During their convention this week, as expected, Democrats concentrated on their charge that Republicans are waging a “war on women.” And the rhetoric was more extreme than ever.
Perhaps no one exemplified the tone better than recent Georgetown law graduate Sandra Fluke. Democrats changed the schedule at the last minute Wednesday night to give Fluke a more prominent speaking slot. Moved into prime time, she painted a dystopian vision of a Romney-Ryan presidency. It would be an America in which “access to birth control is controlled by people who will never use it” and “politicians redefine rape so survivors are victimized all over again.” Fluke declared that a Republican administration would “allow pregnant women to die preventable deaths in our emergency rooms” and decide “which domestic violence victims deserve help, and which don’t.”
“In a few short months, it’s the America we could be,” she warned.
Then again, Fluke had plenty of competition. At an event Tuesday night called “Sex, Politics, and Cocktails,” Planned Parenthood passed out hot pink condoms printed with the slogan, “Protect yourself from Romney & Ryan in this election.” Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards used a less sexual—but still outrageous—metaphor in her DNC address: “This year women learned that if we aren’t at the table, we’re on the menu.”
At a “Campaign & Champagne Town Hall and Reception” Wednesday, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz said that many Republicans want women out of government altogether: “Right now only 17 percent of the members of congress are women, and there are some members of the House who would like to keep it that way.” That event was hosted by the pro-choice EMILY’s List and Marie Claire magazine. The stated topic of discussion was getting more (pro-choice, Democratic) women elected to office, but the conversation soon turned to the party’s latest obsession.
The room was full of references to Rep. Todd Akin. Republicans unanimously denounced his view of “legitimate rape,” but Democrats aren’t convinced. “Akin is not an outlier,” EMILY’s List president Stephanie Schriock insisted. Sen. Patty Murray agreed. He “just happened to say what the rest of them think,” she said at the reception following the panel.
Actress Ashley Judd, now a self-professed potential candidate for office, punctuated her remarks with an obscene hand gesture directed at Akin. She talked at length about visiting the eastern Congo, where “100 percent” of the women she interviewed “had been gang raped multiple times by armed militia.” And, she added, “Most of them had conceived in rape.”
That experience didn’t leave Judd with a renewed appreciation for her country, however. “We’d like to think that here in particular, in America, we don’t have those kinds of problems, but we do. They may look a little different, but what’s at the root is gender inequality, and the patriarchy,” she explained.
For example? “The other day there was a picture posted of me. ... It was a tweet, and someone was like, ‘Ashley wins, she’s the prettiest,’ and I was pleased, I was pleased, and then I was like, ‘What is that?”
Judd said that the same system was responsible for gang-raping armed militias, Todd Akin, and that tweet.
“Trying to make employers have the authority over what kind of family planning an employee does or does not get—only for women, not for the male employees, though—that’s as insidious as me looking at a tweet and going, ‘Oh, good, I’m prettier than she is.’ It’s all a part of the patriarchy.”
At the Women’s Caucus on Thursday, however, the topic turned from the patriarchy to patriotism. White House adviser Tina Tchen questioned the allegiance of women who wouldn’t vote for Obama: “I cannot understand how you can be an American woman and vote any other way than to reelect this president.”