Red v. Blue: Women’s Issues

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A weekly column in which Gettysburg’s College Republicans and College Democrats will engage in debate about issues in the news. 

By Isabel Gibson Penrose, Vice President, College Democrats

I would like to start by pointing out that the Republican Party so fondly referenced in the beginning of the College Republican article shares few similarities with the Republican party of today. Republicans who “freed the slaves,” also fought a war to preserve the federal government, while today we see Republican-run states like Wisconsin and Texas looking to leave the Union. I would also like to point out that while Vice President Joe Biden’s recent insensitive comments to several minority groups are problematic, they were brought up only as a distraction to move attention away from women’s issues. Vice President Biden has recently been featured in several public services announcements denouncing sexual assault and calling for change, a fact neatly omitted by the College Republicans. Lastly, the College Republicans piece stated that, “no platform in the Republican Party’s history has ever included a ‘war on women’.” Not overtly, of course. The war on women is a guerrilla war.

A central claim of the College Republicans piece, that “women’s issues are everyone’s issues” does not address the fact that there are issues that affect women disproportionally. Reproductive rights – specifically access to abortion services and birth control – as well as pay disparity and sexual violence affect women in overwhelming numbers. This is why they are classed as “women’s issues.” Any attempts to move focus away from these specific women’s issues by saying all issues are women’s issues is a blatant attempt to prevent women from making progress. No one in the Democratic Party has tried to make the claim that unemployment, rising gas prices, and other matters are not women’s issues. Obviously those things are issues for people, for everyone. The Democratic Party is trying to fight for the rights of women everywhere; rights that many in the Republican Party complacently sweep under the rug, or even worse, actively fight against.

The College Republicans article claims that the Republican Party is “better educating the men of the GOP on women’s issues.” First off, this statement implies that only men need educating about these issues, when in fact there are plenty of Republican women who make problematic statements about women’s issues as well. Michele Bachmann, Republican representative from Minnesota, addressed married women of America, telling them “Wives, you are to be submissive to your husbands.” In June 2013 Texas state senator Jodie Launbenberg claimed that emergency room rape kits can get a woman “cleaned out, basically like a D and C.” Senator Launbenberg was referring to dilation and curettage surgery, often performed after miscarriages – nothing like this is part of an emergency room rape kit. Between being submissive and wildly uninformed it is a wonder these women have the time to educate anyone.

Secondly, if there were any truth to this statement, quotes from Republican men like Todd Akin (“if it’s legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down”) and Rick Santorum (“the right approach is to accept this horribly created – in the sense of rape – gift of human life, and accept what God has given to you”) would have stopped long ago. Telling women their bodies can shut down pregnancies that occur from rape and to make the best of becoming pregnant from rape is offensive, and indicates a frighteningly low level of both knowledge and compassion.

There are also Republicans who find the idea of control over abortion in the hands of a woman hard to stomach. “If I thought that the man’s signature was required in order for a woman to have an abortion, I’d have a little more peace about it…” said Republican representative Alan Dick. A woman is not capable of deciding for herself whether or not she is prepared to carry, deliver, and care for a child. But a man can certainly decide for her. These backwards ideals are being promoted by a political party respected by many, and this cannot be allowed to go on.

The midterm elections are coming up, and women are a key demographic to appeal to. Instead of campaign ads that speak to women the way any person deserves to be spoken to, the College Republican National Committee has released a campaign ad comparing voting to buying wedding dresses. At last, something women can understand! Britney, a bride-to-be, mopes when her mother suggests she buy “the Tom Wolfe”, a frumpy dress that comes with “additional costs,” but beams when she announces she likes the Tom Corbett. “Britney said yes to Tom Corbett!” The voiceover declares. Wait, Tom Corbett is a person and not the latest strapless style? I think I’m a little lost.

The commonly seen statistic, that women are paid 77 cents for every dollar a man is paid, does not encompass the whole of the problem. White women tend to be paid 77 cents on the dollar, but the gap is even larger for minority women like black women (64 cents) and Hispanic women (56 cents). A large point of the College Republicans article was that women employees of the White House tend to make 13 percent less than men who work there, and this is true. But last month every Republican in the Senate voted to keep it that way. The Paycheck Fairness Act, which included a number of provisions aiming to prevent the gender wage gap, was up for a vote on September 16. Every Democrat in the Senate voted in favor of the bill, while every Republican (including the four women) voted against it. “So why are women still paid less?” asked the College Republicans article. Women are still paid less because legislative attempts to remedy this problem are blocked.

There are many members of the Republican Party with intelligent and reasonable views of women’s issues. But these members are drowned out by the noise created by the extreme Republicans who hold the spotlight. Republicans need to move the mouthpiece to the reasonable. Women’s issues are hugely topical and hugely important. As many people as possible are required to make progress on the wage gap, reproductive rights, and domestic violence. The Democratic Party is looking for any and all allies willing to help fight for these issues.

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Author: Isabel Gibson Penrose

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