A month or so ago I was at the checkout counter in a local store, wearing my treasured hat, a beige cap covered with buttons and a selection of Democratic slogans I had written around the crown using a rainproof permanent black marker.
Suddenly a woman who had been standing passively behind me, or so I thought, edged closer and tearfully blurted out, “Republicans don’t hate women!” Her tears startled me, but she turned and pushed through the others in line and off toward the back of the store before I had a chance to gain more information, or to enlighten her on that issue, which is more important than ever these days.
The hat, the pride of my collection, expresses my personal slogan choices. They range from “Republicans support corporations–Democrats support people–I am a person, therefore I am a Democrat,” through “Republicans are anti women–I am a woman, therefore I am a Democrat.” Nothing seemed so mind-shattering that it should have upset anyone to tears. Especially since, by then, the war against women was a well rehashed subject, one she ought to have gotten over before standing behind me that day.
That was my first thought, but on second thought I realized that what my hat was proclaiming would have been very heavy to a woman who believed the Republican patriarchal reasoning that had likely suppressed her for years. Even these days, when thinking women in this country are getting good educations and important, fulfilling jobs, there are still a great number of oppressed women who would cry over my hat if it forced them to consider their plight.
I can imagine their fading hopes and denied ambitions, and even more the persistent questions they are not allowed to ask. And I know that finally acknowledging the truth can be as embarrassing as it is painful. It was to me, all those years ago when I was struggling to break free from those same old husband/church-generated rules where everything is judged as being not only pro or anti your husband, but also pro or anti God, which, frankly, in the eyes of the Republican fundamentalists seem to be the same thing. That’s a tough line to cross.
And that’s why I am writing this letter to you, Mrs. Republican.
What you need to understand is that woman-hating is not a new thing in this world. It’s a persistent, 3,000-year-old battle that even during the calm times simmers like a volcano waiting to erupt whenever men are losing their power edge, as right-wing men seem to be today. I recently read that our forebears crawled out of their caves 6,000 or more years ago and that they developed communities and even erected three-storied structures complete with kitchens and gathering rooms. The article said it was also a time when all acknowledged ancestry of a child was along the mother’s line, just as it remains in many cultures today.
Back then, even pondering the mystery of birth would have been only a short step to assuming that women were not only the doorways to life but the source. It’s understandable that their idols were female, that the Goddess ruled in all her alter personas, as all statuary and images recovered from that period attest. It’s believed that it was also a time of peace in which women played governing roles, leading from the hearth while men did the hunting and protecting and the general chores.
That lasted until 3000 BC (again more or less) when the males, having plumped up during those calm years, wanted a larger piece of the pie. At least it is indicated that in the Mediterranean and northern European regions they adopted their own patriarchal gods, even giving some of them the slightly altered names and legends of the goddesses, and took control.
From then on men glorified their gods of war as far afield as their armies could reach, in constant territorial power struggles that devoured a continual supply of warriors and massacred women and children along the way. It was an addiction that still seems hard for them to break, particularly in countries where male rule is absolute, power struggles common, and there is a passion for guns and other weapons of mass destruction.
Whenever woman did make any gains, it was at a bitter price. For example, when Rome ruled Europe with its iron theocratic fist, the midwives and herb gatherers, who tended the poor with no access to other care, quickly outnumbered the bloodletting and scalpel-wielding male physicians. As a result, the women were charged with witchcraft and were burned by the thousands until, it is estimated, there were possibly less than a hundred midwives left. I often wonder if the physicians were paid by the leech-catchers and scalpel-makers, or only by the the wealthy churches that picked up a lot of confiscated land and money in the wake of the burnings. And look around you; we are to this day struggling to recover the wisdom of those female healers, wisdom that just might reduce our need for most of the radical surgeries and addictive drugs pushed by the huge pharmaceutical corporations.
For centuries, even in countries less known for their abuses, women were always held to task. If she didn’t marry by a certain age, for instance, a woman was fortunate if she could become the ward of an uncle or an older brother, grateful to became a proper auntie to the children, or companion to her sister-in-law, or housekeeper for the men. She could not inherit or own property. Only women of poor families had the opportunity to work outside their home, but even then it was for long, exhausting hours in factories and on farms, for pay that was never enough to sustain anyone. Some worked in millinery shops or sold flowers from carts on city corners, or their bodies if that was the only way to stay alive and feed their “illegitimate” children, offspring from the rape or incest inflicted on their unprotected selves. Poorhouses were filled with these cast-offs, orphaned children and dying women.
Through the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, most jobs remained available only to women who were not from “good” families, and consisted of low-paying, servile positions, at best. Teaching was still primarily a man’s occupation, and factory jobs were filled with children, for as little as pennies for a long day. The first known female writers managed to publish under male names, and woman painters were just being noticed as attachments to male artists, providing they stuck to floral paintings, still-lifes and landscapes.
Wars offered rare moments of partnership, while women worked in the fields as well as in the homes, cheap labor. Or trudged off to war with their husbands and children to become cooks or roll bandages for a pittance. Or prostitutes if they were single, with or without children, also for a pittance.
