Nel's New Day

April 9, 2012

Women Aren’t Caterpillars

The war continues. Mitt Romney keeps saying that women are interested in the economy. Finally I agree with him. But he, like all other Republican conservatives, try to separate the economy from their legislation against women in the economy.

The most recent example is Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signing the bill that rolls back the state Equal Pay Law that offered protection from discrimination based on race, age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, etc.—and gender. Glenn Grothman, co-sponsor of the bill, thinks that women don’t need money the way that men do. “You could argue that money is more important for men. I think a guy in their first job, maybe because they expect to be a breadwinner someday, may be a little more money-conscious.” He’s overlooked the fact that 40 percent of women voters aren’t married.

Male conservative legislators opposing providing birth control for women use that key word “dependency,” a handy-dandy term showing how bad the safety net is. According to Michael Steele, former RNC chairman, government should not support women because then it would take over the role of husband and father. (Yes, I’m still shaking my head over that argument. Read it for yourself!) This follows Sen. Jim DeMint’s claim that the president wants to make people more dependent so that they will vote Democratic. According to Santorum and Steele, men who don’t have women dependent on them won’t be responsible to their children, their wives, and even themselves.

Mitt Romney has said “the issue that women care most about is the economy. They’re concerned about high gasoline prices, the cost of getting to and from work.” Romney doesn’t understand that women without birth control may not have jobs because they will be pregnant and then responsible for babies. The same with getting an education, useful in raising their wages and improving the economy. Women are also worried about whether they can live on their wages, even more of a problem if Republicans pass laws allowing men to be paid more than women.

Republicans have always had trouble getting women to vote for them; their recent actions are making this worse. Last week’s USA Today/Gallup Poll of voters in 12 swing states showed President Obama leading women by 18 percentage points—up 20 points from a month ago.

Both political parties hope that their sins will be forgotten by Election Day so that they can persuade voters with a fresh slate. The Republicans keep repeating their anti-women legislation. Last year, the first three votes of the triumphant Tea Party swarm in Congress were anti-abortion. This year, they continued to arguing about whether birth control should be covered as health care, a discussion that they consider more important than the eminent demise of the transportation authorization bill. Most women have noted Rick Santorum’s complaint that birth control allows lifestyles that are not “how things are supposed to be.” Of course, there’s also the infamous House committee panel on birth control with only men. Women are also concerned because of the Republicans’ determination to defund Planned Parenthood.

Where in the nation are women the worst off? In the states where they lack affordable hgher education, reproductive health care, and representation in Congress. And by coincidence in the South. Approximately 20 percent of women live in poverty in Mississippi, Oklahoma, Arkansas, West Virginia, and Kentucky. West Virginia is the only state in the nation that doesn’t give women the right to breast-feed in either public or private places. The state also joins Arkansas in having a median income under $30,000. One-fourth of the population in both Arkansas and Oklahoma lack health insurance.

Missouri is following Arizona’s lead with its bill that permits employees to deny insurance coverage for birth control pills unless employees prove that the pills are used for a “medical need.” The Missouri House passed a bill permitting health care workers from participating in anything that conflicts with their conscience.

National Review columnist John Derbyshire has a new book, The Case Against Women’s Suffrage, that declares the United States would be a better country if women could not vote. It’s  “bad for conservatism” and therefore “bad for society.” Countries that rank the highest in the World Economic Forum’s gender gap index (aka the most gender equality) tend to also rank the highest on the U.N.’s Human Development Index. Possibly conservativism and gender inequality is “bad for society.”

RNC Chairman Reince Priebus has tried to diffuse the Republican problem with women by pointing out that the war on women is as mythical as a war on caterpillars. As David Sarasohn pointed out today in his column in The Oregonian, “In most states, caterpillars don’t vote.” Women comprise over half the number of people in the United States, and they vote at a higher rate than men do.

While male Republicans claim there is no war on women, that it’s all about religious freedom, female Republicans know this is a war on women’s rights. If high-profile Republican women such as Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) are angry at their party for attacking women, it stands to reason that conservative women across the nation are also angry. President Obama said that women are not a special interest group. Women are half of the American population, and any party that attacks them risks political extinction.

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