Gender Equality: Is There a War on Women?

Written by Thomas Figg-Hoblyn. Posted in Culture, Opinion, Politics

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Published on April 23, 2012 with 6 Comments

By Thomas Figg-Hoblyn

April 23, 2012

Is there a war on women in America?

Asking a woman friend this question recently she responded, “Yah,” as if she meant “Duh!” “Men try and keep women down all the time,” she said.
Her conviction and matter-of-fact response made me feel a bit uninformed.

Why didn’t I know about this?

So I asked some of my male friends if there is a war on women in America. They had blank looks on their faces. “What war?” they asked.
Obviously, we men are not being sensitive enough to our fellow women’s plight.

Don’t get me wrong; I know about the inequality women face in America, and the huge strides they have made to overcome it.

Also, the “glass ceiling” women face in the workplace and the reality of unequal wages.

And the contentious battle over reproductive rights, which includes strategic efforts by the right to diminish a women’s right to choose.

But, I was not fully cognizant of the “other war” against women raging on in our modern day America.

Peggy Noonan of the Wall Street Journal sums it best as she writes, “The war is against women in American public life, in politics and media most obviously, but in other spheres as well. Leaders who are women are publicly demeaned and diminished because they are women. Women are the object of sexual slurs and vulgar sexual terms, meant to tear down and embarrass.”

Somehow it is now acceptable to cast derogatory sexual terms at female public figures and get away with it.

Historically, women in America faced inequality, but they were still publicly respected as mothers, daughters and sisters. Today, they are disrespected and marginalized as sexual objects.

Women in power are either “sluts,” “bimbos,” “lesbians,” or “ice queens.” This borders on misogyny.

One need not look far to see examples.

Rush Limbaugh called Sandra Fluke a “slut” on air after she testified about contraception. Essentially, Limbaugh called the majority of America’s women – any woman who uses a contraceptive – a slut.

Yet, Limbaugh is still on the air today.

According to a Pew Research Center Survey, the Limbaugh audience includes a larger percentage of men than any other of the major news or opinion outlets surveyed.

Bill Maher reportedly called Sarah Palin and Congresswoman Michele Bachmann “boobs” on air and then called Palin the “c-word” during a stand-up comedy act.

Keith Olbermann felt that Hillary Clinton should have dropped out of the presidential race, and suggested the solution of finding “somebody who can take her into a room and only he comes out.” He also called Michelle Malkin a “big mashed up bag of meat with lipstick.”

Matt Taibbi wrote on his blog that when he reads Malkin’s stuff, he imagines her narrating with a hairy set of balls in her mouth.

Hilary Rosen said that Ann Romney, mother of five, has never worked a day in her life; marginalizing the role of mothers as unworthy.

When asked about the misogynistic press coverage during her run for president, Hillary Clinton said “The level of dismissive and condescending comments, not just about me—what do I care?—but about the people who support me and in particular the women who support me, has been shocking. But what has really been more disappointing to me is how few voices that have a platform have spoken out against it.”

The sexist tone put forth from the mouths of television correspondents reached a feverish pitch during Clinton’s run for president, and continues unabated.

Unfortunately, in addition to using sexism as a tool to diminish powerful women, the media has also portrayed women as sexual objects for so long now, particularly in advertising, that disrespecting women is now part of our social fabric.

Sexism is ubiquitous in television, film, radio and magazines.

A recent television commercial depicts a woman having a sexual fantasy while shopping for a certain drain cleaner which claimed “double impact” effectiveness. In her “fantasy” two muscular men showed up at her door.

The first man said, “I am here to snake your drain,” and the second man said, “I am here to flush your pipe.” Then, “afterwards,” the woman snaps out of her fantasy and she is in the aisle of a store with the product in hand, and the two men from the fantasy are there ogling her.

The commercial was dark, almost sinister – and just plain weird.

It is no wonder that verbally assaulting a woman with sexual epithets in public has become acceptable in America.

