Uncovering the GOP’s War on Women

Tamar McCollom, Opinion Editor

It’s hard to imagine that we are still fighting the same battles that our grandmothers fought 50 years ago. For the past few months, debate in Washington over women’s health issues has reemerged with a vengeance, and it shows no signs of dissipating. First came the attacks on Planned Parenthood. And now, the debate over something as seemingly fundamental and necessary as birth control has reached epic and largely offensive proportions.

Republican attacks on these fundamental rights may be disguised under the protection of religious rights or an exercise in libertarian ideals, but don’t be mistaken. The conservative rhetoric belies a larger message, and that message is that women still, after all these years, don’t deserve the same level of respect as men.

These are not merely individual debates on women’s health. Women’s health is inherently linked to a woman’s role in society. Family planning services, particularly birth control, help to ensure that women can pursue lives beyond the family sphere. It’s these crucial aspects of women’s health policy that allow women to have careers because they aren’t saddled with numerous children and endless household responsibilities. These measures allow women to attain equality in society. An attack on the tools that provide equality for women is ultimately an attack on the fact that women are equals at all.

With the role of women in American society once again up for debate, it is in a small way up to the ladies of Miramonte, who are among the most privileged, educated, and capable young women in the country, to help answer the questions that Washington is struggling to answer.

We are the women that generations of women before us fought for. We live in a community in which the concept of immediately relegating female students into home economics is unheard of. The ladies of Miramonte are supported just as much as their male peers, and unsurprisingly they are just as successful.

Yet feminism, the important movement that ensured this level of equality, still tends to have a negative connotation in society even at times amongst women. For many, even though it is a complete mischaracterization of the movement, it tends to evoke images of butch haircuts, body odor, and unshaved legs.  And there are the ever-present kitchen and sandwich jokes that a lady really cannot refute without sounding like an uptight, overly sensitive bra-burning alarmist. In the face of degrading yet seemingly harmless jokes, it’s often easier for a lady at Miramonte to choose her battles and remain silent.

But ladies, make no mistake about which team you’re on.

If you believe that a woman has the right to control her body, her health, and her fertility, you’re a feminist.

If you wish to use birth control without being needlessly charged extra money and publicly judged, you’re a feminist.

If you believe women can and should be equal to men in the workplace, you’re a feminist.

If you believe that a woman doesn’t need to sacrifice her job to be a wife and a mother, you’re a feminist.

If you believe that making the choice to stay at home doesn’t make a woman subordinate to her husband, you’re a feminist.

Unfortunately, it has been made apparent that you have fewer friends than you may have hoped. The “war on women” is being fought on multiple fronts, and foes continue to come out of the woodwork.

Rush Limbaugh is unsurprisingly not a friend to the modern woman.  However, the deplorable bigot, who is among the most powerful and influential conservative pundits, recently made his beyond derogatory, beyond crude thoughts known. He called a woman, who is a successful student at Georgetown Law no less, a slut and a prostitute for lobbying that her Catholic school should cover birth control.

This type of language and argumentation should not be discarded quickly along with the rest of the daily headlines in the 24-hour news cycle. Because, believe it or not, Limbaugh is not a right-wing extremist completely removed from his party.

The general consensus among Republicans was that Limbaugh’s language might have been vulgar, but the sentiments behind the language weren’t just okay, but completely and totally accurate. Every talking head on Fox News, including Bill O’Reilly and Megyn Kelly (a woman), came out in support of denying women basic health care. They might not have said slut directly, but their politically correctness hardly obscured the derogatory undertone.

Far more disturbing and in some ways surprising, was presidential frontrunner and perceived moderate Mitt Romney’s response to Limbaugh in which he claimed that, “It’s not the language I would have used.” As if the only issue with Limbaugh’s remark was the semantics and not the inherent misogyny and discrimination embedded within it.

After the whole Limbaugh debacle, many were relieved by the defeat of the Blunt Amendment, which targeted birth control and other women’s health issues by allowing employers to deny certain health coverage by citing “moral grounds.” Essentially, the Blunt Amendment aimed to allow Catholics, who don’t believe in contraception, to deny women birth control. While the defeat is a relief, it isn’t exactly a rousing victory.

If anything, the Blunt Amendment is a telling sign of how disconnected Congress is from the needs of a modern woman. The Blunt Amendment was only defeated in Senate by a slim margin of 51-48. That means that 48 senators, 45 of which were Republicans and three of which were Democrats and most of which were men, don’t believe in protecting women’s health and thus women’s equal status in society.

Sometimes, it is up to Washington to pave the way for change. Forcibly integrating schools in the South is perhaps the premier example of a bold yet necessary move that Washington chose to make in the face of opposition. However, many times, it is up to us, the citizens, to set an example for our government.

We cannot allow a small group of closed-minded older men to dictate the way we will lead our lives. Out-of-touch senators and men like Rick Santorum, a devout Catholic with seven children all of whom his wife homeschools, are hardly the people that should have a significant influence on where modern women stand in society.

We are the ones who should be responsible for our own futures, not them. And if we want to make sure that we aren’t doomed to lead the lives that they have prescribed for us, we can’t stand by idly as decades worth of progress unravel before us.

It’s one thing for a woman to make the choice to not exercise the rights and opportunities that feminists have worked to secure. There is no shame in choosing to stay home or even to not believe in using birth control. Every woman should be afforded the ability to make her own choices regardless of where they land in the political spectrum. However, it is not okay to become complacent and allow your female peers to suffer the consequences of your inaction. They deserve the right to make their choice just as much as you do.

Regardless of your personal beliefs and the choices you plan to make in your future, recognize that there is a distinct portion of the country that is currently vying for power that doesn’t have your best interests at heart. And more importantly, recognize that we are all in this together and an attack on one of us is an attack on all of us.