The Body Politic: This campaign needs more women and less gynecology
Thu, Mar 15, 2012
Actual women—instead of phony gynecological issues—pervaded the last election. Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, Elizabeth Edwards, Michelle Obama, Katie Couric and even Tina Fey can each credibly be said to have changed the outcome of the 2008 presidential election, as Rebecca Traister documented in her rollicking chronicle of that race, Big Girls Don’t Cry: The Election That Changed Everything for American Women.
And those were just the women at the podiums. In Traister’s account, each campaign hired women aplenty on the understanding that they could help their candidates, in one way or another, to attract voters. Got that? Women didn’t come around to discuss obscure lady matters, but to help campaigns win votes.
Yet this time around, genuine women have disappeared, in favor of sex talk smuggled under the rubric of “values.” The conversation recalls nothing so much as the days when the nightly news shows couldn’t stop running pseudo-health segments that featured male reporters fondling silicon breast implants. They’d cluck over their hazards and fondle away at the translucent synthetic protoplasms. Today’s fondlers of ultrasound wands seem no less prurient.
It’s time we sidelined the fine points of obstetrics from public discourse in an election year. Just as girlie magazines are marketed to male readers, public discourse that features women’s body parts should be clearly labeled—as Playboy used to be—”Entertainment for Men.”
Transvaginal probes? Entertainment for Men. Interstate abortions? Entertainment for Men.
[Related: Obama rings up Limbaugh’s ‘slut,’ Georgetown’s Sandra Fluke]
Single-sex entertainment is just fine, as far as it goes. But “transvaginal” anything and “interstate abortions”—no matter what side you’re on—don’t count as social issues. This stuff is arcana, and the rhetoric associated with these topics is third-order porn, and an occasion for (mostly) male commentators, politicians and satirists—and I mean you lefties too, Jon Stewart and Garry Trudeau!—to perseverate on gynecology in a weird O.C.D. way.
Really, the zeal with which male politicians of all stripes make politics sexual is disconcerting. Last week Barack Obama placed a personal call to console Sandra Fluke, asking the law student and advocate of birth-control subsidies if she were “OK” in the days since Rush Limbaugh incoherently deemed her platform akin to sexual promiscuity. Limbaugh had likened Fluke to people who are paid for sex, and likened taxpayers to her pimps, or some bunk like that; Obama aimed to redeem a 30-year-old woman by comparing her to his daughters, ages 10 and 13, who evidently need his protection from bad men who use bad words.
Great Moments in Not Knowing Shit About Birth Control
It’s been a roller coaster ride of a year for women and their ladyparts, thanks in large part to people who know nothing about birth control trying to discuss the nuances of birth control. Here’s a loving homage to those misguided blabbermouths muddying up the national conversation with confidently delivered misconceptions.
Falsehoods about what birth control is, and what the birth control mandate does, are so rampant that they’ve been given a place in the debate alongside actual facts. Bill O’Reilly seems to think that there are “thousands” of federally funded health care providers who distribute free birth control to anyone who just waltzes on in, Santorum funder Foster Freiss thinks that simply not having sex will do all of the things that birth control does, Fox News pundit Greg Gutfeld thinks that giving everyone access to low-cost birth control is the same thing as hating poor people, Sean Hannity thinks all birth control costs like $9 per month, regardless of the prescription, and another Fox anchor seems to think that condoms should do just fine for every woman, no matter what her situation or preferences. O’Reilly tells his viewers that compelling insurers to let female employees who pay premiums use their premiums to purchase birth control is akin to forcing Bill O’Reilly to personally buy Depo Provera injections for every Tri-Delt in America. None of these things are remotely facty.
Not every Great Moment could be included in this montage. Virginia Delegate Dave Albo’s story about how all this talk of “trans-v” ultrasounds led his wife to deny him conjugal access to her “v” didn’t make the cut, even though he was trying to legislate vaginas, a body part he couldn’t even bring himself to pronounce. The all-male House panel testifying to a nearly all-male House committee about how giving women access to birth control through plans sponsored by employers violated their freedom of religion (which apparently is also “freedom of oppression”) didn’t make the cut, either, because I couldn’t bring myself to watch that whole thing again. And of course, there are hours and hours of footage of Bill O’Reilly inching himself closer and closer to an insurance-funded quadruple bypass.