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Presidential candidate Rick Santorum has promised to wage war on pornography, the Christian Science Monitor reports. http://bit.ly/yPdOaW
If elected, he would order his attorney general to “vigorously enforce” existing laws that “prohibit distribution of hardcore (obscene) pornography on the Internet, on cable/satellite TV, on hotel/motel TV, in retail shops and through the mail or by common carrier.”
Could Santorum turn this topic into a successful campaign strategy? Or does the idea step on First Amendment rights?
My Response: Rick Santorum has just laid bare (so to speak) one more layer of a debate about the nature and purpose of human sexuality that he is sure to lose. Not because porn is a good thing—and of course existing laws should be enforced, duh—but because when push comes to shove, the American people don’t want government telling them what to read or watch or do in their private sex lives. What they do want is jobs and an economy that works again. And voters are very likely to connect Santorum’s focus on pornography with his overall sex police-like attacks on contraception and women’s rights.
I often wear a t-shirt bearing historian Ulrich’s advice because people react with a chuckle and it starts conversations. Conversations we need because women’s history is rarely given its due.
March is Women’s History Month, so designated because history has largely been framed through the male lens, recorded by male pens, and thus not surprisingly showcases men as the protagonists and the leaders; women, if noticed at all, play supporting roles (unless of course they take “male” personas, such as generals).
Yet women were everywhere, giving birth to everyone, among many other accomplishments. I’ve often wondered whether, if women had been documenting history for the last millennium, keeping peace and making things rather than making war and destroying things would be the central organizing narrative.
Then, once history is made, it seems so normal that it can easily be taken for granted. When I asked my grandson if he would vote for a woman for president, he responded “Yeaaah” in that drawn out way that made it sound as though I had three heads to ask such a dumb question.
And Sunday’s New York Times front page boasted a photo of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and International Monetary Fund head Christine Lagarde—with little comment about what a power shift those two symbolize. Yet, as Lagarde said at the recent Women in the World conference, the global financial meltdown might not have occurred if Lehman Brothers had been Lehman Sisters—or at least Lehman Brothers and Sisters. History has consequences for the future.
“As an activist for women through almost four decades, I know that no movement for social justice moves forward without struggle, nor does forward movement necessarily go in a straight line.”
Today, March 8, is celebrated around the globe as International Women’s Day. Some decry its commercialization, as corporate sponsors have realized it’s in their best interests to appeal to women who make over 85 percent of consumer purchases around the globe.
But it’s a day whose meaning inspires me to think back to a very special moment on September, 1995.
I was attending the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women, where hugely ambitious and thrilling goals were set for improving the lives of women, and by extension their families and the world.
The official conference was in Beijing, but the much larger convocation of activists from nongovernmental organizations—40,000 enthusiastic women and a few good men like my husband—was literally stuck in the mud in Huairu, a suburb an hour’s drive from the city.
Thousands of sleepy people had arrived at dawn on the morning of Sept. 6, to stand packed together under a roof of brightly colored umbrellas, jockeying for the few hundred seats inside the auditorium where then first lady of the United States Hillary Clinton was slated to give a speech.
Thanks to my training in clinic defense, which had taught me how to form a wedge and move expeditiously through even the most aggressive crowd, I was fortunate not only to get inside but to get a seat. The program was running late; Hillary was running even later and the crowd was getting restless.
Just as it seemed a revolt might be brewing, Shirley May Springer Stanton, the cultural coordinator of the conference, sauntered onto the stage and began to sing a capella, ever so softly: “Gonna keep on moving forward. Never turning back, never turning back.”
Surely Politico jests. I’m sure you can add to my examples:
Politico Arena asks:
Democrats are raising money with a petition against the “Republican War on Women.” Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the DNC chair, repeated the jibe Sunday on “Meet the Press” when asked about Rush Limbaugh’s recent comments on contraception.
Now that Limbaugh has apologized, will voters see “war on women” language as overkill? Particularly those who oppose the Obama administration’s contraception coverage policy on moral/religious grounds?
My Response: You’re kidding, right? There’s hardly even a truce.
Rush Limbaugh calling Georgetown University student Sandra Fluke a slut and a prostitute as she asked her university to cover hormonal birth-control and the subsequent fury that caused many of his advertisers to abandon him (and his very lame non-apology apology) was one small skirmish in the much larger and ongoing war on women being waged by an ideologically driven minority who would much prefer that women had remained barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen.
Just this past week, Roy Blunt and other Senate Republicans sought to pass legislation that would allow any employer to deny preventive contraceptive health services to their employees on the basis of any religious or “moral” objections. As though women are wanton hussies with no morals or religion.
As the Senate took up the Blunt amendment that would allow any employer to refuse to provide birth control coverage to employees based on an undefined “religious or moral” objection, women and men are asking me every day what in the heck is going on—are we back in the dark ages? Why do we have to keep fighting these battles?
I recently had the chance to give my answer to that question when I talked with with iVillage host Kelly Wallace and 2012 Election Editor and Correspondent Joanne Bamberger (aka Punditmom) about the many attacks on birth control and abortion. On her own blog, Joanne wrote:
“I feel like I’m living in the time of Hester Prynne and her Scarlet Letter in light of the ongoing and escalating attacks on women’s health, especially when it comes to anything concerning our ‘lady parts.’ Some women on the right say birth control has nothing to do with our health. I say, “What?” ...are we headed back to 1850 or is this just a blip on the political radar?”
There are unfortunately some people who never made it out of the 1850′s or at least the 1950′s.