Because sexism is so prevalent and accepted, men in power can use it as a weapon to belittle women. Sexual epithets are used to portray strong-willed women as either sexual objects, or as sexually undesirable. The woman is stereotyped as unimportant, and what she says becomes irrelevant.

Men of power do not want to lose control of their power. They want to keep it. So, evidently, they must keep women down.

As long as our society accepts sexism and treats women as sexual objects, then misogyny will continue unabated.

As a man and father, I am standing up to sexism, and telling my friends about it.

Like a male friend of mine said, “If I ever catch myself being sexist, then I remind myself that she is someone else’s daughter.”

If we remind ourselves that all women are mothers, daughters and sisters, and give them their due respect, our society will be a much better place.

Let’s end the war on women.

Thomas Figg-Hoblyn

Thomas Figg-Hoblyn

Thomas Figg-Hoblyn joined the journalism world several years ago as a writer and editor – migrating over from the business realm. He currently writes for The Western Edition in San Francisco, the Guardsman at City College of San Francisco, and he was the editor for Etc. Magazine. Figg-Hoblyn is graduating from City College this May with an associate’s degree in journalism, and will attend San Francisco State University’s journalism program beginning in August. As a fourth generation Californian, born and raised in the Bay Area, he brings an abundance of local perspective. Human interest feature profiles are his strong point. The subjects of his printed articles include Warren Hellman, Michael Franti of Spearhead, and Harry Cordellos – world famous blind athlete. Favorite quote: “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” -Confucius

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1103672366 Marc Salomon

    There is no war on women going on now that has not been in play for decades.  There are high profile cases of misogynist laws being proposed and passed, but the only reason that they are being put forth now is to distract everyone away from the crimes of the banksters and warmongers that the Tea Party and Occupy movements are organizing around.

    The best way to avoid frank discussions of sensitive issues is to create a diversion and direct everyone’s attention away.  This blowing of the dog whistles on wedge issues works very well, just so long as we allow ourselves to be diverted.

    Had women not abandoned the field, confident that their gains of the 1970s-1990s would hold up–they didn’t–and kept on organizing, then there would not be an upcoming generation of women clueless as to what life was like for women before those victories. 

    Adding insult to injury, the self same Democrat Party that gave us the Stupak amendment is the one blowing the dog whistle about the war on women.

  • Josswtf

    This was a most excellent article, Thomas!  Thank you. What i do not understand is why women are the target, the enemy? I can understand men (and of course women) wanting to excell, to rise above the pack and stand out. What I do not understand is why the pack is gendered — why is being beaten by a powerful woman worse than being beaten by a powerful man? I am female and I find myself in awe of my superiors frequently. How did they do all that, I wonder. And I wonder the same whether the person is male or female. As far as i can tell with men however (I am just beginning to research this) being beaten by a man is OK but being beaten by a woman is terrible. Where did this come from? the Bible? somewhere else?

  • 4.28.12 – UNITE!

