Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Hundred Years War on Women

The GOP has been saying that the War on Women is a myth and that it’s a desperate Obama campaign that is trying to deflect the American people’s attention from a failing economy and ruinous gas prices.   Well neither is true; the war on women is real and the economy is recovering.  But let’s focus on the all too real war on women.

Many Americans have heard of Susan B. Anthony and the woman’s suffragette movement originating in Seneca Falls, NY.  But the story is bigger than just Ms. Anthony.  Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott were the original women’s rights champions during the mid-19th century.  These women were staunch abolitionists, but when the male dominated anti-slavery movement determined that these women didn’t have the right to speak at conventions, they took action.  Stanton and Mott took aim at the traditional role of women in society and specifically targeted Catholic and Protestant Church hierarchies.  These same Southern ‘Christians’ who felt that slavery was natural due to white supremacy also felt that women had no say about their bodies, let alone domestic policy.  Yes there was no war on women, because women accepted the status quo, but when they rightly started to speak up, the establishment, usually the church and conservatives, immediately tried to clamp down.             Sadly Stanton’s contributions to heralding the new era, an era where women would not sit idly by and watch events pass them by, has been lost over time.  But Stanton’s post-Civil War fight for women’s rights laid the groundwork for the 1920 passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution.

In the early 20th century, a new pioneer would emerge who would expand women’s rights to the previously unheard territory of women’s healthcare.  Margaret Sanger, appalled by the back alley abortions she encountered set out to make contraception and birth control a woman’s right; no longer should women be forced  into unwanted pregnancies.  In 1914, she created The Woman Rebel to promote birth control, a clear violation of the draconian Comstock Act of 1873 which prohibited the circulation of obscene and immoral materials.  Yes, I realize it was 100 years ago, but contraception ads were obscene?  Sanger was arrested, and while she lost her appeal, the court did allow doctors to prescribe contraception to patients for medical reasons.  Sanger’s legacy was the creation of the American Birth Control League in 1921, the origin of today’s Planned Parenthood.  As a result of the public pressure and legal precedence, Protestant churches dropped their opposition to contraception, leaving the Catholic Church as the last major religious hierarchy opposing birth control, a position it still holds today. 

Which brings us to 2012 and the Social Conservative re-invigorated attack on women.  Hundreds of state and federal bills to reduce reproductive rights, criminalize abortion, scale back equal pay legislation, and most controversially, deny contraception as part of healthcare plans.  The unofficial head of the Conservative Party, Rush Limbaugh, a misogynistic bully who loves to refer to strong women as Feminazis and most recently crossed the line (again) when he called Sandra Fluke a slut.  The male dominated Catholic Church and its antiquated dogma against birth control, a mandate that 98% of Catholic women openly violate, and the socially regressive conservatives they side with have re-ignited the same battles fought repeatedly over the last 150 years. 

There has been and still is a war on women.  Those perpetuating the war are the ones denying its existence, and this enlightened male is not buying the right wing denials.  If you don’t believe there’s a war on women, read the following quote; can you guess who said it?

"No man can fathom the depths of rebellion in woman's soul when insult is heaped upon her sex and this is intensified when done under the hypocritical assumption of divine authority."

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