Friday, April 8, 2011

Turning the Clock Back

Via the Guardian:
Planned Parenthood has become a symbol of the kind of government spending that fiscal conservatives reject. The clientele of Planned Parenthood is the intersection of many groups that are considered unworthy by fiscal conservatives: lower-income, female, assumed to be unmarried and/or queer. Conservatives have argued, roughly forever, that such women should be cut off from any federal spending, with the hope that deprivation will force them to marry for sustenance. If women can avoid childbirth, they're less needy, and in the conservative imagination, that much more likely to avoid getting married for support. The fact that Planned Parenthood touches on the anti-sex faction of the Republican party is an added bonus, ensuring that they'll have rabid support from anti-choicers.
This is horrifying, to say the least. Republicans want to turn the clock back and re-institutionalize forms of gender domination that have been undermined by organizations like Planned Parenthood.

But I reject the framing of this as a "cultural issue" (and, in general, I reject the claim that gender oppression is a mere "cultural issue", though there are, of course, cultural dimensions to all forms of oppression). This is part of a broad onslaught against the majority of Americans: austerity. This is coming first and foremost from the ruling class, not from poor backward conservatives. And this particular destructive austerity measure will hurt working class and poor women more than anyone else. That is not to say that there aren't poor and working class people, especially men, who will get behind the assault on women's freedoms. They will, and they should be vehemently opposed and challenged for doing so, hopefully by a renewed and reinvigorated abortion rights movement in the US. But let's be clear: this isn't some isolated policy issuing in the first instance from grassroots reactionaries. This is part of a broad onslaught against working class living standards. But ruling class politicians in the GOP are smart: they break the onslaught up into different parts and try to sell the various parts as best as possible by pandering to racism, sexism, and other toxic ideologies.

Again, as always, it is a huge mistake to paint this as a battle between progressive Democrat politicians (who are supposed to stand up for women's rights) and conservative Republicans (who on the whole want to maximize the oppression of women wherever possible). This gets the Republicans right, but gets the Democrats wrong. This is not a "cultural" disagreement between "social liberalism" and "social conservatism", for two reasons. First, this is occurring in the context of the broad framework of austerity, accepted by both parties. The Democrats accept the need to make punishing cuts to public goods, and many of them even accept the need to cut funding for PP in particular. Second, the Democrats aren't crusaders for women's liberation. They mostly do nothing on that front, and, worse yet, the Democrats have been happy to throw women under the bus and allow assaults on abortion rights and other gains. Bart Stupak was a Democrat.

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