A Note to Nikki Haley

Dear Gov. Haley,

You don’t know me, but I feel like I know you. I mean, I’ve known many women politicians who go against their own interests simply to win an election and curry the favor (no pun intended) of men, and not just Republicans like you.

On a recent broadcast of “The View,” you said something to the effect of “Women aren’t concerned about birth control. They’re concerned about the economy and jobs.” Respectfully, ma’am, your chief of staff needs to change the channel on the gubernatorial television from Fox News to some alternative. Then, you will see women are concerned about birth control and the loss of access to it because, well, it’s pretty simple–women can’t participate in the economy and have jobs if they’re perpetually pregnant. And the other, simple matter is that women get to decide whether or not to be pregnant, something I’m sure you’ve done at some point in your life. I suspect you were very careful not to get pregnant during that alleged affair you supposedly had, so I bet you were pretty concerned about birth control then and gave no thought to the economy.

I can understand–but not excuse–your dismissal of the importance of birth control. After all, the country of your heritage once used abortion as birth control when couples discovered they were having a daughter. I can see how that would mark you, that is, if you bothered to acknowledge that heritage. India, by the way, distributes birth control, free of charge, because they’ve grasped the concept of over-population and its deleterious effect on the economy.

Let me tell you a little story about my Irish grandmother. (Ireland is the country just west of England–I remind you because your narrow-mindedness about birth control makes me wonder if you know of anything beyond our shores.) My grandmother was a midwife in Virginia. One of her patients in the 1930’s had married at the age of 15, quite common in rural areas back then, even rural areas of South Carolina. By the time that woman was 30, my grandmother had delivered her 13 children. The thing that stood out for my grandmother, who was only a few years older than her patient, was that this 30 year old woman, who had been “a beautiful child,” according to Gramma, had gray, thin hair, weighed barely 100 pounds, had lost half her teeth, looked 60, and could barely stand. My grandmother tried to teach her the rhythm method of birth control, but the woman explained she couldn’t say no to her husband. She was dead before she was 35 and had three more children. The last one killed her.

Is this what you want us to go back to? Is this what you want for your daughter? Or your son, for that matter?

If you think women aren’t concerned about birth control, you haven’t paid much attention to the polls showing that independent, women voters are not supporting Republican candidates or their policies and are citing the recent birth control brouhaha as their reason. As a Virginia woman’s sign said at a recent protest in Richmond, “I can’t believe I’m still fighting about this shit.”

Women are concerned about birth control because that’s the single thing which has allowed us to be full partners in the economy. We’re concerned about birth control because we understand family planning is to the benefit of the family. You might say birth control is a family value.

Sincerely,

A Post-Menopausal Woman Who Always Will Be Concerned About Birth Control

Politics Wednesday – Reactionaries

Reactionary – adjective; of, pertaining to, marked by, or favoring reaction, especially extreme conservatism or rightism in politics; opposing political or social change.

Reactionary – noun; a reactionary person.

That’s the modern definition of a reactionary. One of my political science profs was more succinct: progressive = forward thinking; reactionary = backwards thinking.

That “backwards thinking” seems to be part and parcel of being a Republican lately. The Repugs seem to have a disturbing nostalgia for the way things used to be–women not working outside the home, women not being able to use birth control, women not being paid the same as men, women not needing legislation to assure police take their claims of domestic violence seriously, etc.

I hope you’ve picked up the common theme here. In case you haven’t, it’s women. Republican men–and some Republican women–in state legislatures across the country have proposed or enacted some of the most backwards laws regarding women’s health and a woman’s right to decide what she does with her body.

In response to a story about the high number of rapes and sexual assaults of women in the military, Liz Trotta, an “analyst” on Fox News, said that women who go into the military should just expect to be raped. I don’t know which is worse–the “lie back and take it” attitude or the assumption that men are just born rapists. My mother said the same thing when I went to work at the FAA, a then male-dominated workplace, but my mother was certifiable.

Rick Santorum, in addition to opposing any form of birth control (So, why is your wife not pregnant again, Rick?), recently said that women working outside the home is harmful to families. He also said that having women in front line positions in the military would mean male soldiers would be distracted by their desire to protect them. If a woman is raped and becomes pregnant, he says, she should just accept God’s gift of life. The more outrageous things he says about women and their place in society, the higher he surges in Republican polls.

