The War on Women is No Joke, But The Denials of the Right Are

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When you see tripe like this: Stay the Course: We Will Win This War on Women, especially when accompanied by a photograph of General Patton, you have to wonder.  Of course it’s to be found in the Washington Free Beacon, leading you to wonder if that means the Free Beacon is free of thought. Matthew Continetti, a contributing editor at his father-in-law’s The Weekly Standard and founder of the Free Beacon calls his approach “combat journalism” (and here I thought that was FOX News).  I’d rather simply see journalism, but you’d have to look pretty far to find it.

Mr. Continetti’s approach to the war on women isn’t surprising; after all, he agrees with Bloomberg that the gender gap is a myth. There is no problem, after all, if you refuse to admit a problem exists.

Denialism seems to be the life’s blood of the Republican Party in 2012: denial of global warming, denial of a top-down class war, denial of wage inequities, denial of evolution, denial of the growing gap between rich and poor, denial of the war on women – denial of the gender gap.

In his recent Free Beacon post featuring General Patton, Mr. Continetti argues that “As a political slogan, ‘war on women’ is so broad as to be meaningless.” It might well be to a Republican, but it has not escaped the notice of women or of those of the rest of us capable of independent thought. I mean, is “women” too broad a category for Mr. Continetti to grasp? It looks pretty concrete

to me.

This is what Mr. Continetti is selling:

The very notion is ridiculous, absurd—a gimmick to quicken the heartbeats of Democratic activists and political correspondents. How can a political party that won the allegiance of half the country in the most recent election be fighting a “war” on a particular sex? Who started this war? Where are the fronts? Who are the soldiers? Will it end by treaty? Why isn’t Rand Paul demanding a formal declaration?

I have some answers for Mr. Continetti:

  1. The claim that “half the country” was involved in the 2010 elections is disingenuous: the implication is that 100% of the electorate voted and that is never the case. Voter turnout was in fact only 37.8% – considerably less than half the country and the number falls even more dramatically when you consider that of that 1/3 of the voting age population voting for the U.S. House of Representatives only 53 percent voted Republican – so essentially half of one-third rather than half.
  2. As to how a war can exist given the 2010 vote, the answer is quite simple: the Republicans, finding themselves in firm control of the House following the Midterms, launched the war on women they were not able to launch when they were out of power. Perhaps this concept is also too complex for Mr. Continetti to grasp.
  3. Who started the war? The GOP, Mr. Continetti, started this war. Is that too difficult to grasp? Who do you think? Martians?
  4. The front is women’s reproductive rights, the wage inequality existing between men and women even when holding the same jobs, and on other fronts, including not least, violence against women.
  5. The soldiers are GOP legislators in every state the GOP gained control in 2010, Republican think tanks, fundamentalist Christian groups and even Republican presidential candidates.
  6. It could end by treaty but the avowed GOP strategy of refusing to compromise renders that outcome unlikely. Until Republican politics come down off the extreme edge, there will be no peace.

For his last question Mr. Continetti clearly cannot expect an answer: He is being facetious. Rand Paul is one of those heavily engaged in the war on women: he says life begins at conception, is opposed to abortion even in cases of rape and incest and wants to overturn Rose v. Wade. And why is it necessary for a senator to make a formal declaration when it is the House that is leading the way? This seems a strange prerequisite when there are plenty of representatives vying to do just that.

Mr. Continetti trivializes the issue though I can assure him that women do not find these issues trivial in the least (none that I know or am aware of at any rate), and I suggest that he might feel differently were the government suggesting it had the right to his penis and testicles:

What the war on women really amounts to is a battle for political power between a group of pro-life, pro-religious liberty men and women and a group of men and women who want to maintain abortion on demand and the government provision of abortion, contraceptives, abortifacients, and sterilization procedures as mandated under Obamacare. On one side are people such as Sarah Palin, Mitt and Ann Romney, and Cathy McMorris Rodgers; on the other side are Wasserman Schultz, Obama, Kathleen Sebelius, Hilary Rosen, and others. If this is the war on women, we should accept nothing less than unconditional surrender.

His position is clearly tendentious: “pro religious liberty” is hardly an accurate descriptor when it comes to those waging war on women’s reproductive rights. He is acting as if liberals take the idea of religious liberty less seriously than conservatives, which is absurd. Does he seriously think atheists do not value the First Amendment or their right to disbelief? I can assure him as a Heathen that I do not take my religious liberties lightly. What Mr. Continetti s making clear for all of us is that for conservatives, only their

religious views have value, that those religious beliefs should be privileged over ours. If they think abortion should be banned to the last woman on account of their religious beliefs, well, by God that should be good enough for the rest of us.

The logic does not hold. According to the First Amendment, the Federal government cannot legislate Mr. Continetti’s religious beliefs. His assurances that his God does not like something means less than nothing to me where my rights are concerned. He is free to avoid same-sex marriage and abortion if he finds it objectionable: he does not have the right to any woman’s uterus simply on the basis of his warped view of “religious liberty”.

Mr. Continetti asks, “Does anyone seriously believe that opposing abortion is the same as opposing the Nineteenth Amendment?” It should not come as news to Mr. Continetti, had he not closed his mind off from facts he found inconvenient, that the war on women is not restricted to reproductive rights; it is about equal pay as well, sexual harassment, rape, other forms of violence and a great many other things (Sarah Jones has already covered Romney’s claim that being a mom is “undignified work” for poor women. And there have, in fact, been Republicans who have suggested repealing the Nineteenth Amendment, or all amendments save the Second and the Tenth so they can have well-armed state-sized independent nations.

And there is a genuine parallel to be drawn between opposition abortion and opposing the Nineteenth Amendment. Nobody is telling Mr. Continetti he cannot have full rights to his own sexual function and reproduction. But he and other conservative men are refusing to extend that same right to women. If an egg is life, so then is a sperm and Mr. Continetti should have mo more right to waste a single sperm than a woman should to abort a few clustered cells. Mr. Continetti is saying men should have rights that women lack.

Unsurprisingly, the Free Beacon has drawn its share of negative attention from genuine media sources. Conor Friedersdorft at  The Atlantic labeled

its mission statement the worst in the history of D.C. journalism and called it “A new conservative website is online, backed by millions, and modeled on publications its own editor regards as vicious and unfair.”

Mr. Continetti certainly seems to think he is being witty in closing (and he should be banned from ever watching Patton again):

Fighting to win the White House and Senate, to overturn Obamacare, to reinstate the Mexico City policy, and to defund Planned Parenthood is, as Reagan once described another just war, a noble cause. There will be setbacks. There will be casualties. A surge of forces may be required. But there is one thing we will be able to say when we get back home, and we may thank God for it. Thirty years from now, when we are sitting around our fireside with our granddaughters on our knees, and they ask us, “What did you do in the great war on women?” We won’t have to say, “Well, I shoveled dirt on MSNBC.”

But the Republican war on women is no joking matter and Continetti’s jokes have all the nervous screed of a misogynist. Mr. Continetti and his conservative friends will find that the gender gap is very real come Election Day 2012. They will find that hiding their heads in the sand and avoiding unpalatable facts will not save them from the consequences of their actions and those facts. The GOP’s misogynistic approach will rebound on them this year, and hopefully (yes, I can now with full approval of the AP Stylebook “misuse” that word) Mr. Continetti will have even more to complain about in 2013.

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