I was recently motivated by a reader (thank you MLJ1219) to write about an issue that I have touched on on previous occasions, but have failed to articulate with any level of explicit understanding. It’s one of those issues which female readers of Beyond The Political Spectrum are not going to agree with me on, which is fine.
Recently, I posted a couple recent issues in the news—in addition to past postings—regarding the politicization of gender as a campaign issue, especially in this election year (Ex: "Contraception: It's Easier Than You Think," "Issues In The News (For Dummies!)," and "Contraception As A Political Issue...Does This Make Too Much Sense? (Part 2)").
In retrospect, I can see why some readers would have thought that I side with the Democrats on most women-related issues, seeing as how most of what said or indicated in previous posts seemed to reflect defending women’ rights on various issues.
However, a bit of clarification is in order. I feel compelled on this 40th anniversary of the Federal Title IX legislation to state that what I was attempting to showcase previously was the absurdity of gender-specific issues as campaign issues which at a time when jobs, the economy, and national security should take primary focus. I don’t defend issues such as abortion and contraception in and of themselves. What I object to is the politicization of gender as a campaign issue, which both parties—the Democrats in particular—are guilty of. To this point, conservatives—although in error to focus on individual decisions such as abortion as a practice (as well as other side issues) to be regulated by government—are right to criticize how Democrats are quick to pander to the emotionally volatile concerns of women among the voting electorate.
Take the recent debate surrounding the reauthorization of the 18-year-old anti-domestic violence law known as the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Passed in 1994 the law, which among other things makes “crimes of violence motivated by the victim's gender" a federal civil rights violation, has been reauthorized on 2 previous occasions, with little fanfare. However, this year renewal of the bill faces opposition from conservative Republicans in the Senate due to added provisions which extended recognition, protections, and availability of resources (allocated in the initial bill) to cover Native Americans, lesbian, gay, and transgender Americans as well as illegal immigrants.
Democrats have smeared the Republicans’ opposition of the bill’s renewal to the “War on Women” they accuse the Republicans of engaging in as they erroneously focus on issues of reproduction and sexuality as campaign issues. They have, to some limited success, framed the Republicans’ effort to block passage of the reauthorization proposal as part of a greater conservative strategy against women, when it fact they are only opposed to the protections which women already benefit from extended to other groups, most of which are indeed questionable given their lack of legal total legal recognition.
Logic dictates that any federal law ostensibly created to protect women against domestic violence simply follow its inherent mandate. The addition of gay partners to this bill smacks of partisan one-upsmanship in using a female issue to gain political advantage, stretching the law’s initial credibility as a protection against, and recognition of male-on-female domestic violence. Furthermore, adding protections against battered female illegal immigrants is almost laughable; doing so validates the presence of illegal immigrants in a way which seems to focus on one particular crime—violence against female partners—while ignoring the larger issue of their illegal presence on American soil (yes, it’s acknowledged that previous versions the VAWA protected female immigrants from abusive spouses, but only insofar as pertains to their legal opportunity to obtain permanent immigration status based on the claim of abuse; it doesn’t impact the overall argument).
Additionally, there is more than enough law at the state and local levels which protect women against abusive partners. In fact, given the disproportionate way in which women are not only protected, but somewhat elevated in aspects of treatment in our contemporary culture, politicizing gender only further empowers women…at the expense of men. Take the issue of reproductive rights in America.
Despite the perception by many that there is an assault on women’s reproductive rights, women in a sense, have the overwhelming amount authority when it comes to deciding establishing the general rights and guidelines of parenthood (I can attest to this personally, see “Women Reproductive Rights...and Wrongs!”). Under the current socioeconomic and legal dynamic, women decide whether to become parents, not men. I know that presumes that men have no responsibility in the process, but strictly speaking, it is her body. A woman can opt to decide to have unprotected sex, knowing full well that under most normal circumstances, pregnancy can be the result. If the woman doesn’t want to actually have a baby, she has the right to invoke a type of mulligan...a do-over in the form of the right to either abort the baby, or to put it up for adoption (sorry to shatter the illusion, but despite laws on the record books that gives a biological father say-so in cases where a mother wants to put a baby up for adoption despite his objections, the level of stipulations and statutory requirements makes a father taking presumptive automatic custody renders this an unrealistic reality). In matter of abortion, the man has no input, and—for all intents and purposes—in matter of adoption he has very little.
On the other hand, the woman also chooses to whether or not to impose parenthood on a male, and has the ability to leverage the power of the state to compel him to financially contribute to a child’s upbringing in the form of pursing child support. If a man doesn’t want to be a father, it’s pretty much Tough ****. A man who doesn’t want to be a father is a “deadbeat dad” or “sperm donor,” and will be pursued with the conviction of hunting down Al Queda, while a woman who doesn’t want to be a mother has the benefit of the state protection of her rights. And of these men, more than a few of wouldn’t even have criminal records if not for an otherwise lackadaisical sense of priorities, while for mothers, only the most extreme cases of neglect would qualify as “criminal.”
And should I have to even mention how typically weighted proceedings, judgments, and (conditions of) “settlements” are in favor in women in family and divorce court? Toss in the subjective judgment by wife seeking divorce of “mental abuse” (or domestic abuse) and you get a system which makes the woman’s word in such legal proceedings beyond reproach (and no, I’m not speaking of actual cases of domestic violence where there is a tangible trail of evidence and history of such. I am speaking of the way in which many women allege such “abuse” when submitting a laundry list of accusations as reasons for a judge to rule against a man in impending divorce proceedings). The reason this happens is because in this particular arena of jurisprudence, “the standard of evidence (known as "preponderance of the evidence") is the lowest allowed by law,” and family court hearings are often heard by a panel of commissioners…and often “with no witnesses beyond the parties themselves” in order save time and lower strains on this area of the judicial system. (See: “Ripped Apart”).
To further emphasize this point of this judicial bias which is tilted in favor of women, consider the following:
Rhea Rolfe, an attorney who once taught a "women and the law" class at the University of Washington, recalls sitting with a male client in a commissioner's courtroom one day. There were maybe seven or eight cases heard. "She ruled against every single man," Rolfe recalls, "and two of them were unopposed."
In many cases, the accusation of abuse is the marital equivalent of a rape accusation without an actual rape having taken place…an occurrence which happens more than we’d like to think, thanks to (you guessed it) the socio-political power we give to a woman’s sexuality. The upshot is that considering how much our society—by way of our institutions, if not our thinking—have empowered women at the expense of men, politicizing gender-related issues is not only unnecessary, it’s another example of more than political pandering to particular demographics which politicians from the two main political party engage in…at the expense the general voting electorate. In the case of politicizing gender issues, it’s an obvious appeal by the Democrats to women…at the expense—in many respects—to men. Men have no reproductive rights, no male-issue-specific Washington lobby, and can be forced to pay child support—even in some cases where he is not the biological father. Women have far more advantages in seeking court-based redress in matter of marital discord, parenting rights, and general paternity. As one reader put it so well, “women have the upper hand. When men had the upper hand, it was called ‘oppression.’ Now that women have the upper hand, it’s called ‘equality.’”