Scourge of America’s Right-Wing Scaredy-Cats
by Thomas Adcock
Copyright © 2014 – Thomas Adcock
NEW YORK, near America
Proudly obsessed with Victorian-era notions of feminine probity, the men of America’s amalgamated Republican Tea Party are hell-bent on siring a new nation of government-enforced misogyny. Evidenced by their rhetoric and legislative conduct, true-believing party men holding public office feel called to noble purpose: as godly guardians of vaginal virtue.
Like other unhealthy preoccupations, vaginaphobia dwells in the sweaty darkness of inchoate fear. Reason and rationality do not penetrate the scaredy-cat mindset of those afflicted, for anxiety over female pudenda is as ancient as it is irrational; the Latin word pudenda, a synonym for womanly naughty bits, has the literal meaning, “That where of one ought to feel shame.”
In the male Teapublican kingdom, sex and shame go together like red necks and white socks—regardless of whether the sex involves adults of one or more genders, or occasional farm animals. A man susceptible to sexual shame is a man in search of either redemption or retribution. Regrettably, the latter impulse is a mighty force of governmental debate over what is arguably the most intimate aspect of human conduct: heterosexual congress necessitating birth control, or that which results in unwelcome zygotes.
While political invasion of boudoir behavior would seem to contradict their much-advertised “conservative” opposition to big-government condescendence, vaginaphobes are as handicapped by hypocrisy as we heathens. Limited governance be damned when it comes to questionable coitus. Ergo, the wet dream of American conservatives: government small enough to fit inside a uterus.
On a daily basis, and in ways large and small—which is to say, large insults from small men—officials and lesser louts of the Republican Tea Party display a visceral contempt for women. Disrespect for the legal right to medical abortion in hygienic clinical settings, now four decades beyond the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Roe v. Wade, is the most obvious contemporary manifestation of vaginaphobia.
Teapublican legislators in Congress and most state capitals provide loud and lusty support for the anti-abortion crowd—a moveable feast reliant on unemployed men working off their frustrations by way of nationwide attacks on clinics and doctors. Some attacks are fatal, all are violent in tone. The movement has grown politically savvy and quite wealthy, courtesy of the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC. Through a recent series of research papers published by the Washington-based Center for Media and Democracy, ALEC stands revealed as an $83 million lobbying organization generously funded by, among other corporate interests, the billionaire oil barons Charles and David Koch, longtime financial angels of extreme right-wing groups. Money from what the Center calls the “socially retrograde” Koch brothers “help[s] subsidize legislators’ trips to ALEC meetings, where they are wined, dined, and handed ‘model’ legislation to make law in their state[s].”
Small wonder that Professor Carole Joffe of the University of California at San Francisco detected astonishing similarities, in both purpose and prose, among recent anti-abortion bills in dozens of state legislatures dominated by the Republican Tea Party. In a July 2013 paper for the online Scholars Strategy Network, she reported that since 2010 a record ninety-two state level anti-abortion measures were enacted across the country—representing a six-fold increase from 1985.
“The numbers of new restrictive laws are startling,” the professor wrote. “Unless courts intervene, the new enactments can achieve the total closure of clinics that include abortion services…State legislatures have fashioned two kinds of legal provisions that are virtually impossible for abortion doctors and clinics to meet.”
The onerous provisions:
• Abortion doctors must hold “admitting privileges” at local hospitals. Given forty years of violent Teapublican protest outside their clinics, hospital boards are reluctant to credential abortion doctors—never mind that abortions being “much safer than [hospital] childbirth,” according to Professor Joffe. And despite other complex clinical procedures—colonoscopies, for example—that do not require physicians to maintain hospital privileges.
• Abortion clinics must establish staffing and housing protocols identical to emergency room and surgical facilities at general hospitals. “Most existing clinics would have to spend millions on renovations to meet these rules, and already a number have had to close [in Virginia and Pennsylvania],” wrote Professor Joffe. “New Texas rules will reduce abortion clinics across that vast state from forty-two to just five.”
To date, according to newly compiled figures from New York’s Guttmacher Institute, twenty-seven of America’s fifty states have passed legislation hobbling the ability of women to obtain abortions—or making them altogether impossible.
In a special election last week in Florida—to replace a longtime Congressman from the era when Republicans had not sold their souls to the regressive Tea Party—a vituperative Teapublican by the name of David Jolly carried the day for vaginaphobia.
Mr. Jolly based his successful campaign on two vows: repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, the hard-won federal statute affording significant medical help for women; and repeal of Roe v. Wade.
Preventing pregnancy in the first place, by various methods of birth control, is moderately less terrifying to Teapublican men than abortion. The phobic attitude dates back to a hypothesis advanced in 1958 by Arthur E. Hertzler (1870-1946), who billed himself in an autobiographical account as a “horse-and-buggy doctor.” In 1958, the doctor from rural Kansas published an article that counseled, “The only way to keep a woman happy is to keep her barefoot and pregnant.”
