It's something of an understatement to say that politicians have spent a lot of legislative and stump speech time this year talking about women. More specifically, about women's personal lives. If anyone thought that we'd hear about jobs and the economy, or the pressing need to roll back "Obamacare," there may have been some level of surprise when decades-old settled matters like contraception came trotting out onto the national stage instead. Why so much fuss over birth control, which is employed by the majority of women in this country? And how did so many people come to rally around one law student who had her reputation attacked by a man many people already had dismissed and ignored?
Well, perhaps we've never stopped overanalyzing women's personal lives.
Anyone who's spent time on a social networking site, watched cable news, or opened their email inbox in the last two months has probably heard about the "GOP's war on women." From placing humiliating barriers between women and their reproductive health to erasing domestic violence laws out of the criminal code and denouncing any woman in the workplace or on birth control, the attacks have been constant this primary campaign cycle. I'm happy to return to Bitch's blog to discuss politics and feminism in the popular cultural sphere, but this go-round I'll be looking specifically at fictional politicians and policy makers. I'll be asking about what kinds of stories we find in these narrative portrayals and looking for connections to the continuing commentary about women from elected officials and those seeking office.
By now, chances are you've seen the news that the Susan G. Komen Foundation defunded its support of Planned Parenthood, which it had established in 2005. Pressure for the foundation to stop the support began almost immediately, and the national Susan G. Komen board resisted this pressure until yesterday. I spoke with Gina Popovic, Executive Vice President of the Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington and North Idaho, who stressed that Komen is not the bad actor in all of this, the anti-choice activists are.
Last month, New York Magazine published a cover story entitled "Parents of a Certain Age: Is there anything wrong with being 53 and pregnant?" The title invites the reader to answer the question with a "yes" or a "no." The author, veteran journalist Lisa Miller, says "no," yet the antagonistic framing invites controversy against the older moms she seeks to defend, as does the sensationalist cover image (shown here) of a decidedly naked, decidedly older pregnant woman.
News of the early election season has been swamped by the stalled debt ceiling vote in Congress, but the proposals put forth by Speaker of the House Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Reid are sure to factor into stump speeches by the GOP candidates for president. And because this is my farewell in this series for Bitch Magazine's blog, I'd like to point out a few things regarding analyzing the rest of the early election campaigning. Like this: beware the false dichotomy.
Amid the debt ceiling debacle, Norway shooting, and fears about Europe's next default, a news story broke about Oregon Representative David Wu allegedly sexually assaulting a young woman. I'm calling it simply a news story because as we'll see, the reporting frames it strangely: "an unwanted sexual encounter," a "sex scandal," an "aggressive sexual encounter." Major journalism outlets like CBS, the Washington Post, and CNN all used similar language, and I began to wonder: Why aren't they calling it rape?
Anyone on Twitter or Facebook this weekend learned quickly that UK singer Amy Winehouse passed away, and speculation about a drug overdose ran rampant over the information highway. The attention, in the United States anyway, dwarfed the other big story of the weekend, that an extreme right-wing man bombed the Norwegian Prime Minister's offices and then killed more than 80 children who were attending a Labour Party summer camp. The total dead currently stands at 93. But just this morning, Glenn Beck, from his Internet compound, said that the camp "sounds a little like the Hitler Youth." Oh, the tangled webs we weave.
I've avoided talking about the debt ceiling debates for as long as the people on the Hill have avoided doing anything about the debt ceiling itself. Also, it's hard to make financial ratings, credit defaults, and inadequate remedies sound like popular culture—unless, I guess, we're talking about how the mortgage crisis took over the news media for a solid two months in 2008. But hey, there are now signs of progress and more interestingly, those signs point to an impending doomsday for the Republicans, and not just in the 2012 election. So good for you debt ceiling! You made the cut for this series.
Yesterday, the United States Senate is holding a few hearings (such things are germane to their jobs). One of them, on the Judiciary Committee, is focused on an evaluation of the damage the Defense Against Marriage Act has caused American families. While the House GOP is congratulating itself over an empty "cap, cut, and balance" bill as part of their debt ceiling negotiations, the Democrat-run Senate is thumbing it to them by talking about LGBT rights. Or more specifically, same-sex marriage rights. Which some would argue aren't LGBT rights at all, but old-school gay rights. What's the difference, exactly?