In the United States, it took 131 years for women to get the right to vote, 133 years to get our first female Senator, 192 years to get a woman on the Supreme Court, and we’re still waiting — a whopping 229 years — for our first female president. Like much of the world, our country has a long history of female subjugation by men in power. Historically, much of that control has been exerted sexually — for example, via strict marital expectations, rape, lack of birth control, and anti-abortion laws.
Today, thankfully, women are free to live and work without marrying, or to marry a fellow female; marital rape is now illegal in all 50 states (only since 1993); thanks to rape shield laws and Title IX, we can better fight sexual crimes; the Pill gave women control over their reproductive destinies; today any gal can walk into a CVS and buy condoms; and hallelujah for Roe v. Wade!
When we think of efforts to roll back the clock on all this progress, we tend to think of sexist, misogynistic, homophobic men who are afraid of women’s sexual power (i.e. Trump-Pence types), who long for the good ol’ days when women knew their place: barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen. Which is why the results of the recent NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll are so surprising.
According to an analysis by NPR’s Domenico Montanaro:
The group most ardently in support of outright overturning Roe, according to the poll, is Republican women, who often fuel anti-abortion-rights activism. More than 4 in 10 (43 percent) of Republican women want Roe overturned. Another 36 percent of Republican women want restrictions added to abortion rights.
A majority of Republican women want to restrict or eliminate access to a safe, medical procedure that is key to women’s autonomy. They want to enact legislation that wouldn’t actually stop abortions but just create a whole new set of social woes for themselves and their sisters. As Michelle Oberman, author of Her Body, Our Laws: On the Front Lines of the Abortion War, From El Salvador to Oklahoma,” wrote in the New York Times recently:
…it’s clear that even a substantial legal victory for abortion opponents will not be as effective in combating abortion as they imagine — not just because a woman who wants to terminate her pregnancy will find a way, but also because abortion drugs make finding that way easier than ever…. But there will still be consequences. Doctors will find themselves torn between norms protecting confidentiality and the pressure to report their patients [for suspected induced miscarriages]; the pressure to treat women themselves as criminals is likely to grow, intensifying an existing pattern of charging poor minority women with crimes arising from miscarriages, stillbirths or perceived risks taken while pregnant.
Remember which demographic was a key deciding factor — besides Russians — in electing a serial sexual predator and adulterer to the highest office in the country, if not the world? White WOMEN. Fifty-three percent of all white women who voted in the presidential election voted for Trump.
It all seems counter-intuitive: Why are women, especially Republican women, acting and voting in ways that are against their own best interests? Is it purely out of strict adherence to religious dogma that embraces traditional gender roles and contends that human “souls” enter the egg at fertilization? Or could it be, at least in part, something more sinister? Some toxic combination of judmentalism, self-hatred, lack of education, and erotophobia, perhaps? It’s like political Stockholm Syndrome!
Whatever the case may be, those of us who understand that bodily autonomy is key to the success and equality of women in the modern, civilized world need to do a better job of conveying our long history of sexist oppression to these misguided female voters, so that we stop coming closer and closer to repeating it.