Sometime the best offense is to convince your opponent that the war is not even being fought.
By Carl Petersen
“Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.
Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.”
-Text of The Equal Rights Amendment” (1)
For a country that is supposedly war weary, we seem to like applying the term to issues that do not involve shooting to kill. As Johnson ramped up our involvement in Vietnam, he also started the “War on Poverty.” Nancy Reagan began the “War on Drugs” as her husband eased us back into actual military conflict. More recently, this type of description is used against ideological opponents. The FOX Nation labels Liberal attempts to expand inclusiveness during the winter holidays as “The War on Christmas.” The Conservative position on women’s issues is frequently called “The War on Women” by Democrats. Unfortunately, this last description distracts from the real threat coming from the Right.
While it does not rise to the level of war, there is definitely a disconnect between the Republican party and the female electorate. Republicans have lost the popular vote in five of the past six presidential elections and in all of these elections the majority of women voted for the Democratic candidate. (2) The problem seems to be growing as the 20-point gender gap in the last election was the largest that Gallup has ever measured. (3) Women seem to be another demographic grouping that the Grand Old Party needs to court but cannot seem to bring themselves to make the needed changes to their policies. In some cases they do not even seem to recognize that there is a problem.
The fact that women “make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns” is not a partisan issue as both parties have been guilty of not solving the problem. (4) But for some reason Conservatives seem intent on making it one by ignoring it’s very existence such as when an internet commenter says “the nonsense about ‘equal pay for equal right’ (sic) is very tiresome...No sane businessman would hire a man if he could get a woman for 20 or 30 percent less, all other things being equal.” (5) This echos Bill O’Reilly’s assertion that “income inequality is bull. Nobody gives you anything, you earn it.” (6) The hope of finding common ground seems pointless when the two sides cannot even find the same playing field.
When Conservatives are willing to acknowledge that equality has not yet been achieved, it seems to be for the purpose of warning against non-traditional families. One example is Kate Obenshain stating on a The O’Reilly Factor segment on gender wage disparity that “its great to point out the plight of women - the rising rate of illegitimacy, how single women face much higher rates of poverty.” (7) The inference from this type of statement seems to be that their economic predicament is punishment for not following traditional societal rules. We could stop worrying about pay disparity if women just assumed their “natural” role where the male is typically dominant. (8)
With this focus on traditional values, perhaps the “War on Women” would be better described as a “War on Sex.” Once again, Conservatives try to disguise the issue by explaining away their opposition to guaranteed access to birth control coverage as a religious rights issue. However, having access does not force anyone to use this coverage. Additionally, employers should never be allowed to force their religious values on their employees, especially when insurance companies provide this coverage without cost to the employer.
No discussion of gender battles would be complete without mentioning a woman’s right to choose an abortion. In many ways this the most complicated of all the issues that create the left/right divide. Certainly, an emotional attachment to a developing fetus is understandable and felt by most people regardless of their view on abortion. However, the Right’s desire to ultimately outlaw the procedure puts the rights of a potential human above that of an existing human. This is not war, but it does not represent a view where the equality of women is valued.
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(2) (3) http://www.gallup.com/poll/158588/gender-gap-2012-vote-largest-gallup-history.aspx
(6) (8) http://mediamatters.org/research/2013/06/10/as-equal-pay-act-turns-50-conservative-media-co/194405
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