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.