Male Supremacy: What will men do when religious autocrats come for the women in their lives?
A Texas woman with an ectopic pregnancy, a life-threatening condition that never produces a baby, was recently forced to wait until it ruptured inside her, putting her life in danger. Imagine if that was you or someone you loved.
Republican laws are now making doctors wait until women are nearly dead before they can provide life-saving medical treatment for lethal conditions like that ectopic pregnancy and incomplete miscarriages. This is insane.
What would you do if that was your daughter, wife, mother, or sister who was forced to bleed out for ten long days so a Republican politician could crow about being “pro-life”? They’d have to physically restrain me.
As you read these words, Republicans in state after state are feverishly pushing this to the next step to strip women of even more reproductive rights, including access to IUDs and birth control pills.
Republican pharmacists and drugstore clerks are refusing to sell condoms to married couples.
Meanwhile, Fox “News” appears to be trying to replicate Bill O’Reilly’s successful campaign to get Dr. George Tiller murdered, putting on TV the name and picture of the physician in Indiana who performed an abortion on a 10-year-old rape victim.
In the weeks since six Republicans on the Supreme Court ruled in their Dobbs decision that Republican-controlled legislatures could legally insert police between women and their doctors, multiple rape victims (including a 10-year-old) have been denied abortions or had to flee their GOP-controlled states.
Reports continue to pour in about women across the nation pushed to the edge of death before services are provided for resolving miscarriages, ectopic pregnancies, and dead or malformed fetuses.
But this Republican insistence on male supremacy and the re-subjugation of women goes way beyond birth control or abortion: there’s a long history here.
In 1869, Republicans in Congress proposed the 14th Amendment, which included the phrase that voting rights shall not be denied “to any of the male inhabitants of such state.” The proposed amendment represented the first time gender would appear in the Constitution.
Women’s suffrage leaders Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton argued strongly against the amendment as written. Stanton wrote in 1866:
“If the word ‘male’ be inserted [in this amendment] it will take a century to get it out again.”
Stanton was off in her prediction by only two years: it wasn’t until the Democratic Kennedy/Johnson administrations that the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 required equal pay for women and prohibited workplace discrimination against women by any company with more than twenty-four employees.
The Biden administration proposed updating the expiring Equal Pay Act of 1963 with the Paycheck Fairness Act of 2021, which passed the House on a 217-210 vote but is now blocked by a Republican filibuster in the Senate.
In the House vote, only one Republican voted “Yes”; every other Republican in the House voted “No” to reauthorizing and expanding equal economic rights for women, with the GOP providing all 210 of those “No” votes.
Men controlling and regulating women to maintain male supremacy in this country has a long history.
As I noted in Unequal Protection: How Corporations Became Persons, the Supreme Court gave corporations powers of personhood and access to the Bill of Rights a full forty years before women gained the right to vote, and 90 years before women could sign a contract without a man’s co-signature.
For the first century or so of our republic:
- A married woman was not allowed to make out a will; she was not allowed to own land or legally control anything else worthy of willing to another person.
- Any property she brought into the marriage became her husband’s at the moment of marriage, and would only revert to her if he died and she did not remarry.
- But even then, she’d only get one-third of her husband’s property, and what third that was and how she could use it were determined by a court-appointed male executor, who would supervise for the rest of her life (or until she remarried) how she used the third of her husband’s estate she “inherited.”
- When a widow died, the executor would either take the property for himself or else decide to whom it would pass: the woman had no say in the matter, because she had no right to sign a will.
- Women could not sue in a court of law, except by the weak procedures allowed to the mentally ill and children, supervised by men.
- If the man of a family household died, the executor would decide who would raise the wife’s children, and in what religion: she had no right to make those decisions and no say in such matters.
- If the woman was poor, it was a virtual certainty that her children would be taken from her.
- It was impossible in the new United States of America for a married woman to have legal responsibility for her children, control of her own property, buy or sell land, or even obtain an ordinary license.
Doubling down on those ignoble years of male supremacy is now job one for today’s GOP.
In the US Congress today women make up just 15 percent of Republican House seats and 8 percent of Republican Senate seats; by contrast Democratic women control 40 percent of Democratic House seats and in the Senate Democratic women hold twice as many seats (16) as Republicans.
