I noticed that Charles Pierce at Esquire is getting a deluge of “you’re wrong about this one, Obama totally scored” comments on his post about how braindead stupid Obama’s cave to the Catholic bishops was over the birth control controversy. Here’s what Charles said about it in his How Obama’s Lady Parts Deal Empowers the Church:
The Church has claimed — and the president has tacitly accepted — the right to deny even its employees of other faiths the health-care services of which it doesn’t approve on strictly doctrinal grounds. That is not an issue of “religious liberty.” That’s the enshrinement of religious thuggery in the secular law. By accepting that frame, the president has left himself dependent on the avaricious to bail him out against the arrogant. This is not a comfortable place to be.
And that’s not even to get into the obvious fact that women’s-health issues have been treated as little more than a bargaining chip by a Democratic president. Again.
I see from the peanut gallery that it is suggested that I may have underestimated the president’s political jujitsu on this issue. However, I’d like to hear a clear exposition of the following: What political advantages has the president gained from his accommodation on this issue that didn’t exist in the status quo ante? Before the controversy broke, health-insurance plans had to cover contraception, except in the case of explicitly religious organizations engaged in specifically religious work, and all the polling data suggested that the American people wanted it that way. According to all available polling data, the bishops were already a marginalized opposition holding firm to a marginalized opinion. The traditional Catholic policy on birth control already was as unpopular and ignored as it had been since 1965. The Republicans were already on the losing side of this issue. Yet, in less than two weeks of ginned-up phony outrage, the marginalized opposition got the White House to move off its original position. Now, if you want to argue that all of these political advantages have been increased and sharpened because of what the president did — e.g. the bishops now look even more unreasonable — I guess you can, but I’d argue that they don’t really give a damn about that, and they never have. I’m less sanguine than Amanda is that the White House will be running “We Saved The Pill!” ads this fall. I think the whole argument for “religious liberty” — a phrase the president never should have used in its current political context — is going to spread throughout the campaign now, and it’s going to revitalize all the social issues. I do not believe in cooler heads prevailing, or that this is a reasonable nation willing to listen to reasonable accommodations. But, hell, I could be wrong, too
This issue is going to look different to you depending on your gender. If you’re male, or simply a loyal Democrat who doesn’t want Republicans to win this fall, you’re probably all “what’s the big deal? He helped out the Liberal Catholics who were looking for cover. Slam dunk! Partay!”. If you’re a woman, you see this as capitulation to the very idea that anyone needed cover to do the right thing. Obama just blew oxygen into a dying ember giving new life to a very unpopular position. If you’re a woman, it’s now necessary to jump through yet another hoop to get the medical services you want and need. It’s another fucking bothersome workaround in a world of workarounds.
Do any of you guys know how difficult it *still* is for females to get recognition in school for talent in math and science? I’ll give you an example. In 7th grade, the advanced math class in my daughter’s school learning algebra in one year consisted of 21 children, all of them there on the basis of a teacher recommendation, not merely math scores from the previous year. Of those 21 children, 14 were boys and 7 were girls. The selection was made solely at the discretion of the previous year’s math teachers from their classes in 6th grade that were 50/50 in gender representation. It is much harder for a well qualified girl to get into a math class like that in the 21st century because girls get rewarded for compliance and good behavior, not making leaps of mathematical logic. Girls who are left out and are still determined to take advanced math have to go through complex workarounds.
We are forced to workaround and workaround and workaround for services and resources and recognition. It’s absurd that this decision by Obama to give liberal Catholics cover is treated as some kind of victory for him and women. The problem is between liberal Catholics and their anachronistic, unrealistic, celibate, patriarchal church hierarchy. The rest of American women don’t care what Catholics do and we should not be under any obligation to give them cover and make it easy for them while making it harder on ourselves.
But it’s worse than that. Because now that Obama has allowed religious liberty to creep into the election year issues, he has taken the bait for the religious conservatives to push their agenda and for Republican operatives to use it as a way to split the Democratic base. Once again, Obama has failed to treat women as adults and equal citizens who shouldn’t be forced to endure yet another workaround to appease some religious institution. And that religious institution is even more despicable because they know that there’s no way to enforce their rigid belief system on their own female adherents much less the rest of the country’s women. It’s simply an inconvenience that must be endured so that some liberal catholics can save face.
The same thing happened with abortion. It was merely a few workarounds, a few inconveniences. If you really need an abortion, it will still be there for you. You just need to assuage the consciences of a few religious people. That’s how it started. But how has it ended? In some states, there is only a single provider and women have to risk losing their jobs to get an abortion. It’s no longer just a few workarounds. Now, it’s a major ordeal. How is that fair to women who have no religious proscriptions about getting an abortion? The same thing is about to happen to birth control. This is no time to celebrate or think it’s no big deal. It is THE BIGGEST DEAL.
It wouldn’t matter if it were birth control or abortion. When you tell women to take the backdoor to these things for no other reason than that some religious institution is going to be displeased if they don’t, you leave the way open for the religious to make other demands.
Rick Santorum gave some preachy little sermon on women in the military praising their special contributions. Oh, please, if Rick Santorum had been president back in the 80′s, would we ever have had a Sally Ride in space? Or would her earthbound position have been praised as “special”? Yesterday, Janice Voss, space shuttle astronaut of 5 missions, died at the age of 55. What a thrilling life she must have had. But if she had been born 20 years later, she might have spent a lot more of her life jumping through hoops, going through workarounds and hacking her way through the system to get recognition and praise and equality. Life in the hard sciences for women is still pretty rough and praise is extraordinarily rare. Females have all of the opportunities of their mothers but they have to hack through an ever thickening jungle of regulations on their bodies. We have gone backwards in the past 20 years. The election of 2008 accelerated that process for women because the man we elected used every trick in the book to appeal to conservatives instead of his base. He’s going to continue to capitulate because men do not know what it’s like to be constantly inconvenienced. So, no, this was no triumph. Obama has shown over and over again that he is no feminist and women are getting the message that they are on their own. We won’t forget.