I realize that I am about 36 hours late to this party. But did you ever have a topic that has been swishing around in the brain for a couple of weeks but didn’t quite know how to write it? It’s not that the topic doesn’t have a theme song or plenty of examples. In fact, it’s just the opposite. This topic has so much material to work with it’s hard to know where to start. Sort of like cleaning a very cluttered and dirty house, but I’ll get to that at the end.
So, EJ Dionne, one of the few ostensibly “liberal” bloggers wrote a silly, misguided, male-centric column the other day in the Washington Post about the campaign year decision that the Obama administration made to enforce the “free contraception for all!” rule for women with insurance regardless of who was providing the insurance, including the Catholic church. The red beanie guys have been on Obama’s case for months now trying to get him to back off on this. But Obama, smelling an opportunity to get back in the good graces of women, has decided to make this a campaign issue. You can bet that this will be cited in the campaign literature delivered to the houses of women between the ages of 17-52 who have been data mined with pin-point accuracy as caring about these kind of things.
For Dionne, the Catholic schoolboy, this was an unwise decision for the president to have made. If Obama wants to increase his chances of winning this year, he should have appealed more to the religious right. Never mind that women requiring birth control outnumber Catholic bishops and cardinals, it is much more important to the Dionnes out there that we not upset the beanie boys. In actuality, Obama tried to work out a deal with the bishops so that they didn’t have to provide the contraception but they would have to inform their female enrollees how they could get it. They wouldn’t budge. So, the administration told the church there would be no exceptions. I don’t know why this is a praiseworthy act. It should be so routine that none of us should even be aware of it. Birth control is good. Free birth control even better. No one would have batted an eyelash about this in the 70′s. But that was before the religious had to be appeased.
Here’s the part of Dionne’s column that bugged me the most:
Speaking as a Catholic, I wish the Church would be more open on the contraception question. But speaking as an American liberal who believes that religious pluralism imposes certain obligations on government, I think the Church’s leaders had a right to ask for broader relief from a contraception mandate that would require it to act against its own teachings. The administration should have done more to balance the competing liberty interests here.
Yeah, you know, as an American liberal, I don’t see it this way at all. I don’t think religious pluralism imposes ANY obligations on government. The only rights that religion imposes on government is the right to exist without having anyone shoving stuff down the gullets of the individual members of that religion. For example, the church must offer contraceptive coverage. The individual members of that church don’t have to use it. No one can force you to prevent pregnancy in this country. But EJ has it backwards. EJ thinks that it’s OK for the religious to force certain people, specifically women, to obey its proscriptions whether they are Catholic or not or even whether they believe in God at all. When did the Constitution allow for the 4th century thinking of a collection of men in a different country to direct the lives of women here in the US against their own consciences?
It is unacceptable for any religion to direct the consciences and behavior of American women against their will. It is especially egregious when the fallout of this coercion affects their ability to choose the number and timing of their family. It violates their first amendment rights of freedom of religion. It probably violates their civil rights as well. It’s just wrong, EJ. The Catholic church has a right to exist in this country and conduct worship services that are open to the public and that’s it. I don’t remember any other parts of the constitution where it was allowed to impose any other obligations on government.
But let’s take EJ’s theory to its logical conclusion. Let’s say that religion is allowed to impose obligations on government. We’re not talking Taliban or Wahabbi territory here where there is only one flavor of religion. This is America after all and we still have a religiously plural society. Let’s think of another example where there is religious pluralism where the fundamentalists have been pandered to in the manner that EJ suggests. How about Israel? Recently, the ultra orthodox fundamentalist Jews have been having a field day in Israel screaming and spitting at little girls, having fits over women singing in public and denying female scientists the right to receive professional awards at ceremonies or speaking about their expertise. These last two examples were the decisions of the governmental minister of health. All of the ugly details about what Israeli women are experiencing even though most of them are not ultra orthodox, can be found in this NYTimes article, Israel Faces Crisis over Role of Ultra Orthodox in Society. And here’s the money quote that shows just how wrong EJ is:
They have generally stayed out of the normal Israeli politics of war and peace, often staying neutral on the Palestinian question and focusing their deal-making on the material and spiritual needs of their constituents. Politically they have edged rightward in recent years.
In other words, while rejecting the state, the ultra-Orthodox have survived by making deals with it. And while dismissing the group, successive governments — whether run by the left or the right — have survived by trading subsidies for its votes. Now each has to live with the other, and the resulting friction is hard to contain.
In other words, if you start making deals with the religious right for votes, they’re going to want something in return. And this *something* tends to bite women in the ass. Give them an inch and they’ll start humiliating female scientists at professional conferences. The reason why the religious right have been able to get away with it for some time now is because of men like EJ and Chris Matthews types who never have to live with the results of those deals.
But nevermind. Women already know this. And they know it will get worse the more politicians pander. Now it’s birth control, pretty soon, it will be allowing employers to discriminate against women without cover. They do it now anyway and I could swear it got worse after the 2008 election because after all, the president and his party got away with vicious misogyny and discrimination without being held accountable. What women in the private sector is going to be able to successfully challenge the old boys club now? Party on, boys! That’s why the layoffs initially hit men hardest but spared women in public sector, education and health care jobs, but when it comes to hiring back in the corporations, it’s helpful to have a penis and a male supervisor or director who lunches only with other males and doesn’t see the women in his groups as real people needing real jobs. That’s why it is not uncommon for the majority the women in a department to lose their jobs in a layoff but not the men. Yes, this really happens. I have witnessed it myself. That’s why men get internal job interviews and not women. I thought I was crazy until the company doctor told me that she heard the same complaint from many, many women in my company. They are passed over, shoved out, laid off and never heard from again. It’s partially because no one challenged the shit that happened in 2008 or laid down the law in subsequent years or formed an exploratory committee to find out why it’s happening. No one gives a shit. It’s just women.
And why doesn’t anyone give a shit? Have you seen how many male column writers we have in major American newspapers compared to females? Have you ever read the evening round up on The Plum Line when male blogger after male blogger is cited with a bare sprinkling of female opinion thrown in as a garnish? We hear mens’ opinions 24/7 ad nauseum. And their stupid, clueless opinions usually give a pass to the religious right and their stubborn insistance that we all obey the writings of another bunch of male columnists from the end of the fricking Bronze Age who swear, without any proof at all, that they were taking dictation from God himself.
Enough, already. There are many of us who no longer believe in the god of the bible. There is a growing movement of non-believers, atheists, panentheists, freethinkers, skeptics and agnostics who do not agree that the religious impose ANY obligations on government outside of the right to exist. At the very least, the religious should have to prove to everyone that what they believe is real and rational beyond a shadow of a doubt before they impose any obligation on anyone.
So, until the red beanie guys can show conclusively, incontrovertibly and with all of the tools of the scientific method at their disposal that there is an actual God and that this God actually cares and does not want women to put substances in her body to prevent the conception of children, they should keep their unfounded, harmful, discriminatory impositions to themselves. At the very least, God should be required to make an appearance in a form other than a talking herbaceous wildfire hazard before we are forced to pay any more attention to the religious right or any politician who panders to them.
Filed under: sexism and misogyny | Tagged: bronze age, Catholic bishops, Catholics, contraception, discrimination, EJ Dionne, fundamentalists, insurance, male columnists, religious right, ultra orthodox jews, Vatican | 34 Comments »