In state legislatures today, women are almost half of all elected lawmakers nationwide, but most are Democrats: Republican women hold fewer than a fifth of state legislative seats.
In 1974, it was still the law in most states that a father, husband, brother, or male friend had to sign for a women to get a credit card, car loan, or sign a mortgage (I remember having to sign for Louise’s first credit card in 1972, the year we were married).
The occasional bank that was willing to offer women a loan in those states where it was legal usually required a “baby letter,” an affidavit promising that over the course of the loan the woman would not have a baby or, if she did, she agreed in advance to pay off the loan immediately along with a sharp penalty fee.
The practice was finally ended after decades of activism by women when, in 1973, New York’s iconic Democratic Congresswoman Bella Abzug introduced the Equal Credit Opportunity Act co-sponsored in the House by 12 Democrats and 3 Republicans. It passed in 1974.
That early victory produced a significant Republican backlash, seen in a series of subsequent judicial and political efforts to dial back women’s newfound rights.
In 1976, for example, conservative men on the Supreme Court ruled in General Electric v Gilbert that male-run companies refusing to cover pregnancy in health insurance and other benefits was not a form of discrimination under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
Republican Chief Justice William Rehnquist wrote in his majority decision that pregnancy was unlike other medical conditions because, he said, it is “voluntarily undertaken and desired.”
In response, 22 Democrats and 1 lonely Republican in the House, and 23 Democrats and 8 Republicans in the Senate sponsored the Pregnancy Act of 1978 that essentially overturned that sexist Supreme Court decision.
Sexual harassment and employment-based coercive rape exploded through the 1970s and 1980s as birth control pills and abortion were both legalized, allowing women to comfortably enter the workplace in significant numbers for the first time in American history.
Republican crusader, attorney, and founder of the GOP activist group Eagle Forum Phyllis Schlafly — who is often credited as the major force stopping the Equal Rights Amendment — testified before the Senate during Reagan’s first year in office that:
“Sexual harassment on the job is not a problem for virtuous women, except in the rarest of cases. Men hardly ever ask sexual favors of women from whom the certain answer is no. Virtuous women are seldom accosted.”
The Reaganistas in the Senate lapped it up, and her assertion was splashed across the front pages of Republican-aligned newspapers across the country.
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, as the Reagan Revolution pushed back against the legal gains racial minorities and women had made in the 1960s and 1970s, the battlefield for women’s rights shifted from Congress to the media.
Republican talk-show host Rush Limbaugh introduced the word “Feminazi” into the American lexicon, telling men who were losing good jobs to Reagan’s neoliberalism gutting unions and offshoring factories that it was really all women’s fault.
“Women should not be allowed on juries where the accused is a stud” and proclaimed that “feminism was established so as to allow unattractive women easier access to the mainstream of society.”
An estimated 15 million Americans listened to him daily, the vast majority of them men. Limbaugh seeded the ground for today’s generation of male incel mass shooters seeking revenge on women who spurn their sexual advances.
Limbaugh told his audience, repeatedly, that Hillary “Clinton’s testicle lockbox is big enough for the entire Democrat hierarchy, not just some people in the media. … Her lockbox, her testicle lockbox can handle everybody in the Democrat hierarchy.”
Limbaugh, who fellow misogynist and accused rapist Donald Trump gave the Presidential Medal of Freedom, defined the Republican ideal of womanhood while pushing a vile caricature of Clinton:
“[She] reminds men of the worst characteristics of women they’ve encountered over their life: totally controlling, not soft and cuddly. Not sympathetic. Not patient. Not understanding. Demanding, domineering, Nurse Ratched kind of thing.”
Today literally hundreds of Limbaugh wannabees populate the American landscape of roughly 1,500 rightwing talk radio stations, about 300 of them now in Spanish, still selling racism and misogyny as staple items.
Nonetheless, Democrats keep pushing back, trying to strengthen women’s rights — and Republicans keep doing everything possible to stop them.
Just a decade ago, as high-profile reports of the wage differential between men and women filled the news, Democrats in Congress tried to update the 1963 law mandating equal pay for equal work. As the Obama administration noted on June 5, 2012:
“This afternoon, Senate Republicans refused to allow an up-or-down vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act, a commonsense piece of legislation that would strengthen the Equal Pay Act and give women more tools to fight pay discrimination.”
