“The hatred and distrust of women,” Webster’s definition of the word misogyny, has always been insidious, perverse and destructive. Now it is also out of the closet, thanks to Republican fundamentalists in Congress who love attacking women’s human rights instead of tackling tough economic issues. It’s out thanks to men of the cloth who call themselves Christian while hiding behind each other’s black skirts as they destroy women’s lives (and deny their own sexual peccadilloes.) And yes, it’s out because of some nasty women like Karen Handel, the deposed Vice President of the Susan G. Komen Foundation, who mounted such vitriolic attacks on Planned Parenthood and the multitude of women they serve.
Misogyny is nothing new, although it gained ground big time once patriarchy came into vogue. It has existed since early Christianity when men forced women into convents, banned and beheaded their wives, and burned women at the stake for witchcraft. It continued as they locked women away in mental institutions, removed their ovaries at the least sign of active sexuality, and paraded them, trussed like chickens, at Victorian soirees. It was evident when women were tortured for wanting to vote, when they were denied credit in their own names and denied jobs because of their reproductive capacity. It reared its ugly head whenever they sought the pulpit, and again when they were charged with promiscuity upon reporting rape.
Ah, yes, rape. Can’t believe the girls on that one. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) wants to redefine the language of the Hyde Amendment which prohibits federal funding of abortion except in cases of rape or incest. He wants the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act to read “forcible rape,” because – you know, she might have been wearing a short skirt when she was attacked. Maybe she’d even smiled at her rapist over a beer. But rape is, by definition, forcible sexual assault! More than 150 Republicans signed onto the bill, and so did a few conservative Democrats. The proposed bill also has a provision that would allow hospitals to refuse to perform an abortion even if it threatened a woman’s or girl’s life. This is the party of “family values?” I’d call it the party that hates women. As Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said, it reveals a “heinous disregard for the health and well-being of women in America.”
Of course if lawmakers and the Church have their way, there will be more, not fewer, unintended pregnancies. Even though President Obama revised his plan regarding birth control coverage so that insurance companies, not religious institutions, would provide contraception for all women in their workplace, John Boehner (R- Ohio) and his pals threatened to use legislation to derail the proposal. Nevermind that 99 percent of all women have used contraception or that 58 percent of Catholics responding to polls supported the plan. So do several major Catholic universities and hospitals who already offer contraceptive coverage.
How out of touch – or women hating — can these guys be? Well, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has called for a broader religious exemption from the new contraceptive coverage rule that removes contraception altogether from the Affordable Care Act. Where do these Neanderthals come from?
Then there’s Rick Santorum’s recent rant: “They are taking faith and crushing it. When you marginalize faith in America, when you remove the pillar of God-given rights, then what’s left is the French Revolution. … What’s left in France became the guillotine. … if we follow the path of President Obama and his overt hostility to faith in America, then we are headed down that road.” (Thankfully for Mr. Santorum, psychiatric care is not being debated.)
But it isn’t only women’s human rights and health the Church wants to control. In 2010 the Vatican attempted a decree that made the ordination of women one of the gravest crimes in ecclesiastical law, right up there with–can you believe it–the sexual abuse of minors.
Where, and when, does this misogyny stop?
There is a Chinese proverb: “A wife married is like a pony bought; I’ll ride her and whip her as I like.” An Orthodox Jewish prayer says, “Thank God I was not born a woman.” The philosopher Nietzche declared that “woman was God’s second mistake.” Freud asked “What do women want?”
The answer is so simple and yet so profound. We want not to be bound or whipped. We want to thank God we are women. And we want to be free of the machinations and misogyny of God’s first mistake.
Is that really something to be so afraid of and to hate?