Wars begin when an aggressor seeks to seize resources or impose an ideology on its victims, and in some cases, to squelch dissident voices if the conflict is internal to a country. Leaders in Middle Eastern countries such as Syria, Egypt, and Libya claimed they were not waging war on their own citizens, but despite their claims, death and destruction from military bombardment cannot be misconstrued as anything but war, and the victims knew they were in a war. For an aggressor to attempt to convince their victims they were not waging war against them despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary is outrageous, but like leaders in Syria, Libya, and Egypt, Republicans followed the lead of Gaddafi, Assad, and Mubarak and claim they are not waging a war on women.
The Republican National Committee chairman, Reince Priebus, claimed the war on women was entirely baseless and that the “media was trumping up the fictional attacks on women’s rights.” Either Priebus is ignorance personified, in denial, or is attempting to cover up the Republicans’ drive to curtail women’s constitutionally guaranteed rights in Congress and dozens of states. For the past year, Republicans sought to redefine rape and limit women’s access to healthcare, and in the past week, repealed a law to protect gender equality in pay. Republicans cannot claim they are not waging war on women’s rights with any veracity because they have waged this war with extreme prejudice since January 2011 when they took control of the House and several state legislatures.
Republicans have voted en masse against gender equality in pay as a matter of course in their drive to discriminate against women. Except for four GOP senators, every Republican voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 that amended title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967. In the Senate in 2010, every Republican voted against the Paycheck Fairness Act that was another attempt to combat wage discrimination on the basis of gender. Republicans wanted to guarantee that women continue earning, on average, 77-cents on the dollar that men earn. Opponents claimed that women seeking equal pay would lead to “excessive litigation on the small-business community” because the Act protected women who sought information on what their male colleagues earned. Republicans’ argument that businesses would face increased litigation ignores the fact that if employers followed existing laws, women would have no need to file suit for fair pay. Two of the female senators issued statements explaining their no votes by expressing concern that if the Act had passed, women would use class-action to force businesses to follow the law. That was two years ago, and in their continued war on women, Republicans in Wisconsin took the extraordinary step of repealing a paycheck fairness law.
Governor Scott Walker signed a bill repealing a law that made it easier for victims of wage discrimination to have their day in court. The Equal Pay Enforcement Act of 2009 was passed to deter employers from discriminating against women, and it allowed women to press charges and file suit in the state’s circuit courts instead of federal court. Walker quietly signed SB 202 that rolled back women’s wage protections and “turned back the clocks on women’s rights in the workplace” according to Democratic State Senator Dave Hansen. Business groups backed the repeal that Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health executive director, Sara Finger, said was a “demoralizing attack on women’s rights, health, and wellbeing.” Walker’s assault on women’s rights is problematic for Willard Romney because he praised Walker’s leadership and called him a “hero” and a “man of courage” and it demonstrates that Romney feels that women’s economic security and healthcare issues need to be rolled back to the 1900s.
Republicans have used every argument under the Sun to deny women their constitutionally guaranteed equal protections under the law, and their ridiculous arguments have no bearing on whether women deserve equal rights. Wisconsin state senator Glenn Grothman (R) supported repealing paycheck fairness arguing that “money is more important for men” and that they are “a little more money-conscious” than women. It is an offensive statement on its own, but the fact that many families require two income earners to subsist, and that the majority of single-parent families have mothers as the breadwinner makes Grothman’s contentions absolutely false and infuriating.
The reasons Republicans give for legislating discrimination against women are as irrelevant as their claim that the war on women is fantasy, but for women who earn less than men, pay more for healthcare coverage, or lose their right to decide their own reproductive health the war is real. The economic and healthcare issues that affect women also impact the men in their lives and if Republicans think they are only assaulting women, they are mistaken. President Obama took umbrage at the Republican war on women and likened it to a war on civil rights and freedoms all Americans are guaranteed. The President pointed out that women earning less than men “weakens families, communities, is hard on children and weakens the entire economy,” and finally noted that “When people talk about repealing health care reform, they’re not just saying we should stop protecting women with preexisting conditions. They’re also saying we should kick about a million young women off their parents’ health care plans. When people say we should get rid of Planned Parenthood, they’re not just talking about restricting a woman’s ability to make her own health decision. They’re talking about denying, as a practical matter, the preventive care like mammograms that millions of women rely on.”
The President is correct and he stopped short accusing Republicans of erasing the advancements women have made since the sixties, or that they will not stop until they create an atmosphere that stunts women’s economic freedom and mobility. If Republicans think women believe a revamped Republican Party or Willard Romney will suddenly become women’s advocates, they are deluded. Few Americans forget that in the lead-up to the 2010 elections Republicans promised their highest priority was creating jobs, and yet nearly 15 months later, all they did was introduce 1100 anti-choice provisions in 2011 and 900 anti-choice measures thus far in 2012 that does not include repealing Wisconsin’s Equal Pay Law.
The biggest insult, though, was the chairman of the RNC telling women the war on women was in their imagination and the product of media fiction. Reince Priebus was playing a patriarchal role and expecting women to shrug it off and support Republicans because a man told them to. The Republicans have overreached again and this time they have picked the wrong fight because not only have they awoken a powerful giant, they have roused the husbands, boyfriends, sons, and fathers who are incensed that a group of patriarchs is causing real economic and health damage to the women they love and then have the audacity to tell them it is imaginary. Republicans will not recover from the damage they inflicted on women and no amount of reset in the general election will change the deep-seated anger women feel at being treated like second-class citizens and in the case of equal pay, slaves.
Women are sick-to-death of being treated like slaves who need Republican men to tell them they are unworthy of equal pay, quality healthcare, or the Constitution’s guarantee of equal rights. It is women who will save America from Republican fascism because they have, with minorities, taken the brunt of Republican attacks on equal rights. Men have had their opportunity to lead this country out of the Dark Ages and they have a simple choice; either stand aside and let women fix America, or join them and right this sinking ship before it is too late. Women make up over half the population, and yet they have, along with the poor, taken most of the damage from Republicans for the past 15 months and are mobilizing to return the damage in kind in November. Republicans may succeed convincing ignorant Americans to vote against their own self-interests, but underestimating the intelligence and resolve of women is an ignorant mistake they cannot recover from.