Life remained a difficult trade-off: domestic slavery with few options, or destitution. In this comparatively new country, married middle-class women, very like yourself, Mrs. Republican, only with one servant rather than a second car, were still confined to the home right into the twentieth century. Poor women still had to compete with children in the factories, since the laws to protect the children had a hard time bucking the greed of companies and politicians only interested in cheap labor. I know about that, personally, because I knew a woman who, as a very young child, had her hair ripped out when it got caught in a machine in a Kentucky fabric mill where she was working long hours for pennies.
Then respectable jobs as clerk/typists as well as telephone operators began to open up. During that time they also began to get some schooling, many opting for the low-paying careers that became available, rather than marriage. Freedom at last!
But it wasn’t until the twentieth century, particularly during the two world wars, that women were pressed into service at jobs, on the farms and even in the factories and schools, replacing their displaced soldier-husbands. They amazed the world and themselves with all they could do. And when the war was over, it was hard to get them back into the kitchen.
In spite of low wages and glass ceilings blocking job advancement, women persisted, and now at the beginning of the twenty-first century they are rapidly closing the gap.
Women are now entering colleges and graduating at higher levels than at any other time in history. In fact, in 2005, 200,000 more college degrees went to women than men. And 12 women actually are presently CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. In 2010, 60% of all college graduates were women, and that number is growing. Across the board, they are the majority in the workforce.
Even more interesting, my hat-reading friend, according to a report in USA Today, one in 10 US churches employs a woman as senior pastor, double the percentage from a decade ago, according to a new survey. Most of the women (58%) work in mainline Protestant churches. The survey said only 23% of male senior pastors are affiliated with mainline churches. Also, they found that female pastors tend to be more highly educated than their male counterparts, with 77% earning a seminary degree, compared to less than two-thirds of male pastors with 63% earning a degree. Wow!
Get with it, Mrs. Republican! It is a war out there and you are right in the center of the target. They not only want to reduce your access to reproductive freedom, they are hell-bent on redefining everything else in order to enforce their will. Rape, for instance, must be a term only used to mean forced sexual assault. That would eliminate all instances of vicious assault on drugged or unconscious women, as well as those so frozen in terror they couldn’t resist. And what about cases of prolonged incest such as those involving pedophile priests? Their victims suffered for years before they could come forward. Very young traumatized and threatened children rarely resist and never rush to file charges, and slightly older ones are often so shamed and terrorized they opt to take their own lives rather than hope for some improbable public rescue.
Then there is that vicious Republican state legislator in Georgia who also wants to change the legal term for victims of rape, stalking and domestic violence to “accuser,” as if they are liars who just meandered into the courtroom without witnesses, or historical documentation, or the required rape kit proofs and photos of their injuries. When domestic violence or rape or stalking is involved, the female victims are accusers, but victims of crimes not involving women, such as burglary or assault and battery in a bar fight, would remain victims. Sad, Mrs. Republican. How would you feel if you or your daughter were the “accuser”?
In South Dakota, Republicans actually proposed a bill that could make it legal to murder a doctor who provides abortion care. I suppose if it’s legal, such a killing can’t be called murder, which may be why it was not included in Carolina State Representative Larry Pittman’s list. Representative Pittman, a supposed man of God, wrote in an email, “If murderers (and I would include abortionists, rapists, and kidnappers, as well) are actually executed, it will at least have –a– deterrent effect upon them.”
How are executed murderers deterred from committing murders? Oh, I get it. They’re dead!
“For my money,” he continued, “we should go back to public hangings, which would be more of a deterrent to others, as well.”
Pittman may profess to being a man who believes in protecting life, but he seems more a man who relishes the taking of a life in the cruelest way possible. And it seems that most of those self-righteous, execution-happy Republicans like Pittman wouldn’t care if a person, particularly a person of color, was guilty or not, given the number on death row proven innocent the last few years. Possibly many state justice systems, especially in the South, were and still are blinded by the white.
Something more for you, Mrs. Republican. Do you know that your men, and your misguided women, want to cut nearly a billion dollars of food and other aid to low-income pregnant women, mothers, babies and kids, as if that will save this country from plunging down the Republican-created rabbit hole? And as protected as you feel from that action, you are not. Even the ones on top can hit bottom fast and hard, especially women who were never allowed their own funds or their own education.
Take a tip from me, Mrs. Republican, a man who has no compassion for the people or the world around him will have no compassion for you. He will cheat and he will lie and he will leave you with a pittance. And as you struggle to right your world, to find a job, or find help if he neglects to send those support checks, good luck. Chances are he has the money to pay those high-powered lawyers; chances are you don’t.
God forbid that you should have an ectopic pregnancy in a really fatal area. So sad. You or women like you possibly helped your husband and his buddies pass a bill that would let hospitals allow a woman to die rather than perform an abortion necessary to save her life, even if neither she nor the baby could survive without it. And that same husband of yours, if he were in Maryland, for instance, would work to end all county money for low-income kids’ preschool programs because he feels there is no need for it, that women should really be home with the kids, not out working. As if you could afford that luxury if he continued to withhold reasonable support.
