Few things have so amused me lately as the news that House GOP campaign staff have started sensitivity training to ensure that candidates keep their feet out of their mouths, especially as relates to women. Because, you know, they’ve apparently had a little bit of trouble with that.
Why is this even necessary? Did their moms not teach them better than that?
And do we really think this will work?
I don’t think anyone could deny that male politicians in general have an iffy relationship with women, whether running against them or asking for their vote.
Said House Speaker John Boehner: “You know, you look around the Congress, there are a lot more females in the Democratic caucus than there are in the Republican conference. And some of our members just aren’t as sensitive as they ought to be.”
It goes much further than an old-fashioned man calling a female colleague “Honey,” “Sweetie” or “Little Lady.” As annoying as that can be, it doesn’t compare to the very real damage that can be wreaked by an attitude that holds women as little more than helpless children who must be shepherded through life.
It also isn’t an issue of political correctness, but one of long-held prejudices and misconceptions where women’s rights are concerned.
This is not to say that I advocate overeager militance on this issue or many others; such a tactic can cause just as many problems as it solves, partly because it can cause detractors to dig in even more (joining the reverse-psychology perils of those stridently advocating black-and-white worldviews of religion and politics).
What is needed more than anything else is common sense, decency and respect, which are sadly lacking in Washington and elsewhere.
Women have, for many decades, fought for the same rights men have by default, and while there have been many victories, there have been just as many defeats and incomplete victories. Women in the U.S. on the whole have more rights than in many other patriarchal nations, but still lag behind men in many aspects, such as equal pay for equal work.
Neither major party has been consistent in its support of women’s issues, and at one time, Republicans did more to win equal rights for women. Shocking, I know, from the party of “binders full of women.”
Some suffragettes, such as Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, allied with the party, though the Republican Party then was like the one of today (just like the party of Lincoln is not today’s GOP).
Times, though, change, and so do politics. Support in the past means little if the current agenda is to stall or even roll back those victories, or to insult women and common sense in rhetoric.
We all occasionally say stupid things, but you have to admit that some of these guys lately have sunk to new depths and might just have dug to within inches of the Earth’s core.
Democrats have their own embarrassments over women’s issues: most significantly for Arkansans, the late state Rep. Paul Van Dalsem, he of the (in)famous “barefoot and pregnant” quip. By his final term in the House, he had changed his tune a bit, but what most people remember about him is that quote. Coverage of his death in 1983 of course included the quote and the backlash surrounding it.
And yes, women themselves have made their own errors and dumb statements and endangered their rights. I could write several books on Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann alone. Can we revoke their womanhood cards, please?
The tide of Republican intransigence on women’s issues appears to have started rolling in the 1970s, not coincidentally around the time of Roe v. Wade, and it’s only gotten worse.
However, especially in the past few years, Republicans seem to have taken the insensitive ball and run with it, throwing off comments about “legitimate rape,” rolling back reproductive rights, and reversing course on reauthorization and expansion of the Violence against Women Act, which in its nearly two decades of existence proved successful in reducing domestic crimes against women. The act, which was allowed to lapse in 2011, did eventually pass despite efforts to remove language about homosexual and illegal-alien survivors of such violence.
Saddest, though, is that Boehner and others on the Republican side of Congress have found it necessary not only to hold sessions on repairing how women see the party, but also to announce that it’s actually come to that.
Further, the idea that to deal with women you have to do so on an “emotional level” is simply insulting, carrying the implication that women are immune to logic. Hey, guys, if you’d care to use some logic, we’d be more than happy to listen and have an actual conversation.
I’m starting to believe that these people live in caves or will deal only with easily led women who don’t intimidate them; if your IQ is over 80, sorry, babe.
If you have to institute sensitivity classes to get people to do what they should do instinctively as a human, you’ve already lost. People can change, but as I noted before, battling against entrenched ideology can easily backfire.
But here’s an idea: Have those classes taught by average moms rather than political strategists. Who better than a mom could insist that our representatives act using common sense and equal respect for women (and anyone else, for that matter)? Who better than a mom could relay the message that women shouldn’t have to fight for the same things men already have the right to?
And who better than a mom could shame representatives into realizing that they’re insulting more than half the population (you know, all those female voters who hold their fates in their hands) with their actions?
If that doesn’t work, there’s always the corner.
*** An update: One of my newspaper column readers (wow, it’s weird to say that) pointed out something that, in hindsight, I should have addressed, especially considering that Tom Cotton is using his mom in his latest campaign ad. (Thanks, Karl!) What I should have said is this:
But here’s an idea: Have those classes taught by average moms rather than political strategists. And not their moms, since they apparently didn’t teach their sons not to treat women like crap, or their sons didn’t listen.
That is all. Resume your normal activities now.
- Women In Europe Still Work 59 Days ‘For Free’, According to EU Commission Report (eurasiareview.com)
- Mark Jacobs, Iowa GOP Senate Candidate: The Way To Talk To Women Is On An ‘Emotional Level’ (huffingtonpost.com)
- Mitch McConnell Says He Worked For Equal Pay His Entire Career, But Tried To Block It Four Times (addictinginfo.org)
- Only 23% of Republicans Want More Women Elected to Congress – Garance Franke-Ruta – The Atlantic (theatlantic.com)
- More tutoring may be required (msnbc.com)
- ‘War On Women’ Rages On, As GOP Denies Equal Pay To Its Own State Chair (addictinginfo.org)
- Lady Republicans To Advise Menfolk On How To Not Suck So Hard With The Ladies Again Some More (wonkette.com)
- Boehner: On women, some House Republicans ‘just aren’t as sensitive as they ought to be’ (washingtonpost.com)
- Did John Boehner just say equal rights are ‘frivolous’? (dailykos.com)
- Republican male politicians trained in running against women (themoderatevoice.com)