Equality is allegedly a hallmark of America’s exceptionalism, but as any minority will attest, it is hardly a reality throughout history and especially in the 21st century. Despite progress over the years, women have lagged behind men in securing equal rights and during 2011, the GOP launched an assault on women’s rights that is unprecedented. Republicans hate women as a matter-of-course, and their drive to deny women the right to choose their own reproductive rights began in earnest in Virginia this week to begin, in 2012, what Republicans started last year. However, this year it is evident that, besides restricting women’s rights, the patriarchal mindset that drives this country is steeped in double-standard that dictates what is good for women is an anathema to men.
Virginia Republicans launched a bicameral assault on women with two separate, but equally obscene measures that have as their basis the Christian bible. House Bill 1, a personhood amendment, fundamentally outlaws legal abortions and threatens to ban contraception. In the state senate, a woman introduced a bill requiring women seeking an abortion to submit to an ultrasound to “determine the gestational age of the fetus.” It is nothing new for Republicans to force intrusive medical procedures on women, or assign constitutional equal rights to single-celled organisms, but the two bills insulted a state Senator, Janet Howell (D), and she decided to force men to undergo an intrusive medical procedure to impose equality on males in Virginia.
Howell’s amendment to state senator Jill Vogel’s (R) bill required that men undergo a digital rectal exam for erectile dysfunction pills such as Viagra. Howell said, “If pregnant women should have to get an ultrasound before having an abortion, men should have to undergo additional medical procedures before getting a prescription for erectile dysfunction.” Howell’s contention was simple; “We should have just a little gender equity here.” The ultrasound bill’s sponsor disagreed and remarked that “erectile dysfunction, in this context, is different from pregnancy” and although she is technically correct, there is a connection that is patently undeniable. It is sheer inequality that a man can take a pill to stiffen his resolve and impregnate a woman, and yet, the woman will be forced to submit to an ultrasound with the purpose of “opening them up to emotional blackmail,” and if that is not enough pressure, the personhood amendment forces women to submit to the ultimate intrusive medical procedure; forced birth.
This issue is more than forced birth, personhood, or the constitutional right to an abortion; it is about equality and the misogyny inherent in our patriarchal society. Both of these bills are attempts to intimidate women into submitting to a male-dominated religious view that is in itself unconstitutional. There is no reasonable excuse for forcing a woman to undergo any medical procedure against her will, but when the tables are turned, men are given a pass; because they are men. This is all based on god’s admonition that women are subordinate to a man and it is the impetus for women being treated like second-rate citizens without the right to make basic reproductive choices.
The notion that women are subservient to men transcends nearly all religions, and Christian men rival Muslim men in oppressing women’s rights and it is stunning that in America males still dominate women in every area whether it is equal pay or gender equity in healthcare costs. Republicans are the worst offenders, but the stunning aspect is that Christian women who acquiesce to submitting to a man’s will, regardless the offense to themselves, their daughters, sisters, mothers or aunts, support forcing other women to be in subjection to a man whether it is their religious view or not. Submitting to a man’s will is so ingrained in American women’s consciousness, that the Susan G Komen for the Cure Foundation submitted to Christian pro-life men in congress and are withholding funding for life-saving breast cancer screening at Planned Parenthood because congressional Republicans launched an investigation aimed at eliminating Planned Parenthood and eventually, contraception.
The Virginia legislation is not unexpected, but it is shocking that any woman is willing to force other women in the state to undergo a medical procedure and reject a similar requirement for the men who impregnate them. The amendment requiring men to undergo a digital rectal examination had a direct correlation to Virginia’s personhood amendment whose premise is that intercourse is tantamount to life, and if life is the result of erectile dysfunction pills, then it is patently unfair to let men escape untouched.
Fairness though, is not the purview of Republicans, and Christian Republicans, male or female, have perpetuated the bible’s gender inequality to the extent that it is becoming the law of the land. In that sense, America is no more exceptional than Taliban-controlled Afghanistan where women earn less, have fewer rights, and must submit to a man’s will or face consequences, and disregarding geographical location, there is no difference whatsoever between Christian or Muslim men. For a change though, a woman stood up to men and attempted to level the playing field and if nothing else, it is a reason to celebrate.
Editor’s Note: Howell’s amendment was defeated narrowly by a vote of 21-19.