This parallels an antiquated rôle for German women, succinctly prescribed in the days of Die Deutsches Reich (1871-1918) as “Kinder, Küche, Kirche”—in English, “Children, Kitchen, Church.” As a means of social control, few institutions come close to the last element: religion. Which returns us to an American context:
On Tuesday morning, the 25th of March, the Teapublican-friendly Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a pair of cases claiming “religious liberty” as constitutional grounds for ignoring that section of the Affordable Care Act by which corporate employers must pay for emergency contraceptive drugs—so-called “morning-after” pills—as part of health insurance benefits provided to female workers.
“Covering these drugs…would violate [corporation owners’] most deeply held religious belief that life begins at conception, when an egg is fertilized,” said a spokesman for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, an organization closely allied with the Republican Tea Party.
The Becket Fund is underwriting the legal challenge. Its spokesman had nothing to say about the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that corporate health insurance plans cover male workers suffering erectile dysfunction, or in need of penile implants.
In the presidential election of 2008, the Republican Tea Party and its presidential candidate selected a woman, of all things, as nominee for vice president of the United States. Alternately dubbed “Caribou Barbie” and “Whoopee the Ice Queen,” Alaska Governor Sarah Palin quickly disqualified herself in the eyes of the voting public through a series of stupendously idiotic remarks—including self-defined foreign policy expertise: the ability to see the Siberian coastline of Russia from certain areas of westernmost Alaska, weather conditions permitting. At the top of the Teapublican ticket in ’08 was U.S. Senator John McCain, a Vietnam War hero who saw his hopes for White House occupancy dashed by a photogenic lackwit who spent $180,000 (€131,000) of party cash for a new wardrobe and quit her governorship, immediately upon losing the vice presidency, in order to become a svelte harpy for right-wing television. Two years after their hapless effort, Mr. McCain assessed his running mate this way: “I’m proud of Sarah.”
To this day, it is difficult to understand what in heaven’s name John McCain was thinking.
Psychologists suggest a political Freudian slip: celebrate Sisterhood by nominating a cheerleader-pretty member of the sorority for the second highest office in the land, confident that she has the intellect of a potato. More to the point, perhaps, British comedian and media personality Russell Brand offered a rude explanation for Ms. Palin’s popularity among men of the Republican Tea Party, including perhaps the feckless Mr. McCain: “The only reason they tolerate her,” said Mr. Brand in a 2012 radio interview, “is because they want to fuck her.
In fairness to Teapublican men of twenty-first century America, vaginaphobia is primordial, universal, uncured illness—rooted in the teachings of three of the world’s great religions, all of which harbor distaste for the female component to copulation, and given to unholy glee over bodily injury to women.
The Christian bible (New Testament) informs us that a Nazareth woman by the name of Mary, betrothed to a pauper named Joseph, was a virgin who nonetheless birthed a famous boy called Jesus. According to Hebrew scripture in the Book of Leviticus (Old Testament), “[T]he daughter of any priest, if she profane herself by playing the whore, she profaneth her father; she shall be burnt with fire.” And this from Qur’an 4:34: “Men have authority over women because God has made the one superior to the other…Good women are obedient. They guard their unseen parts…[Men must] admonish them and forsake them in beds apart, and beat them.”
Lest my countrymen believe America to be more civilly advanced than nations where authorities turn a blind eye to acid attacks on wayward women, “honor killings,” and female circumcision, a sampling of findings by the Women’s Resource Center of Philadelphia are instructive: an American woman is killed every six hours as the result of male violence; one in four U.S. women have been injured or threatened by male violence; one in five American women are rape victims; in the past twelve years, more American women were murdered by their male partners than U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Then there is Lawrence Lockman, a staunch Teapublican member of the state legislature in Maine who has been known to appear in the capitol building togged out in a vampire costume; something to do with his dislike of taxes. In his former job, as director of Maine’s Pro-Life Education Association, Mr. Lockman told a local newspaper reporter, “If a woman has [the legal right to abortion], why shouldn’t a man be free to use his superior strength to force himself on a woman? At least the rapist’s pursuit of sexual freedom doesn’t result in anyone’s death.”
Why is it men who find the likes of Mr. Lockman appalling cannot find it within themselves to in some way counter vaginaphobia through public enlightenment? As a start at filling this void, I hereby propose an American version of Weiberfastnacht (Women’s Carnival Day), an unofficial Lenten holiday in the Rhineland region of Germany. On this occasion, according to England’s Daily Mail newspaper, “Thousands of women in vibrant, multi-colored costumes descend upon town centers for the celebration. The popular event encourages women to assert their power through customs like symbolically storming town halls, snipping off men’s ties below the knot, and compensating them with a festival kiss, or ‘Butzie.’ International delegates at a conference in Dusseldorf wearing business attire were reportedly warned to be wary of women with scissors should they venture into the streets.”