    Hi Thomas, 
    Thank you for the great post. The war is not just men culturally being terrible. It’s legislative.
    In late February, absolutely fed up and disgusted by the trans vaginal ultrasound bill, Michigan woman Karen Teegarden decided, “We need a march.” She started a Facebook group and overnight had 500 people. Within 4 weeks, she had 18,000 people signed up to organize a march in their state capitol. The march is non-partisan and women and men of all political stripes and religions are involved. Today, nearly 10 weeks later, over 21,000 people are organizing marches nationwide calling for an end to the war on women. According to the Daily Kos, in the past year 916 BILLS have been passed to give the civil rights of women to lawmakers.Arizona’s House of Reps passed a bill saying women could be fired for using birth control if she didn’t have employer permission. 
    Arizona, Oklahoma and other states have passed laws allowing doctors to with hold information about fetal birth defects from their pregnant patients and not be sued by the parents.
    Forced ultrasounds are mandated for every woman in Texas who needs a medically necessary abortion.
    Personhood and so called fetal pain laws give greater legal rights in six states to fertilized eggs and 20 week old fetuses than to the women carrying them. In 2011pro-life voters in Mississippi rejected a Personhood Amendment because it would ban hormonal methods of birth control, make care for incomplete miscarriages (not an uncommon occurrence) very difficult to get unless a woman’s life was in danger and it bans elective abortion.
    Georgia women are forced to carry stillborn children – abortion is banned after 20 weeks regardless of a fetus’s viability. Georgia lawmaker Terry England compares women to pigs and cows who deliver stillborns, in his speech of support for Bill 954 
    Topeka, KS briefly decriminalized domestic violence to help balance their budget. 
    New Hampshire is required to provide false information that abortion and breast cancer are linked, to every woman who has an abortion. According to the American Cancer Society, there is absolutely no link between the two.
    And oh, Sandra Fluke. Rep. Dan Lungren refused House members broadcasting equipment access to televise Fluke’s second Congressional Panel. Eventually, the panel was given access. Rep. Darrell Issa had all men testify to a panel on women’s health.
    Last year, Congress de-funded Planned Parenthood the day they funded contraceptives for wild horses through the Bureau of Land Management’s Budget. April 2011Doctors nationwide are beginning to fight these laws. Women and men nationwide soundly reject them and are rallying on Saturday, April 28, 2012. California is holding rallies in Sacramento and Los Angeles. We have a Funny or Die video with Susan Sarandon coming out this week, and Sarah Silverman will be be speaking in LA! :)

  • Rally.

    Join us to END the War on Women – Marches & Rallies Nationwide April 28, 2012 – http://www.unitewomen.org

  • Richmondman

    I don’t mean to belittle this, but last week I saw Ashley Judd on TV complaining about the sexual objectification of women, while wearing a low-cut tank top that revealed quite a bit of skin.  Is there a double standard here?

