Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Conservative Agenda with Contraceptive Debate: Repress Women, Reverse Gains of Women's Movement

Ben Adler's overview of what conservative political sorts are saying these days about the contraceptive issue is helpful for a variety of reasons.  In the first place, it gathers together a miscellany of recent commentary from folks I deliberately avoid reading much of the time.

In the second place, it deftly demonstrates that "conservative positions on social issues are as much about repressing women and reversing the gains of the women’s movement as they are about saving the lives of the unborn."  A case in point: Adler links to a recent "meditation" by James Poulos asking, "What are women for?"

(The answer, in case you're wondering breathlessly: women are about nature.  They're about representing nature.  They're about being nature.)

Because women, you understand, have a "privileged relationship with the natural world."  But lest you misunderstand and read this conservative paean to women's "naturalness" as a tribute to women, you have to understand that this formula, women = nature, presupposes yet another formula that is not explicitly spelled out in Poulos's analysis, but which always hovers behind the scenes when men talk about women as being in a privileged relationship with the natural world.

This is the assumption that men are not nature.  Men exist to control and subdue nature.  To order nature. To tame and bridle it.  To make nature serve human ends.

To make nature serve the needs of their women and their children (and, of course, of themselves).  The formula, women = nature, is lifted from a larger script in which female subordination to males is inscribed in the very terms of "praise" that applaud women's closeness to nature.

Because nature is what is less than conscious.  And men, who know how to shape and design and control nature, are conscious.  But women, who are closer to nature than men are (because they have the ability to bear children), are semi-conscious, less capable of rational thought than men are.

And so their natural state of childishness positively demands the hand of a controlling man, lest they sink back into the total unconsciousness of nature itself.

As Rachel Maddow and Dahlia Lithwick note in the Maddow news segment to which I linked in a posting yesterday, the American right-wing fixation on controlling women and women's access to basic health care is shot through with the demeaning assumption that women don't really completely understand what any of this is about.  They can't possibly understand what they're doing when they make the anguishing choice to have an abortion.

And so we need invasive ultrasound procedures for which they have not asked and which their doctors contraindicate to show them what is really going on in their wombs before they have an abortion . . . . 

The virtual exclusion of women from the Issa hearing about women's access to basic health care was not an oversight.  It was deliberately scripted.

Since it's men who write "meditations" asking what women are for.

Women's role is to listen and obey.  Not to ask why and what for.

That we can find ourselves here in American culture in 2012, with the full and active complicity of the bishops of one of the nation's leading religious groups, beggars imagination.  It beggars imagination because these conversations are so grossly retrogressive, so grossly pitched against what has long been considered the moral arc of civilized societies around the world, that one wonders why rational men would ever want to pull a society back into irrational atavistic macho tribalism.

While claiming that they are serving the ends of rationality and subduing nature as they do so.

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