" in your show on Feb. 29.

You opened our eyes to the continued existence of the ancient and honorable double standard.

Women can and must be controlled by questioning their sexual purity, but men don't need to be controlled. 

Men get to speak out and have important roles in politics, business, and government, regardless of whether they may be sexually active.  These days they may run into a little media attention if they have multiple divorces and affairs, but certainly not if they are college students. 

Sandra spoke about women at her college not having access to birth control unless they go outside the student health plan and pay up to $1000 per year for the Pill and related doctor visits.  She applauded the new plan that makes contraception part of the basic health care package. 

For this, she is branded with words of shame.

Women having access to contraception is not okay with Russ nor with the Catholic bishops in this country nor with a handful of other religious and political groups.  Rather than debate the issues before Congress, as Sandra tried to do, these folks use barking dogs like Rush to intimidate women. 

It's not so different from Afghanistan, where a woman who shows an inch of her ankle gets the same labels and may even be killed. 

The goal is the same: control women and their bodies.  If they get out of line, whack them.

Only in this way can we preserve the social order.  

In Afghanistan, it's the rule of the Taliban and an ancient interpretation of Muslim law that must be preserved.

In the US, it's political power and a "biblical" view of marriage and sexuality that must be preserved.   

The politicos here and the Taliban there are men, of course.  The ones interpreting the Holy Scriptures have also been men in both places, for the most part

Thus it comes down to gender politics--men trying to retain control over women's bodies and lives, as part of keeping their own political power.

In some places, however, women like Sandra are standing up to these forms of social control.

Call me anything you like, they say.  I will still use my voice.

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