Republicans and Misogyny
Imagine a Supreme Court Decision that criminalised those paying for sex (almost all of whom are men), which would include private dances in strip joints, and accessing pornography as a masturbation aid.
There would be a pushback of epic proportion, with such activities being defended as ‘rights’, and pornography as ‘free speech’. After all, porn is protected by its First Amendment, a law which guarantees freedoms concerning religion, expression, assembly and the right to petition.
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So, men have their fun protected by federal law. These sexual proclivities, often resulting in unwanted pregnancies, are viewed as sacrosanct. In the meantime, women have the right to safe and legal abortion removed, their right to bodily autonomy stripped bare.
The defense of porn, and the attempts to re-criminalise abortion are coming from the same place. Both positions represent a callous disregard for women's human rights. What does the overturning of Roe V Wade tell us about how women are viewed in what is supposedly a progressive country?
The original Supreme Court judgement, passed in 1973 during Richard Nixon’s term in the White House, quashed a number of federal and state anti-abortion laws by establishing a woman’s constitutional right to choose to have an abortion, so long as it was carried out in the first three months of pregnancy. The justices ruled that a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy came under the freedom of personal choice in family matters, as protected by the US Constitution – a ruling that effectively legalised the procedure across the nation.
But moral, ethical and religious debates have been raging ever since, with anti-abortion activists claiming that restricting abortion is necessary to “protect fetal life”. The overturning has resulted in potential “trigger laws” which could make abortion illegal in 22 states instantly.
Those that oppose abortion are often written off as religious zealots, but that is too simplistic. In the mid-’90s there were dozens of anti-abortion Catholic Democrats in the House of Representatives during those years, including David Bonior, once majority whip. They voted against abortion measures, it’s true. But they also voted in favour of fully funding Head Start and the WIC food program; increasing the earned-income tax credit for poor families; and for the Equal Rights Amendment.
Roe wasn’t just about the rights of States to practice legal autonomy, it was more about controlling women - as evidenced now by the push against contraception, fetus personhood, and a distinct lack of impetus to make available maternity benefits or child support.
The overturning of Roe signifies something very rotten at the core of the Republican Party. This decision is nothing to do with the sanctity of life or protecting the unborn, because if that were the case then why do Republicans not put so much effort into deterring States from legalising commercial surrogacy or prostitution?
Every unplanned pregnancy testifies to a man choosing not to use contraception, and restricting and criminalising abortion gives men supreme power over women, because they live in fear of unwanted pregnancy. Men can hold it over their sexual partners like a threat.
If men don’t like abortion, then they should campaign for male contraception and sterilisation.
The low priority in state and federal spending to tackle child abuse and neglect, childcare, healthcare and children’s education is indicative of the hypocrisy in the anti-abortion stance from Republicans.
This issue lies at the heart of one simple truth: in some ways, America is one of the worst places on earth for women to live. I speak as an investigative journalist that has travelled to countries in the global south, where there are no laws against domestic violence or marital rape. I have visited countries in which it is law that women are not allowed in public unless they are accompanied by a male, however young. In the legal brothels of Cambodia, India, Holland and Germany, I have witnessed women for sale, bought and sold by men that consider them nothing more than orifices for one sided sexual pleasure. And the worst example of this is, in my experience, the legal brothels of Nevada, USA, where abortions are performed on site, and johns are not required to use condoms.
When visiting Florida in 2020 to investigate the support for and push back against the death penalty, I found that most people that supported executions also held the view that abortion was murder: clearly this is not about the sanctity of life, but rather an Old Testament notion of ‘an eye for an eye’ which sees both those on death row, and women and girls that “get themselves pregnant” a phrase one Floridian used during our discussion, as criminals, wrongdoers, and morally bankrupt.
How do feminists feel about the Democrats and its response to the erosion of women’s rights under the Republican party? As the tennis champion and feminist activist Martina Navratilova said to me when we were talking about the lacklustre response by Democrats to the abortion issue:
“Democrats are all over the place, like a little hummingbird, they drift from flower to flower and they are not united on their talking points,” says Navratilova. “They always play defence, and it drives me crazy, because we should be on offence. In the end, nothing gets done.”
And the trans issue is one that has been weaponized by the Republicans and adopted by the Democrats. Nothing is ever simple when it comes to party politics and women’s rights. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a fine example of how seemingly progressive Democrats can be dismissive of women’s sex-based legal and human rights. Whilst the UK, following feminist protest, its main gender clinic been ordered to close by next spring following a review that found that it failed vulnerable under-18s (as evidenced in the Cass Report), AOC is hellbent on perpetuating the myth that children can be ‘trapped in the wrong body’.
The Democrats are failing women when it comes to its adoption of the worst form of transgender ideology. Look at how the Women’s March, set up to protest the election of Trump, views women’s sex based rights. In a tweet that stated, ‘Trans women are women. That's it. That's the tweet’, and another, ‘Stay mad’: Little Miss Fuck the TERFS’.
Women, it would seem, are the only group on the planet that aren't allowed to centre ourselves in our own liberation movement.
Of course there are women that oppose abortion, just like there were women, during the campaign for female suffrage, that asked to be exempt from having the responsibility of voting. When women pledge allegiance to male supremacy and patriarchy this is an attempt to protect themselves – a strategy which is doomed to failure.
In 2020, just over 60 percent of US women polled said that they would describe themselves as feminist. But how effective is it today? When it comes to women, the left and right share the same coin. One side wants to control women’s bodies and minds at all costs and keep us in domestic servitude, while the other wants us “sexually liberated” so they can promote and defend porn, prostitution, and commercial surrogacy, for their pleasure and profit.
According to Jane Manning, an attorney and advocate for survivors of sexual assault based in New York, the nature of her work provides a distinct perspective on the presence of allies and misogynists on both sides.
“It has never been more urgent for feminists to find ways to reach women and our allies on both sides of the partisan aisle,” says Manning. “We have the far right looking to force rape victims to carry pregnancies. We have the far left looking to dismantle criminal accountability for rapists. Between those extremes are where most women are and where most people are.”
Manning is right: on both sides of the political divide there are allies who want to support survivors of male violence and hold predators accountable. But on both sides of the aisle there are real misogynists too - and sadly there are women among them.
The Republican Party is no friend to women, but unfortunately, neither are the Democrats. As a British leftist critical of the hard Left as well as the conservative Right, my view is that even the worst Democrat is better to have in power than any Republican. The Grand Old Party is anything but grand for women.
“That doesn't mean we have to give up our political beliefs,” says Manning, a staunch Democrat. “My views are progressive and will continue to be. But it means we have to talk with people across the aisle and in the middle who have a pro-woman outlook and find places of common ground.”
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"Women, it would seem, are the only group on the planet that aren't allowed to centre ourselves in our own liberation movement."
Indeed. Our society must be patriarchal to its very core if women centering themselves poses such a massive threat.