And at the federal level, he would work to cut Head Start, by $1 billion. That means over 200,000 kids, including yours, could lose their spots in preschool, almost guaranteeing that there would be enough uneducated, desperate youth, with only options that men like your husband hope would put them in prison and swell the ranks of cheap labor to be leased out at huge profits to farms and construction crews and road gangs–the new slavery.
Remember, two-thirds of us elderly poor are women, and you, Mrs. Republican, are growing older as I write. Men like your husband are taking aim at us with a spending bill that would cut funding for employment services, meals, and housing for senior citizens. When you are in your eighties, alone and poor, where will you go and how will you survive, especially if he left you penniless to run off with his cheeky little secretary when you were in your sixties? Or maybe he manages to gamble away all his money, even his insurance policies, before he dies and that is why you are penniless. Particularly if your husband and men like him have already privatized and drained Social Security.
And if that isn’t enough, they are slamming women even harder. When Congress just voted for a Republican amendment to cut all federal funding from Planned Parenthood health centers, one of the most trusted providers of basic health care and family planning in our country, they used opposition to abortion as the reason, though abortion only accounts for a very small percentage (3%) of the clinics’ work. On I Sandwich in an editor’s pick article, it states, “Cutting funding to family-planning clinics means also cutting funding for access to contraceptives, Pap tests, testing for HIV and other sexually-transmitted infections, vasectomies, breast exams, cancer screenings, and other important health services—that accounted for about 94 percent of all services provided in 2007.”
Where else is their war more clearly defined? And if you still feel that banning birth control and abortions is a moral decision, then this time you do the math. More babies equates to more cheap labor, particularly if there is less money used for education, and more consumers, two things that would pour more money into those lovely Republican corporate off-shore accounts. Just a bit of food for thought, Mrs. Republican.
Lets see, what would be the trade-off? Are they also cutting off all testing and treatment for prostate cancer? Or denying all those demands for Viagra? I don’t think so. Are they stitching all those active penises into their pants so the women get a break from all the unplanned pregnancies created by demanding and abusive husbands and boyfriends, and rapists? I don’t think so. Are they keeping their hands off Social Security so when women reach old age they won’t wonder where they will be living and how they will be getting food or health care, or glasses to read with, or anything they spent decades working and paying for? I don’t think so.
Men like your husband are not so different from men in places like Iran, men who still hold fast to their domination of women, where the religious and civil laws are so weighted that the slightest independent motion a woman takes might cause her to be stoned to death, with all the village men, particularly those in her family, happily flinging their rocks. According to Amnesty International, the war goes on. One in three women worldwide is beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime. And those women, who are not considered victims but rather the shame of their families, face stigmatization and further abuses by the very people who should be protecting them. Just as in our courts where the Republicans are insisting victims in such crimes must now be called “accusers” as if they are possibly the guilty ones.
Then, as further proof of the war against women, you should consider the morality of Republican men themselves. I suggest you look up the facts, because it would take too many additional pages for me to name even a fraction of them. Just to prime the pump, I will mention the whole National Republican Congressional Committee, which used a strip club in Las Vegas in 2010 for fundraiser gatherings and also used party funds to entertain rich, young Republican donors at a Hollywood night club specializing in bondage entertainment.
Of course there are some very good men in this world, as there always have been. Down through the ages they have often been burned alongside the women. They are the good husbands who listen to their wives, and respect them. They are the fathers who care for their children, girls and boys, and educate them both equally. They are the men who are active in their communities and do what’s right just because it is right. They put people ahead of corporations. But, trust me, the Republicans in this country are definitely not them. Romney, for instance, admitted he didn’t give a damn about the poor. And neither do the rest of them, except as cheap labor. In case you wondered, 14.1% of all women and practically a fifth of all children make up the majority of the poorest of the poor.
The saddest and newest wave in this war is made up of brainwashed women, you and your sisters, Mrs. Republican, being drawn into the fray. It’s unsettling to learn about any woman playing such a traitorous role against other women and children, a role that is so dangerously against her own interests, as well.
And that brings me back to you reading my hat in the store. Maybe by the time you reached home your tears had dried, and maybe you were giving some serious consideration to why it had all happened, that just possibly my hat’s slogans were reflecting a truth you have been too scared to face.
Maybe you realize that it doesn’t matter if you are an Independent, or even a Republican, or of any particular race or social status. If you are a woman, this is your war. And if you are a smart woman, you’ll join your Democratic sisters fighting for their rights, because they are your rights too. This is a sad, tragic war, and if the extremists win, everyone loses… including the planet, because those husbands of yours are hell-bent on destroying it.
An interesting add-on: During a recent broadcast of his progressive radio show, Thom Hartmann mentioned that there is a tie-in between the rise of women in government and a country’s stability, as in Sweden, where 40% of all parliamentary seats must be filled with women.