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Why Obama’s cave looks bad depending on your gender

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.

19 Responses

  1. Hey RD, you closed the comments on the other thread just as I was responding!

    No problem. I just wanted to say that, as a Ph.D. chemist who works for a small biotech company in NY state, I see a lot of the problems with the “small independent lab” perspective all the time.

    • Comments close after 2 days (I think) automatically. It’s nothing personal. It’s just that older posts tend to be targets of spammers if left unattended.

      • Katiebird,

        Have you and Riverdaughter thought of running experiments on “longer-running” thread-deadlines? How many days does it take for a thread to age and senesce and fall prey to the spammers? Why not leave the thread open for just one less day than that deadline? Some threads still seem very lively and productive when they time out.

        Just a hope expressed. Like my hope that you might decide to add a permalink button to some “very best” OWS-type intellectual resources and mental ammunition . . . like the Zucotti Catalog of Five Thousand Scary Books.

    • Hey, Nakajima! I didn’t close the comments. They close automatically after two days. I hope you didn’t think I was singling you out. 😉

      So, I am definitely preaching to the choir. Good to know that there are people out there who saw some value in the corporate lab model, as much as we criticize the people who run the corporations. I hope your projects are doing well and you extract the most possible filthy lucre from whoever you end up licensing to. If you ever need any cheminf/modeling work, drop me some email.

      • The company is actually not a drug development company. It manufactures mo bio research tools that are used by scientists in their research work.

        The problems with small biotech companies isn’t simply a matter of obtaining stable financing, though that is always a concern. The founders also have to know how to properly manage it, and that’s actually pretty rare. More typically, the founders of a small biotech company are scientists themselves, but instead of managing it like what it is (a capital-intensive firm that needs to be financed accordingly), they tend to manage it as if they’re running a little, corner coffee-shop in Brooklyn. The company I work for is a prime example of such thinking in action. The owners are afraid of interacting with those who have ties to investment capital (even angel investors), and so they stubbornly insist that the firm can only be financed through accounts receivable and small business loans (high-interest), even if such a “strategy” leads to on-going infrastructure decline and cripples the firm’s ability to compete.

        Most biotech firms in the U.S. are like the above; they’re hardly the bold scientist-entrepreneur operation you see in the media. This no doubt accounts for much of the 80% failure rate; most of those that do survive (such as the one I work for) are marginal operations, limping along anemically, with the owners desperately hoping for a buy-out or that they will survive long enough to get the kids at least through high school.

        So…, what do you think about the drug development potential of lupus and other auto-immune disorders?

        • The reason you don’t have wheeler-dealer scientists lining up investors is because they all saved their jobs in the corporate world through policking.
          Have you read Susan Cain’s new book called Quiet about introverts? That’s the problem with a lot of scientists. They’re introverts and we live in a society that values and rewards extroverts. To get introverts to sell the concept of you company to investors requires them to overcome some natural tendencies and even though evolution teaches us that we must adapt or die, there doesn’t seem to be any acknowledgment that the people who do sciencey stuff make better use of their time and energy in the lab. So, there will be people who adapt but from what I have seen of the small startup world, even if you could find people who can do that talking, the money just isn’t there. Venture capitalists are requiring so much up front work before they jump in that you could easily go bankrupt before you see a dime of their money. And it always comes with strings and not nearly enough of it to keep people employed full time for long stretches of time, which you and I both know is very important for following a project. I don’t know about you but I used to hate jumping into a project in the middle of the damn thing. There’s all that catching up to do and sometimes, the approach they started with is different than the one you might have taken. Take kinases, for example. Hinge binders? Really??
          I have to admit that auto-immune disorders are not my area. I haven’t spent enough time studying the pathways. But I definitely do think that it is worth pursuing for diseases like lupus, which can be a serious and debilitating disease. And I always love something new because it *is* something new. Who’s working on that?

  2. I’ve been so angry about this, the post I’m trying to write keeps veering off into all caps.

    Right on! to what you’re saying here. There’s a difference between having a right to making your own medical decisions and being told you can still get birth control because nobody’s taken it away yet.

    As you say, look at the abortion wars. How’s that working out for us?

    Although I’d disagree with this: “because men do not know what it’s like to be constantly inconvenienced.” Dropping out of school to work a minimum wage job so you can spend eighteen years supporting a kid you didn’t want is more than an inconvenience. Not getting an honors class you deserve on the merits, and thus having a weaker CV, and therefore being shoved down in the competition for good colleges, and ultimately making hundreds of thousands of dollars less over your lifetime is more than an inconvenience.

    But you’re right that most men don’t get it no matter what you call it.

  3. Reminds me of a cartoon. Obama is sitting at a poker table saying, “I fold” and the dealer replies, “I haven’t delt the cards yet”.

    We could have had a real Democrat but Pelosi, Reid, Kerry, Kennedy, Dean and a host of others decided to go with the empty suit from the Windy City.

  4. Has any social-science data-gathering been done to find out which MBPs (Male Bodied Persons) think what way about the Obamagift to Religious Oppressionism?

    By the way, how many LAWs ( Ladies Against Women) support the Obamagift in support of Religious Oppressionism?

    • No data analysis but I did notice two trends. The comments on the NYTimes article on the subject were overwhelmingly negative but many of the comments were from earlier in the day before the announcement. Nevertheless, Obama was definitely screwed if he caved even a little bit according to Times commenters.
      Charles Pierce’s commenters were overwhelmingly “You were wrong about this, Obama scored and punked the Republicans” but at the time I read his comments, there were about 20 of them and the users were overwhelmingly male. There were 2 or 3 female commenters and they weren’t singing Obama’s praises. So, either there is a clear male bias on Pierce’s comment threads or he is getting seeded with Obama operatives who are trying to push the message.
      I notice that Amanda Marcotte is also saying that Obama scored a victory but she was originally an Edwards groupie, turned Obama groupie after Edwards bowed out so in my mind, I can’t take anything she says seriously. Her loyalty is not to her gender but to the party and she is trying really hard to be an access blogger. It’s too bad you can’t be a feminist and an access blogger but there ya’ go. She is deliberately downplaying what many women actually understand about this cave.
      Can you tell I don’t have much respect for her? Yeah, I don’t.

  5. That quaint and nostalgic document called the Constitution of the United State opens with the foremost and critical amendment, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion….”

    To quote Patrick Henry, “The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government – lest it come to dominate our lives and interests.”

    Then again, the slave owning aristocratic founding fathers deemed all women as property to be used and abused according to their patriarchal whims.

    • “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion….”

      Which ought to mean that no religion gets any special priviledges, such as opting out of providing coverage that everyone else has to provide.

  6. Looking at that picture at the top reminded me of the Klan meeting scenes from O Brothey, Where art thou?


  7. Perhaps those desperately hopeful people who remain Obamawitched could be called “ObieHopies”. Just a thought.

  8. It was Thomas Jefferson who blamed the, “priests” when he argued for religious liberty. He argued that every human being had a private interior spirituality that cannot be controlled. The Founding Fathers were abundantly aware of the horrific results when government and religion unite to control humans. The Spanish and Italian Inquisitions are just a few examples. That was why Jefferson fought for religious freedom. I would agrue that Freedom of Religion also includes Freedom from religion.

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