The XX Factor

Conservatives to Women: Stop Whining!

None of this would matter if women couldn’t vote

Photograph by Oli Scarff/Getty Images.

Of all the options available to Republicans to avoid sounding like heartless misogynists, from giving up their enthusiasm for compulsory childbirth to at least learning to shut up when asked about rape, the least effective seems like it would be to scold women for valuing their basic human rights. But, as is customary these days, conservatives are choosing sadism over political good sense, and blaming women for not being willing to ignore misogyny instead of blaming politicians for expressing it. Newt Gingrich kicked off this round of fun on Sunday’s This Week, defending Richard Mourdock for saying forced impregnation through rape is a “gift from God” by telling people to “get over it.”

GINGRICH: My response is, if you listen to what Mourdock actually said, he said what virtually every Catholic and every fundamentalist in the country believes, life begins at conception …

STEPHANOPOULOS: Mr. Speaker, what Mr. Mourdock said exactly was that this life after rape, as horrible as it may be, is something that god intended to happen. Do you agree with that?

GINGRICH: And he also immediately issued a clarification saying that he was referring to the act of conception and he condemned rape. Romney has condemned rape. One part of this is nonsense. Every candidate I know, every decent American I know condemns rape. Okay so, why can’t people like Stephanie Cutter get over it? We all condemn rape …

The issue here, Newt, is that people like Stephanie Cutter and beyond do struggle to imagine you really condemn rape if you and yours are always trying to parse which rapes are “legitimate” and sentimentalizing rape if it results in the “gift” of being forced to bear a rapist’s child.

Kathleen Parker went further this weekend, arguing in the Washington Post that the whole “war on women” debate would go away if women would just surrender already. On contraception, for instance:

So why are we still talking about it? This pseudo-debate is, as Joe Biden would put it, “malarkey.” Just possibly, a child could recognize the “bulls—-er” aspect to this non-issue, to borrow the phrasing of Obama during a recent Rolling Stone interview.

Parker tackles contraception coverage and rape exceptions, unilaterally declaring that both are only issues because stupid liberals keep harping on this idea that women have a right to control their own bodies. If we’d stop talking about it, it wouldn’t be such a thing! And, according to Parker, “Given the context, Mourdock’s argument is logical.” The context, to Parker, is that if Mourdock believes all life begins at conception, than it doesn’t matter how that conception occurs. Logical. So stop your yammering, ladies. What Parker doesn’t get, or say, is that Mourdock’s policy preference is also a “logical” extension of the belief that women are merely vessels and not rights-bearing individuals. Either way, the claim that we can’t criticize a politician because his beliefs are a logical extension of certain principles makes no sense when you object to the original principle—in this case, a disbelief that women have a right to control their own bodies.

Parker’s column is titled, “Still Fighting the Same Old Culture War,” and she’s not wrong that culture war issues are only issues because people fight over them, but it’s a little strange that she seems to believe the only side who has an obligation to make this all go away are the supporters of women’s rights. Anti-feminists could also make all this go away, easily. They could just as easily stop trying to ban abortion and cut off contraception access. In fact, it’s much easier for their side to give up. Letting abortion be legal and contraception be accessible doesn’t mean their lives need to change in any meaningful way; it just means they will have to learn to mind their own business. For feminists, however, losing abortion rights and contraception coverage would mean material damage, often to our very own lives. Given the fact that it’s personal and life-affecting for one side and simply about sticking your nose in your neighbor’s business for the other, logic dictates that the people who should be told to surrender are those with less to lose. As an apparent enthusiast for logic, surely Parker will have to agree.