I hate the phrase war on women, but it is appropriate for what I believe is happening in this country. It seems that everywhere I turn, women are being targeted. The attitude of society towards women has not changed since Adam gave Eve that damn rib. Since the beginning, women have been perceived as prey and something to control. And although much has changed in this country, there is a war and it is still wages on. Those waging this war use certain rationalizations to justify a war they deny. Some of them are subtle and some of them are blatant. All of them present as a way to dictate the lives of women.
Reproductive rights are one of the more controversial justifications for this war. Everyone argues about pro-choice, pro-life and the ethics and morality of contraception. Here is the bottom line: the only people who should decide what a woman does with her body are the women who own the bodies. Men have no say at all. The only time a man should have a say in the decision about a woman’s body is when it directly affects him. If not, men don’t get to have an opinion about reproductive rights. And no one tries to tell men what they should do with their bodies. Do people feel this way because women can get pregnant? Is it because women are supposed to save themselves for marriage thus not needing contraception? When there are two different sets of standards, there is no wonder that many women feel they are under attack. Think about it this way: There is no situation in this country, in which a majority of women get to decide an issue that only affects men. If you think of one, leave it in the comments section.
The words that people say are not really about dictating the lives of women, but the concepts that people use in their conversation allow them to target women. I have come to believe that most people cannot handle the reality of the awful things that happen to young girls and women in this country. I think they make statements that allow them to dismiss what they do not want to acknowledge and at the same time further their own agendas. In doing so, they say things that make you believe no one cares about women in this country; even a little. I’ll give you a few examples of what I mean:
1.”In the emergency room they have what’s called rape kits where a woman can get cleaned out”
–Texas state Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, on why there shouldn’t be a rape or incest exception in Texas’ sweeping anti-choice bills.
2. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
—Rep. Todd Akin (R-Missouri). His lost his Senate bid in 2012.
3. “It’s Jessica who’s having to have her body live with the ravages of this vaccine.”
—Michele Bachmann, (R-Minn) on the “dangers” of the HPV vaccine
4. Rush Limbaugh calling Sandra Fluke a slut for “needing lots of birth control to manage her sex life.”
5. “Understand though, that when we talk about exceptions, we talk about rape, incest, health of a woman, life of a woman. Life of the woman is not an exception.”
— former Illinois congressman Joe Walsh
I found about twenty of these statements; I am sure there are more. To see some other winners go here. There are people out there who listen and believe statements like these. This is what perpetuates the beliefs that women need to be protected from themselves, the violence against them is imagined and women’s needs are not important. Maintaining these beliefs is what makes it ok to ignore the appalling actions towards women.
Violence against women has been around since the beginning of time. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence states that 1 in 4 women is a victim of domestic violence in the US. 1 in 6 women have experienced an attempted or completed rape. In 2011, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reported that over 11,000 sexual harassment complaints were filed with their office; Over 70% were made by women. Finally, in 2012, the NCIC reported there were over 330,000 young girls and women who were reported missing in the United States. When a society perceives women as objects and/or prey, it is easy to understand these statistics. The attitude that contributes to this violence is not one that people are born with; it is a learned behavior and we are teaching it. There are too many factors to mention here that contribute to teaching this behavior but in general terms it is the things we say, the things we do and the things we allow. It is not just men who are taught to see women in this way. Women are taught a similar attitude, but in a different way. We teach women not to love themselves for who they are; we teach them they are not good enough; we teach them that they need to have a man; we teach them that their bodies are dirty, etc., etc. When this is what we do, I am not surprised by this information. I am sad and pissed.
When you grow up in an environment where it is ok to treat a woman as if she is an object, not important, insignificant and a prop, this will be the end result. Although there are many of us fighting against this war, there are so many more that see none of the above as an issue. No one can look at these statistics and say there is not a problem. They choose to ignore it because it is easier to pretend and live in the world they have created in their minds than to change the mess we have created. The really depressing part of all this is that we begin teaching all of this at a really early age. There are children’s beauty pageants which sexualize children, magazines that make 14 year olds look like they are in college, the amount of child pornography in existence (most of it is girls), and our inability to see the importance in educating young girls. Along with all of this, we still have certain beliefs about what women’s roles should be, a lack of equal pay in this country and the existence of Title IX. If the war is to end, the first thing that should happen is we stop portraying girls and women as objects and as prey. It is a very large concept to overcome, but we need to understand that none of this is because women are weaker or not as good; it is because of how women are perceived.