As near as I can tell, the ultimate goal of feminism is the removal of all patriarchal boundaries that work to restrict individual choice with regards to gender. All genders are supposed to be equal, the feminist will say, and we utilize the ballot box as a means of securing our own liberty. Of course, women didn’t always have the right to vote. For a very long time, women have been seen as second-class citizens while pecking away at each separate issue that holds them down. Getting burned at the stake for wearing men’s clothing is no less a relevant issue to women than is being unable to find safe abortion care in the event of a medical complication. Let’s face it: women have always had a tough road to travel.
Only, does voting really serve the ends of gender equality? During the deliberately atrocious Republican Party statements (deliberately to keep people talking about them, which is a kind of campaign strategy) made in this past spring’s candidate debates where people like Herman Cain and Michelle Bachmann embarrassed themselves, everyone who paid any mind had to listen to the usual party rhetoric. Gay marriage is a sin. Immigrants don’t deserve anything. Abortion should be illegal. And so on and so forth, all the similar statements recited from a playbook given to them by the people holding the purse strings. A feminist will say that voting for a Democrat is the better choice because the Democratic Party is a liberal-minded, people-oriented party that cares about human rights.
Okay, yes, I’ll admit it. President Obama has come out in favor of LGBT rights. He wants every person in the country to have healthcare. On the surface, President Obama appears to be a politician who is honestly concerned about the citizens in his country. But is that really true? Let’s dig a little deeper.
One of President Obama’s campaign promises in 2008 was the closure of Guantanamo Bay. Guantanamo Bay is a prison where people are held without trial and without legal counsel. One Bosnian citizen’s account tells a story that you don’t often hear on the news. The man was not allowed to see the evidence against him and had to wait seven years before he finally heard a judge say he could go free. Such has been the effect of rampant Islamophobia in the American government which has given the word “terrorist” about the same meaning the people in Salem attributed to “witch.” The result is about the same, too. In Guantanamo, women were treated badly as a part of the controlling male-dominated culture that is the military. If Obama felt strongly about habeus corpus- the right of a prisoner to have a trial- then why keep Guantanamo open even with its track record?
In fact, there’s a lot of evidence to suggest that Obama does not support habeus corpus in any way, shape or form. On New Year’s Eve 2011, he signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act for 2011, which contained clauses that outdid the Patriot Act in its crushing of individual rights. One article, published by Forbes in early December, hoped that Obama would veto the bill. It took the rest of the month, but he signed. Then, he issued a statement saying that he would not use its provisions against American citizens- in spite of the fact that he could very well be voted out of office in November. Imagine, if you will, Mitt Romney coming to power and looking at that provision, his mouth watering with anticipation of all the people he could lock up.
Except, not so fast. President Obama (together with Leon Panetta and a few others) is currently being sued by a group of journalists and activists who wish to strike NDAA’s provisions down. So far, a federal judge has ruled it unconstitutional. But that hasn’t stopped the government from filing a series of appeals, rather than just letting the provisions die out. The Obama administration is making a deliberate attempt to keep a law on the books that one judge says is unconstitutional. Chris Hedges, one of the plaintiffs in the case, believes this is happening because there isn’t any substantive difference between President Obama and Mitt Romney. The goal, Hedges says, is not to fight terrorism, but to make it illegal to protest anything the government might say or do. This, too, is unconstitutional.
So where do women fit into this equation? Cases of women being abused by authority figures is nothing new, whether that authority is a member of a church or a member of law enforcement (as shown here from Egypt). In America, the cases are not much different. Police have often acted in irresponsible ways. Rather than speaking up about any of these instances of abuse, as one might expect from a leader concerned with human rights, Obama has instead been completely silent even while police beat up unarmed civilians in Chicago, Oakland, Anaheim and New York. By seeking to make dissent illegal, President Obama aims to take away the power of the people to do anything about the issues they feel strongly about.
Both men and women are negatively impacted by the administration’s stance. But since women traditionally have fewer outlets to utilize and often aren’t believed, even when raped, I think it’s safe to say that women will suffer disproportionately more than men. Where does the single mother with two children go when a police officer stops her at a routine checkpoint and asks her to lift her skirt up? Where does the 19-year-old political science major go when the state Senator she has an internship with harasses her in the office? What happens to women who are negatively impacted by the system and don’t feel comfortable utilizing the system for redress? Under the law which President Obama has fought hard to keep legal, these women would have nowhere to go if they can’t afford a lawyer and if a police officer doesn’t believe them, an occurrence which, while often not talked about, is more common than one might suspect.
Why then, would anyone choose to vote for President Obama who is also in favor of women’s rights? Is it worth it to keep abortion legal- though extremely difficult to access under constant attacks by the far right? Is it worth it to be able to buy a morning after pill whenever you want when the law of the land says you don’t have a right to take to the streets and hold up a sign about someone touching you inappropriately? And can we even say that President Obama supports women’s rights- despite all his statements affirming this- when he does not support human rights?
Women, after all, are people. At least they are the last time I checked.