Finally, from the department of My-Own-Worst-Enemy Department: some Teapublican women do feminism no favors. Besides Sarah Palin, behold Cari Christman, executive director of a major right-wing campaign finance group in Texas. When asked by a Dallas television reporter why her party opposed President Obama’s first legislative victory in a Congress formerly controlled by the Democratic Party—the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, allowing women to file court claims over economic discrimination on the job—Ms. Christman was at turns disingenuous and scatterbrained.
“Women want real-world solutions to this problem, not more rhetoric,” she claimed, feigning ignorance of litigation under the Fair Pay Act that has resulted in millions of dollars worth of retroactive wage and salary adjustments. Asked what the Republican Tea Party “solutions” might be, Ms. Christman chose rhetorical farrago as a substitute for direct response.
“Women are extremely busy,” she chattered. “We lead busy lives, whether working professionally, whether working from home, and times are extremely busy. It’s a busy cycle for women, and we’ve got a lot to juggle. So when we look at this issue, we think, what’s practical? And we want more access to jobs. We want to be able to get a higher education degree at the same time we’re working or raising a family.”
What in heaven’s name was Cari Christman talking about?
It amuses me to quote chowder-heads on matters of special importance to women, and I believe the word I have coined—vaginaphobia—is comical. But it is unpleasant to contemplate the Republican Tea Party’s modern-day legislative record on this score. I say this not because I consider myself a champion of women’s issues, but due to the simple fact of my having a mother and a wife and two daughters and a granddaughter and many nieces and female cousins and aunts and scores of women friends and colleagues and acquaintances. Among this aggregate are several of my personal heroes.
And because of one more thing: women’s issues, as we clumsily say, are of objectively equal importance to us men.
Sadly now, I offer a brief listing of Teapublican dishonor in the U.S. Congress:
• In 1974, the party voted—to a man—against the Equal Credit Act. Today, private banks may not demand male co-signatures when women, single or married, apply for credit cards or mortgage loans.
• In 1978, the party voted against the Pregnancy Act. Today, employers may not fire workers simply because they will bear children.
• In 1980, the party voted against allowing women to report sexual harassment in the workplace. Over the decades following, a number of Teapublicans have paid fines or gone to jail for this category of sex crime.
• In 2009, the party voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act (to the probable delight of the busy Cari Christman).
• In 2012, the party filibustered President Obama’s initiative to improve corporate pay structures through the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act.
• In 1994, the party voted against the Violence Against Women Act—and against a one-year reauthorization in 2012, followed by opposition in 2013 for further reauthorization.
Distressing and dishonorable as this catalogue is, the venomous mouthings of certain men who ought to have their lips sewn shut is on both counts more so; in fact, it is downright sickening. Led by the perma-sneering Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, doppelgänger of the odious red baiting drunkard Senator Joe McCarthy (1908-1957), Teapublicans no longer hesitate in debasing women during times once thought inappropriate.
Here in America, this time of the year is known as “Women’s History Month,” in accordance with presidential proclamation. To celebrate, Mr. Cruz and a pair of Teapublican co-religionists—Senator Mike Lee of Utah and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee—were speakers at an anti-abortion jamboree held March 13 in Washington. The unstated purpose was to pour shame on women forced into making agonizing decisions. Sponsoring the event was the extreme right-wing Susan B. Anthony List, an organization founded in 1992 as cynical appropriators of a good and decent name—that of a decidedly left-wing suffragest and anti-slavery activist from the nineteenth century.
Leading off the event’s agenda of demonizing women who choose to abort—poverty and rape are frequent motivations, according to the Guttmacher Institute—was ex-Governor Huckabee, an ordained Protestant minister and right-wing television blowhard likely to attend the Republican Tea Party national convention in the summer of 2016 in order to secure a presidential nomination.
“If we teach the generation coming after us that it’s okay to terminate a human life because it represents a financial hardship,” asked Mr. Huckabee, “what are we telling them?”
Next up was the senator from Utah, along with the dimples that dot his ham-colored cheeks. An ardent supporter of capital punishment and American military incursions on foreign soil at the drop of a helmet, Mr. Lee said abortion rights activists are as morally reprehensible as abortion-seeking women—all engaged in “a culture of death.”
Then it was Ted Cruz with a lollapalooza wind-up.
Likewise a Teapublican presidential contender, the Texas senator spoke of a recent demonstration in support of Roe v. Wade on the sidewalk fronting the majestic Supreme Court building in Washington. According to Mr. Cruz, demonstrators marched “arm-in-arm, chanting ‘Hail, Satan!’”
Given its current success rate in alienating women, the nominating convention that Messrs. Huckabee and Cruz plan on attending three summers from now might turn out to be a stag affair.
— Thomas Adcock is America correspondent for CulturMag