The past months have seen a dark turn in the treatment of women. Perhaps it’s due to the escalating political climate of the Republican primary, but from the halls of Congress to state capitols across the country, legislation is being proposed that is slowly chipping away at the liberties that have been granted to women. It feels as though a male-dominated Republican party has decided it has had enough with progress and would prefer to slide women back into the 1950s.
In the past year, seven states have fully defunded Planned Parenthood or began the process. Measures have been enacted to restrict access to abortion and criminalize the doctors who carry out the procedure. Last week, Virginia signed into law a bill that requires an ultrasound before abortions, but only after editing the original language that required a transvaginal ultrasound that was shouted down by claims of “state sponsored rape.” Currently, a battle rages over the proposed health care amendment that would allow employers to refuse contraception coverage by insurance for “moral reasons” that are hazy at best.
The problem at the heart of this that I’m sure women recognize all too well, is that this is a debate that is ultimately decided by men. The assembling of an all-male panel by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee under Darrell Issa drew tremendous flak, and the attempt by committee Democrats to correct the issue led to the summons of Sandra Fluke. This, obviously, resulted in the beginning of a string of outrages from radio jockey Rush Limbaugh. Another shining example of male assertion of power is candidate Rick Santorum, whose views on sex are “old-fashioned,” to put it lightly. He believes that “they [the Democratic Party] prey upon our most basic primal lusts, and that’s sex. And the whole abortion culture, it’s not about life. It’s about sexual freedom.” He has also stated that contraception is “a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.” Unfortunately, during the campaign season, these attitudes are being repeated ad nauseam, in an apparent attempt to court hard-right conservatives. The result is a political season that has turned away from frank discussions of sex and health and instead roots itself in appeals to an engendered morality that we have long sense passed over.
Let me suggest a thought I hope will strike the men of Washington, D.C.– “It’s not my problem.” Let me clarify– it’s not a problem that I, as a man, can solve, especially by my lonesome. For me, this is the cornerstone of my approach to women’s issues, particularly those of abortion currently being discussed. As a man, I will never be able to fully grasp the complex emotions and attachments that women are faced with in giving birth and thus have no right to promote legislation dictating women’s choices. In my opinion, it is hard enough for a man to express his views on women’s issues by his lonesome, let alone define the laws surrounding childbirth.
Sadly, statesmen the nation over seem to have the opposite idea: that, in fact, it is women who cannot be counted on to know what is best for themselves. Unfortunately, only 17 percent of Congress are women, a striking difference from the women that make up 50 percent of the United States population. This means that the only legislation that can be passed in good conscious by our predominantly male congress is that which protects the liberty of women. Instead, they have declared these issues problems of religion, not sexual health, and use this label to cast women away from the proceedings in favor of clergymen. The process clearly does not have women’s best interests in mind. It would be all too easy to accuse women voters of not taking their interest to the voting booth but the percent of women who vote is actually higher than their male counterpart. The takeaway from this is one of the most potent demonstrations of the fact that our lawmakers have a tendency to see themselves as cultural arbiters, yet they are continually out of touch with those they represent. It is time to make sure that women are spoken for so, that they may very truly speak for themselves. This is not a man’s game.
A class of 2013 psychology major with chemistry and biology minors, Patrick joined the Concordian as a contributing writer for Arts & Entertainment before writing and editing for the Opinions section.