A Need to Blame, or a Need to Shame?Posted: March 19, 2012
Over the past few weeks, there has been what seems to be a War on Women: both in state legislatures, and on the national field. Then, when it comes to any kind of social media, there’s comments defending women’s reproductive right as well as commenting against it. Whether it’s abortion and some weird misconceived twist on Thomas Jefferson’s view on abortion, Rush Limbaugh’s attack on Sandra Fluke (and really, Rush Limbaugh in general), the contraceptive coverage fiasco, or just..
Now, I’m in support of women’s rights on all fronts. I just don’t understand why they’re being attacked. Is it because some, or rather many, men are so threatened with sexual freedom on some level they must attack it? Is the very idea a woman just might enjoy sex, be gay, or strong in any way WITHOUT depending on men for it?
A Need for Control
Let’s do a minor history lesson, shall we?
For as long as we can remember, men have been in control. In a lot of places, whether in America or virtually any country otherwise, it’s still the case on many levels. This wasn’t always the case, and had many examples showing change. It was slow, sometimes temporary, only later to have a more permanent effect: Women would gain rights. Hooray, war’s over! Right?
While women have been working and fighting to gain rights, from owning property to being able to vote, there have been groups who fight against them. The variety of reasons can and will differ for the moment, the fight, but they always seem to remain the same: A perceived need to maintain a sense of patriarchy, through Male Privilege. The perception of this need or existence may be argued in either direction, but with the recent events, it’s hard to deny it.
In an article at The Good Men Project, writer J. Ron Crawford wisely noted in an essay:
When women gain power and experience many men simply believe that they, in turn, lose it. While some men see marriage or friendship as being part of a team, and are thrilled for their partner to gain power, others see a very different “traditional” dynamic, defining their own importance by their undisputed role as the head of household.
The logic of an anti-feminist is fairly straightforward, even if the circuitous biblical justifications for it are not always easy to follow. It dictates that a woman’s career ambitions are a threat to her husband’s ego, value, and “natural” role as leader of his castle, and therefore a threat to his relevance.
Rejection and loneliness appear to be a much greater possibility for these men in this new world. Wise women and female leaders are very threatening for any man who already subconsciously questions whether he has earned or deserves his role. It’s much simpler to look to the teachings of those who say women should go back to their traditional role than it is to consider examining one’s own wisdom and relationships with loved ones.
So, basically, this brings men to some need to control, to save our own feelings. Apparently.
A Need to Shame?
So, this brings me to some of the recent events in the United States over the past few weeks. This isn’t new, just recently brought to our immediate attention starting with…
When President Barack Obama’s administration had declared that insurance companies, if not the employers, would allow women access to birth control medication without any cost or co-pay, instantly many conservatives went on the attack. Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) even attempted (and, thankfully, failed) an exemption, by attaching it to a highway fund bill, which would allow employers to deny birth control coverage through “moral objections.” Unfortunately, with how it was worded, it would allow the employer to deny ANY kind of coverage exemption and not just contraceptive or preventative coverage.
Despite its failure, the President has been receiving a lot of negative criticism, saying that he’s violating religious liberties. What liberty is that? Simply stated, if your employer has a religious affiliation (such as a college or hospital), if not a religious organization (e.g., a church), has any objections to contraceptive use, they shouldn’t have to cover it through any insurance they offer. Never mind hat we live in a secular society through the First Amendment, meaning right of Separation of Church and State would still apply through these accommodations, and that exemptions have been made specifically for religious organizations and moved that burden to insurance companies instead.
Among this kind of talk has also brought into the forefront more talk about the need for birth control, mainly ignorant comments against the medication and defensive responses paired with attempts to educate people more about it. Some of the comments we’ve been seeing would include talking about women “putting aspirin between their knees,” starting with what was defended as a bad joke from a Rick Santorum supporter, billionaire (article had “millionaire” as a typo) Foster Friess:
Foster Friess, a millionaire Wyoming investor bankrolling a pro-Santorum group, caused an uproar this week by wading into the contraception debate with a quip about women’s sexuality.