In my home state of Virginia, the state legislature just passed a law requiring a woman who wants an abortion in the first trimester to get an ultrasound, even if her doctor says she doesn’t need it. The theory seems to be if the woman sees a fully formed baby she’ll change her mind. The reality is the fetus isn’t fully formed in the first trimester–it’s so small the ultrasound has to be done trans-vaginally. That means the ultrasound device is inserted in a woman’s vagina to obtain the scan of a fetus that is 2.5 inches long and weighs less than an ounce. In case you didn’t get it, I’ll repeat: Inserted. In. A. Woman’s. Vagina. What is it we call penetration of a woman’s vagina against her will?

This longing for a world where women were less than equal partners, where constant childbirth brought early death, where domestic violence was considered a “family matter,” puzzles me. Why would anyone want to go back to a social, political, and economic era that was thinly disguised patriarchy? Do we have to fight that battle all over again?

If it’s because the male ego can’t handle women as equals, get over it. This is life now–women get to choose whether to work or stay at home; whether to have a child or use birth control; whether to serve their country or not; whether to have a rapist’s baby or not. Get over yourselves and your obsession about controlling women’s bodies.

We won’t go back to that. We won’t be like Callista Gingrich who knows the only reason she’s at Newt’s side is to stand there and look pretty as she smiles at him and nods. That’s her choice; it won’t be the choice of women capable of standing on their own two feet.

Sorry, Repug guys, we’re not taking off our shoes, bunking in the kitchen, cleaning the house in pearls, or staying pregnant our entire married lives. We will move forward. You can be the reactionaries.

Politics Wednesday

I find it amusing that when it comes to prayer in school, right-wingers have no problem in taking down the wall between church and state. Almost to a man the current candidates for the Republican nomination have decried the fact that children can’t pray in school. Trust me, kids pray in school, especially on exam day; rather, an authority figure isn’t leading them in a specific prayer from a specific religion.

Yet, when it comes to an Affordable Care Act requirement that employers pay for birth control, suddenly the same right-wing talking heads flaunt the First Amendment and Separation of Church and State when it comes to Catholic employers. They want the separation there, but not when it comes to school prayer or teaching creationism in science class.

Trust me, this sudden righteous indignation about the Catholic Church’s having to go against it’s principles, is pandering. It isn’t sincere. That, and the Repugs needed an issue when the current economic news was so positive for President Obama. They have to make it look like the President is forcing the Catholic Church to his will.

Really?

Here’s the deal, the Church is whining loudly about this because it turns the light of truth away from the big problem with the Catholic Church hierarchy–that it either turned its collective head away or, by inaction, condoned the systematic buggering of children by priests who, lured by the false promise that god will take all afflictions away, had free rein to traumatize children then stand on the altar and decry homosexuality, pre-marital sex, and birth control in hypocritical homilies.

I’m a former Catholic–not lapsed, not non-practicing, not fallen. I left the Church because I realized it never really welcomed me. I was a woman who advocated a woman’s right to control her own body. No matter what I had accomplished in my career or personal life, no priest could acknowledge that I lived and worked by my own rules, not his, not god’s, and that no job I had was more important than being a wife and a mother. And what would he, alleged unmarried celibate, know about it?

The Catholic Church needs to drop preaching against birth control. Given the small size of Catholic families today, Catholics are using birth control, and it’s not the rhythm method, which had conditional approval from the Church. More than half the Catholics polled about the Affordable Care Act’s provision for employers’ providing coverage for birth control concurred with it. The sanctimonious talking heads, however, see an opportunity to attack the President couched in the cloak of religion.

The Catholic Church took too long to “sorta” allow the use of condoms to prevent AIDS, confining their use to sex workers but not their clients when they go home to have sex with a spouse. It’s nuts, and if the Church wants to be a viable force in the world, it needs to accept current reality, not a medieval one.

And there are other religions–notably many evangelical or fundamentalist protestant ones–who don’t believe in birth control. Why aren’t the Repugs displaying indignation on their behalf? Well, Catholics are a large group in the U.S., and some Repug strategist somewhere has cynically pointed out that maybe, if they can turn that Catholic bloc against the President, they might get the flip-flopper elected.

If anything, Catholics are realists, which is why they use birth control and why they ignore the Church’s dictum that sex is only for the purpose of reproduction–otherwise why haven’t Newt and Callista had a bunch of kids? By her own testimony in Newt’s divorce proceedings, they began an affair in 1993, when Callista was 27, and she had no children. They married when she was 34, and they’ve had no children. The Gingrich’s have obviously used birth control–or they’re following Church dicta and not having sex. Yeah, right. I’ll concede that perhaps either she or Newt has a physical problem that prevents conception, but, again, sex without the intent of reproduction is a “sin.”

Are you beginning to see why I left the Catholic Church?

So, whenever Newt–or any other Catholic–decries President Obama for interfering with the Church’s teachings, can he or they do so without being a hypocrite?

I doubt it.