This Saturday I had the opportunity and honor to participate in the Unite Against The War on Women rally in Washington DC. The issue of the degradation of women's rights in this country is something I've been thinking about for a while now, but the impetus to attend the rally actually came from Facebook. One of the organizers of the campaign had reached out to us about using "Fight On" as the soundtrack for one of their videos and we agreed:
The interesting thing about the request is that while "Fight On" was written with oppressed people in mind, a big part of the theme of those who "fight on in a world that doesn't see them" is specifically inspired by the bravery and challenges faced by women around the world - those who don't get medals when the soldiers come home, but who nonetheless keep the world moving and make our lives worth living.
Today the rights of women are under assault in the United States by leaders who preach "small government" while practicing the politics of invasive ultrasounds. It strikes me that this actually follows a pattern we've seen in many parts of the world, where predominantly male leaders in societies facing significant challenges, latch onto the issue of a woman's "virtue" as a panacea for society's ills. Such efforts are couched in terms of honoring women, yet they result in such heinous practices as the prevention of girls from attending school in Afghanistan, women being forced to marry their rapists in parts of the Middle East, and the practice of Female Genital Mutilation in parts of Africa.
For Westerners these perspectives are seen as barbaric and a world away from anything we can understand. But how far are we from "barbarism" when an opinion leader like Rush Limbaugh can call Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke a "slut" for testifying in Congress about women's contraception, and the putative leader of the GOP, Mitt Romney, doesn't have the balls to take him to task on it? The whole right-wing peanut gallery was likewise silent about the original all-male panel on the subject. If silence is consent, we have a political movement in this country today that is pretty Medieval in it's view of women's rights.
Now wait, some will argue - this is not about women but the rights of the unborn. Is all this controversy, truly based on the American right's love of children? If so, then certainly the policies advanced by the conservative leadership would clearly be pro-mother-&-child right? House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's budget reflects added money for pre-natal care and early childhood education right?
That's a bigger joke than anything we heard at the White House Corrrespondent's Dinner. We all know that these people's money has never been put where there mouths are (with the exception of Mitt Romney who apparently has money pouring out of every Swiss orifice). This is not about serving the interests of women nor children, it's about the exercise of power by men who feel powerless to address the real economic, social & political challenges facing the nation.
Looking at all this through that lens, I'd argue you don't need to be a feminist to realize that the so-called "War on Women" is really an abdication of responsibility by our leaders and as such it's assault on all of us. Whether you consider yourself liberal, conservative or indy like me, we all deserve better from our leadership. And until our leaders start pursuing policies that will provide good jobs for people other than ultrasound technicians, we need to stand firm with our mothers, daughters, sisters and lovers to hold those leaders to account. This ain't Afghanistan. The buck stops at our feet.