At the turn of the 20th century, women’s fight for suffrage brought feminine (and feminist) issues to the forefront of politics. Some men balked at the idea of women as a voting bloc, as they were terrified of women supporting prohibition and supporting dry laws. Others scoffed at the idea of women having their own cognizant opinion independent of their husband or fathers, and viewed it as an exercise in redundancy. Some, especially those in the catholic church, even opposed women’s rights to vote on religious grounds, as the church taught at that point that women were to remain demure, submissive, and silent. Elite, upper class women who worked behind the scenes even opposed women’s suffrage, as they felt it would diffuse their strength. After years of campaigning, months of protests, hundreds of miles of hikes and demonstrations, and even a cry to the Russians in the midst of the war, President Wilson finally supported women’s suffrage and the 19th amendment was soon passed.
Since then, women’s voices have been a strong undertone in the political system, lobbying for access to birth control, bodily autonomy, divorce, education, equal pay, and full access to employment in all fields. Now, perhaps more than ever, the female vote will be crucial in the presidential election. Single women are much more likely to vote democratic, although married women are split evenly between both parties. With the constant assault on women’s rights and autonomy since the new republican majority took the house and decided to shrink the government small enough that it can fit in your utuerus, it is remarkable that any woman could support a republican ticket.
Much like in the 1980′s with the rise of Reagan conservatism, the evangelical christian base has again been mobilized this election to support republican policies under the banner of “small government,” and “returning to Christian, American values,” and is often motivated by “I don’t like that black dude in the oval office.” Now, however, “christian values” have been boiled down to “no gays are allowed to have any rights anywhere” and “every pregnancy is a joyful gift from God, even if it is a result of rape or your baby will be born without a chance of life and will die a terrible death almost instantly.” In a stunning decision, Mitt “no one wants to be my running mate” Romney has chosen Paul Ryan as his VP, an author not only of a terribly ineffectual budget plan, but also a co-sponsor of one of the most extreme personhood bills to date. So what is it about the women who vote for these men? Do they have the worst case of “it can’t happen to me” seen to date? Are they all post-menopausal and no longer concerned about all the yucky “down there” things that affect younger women? Are they more devoutly religious and buy into the patriarchal notion that women must be submissive and defer to their husbands opinion? Or is reproductive care really not that big of a deal to them?
For the republican men, it’s simple. They can campaign on jobs and the economy, because that’s what most Americans want their government to focus on, and once in office, they can throw tantrums over women *gasp* having agency over their bodies and choosing when and how to get and stay pregnant, telling horror stories about how young college women are bleeding the government coffers dry with the massive amounts of birth control they’re taking, or comparing affordable access to a medication that the vast majority of women use at some point in their life to 9/11.
The most consistent and reliable voter base for the GOP is the conservative Christian. They will turn out in droves for even small elections to stave off any perceived ”war on Christianity,” and in this new millennium, the republican machine has decided the front lines of that war is located squarely in the American uterus. But where the GOP is making perhaps their most grievous mistake is exactly where they focus all their anger: support for female empowerment.
I’m not a psychologist, but I’m pretty sure that to be female and vote Republican means that you’re carrying around a heavy case of cognitive dissonance. The GOP has time and time again went out of their way at both the state and federal level to ensure that if anyone is trying to give women the ability to exercise power over their bodies. Even after recognizing the necessity to gain the female vote, somehow or another they’ve managed to still lie about birth control and completely shift focus (did they ever really care?) back to the economy instead of on the 50% of this country that the rest requires as a foundation.
If you look deep enough you’ll see a trend, and that trend is evangelism. Every single time you hear that abortion is wrong or that sexual freedom is what’s killing our country, there’s someone somewhere quoting some religious (read: Christian) text and whining about how oppressive everyone is toward Christianity. But these issues only strike at the surface of the real problem: Religion – and I’m talking about Christianity, here, because this is America – bases its teachings on sexist literature. Everywhere you go in the Bible women are second-class people who are bought and sold like cattle and traded away into marriage for foreskins. And this biblical vilification of our mothers and daughters metastasizes its way into everyday life, turning feminist and women’s rights issues into second-class issues that don’t deserve the same amount of attention as, say, the war or the economy.
When it comes down to it, Republican men don’t worry enough about the female vote because they’re usually religious and religion doesn’t care about women. Plain and simple. And the Democrats are smart to capitalize on this by putting women’s rights at the front of their campaign. Just like in 2008, more women are going to be voting democrat in this election because they want to align with a party who actively participates in their well-being (or at least attempts to). Sure, some women will be voting GOP, just like some senior citizens think Paul Ryan will be good for our economy. In the end, though, women are going to align their interests (and their ballots) with candidates who make it known that they truly do represent the 50% of this country that has been silenced for too long.