During the Clinton campaign for President against incumbent George H. W. Bush, he used the campaign slogan created by James Carville, “It’s the economy, stupid.”
We are in great need of a revival of that phrase, with a revision to “It’s the autonomy, stupid” to push back against the attempts by the right wing to impose their authority over the bodies and the behavior of women.
This weekend the verdict came in against the two defendants in Steubenville Ohio, for the crime of raping a young woman and posting the details all over social media. Their defense? She didn’t say no (because of being unconscious), so it wasn’t rape, and that she consented because she drank alcohol. The ‘poor rapists’ were actually given far too much positive spin by mainstream media, while the victim was blamed for her own rape, because of drinking.
In the preceding week, Reuters reported that one of the Cardinals who participated in the election of the new pope claims that pedophilia is not a crime, that it is an illness. Really? For the victim it is certainly a crime. It is not an excuse for any criminal conduct because of a mental health issue if the person committing the crime is capable of knowing what they are doing, and able to discern right from wrong. This is an attempt to provide more sympathy and justification for hiding the crimes of predatory clergy, while NOT facing up to the criminal aspects of the sex predators or the harm done to the many, many victims.
At the same time, as we saw from the 60 minutes interview on Sunday, “American Nuns struggle with the Vatican for change” in support of social justice, and much needed internal reform in the church, that the church hierarchy has no trouble sending a man to whip the nuns into conformity with church authority and to bring them to heel to be submissive, regardless of what their conscience tells them. Uppity nuns get censured and harshly corrected, but male sexual predators get sympathy and obstruction of justice to protect them? Can anyone think of a case where a Nun was the sexual predator? Me neither, but if they did, I’d bet the nun would be disciplined, probably kicked out of her order, not had excuses made for her.
And in the same week came the reports of pedophilia rings in the Baptist church, where the clergy obstructed the criminal justice system to protect the perpetrators, both the male members of the congregation and the male clergy – but did not protect female members or children. This was true both inside the borders of the United States, and in their missionary efforts. As with the Roman Catholic church conservatives, the reasoning was that as God represents authority, and the church represents authority, and men as head of the family represents authority, so pretty much anything they do is excused. Sexual molestation of children, incest, wife beating – ANYTHING is excused, if you are a man. If you’re a woman, or a girl, or a child, too bad for you, and it’s mostly your fault for causing those poor good godly men to sin, and/or commit a crime. And under all circumstances, hide the crimes from law enforcement and prosecution – those men must be protected.
While there is some hand wringing over our ‘rape culture’, what is wrong with our culture is that we do not value women, we do not protect women and children from violence and sexual predators, we do not provide them support from a strong social support net. Most of all we do not have respect for the autonomy of women to control their own lives and bodies.
Instead we have slut shaming, we have women who are forced to undergo the violation of transvaginal ultrasound that is not medically required or useful. We have legislation mandating lying to women about their health in the name of respecting the morality and religious belief of doctors. (Can you imagine passing legislation denying men the right to insurance coverage for what are colloquially called boner pills, or passing legislation giving doctors the right to lie to men about their reproductive health – say their prostate or testicular health, or cutting funding for it? Hell No.) We have the right wing obstruction to the passage of the Violence Against Women Act – because the religious right has been opposing it from its inception because they believe the solution to domestic violence is for women just to be more submissive, and to put up with having the crap beaten out of them or being killed, rather than break up a marriage by leaving it. Never mind that all the evidence shows that doesn’t work, never mind how many women are killed, or injured or threatened every year by their intimate partners – including a large number of husbands. The important thing to them is what men want, the important thing they consistently support is male authority.
We have efforts to obstruct the raising of the minimum wage, even though the majority of those wage earners are women, and we have the efforts by conservatives to repeal laws against paying women less than men for the same work. The justification? Men are the breadwinners, and their work is more important to them, so they should be paid more. Does THAT reflect a respect for the independence, the autonomy, the control over their bodies and lives by women? It is an attempt to keep women more dependent, more vulnerable, and more submissive.
We have the attempt to pass the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, which would have redefined rape to be limited to forcible rape, making statutory rape no longer rape, making giving a woman a drug to render her unconscious and then raping a woman no longer rape. That legislation was co-sponsored by CD 6 Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, a ‘dominionist’ of long standing, who has actively and frequently asserted women should be submissive and subordinate to men. It was also co-sponsored by CD 2 Congressman John Kline, and by CD 7 representative Collin Peterson, the only democrat from Minnesota to join in support of this legislation. We have 31 states which give rapists the right to exercise parental rights over a child resulting from a pregnancy that resulted from rape, and to prevent a woman from having an abortion through the exercise of their rights.
We need support for the autonomy of women, the right for women to control their lives, including their reproductive choices. We allow no person to force or coerce another person to submit their bodies to save the life of another person against their will – EXCEPT in pregnancies. We are allowing the conservative anti-abortion fanatics to do exactly that when they legislate against abortion — they force women to submit to a pregnancy for an entity that is not even a person.
Why are women expendable? Why do we value women LESS than men? Why do we force women to submit control of their bodies to the will of another person? How is this not a violation of their constitutional rights and their right to physical autonomy – the independence of their bodies and minds, and the exercise of their own choice and conscience? How can we expect boys and men to respect women as their equals when the most conservative members of our culture so clearly do not? Rape is a crime not of sex, but of dominance that uses sex to assert that dominance. At issue is dominance, and autonomy.
In setting up our state mechanism for an insurance exchange that is part of Obamacare, abortion coverage was cut out; apparently women are not allowed to exercise their reproductive autonomy as full and competent moral and ethical human beings in Minnesota; instead the immoral religious right is allowed to impose their beliefs on all of us. The conservative message is clear; women should be controlled, and female sexuality is evil. Neither is true, and this should not be allowed to be how we implement Obamacare.
In the national rankings comparing countries with each other for how women fare in terms of health, and power and fairness, like elected office or education or equality of economic compensation, the United States does not rank well. In the ranking of states, we compare better; Minnesota is 6th out of the 50, in part due to the number of women we have in elected office. But we still are not doing enough to promote full equality, full autonomy, full value of women as human beings.
We ended slavery for people of color in 1865; isn’t it time that we grant women full autonomy as a group? When we do, when we REALLY do that, when we end the subordination of women to men, then and only then will we have genuine equality — and an end to the rape culture in the United States, both direct rape, forcible and otherwise, and the less obvious indirect rape by conservative misogynist politics.