When the 1994 Violence Against Women Act (renewed in 2013) expired last year, Democrats proposed an update that would have retained that law’s protections against spousal rape, funded shelters for abused women, and updated laws against sexual assault and stalking. Fully 172 Republicans in the House of Representatives proudly voted “No.”
When the bill finally went to die in Mitch McConnell’s Senate, Marjorie Taylor Greene justified her “No” vote in the House by echoing the sentiment of many of her Republican colleagues:
“If you want to protect women, make sure women are gun owners and know how to defend themselves. That’s the greatest defense for women.”
Watered down provisions of the bill were finally put into law — without protections for women on Native American reservations, lesbians, undocumented immigrant women, or closing the boyfriend gun loophole — when President Biden and Budget Committee Chair Bernie Sanders went around united GOP opposition by slipping it into a must-pass omnibus spending bill that was signed this March.
Now Republicans are renewing their campaign of terror.
Fox host Jesse Waters who — as you can see in this 2006 post — worked for and helped Bill O’Reilly promote his smears of ObGyn Dr. George Tiller. Now, he’s apparently trying out his own hand at stochastic terrorism.
O’Reilly repeatedly, on the air in 29 separate show segments, called the gynecologist “Tiller the baby killer” and kept at it month after month until Tiller was assassinated while serving as an usher in his church.
Watters appeared to be trying to provoke a similar response, although this time it was a twofer for these woman-haters, as the physician being attacked on Fox this time is also female. Frightened by these public Republican attacks on physicians who are willing to perform abortions, hospitals and doctors across the country are pulling back on their willingness to help women in crisis.
As Eleanor Klibanoff wrote for The Texas Tribune:
“Doctors reported that they have postponed abortion care until a patient’s health or pregnancy complication has deteriorated to the point that their life was in danger, including multiple cases where patients were sent home, only to return once they were in sepsis.
“And even when patients were able to qualify for an abortion under the life-saving exemption, some doctors report being unable to get nurses or anesthesiologists to assist on these procedures for fear that they will be seen as ‘aiding and abetting’ in an abortion, which is prohibited by the law.”
Alan Halaly is reporting for The Daily Beast that this is becoming widespread:
“At least three medical facilities in Texas have counseled doctors that they should not treat pregnant women with certain complications because they might run afoul of the state’s abortion ban, according to the Texas Medical Association.
“The group says a hospital in Central Texas told a physician not to treat an ectopic pregnancy—which is not viable—until it ruptured.”
Republicans are forcing doctors and hospitals to play Russian Roulette with women’s lives. People will die because of this grotesque effort to court the vote of misogynist men and religious zealots.
In another case out of Texas, obstetrician Dr. Jessian Munoz told the Associated Press that he:
“…faced an awful predicament with a recent patient who had started to miscarry and developed a dangerous womb infection. The fetus still had signs of a heartbeat, so an immediate abortion — the usual standard of care — would have been illegal under Texas law.
“‘We physically watched her get sicker and sicker and sicker’ until the fetal heartbeat stopped the next day, ‘and then we could intervene,’ [Dr. Munoz] said. The patient developed complications, required surgery, lost multiple liters of blood and had to be put on a breathing machine ‘all because we were essentially 24 hours behind.’’’
Again, I ask: how will you respond when this happens to someone in your life?
It’s no longer an academic question: the Idaho Republican Party, just this week, voted to change their party’s platform to support a total ban on abortion in that state that does NOT include an exception to save a woman’s life.
As The Hill reported on July 18:
[State Senate candidate Scott] “Herndon said even in the cases where a person’s life is endangered, doctors should not be giving priority to the person over the unborn child.”
The Republican war on women — waged in earnest for over a century and now turbocharged by six fanatics on the Supreme Court — shows no sign of letting up.
The only thing that will stop them is enough people turning out this fall to vote these freaks out of office, get the courts under control, and return sanity to our nation.
Dmіtry Schеmеlеv and Mаthеus Bеrtеllі
© Thom Hartmann, used with permission. Originally published on The Hartmann Report as What Will You Do When the GOP Comes For Your Wife, Daughter, or Sister?
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