“You know, back in my days, they’d use Bayer aspirin for contraceptives,” Friess said on MSNBC. “The gals put it between their knees, and it wasn’t that costly.”
The remark outraged women’s groups and many others, quickly becoming a distraction for Santorum as he attempts to build on a trio of victories that threaten rival Mitt Romney.
Santorum said on CBS’s “This Morning” that the Friess comments were “a bad joke” that he should not have to deal with.
“When you quote a supporter of mine who tells a bad off-color joke and somehow I am responsible for that, that is ‘gotcha,’ ” he said.
Before we continue, since I was unfamiliar with this statement before the comment, the phrase of “put an aspirin between the knees” was a time-appropriate maxim of women not having sex by keeping their legs closed.. as though holding an aspirin between the knees. With that explanation out of the way, let us remember this is commentary blaming women for having sex and needing a way to prevent pregnancy (aka, birth control) that is commonly used, while ignoring an equal need for men to be prepared with contraceptives and knowledge of safe sex. It is, as has been explained to me when I became aware of this double standard, a way to shame women.
Unfortunately, despite explanations made and political backlash against Santorum, this was a comment that would only begin to highlight and bring into the public spotlight the ignorance many people would have about birth control. In one part, Rush Limbaugh even made a comment about buying “all of the women at Georgetown University as much aspirin to put between their knees as they want.” Around social outlets and blogs, more of the same defense was made in regards to Rush, Friess’s comment, and over the failing concept of abstinence.
A Need to Blame.
So, this comes down to the other part of the issue we need to recognize. Rush’s comments about Sandra Fluke having so much sex she can’t afford birth control would make her a “slut”, people defending such statements about her or any woman, and even proposed legislation that would allow an employer to fire a woman for buying birth control for pregnancy prevention in Arizona.
You read that correctly: If the employer finds their female employee is using birth control for pregnancy prevention and not solely for medical reasons, she can be fired.
One of the defending arguments over this legislation is to make a point of preventing the government from forcing any business to do something against their moral beliefs. By doing so, this would basically allow the employers to punish women for having sex, touting they’re protecting their right to religious liberty. However, this only comes across as forcing their own beliefs onto someone else. The healthcare mandate doesn’t do that, it allows women easier access to birth control (as often times, it can get expensive) for not ONLY health reasons but also for contraceptive use.
If a women personally has an issue with contraceptives, she doesn’t need to take that option. No one is forcing her to. However, many conservatives seem to think that supporting insurance coverage is violating religious beliefs through allowing women access to birth control whether or not her employer has a religious affiliation.
Oh, I could go on and on about abortion and the many, many misconceptions about the topic of abortion. In fact, I will, in another post. For now, though, I want to touch on a couple of the basics.
First, of course, is the fact that the reason an abortion is obtained is to end an unintended and unwanted pregnancy. Despite any arguments for the choice or against it, this is why abortions occur.
However, even after it was legalized in the U.S. Supreme Court through Roe v Wade, opponents of abortion have been attacking it as immoral (identifying a Pro-Life). Supporters of keeping abortion an option through safe medical procedures, argue that it’s the woman’s right to obtain one if she does not wish to keep her pregnancy (identifying as Pro-Choice). In response to arguments support a woman’s choice to obtain one, arguments come back as abstaining from sex if the woman wishes to avoid a pregnancy, and if they become pregnant then they should not terminate it. In response to arguments that pregnancy is a consequence of sex, arguments come back that the woman is being blamed for having sex and punished with an unwanted pregnancy through denying her the choice to abort it.
The debate is messy on either side.
Here’s my point
The damage comes back to women. It comes back to blaming women for wanting to have sex, and not needing to depend wholly on abstinence or the use of a condom. It comes back to empowering men to have control over women, in the name of religious liberty or whatever excuse that comes up, by denying women access to abortion or birth control.
How does this sound fair?