If he, on the other hand, engages this controversy wisely, he can recast the debate over contraception properly into one about women’s moral and human right to make their own childbearing decisions, as well as one essential to the health of women and children. In so doing, he will be a hero to the 99% of American women, including 98% of Catholics, who use birth control at some time during their lives to responsibly plan and space their children. And well over 75% believe that contraceptive coverage should be mandated in insurance coverage, as it currently is in 28 states and the Federal employees health plan, in addition to being the standard of care in health insurance in general.
The right is trying inaccurately (deviously?) to create a religious freedom issue with a dash of the dreaded abortion debate thrown in for good measure. Let’s get this straight: no one is trying to force religious institutions that primarily serve their own flock to do anything against their consciences. Those institutions are free to do whatever their faith dictates.
Catholic schools serving primarily Catholic students with primarily Catholic staff using private money are different from large public institutions such as hospitals that are run by Catholics but serve a broad range of the taxpaying public with a broad religious spectrum of staff and use billions of federal dollars to do so (think, Medicare, Medicaid, Federal program and research grants, etc.). Those institutions should no way be exempt from providing contraceptive coverage because they are essentially secular institutions despite being stewarded by religious orders.
But look further behind the curtain, the Bishops and anti-women’s rights members of congress are trying to roll back the clock FOR ALL THE REST OF US on existing laws that rightly require health plans to cover contraception if they cover other prescription drugs.
We women are the 99% on this one, and we’d better speak up or we are in great danger of losing all the hard fought gains that were made during the last two decades to include basic contraceptive care in health plans. It’s only fair, and it’s the standard of good health care to boot.
This commentary was published yesterday on the Daily Beast with the title “Komen Incites Women’s Tahrir Square Moment.” If you haven’t read it there, please hop on over and give me a share, stumble, and/or comment. There’s quite a lively conversation going on. Then come back and tell me what you think here.
Mostly, I’d like to start a conversation about taking the great passion this kerfluffle between Komen for the Cure and Planned Parenthood has generated and catapult it into a more vibrant, durable, and most of all proactive women’s movement. Clearly, the huge outpouring was about more than the two organizations themselves. There was a lot of pent up readiness for activism and just plain demanding respect as women–as persons–with brains, hearts, and moral autonomy–not as subjects of society’s political whims or social narratives that we did not write.
Let me get off my soapbox and let you read on….
“I am off to feed my daughter (with breasts that were examined by Planned Parenthood doctors when I had no health insurance).”
Allie Wagstrom, a young mom in Minnesota whom I know only via Facebook, posted this on my page after she heard the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation, parent of the ubiquitous pink-ribboned “Race for the Cure,” bowed to political pressure from the right and announced last week that it would no longer fund breast exams and breast health education at Planned Parenthood clinics. Komen’s astonishingly sloppy handling of the situation (for which they have now apologized and semi-retracted) put a black mark in indelible ink on their sweet pink ribbons.
Planned Parenthood supporters demonstrated following a press conference by U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) outside at a Planned Parenthood Clinic on Feb. 3, 2012 in Seattle, Washington., Stephen Brashear / Getty Images
Facebook popped a picture of Cynthia Nixon, the lead actor in the Broadway drama about ovarian cancer, Wit, next to Allie’s comment in an advertising tactic. Nixon’s bald head and gaunt face shocked the breath out of me, while social media exploded with the wrath of millions of women who felt scorned by a charity for which they had raced and purchased pink products they didn’t need.
Why this outpouring, even from women who had never openly supported Planned Parenthood?
I believe in making common cause with people of all persuasions, but here’s what I learned about the quest for common ground on issues where people have diametrically opposing worldviews. Originally published at On The Issues Magazine.
The day before the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was expected to rule, rumors circulated that the agency would approve Plan B One Step emergency contraception as a non-prescription item and allow it to be sold without age restrictions. Freelance writer Robin Marty predicted via e-mail, “Conservative reaction will be a total shitstorm.”
For once I like title Arena gave to today’s question about whether Rick Santorum’s way out of the mainstream views about sex will get noticed after the media swarm in the wake of his IA caucus near-win. Please tell me you’ll help keep this buzz alive. Because in truth I don’t trust the press to keep shining a light on it–and there are devastating implications for women’s rights as well as gay rights if the public doesn’t know Santorum just how zealously would work to take them entirely away.
Arena Asks: In a recent CNN interview, Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum tried to put space between comments he made that appeared to equate homosexuality to pedophilia and bestiality, Political Wire reports.
“In every society, the definition of marriage has not ever to my knowledge included homosexuality. That’s not to pick on homosexuality. It’s not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be. It is one thing,” Santorum told the Associated Press during a 2003 interview. Santorum recently told CNN: “I didn’t connect them. I excluded them.”
Will these comments haunt Santorum on the campaign trail? Or will they be lost in the hubbub of the election cycle?
My Answer: Right now Rick Santorum is the Flavor of the Minute with the press. That’s the best thing that could possibly happen IF reporters keep on finding (which they will if they look) statements like his “man on dog” comparison to homosexuality. Santorum made that comparison, from which he is now trying to distance himself, in a slippery slope litany of what he speculates might happen if social definitions of marriage were to include the possibility of homosexual unions.
But he can’t distance himself from his repeated disdain for gays and lesbians let alone same sex marriage, IF the media keeps on doing its job…
Please read this article, and just as the steam is coming out of your ears, go sign the petition and leave your comment for the president. It’s up to us to hold him, and all politicians, accountable.
Out of patience with Obama Administration betrayals on health issues, a coalition has launched a petition demanding an agenda that is fair to women.
It wasn’t the first time that President Barack Obama played to a right-wing constituency at the expense of women’s interests, but the reversal last week of an expected decision on emergency birth control provoked perhaps the most critical reaction so far toward the administration by women’s health advocates and feminists across the nation…