  • Stanpeper

    This is about Gender Equality in the USA as it currently exists.  Over the years I have observed the pendulum swing from one extreme to the other.  In our zeal to make certain women and girls were treated equally, the unintended consequences have resulted in a war against men and boys.  This war is being acted out on several fronts.  I have listed a few below.  This blog is open to all for comment on both sides of the issues, please keep your comments clean and respectful.
    Educational system:  Lets us begin with Title 9, pertaining to sports in our public school systems.  It was intended to expand participation of girls in sports.  However in practice the unintended consequence has been to take resources away from boys sports activities.  Here is how it works ( or doesn’t)  In order for boys to have a baseball, football, soccer, etc. programs, there has to be an equal number of girls fielding a team of a similar girls sport, otherwise funding will not be available.  Well as it turns out girls are just not as interested in team sports as boys are, who could have guessed?  As a result boys sports have suffered for lack of funding because we can’t spend more on boys sports than we do on girls sports. 
    For years, in the past, girls lagged behind in math and sciences.  Huge amounts of funds and attention were thrown at the problem, so much so that nearly all the attention is currently directed to educating girls, whereas the boys are being left behind in huge numbers.  All one needs to do is look at the graduating HS statistics, the GPA’s and College admission statistics to understand that we are not fairly or properly educating our boys any longer. I am the mother of two fine young men, and I can tell you first hand that battling for male equality in the public school system has been a real challenge. There are not enough male teachers to begin with and many of the women who teach simply do not care about the boys.  I have seen them grade the males much more harshly than the girls, even cutting the girls breaks.  I have had occasion to speak with two who felt that boys were a nuisance  and distraction and just sent them to the principal’s office.  I agree boys are full of energy and can be a distraction, that’s how they are wired, boys and girls are different but both can be a distraction, boys are more routinely punished for it than girls.
    WAR AND  MILITARY SERVICE:  Well here again the males come up with the short straw.  Granted both young men and women serve in the military, it is predominately our young men who come home dead or with mutilated bodies.  The women that serve do so in support positions to free up the males for the front lines.  Granted many women have suffered the same fate as the males in Iraq and Afganistan, due to the indiscriminate bombing done by our enemies, but these numbers are a very small percentage.
    We have become desensitized to all these deaths and the fact that males are considered expendable when it comes to war, we have become used to it ( men in body bags that is).  We are not ready to see our pretty little girls come home in body bags, or maimed, and we shouldn’t be.   Why are we so accepting of our beautiful young men coming home that way.  I think the reason is simply that someone has to do it, males are better suited for it because of their strength and that society has placed a lower value on the life of a male over that of a female.
    DOMESTIC VIOLENCE:  When you hear that phrase you automatically think of a man beating a woman, or some similar vision, heck I did, until I looked into it.  We have become brainwashed and conditioned to think that way.  Statically according the bureau of labor and statistics DV has 60 female and 40% male victims.  However males are far less likely to report, or admit to being a victim of DV, while this is true for some women as well, think about the male “ macho thing” and what makes sense to you?  So if you agree that men are less likely to report or admit to being a victim of DV, what would you say the actual real statistic would be 50/50?  He is what we do know from the reports.  Women are much more likely to be more violent in their attacks against a husband or boyfriend, to include using knifes, scissors, bats, groin kicks, etc. than males are
    HE DARK SIDE OF WAR AND WHAT OVER GOVERNMENT DOES NOT WANT YOU TO KNOW:  About 20 years ago, I had the opportunity to talk with my uncle.  He was an army doctor who served in the Pacific Theatre as well as the European Theatre during WWII.  He was insistent that I know of these atrocities so they could be known.  Until now I have not done much with the information he gave me but feel  I should share it now.  I should note that I have done some additional research on this and there is clear evidence that these practices still go on and that they have for hundreds and hundreds of years, in one form or another.
    Pacific Theatre: The Japanese did not take prisoners as the conditions were primitive on these islands and they had no place to hold them.  Rather than just shoot these young men, they tortured them to death.  The most common practice was to kick or otherwise beat their testicles until they were mush.  Whether or not they survived those beatings, which sometimes lasted for days, the Japanese would cut off the guys Penis, which would cause the captive the bleed to death.  The Japs would collect these Penises for trophy’s and hang them in their caves.  Hundreds were found in the aftermath, but did you hear about this from our government?
    European Theatre:  Here the Germans were just as evil, perhaps more.  The translated term for this was called testicle “pulping” but to be fair, both sides engaged in this torture.  The Nazi’s for the most part did take prisoners and many men survived these beatings, albeit without a set of working testicles.  You would think that with so many survivors of this torture it would be widely known.  However not many men wanted to make it known they had no testicles, as it was humiliating and embarrassing.  The Nazi’s had a particularly cruel method of torture that some of the gestapo units practiced, that did often lead to death of the guy.  The practice started with one particularly evil female officer.  This was the practice of inserting a curved glass rod up into the penis and then inducing and erection.  This would cause the rod to break within the penis causing significant bleeding and other obvious complications.  Those that received medical attention afterwards survived but most lost the organ and many died.  Other gestapo agents just inserted a straight glass rod into the penis then smashed the organ with a hammer.  These unfortunate men lost the organ.  Did you hear about any of this from our government?
    Vietnam: There is plenty of literature written and available on the web about the occurrence of castration by the VC on our young men.  Rather than a “policy” however it appears to have been up to the whims of the captors.  The are several pieces written about one VC woman sniper who enjoyed torturing her captives for hours, including cutting off eyelids, breaking fingers, etc. . before finally cutting off the captives entire package with one cut.  Then there was the “bouncing Betty” land mine.  Originally developed by the Germans to explode 3 feet off the ground it was designed to destroy, penis, testicals and even rip through femoral arteries. Again our government does not want you to know this happens.