March 8th was International Women’s Day – which is about recognizing and celebrating the advances women have made to be full members of society. Most notably this year, we can celebrate the official recognition of the right to serve on the front lines has finally come. We can celebrate that we’re getting closer to earning equal pay for doing the same work as our male counterparts.
If it seems like the list of things to celebrate is short, it’s because the steps backward are far greater. Our representation in positions of leadership is just one indicator of the many glass ceilings that have yet to be broken. The list of states in which womens’ access to abortions are either difficult or non-existent is growing. The list of laws that seek to reduce women to reproductive mechanisms controlled by the state is also growing.
We can’t overlook the GOPs’ multi-pronged war on women that not only seeks to place our rights as persons under the constitution below that of corporations and zygotes; but also seeks to increase poverty among women. We saw it in the GOP’s sequester, and we’re seeing more of the same in the “negotiations” to avoid another government shutdown.
Terry O’Neil, President of NOW put the situation succinctly in a statement :
“In both the U.S. and many European countries, women make up the majority of employees in the public sector, and women also rely disproportionately on social service programs. Cuts to government spending invariably target these areas for a number of shameful reasons. First and foremost, women, people of color, people with disabilities and all of those struggling to get by are underrepresented in the halls of power and therefore easy scapegoats. Second, the proponents of such cuts are often beholden to big business, the wealthy and the military industrial complex, so those money-hoarders are off the hook. And third, shredding the safety net is already at the top of these guys’ agenda, so they’re only too happy to use government debt as an excuse to slash even deeper.”
Like their ideological playmates in Europe, Conservatives in America favor attacking public sector jobs most of which are held by women. At the same time, the programs targeted for cuts affect women and children more dramatically than men. Cuts to programs like Head Start and Early Start mean 70,000 children will lose their places.
Women’s access to healthcare will (of course) be adversely affected to the tune of $86 billion.
Also thanks to the GOP sequester $20 million will be cut from programs under the Violence Against Women Act. Speaking of the VAWA, if the GOP had its way, the VAWA wouldn’t be law because in GOP speak, it includes “other different groups” http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2013/03/04/1669601/blackburn-vawa/ like Native women, Immigrant women, and members of the LGBT community.
The GOP continues to speak of the virtues of self-reliance while putting obstacles in place to make self-reliance a pipedream for most Americans, especially most women.
It doesn’t take much analysis to realize that the GOP’s “vision” for women resembles something out of a 1950’s sitcom, though the reality of their policies make their vision of well-coiffed American women vacuuming in high heels and pearls even more of an illusion than it was in the 1950’s.
European conservatives tried the very austerity policies that makes the GOP warm all over. Contrary to the GOP’s claims, austerity didn’t create jobs in Europe – it created unemployment and other repercussions. The Boston Globe reports ”But the austerity cuts made to restore confidence in financial markets have helped push the region into recession and increase unemployment to record highs. Voters in several crisis-hit nations have protested such EU-led austerity by supporting euroskeptic parties, most recently in Italy.”
It isn’t surprising that women were affected more than men by these policies. ”The economic crisis has affected women more than men but the crisis is also the opportunity to change the current situation,” said Gianni Pittella.
Obviously, facts and data won’t persuade conservatives that their policies aren’t working. No matter what the polls say, conservatives remain convinced that their problem is bad messaging, rather than policies that take women, along with our economy and everything else that resembles “the land of the free” back to the days when freedom was a privilege reserved for white men.
Perhaps the best way to celebrate International Women’s Day is to recognize we live in a country in which only one political party stands for everyone’s present and future, including women.
Image: The Political Carnival