Women, Sexual McCarthyism, And Right-Wing Authoritarians

Jennifer Granholm has a great op-ed on The Politico today about sexual McCarthyism, the disease on the right causing them to make women their targets. Mandating transvaginal ultrasound. Demonizing women who dare to speak for the right to

Jennifer Granholm has a great op-ed on The Politico today about sexual McCarthyism, the disease on the right causing them to make women their targets. Mandating transvaginal ultrasound. Demonizing women who dare to speak for the right to contraceptives. Even proposing laws that allow an employer to fire a woman for using contraceptives.

About that Arizona legislation. My first question was how on earth any employer would even know a female employee had used contraception. How could they know without violating health privacy laws? Someone suggested to me that all they'd have to do is ask. Imagine that conversation.

Sexual McCarthyism. Have you ever used contraceptives? Are you using them now? Have you had an abortion? And say, are any of your friends Commie Pinkos?

Granholm:

Consider this: After the election of 2010 that saw Republicans gain control of state Legislatures across the country, more than 1,100 anti-choice laws were introduced in 2011 — a new record. Eighty-three measures have been passed into law. So far in 2012, an additional 430 were introduced. We may break the record again this year.

In some cases, these bills are reaching beyond abortion and right into control over women’s health care in general.

Take Texas. Gov. Rick Perry and the 80 percent male state Legislature. They said they would forgo $35 million in federal funding to keep Planned Parenthood from getting one dime of it. Eleven Planned Parenthood clinics have shut down. This comes even though Texas already bars clinics that take such money from performing abortions.

After an uproar, Perry has since said that Texas will find the money “somewhere” for these clinics — but the Legislature has already cut the budget for care from $111 million to $38 million this year. It’s estimated the cuts would lead to 400,000 women losing health care services. This could mean 20,500 additional births because of lost access to contraception — costing the state $57 million in maternity bills.

And now we have Mitt Romney, the man who once said he supported Planned Parenthood after a relative had a botched abortion, swearing he'd "repeal Obamacare" and do away with Planned Parenthood altogether, as if he would somehow become King if he were elected President.

Sexual McCarthyism.

The final chapter of Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale" is a fictional "post-Gilead" analysis of how it came to be that women were trapped in a male-dominated authoritarian society where their value was measured by their ability to become pregnant and give birth to healthy children. It eerily describes the same environment and principles touted by the right wing right now in this country:

Men highly placed in the regime were thus able to pick and choose among women who had demonstrated their reproductive fitness by having produced one or more healthy children, a desirable characteristic in an age of plummeting Caucasian birthrates, a phenomenon observable not only in Gilead but in most northern Caucasian societies of the time.

The reasons for this decline are not altogether clear to us. Some of the failure to reproduce can undoubtedly be traced to the widespread availability of birth control of various kinds, including abortion, in the immediate pre-Gilead period.

[...]

As we know from the study of history, no new system can impose itself upon a previous one without incorporating many of the elements to be found in the latter, as witness the pagan elements in medieval Christianity and the evolution of the Russian "KGB" from the czarist secret service that preceded it; and Gilead was no exception to this rule. Its racist policies, for instance, were firmly rooted in the pre-Gilead period, and racist fears provided some of the emotional fuel that allowed the Gilead takeover to succeed as well as it did. [my emphasis added]

Fiction, and not fiction. The best fiction, after all, is rooted in truth. Today, sexual McCarthyism. Tomorrow, forced reproduction? It's not really unthinkable anymore, and that makes Christine Pelosi's comment in the video above a battle cry: "If you don't respect us, don't expect us."

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