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Reconciling Feminism and the GOP

If one were to look at pure statistics, the media’s passionate assertion that the Republican Party is less-than-friendly to modern American women is unmistaken. Almost all tangible evidence points to an apparently irrefutable conclusion: it has become very, very difficult to be both a feminist and a Republican.

The Republican Party, dominated by white, conservative, God-fearing older men, is unquestionably less inviting to women and minorities than the Democratic Party. Statistics alone paint a dismal portrait for female Republican support. A Gallup poll in 2009 showed that 41 percent of the voting female population identified themselves as Democrats, while just 25 percent labeled themselves as Republican. Twelve of the 17 current female senators are Democrats. Obama leads Romney by 7 percent among female in Florida voters, according to a CBS News/New York Times poll taken last month.

Among those women who do identify as Republicans, the most vocal are fervently pro-life and anti-gay marriage. Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann frequently speaks out against abortion, gay marriage and even Muslims. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer is the nation’s most outspoken opponent of illegal immigration.

Fronting a less severe Republican movement, however, are Maine Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, both Republicans, both women and both moderates. Snowe is a pro-choice, pro-death penalty centrist, while Collins seems to be in favor of legalizing gay marriage. Both are living proof that women can be intelligent, feminist and Republican all at once.

Admittedly, however, more Americans know the names of Brewer and Bachmann than Snowe and Collins. This leaves a sour and erroneous taste in many progressive women voters’ mouths, and who can blame them, when Bachmann seems to hunt Muslims like witches and Brewer seems to treat illegal immigrants like sub-par human beings?

Nonetheless, to say that one cannot be both a feminist and a Republican is irresponsible and wrong. It would be hypocritically closed-minded to believe that if a woman is pro-life and opposed to birth control being paid for by their employer or covered by their insurance, they are backwards, anti-feminist zealots. Feminism is about different things to different women, and the idea that a woman who  doesn’t fit the common mold of a pro-choice progressive cannot possibly be a “real feminist” is untrue.

A recent Huffington Post article asked, “Can a feminist put the principles and ideals of feminism aside if he or she believes that Mitt Romney is the one who can get the job done?” The job Romney is being asked to do, of course, is to whip America’s economy back into fighting shape, and this is where the argument gets tricky.

To achieve desired goals such as pay equality, there need to be jobs to obtain in the first place, and many feel that Romney’s economic policies will do more for the unemployment rate than Obama’s. Put simply, a feminist should be in favor of equal economic opportunity for both genders, and if economic opportunity as a whole has stalled and women believe that Romney will do better to create jobs and jumpstart the economy, they might put personal convictions about hot-button issues like abortion and contraception coverage aside for the collective “greater good” of America’s economy.

Furthermore, many women identify themselves as both feminist and pro-life. It is simply incorrect to say that a woman cannot be both.

Katie Martin, a Boston College sophomore and an officer of Boston College’s Pro-Life club, is also an advocate for Feminists for Life, an organization that “promotes feminism with a pro-life stance emphasizing nonviolence.”

“I want both what is best for women and what I feel is best for our country,” Martin said in an interview for this column. “Furthermore, I believe my pro-life stance highlights my feminist ideals. Women deserve better than the violent act that is abortion.”

Martin represents an underrepresented and unheard percentage of women: politically involved, passionate students who take a relatively unpopular position on abortion, particularly on college campuses. Too often political candidates and political commentators treat women as one singular, uniform voting body. When the GOP solidified their pro-life stance, the media and the Democrats gave sweeping generalizations about what that meant for women voters. The theorization that this pro-life rhetoric instantly scares away women voters is inherently patronizing; men are almost never grouped together as one collective “opinion,” whereas women are almost always considered to think in a single agglomerate.

This is the true problem women face in this election, and it is one that has not and probably will not be addressed in this election cycle. One presiding argument used against the Romney-Ryan ticket is that in the year 2012, women cannot logically be pro-life, Republican, and feminist all at once. This is wrong. The argument should be that in the year 2012, women can logically be whatever mix-and-match political combination they want.

Emily Merlino is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at eamerlino@student.umass.edu.

Comments
14 Responses to “Reconciling Feminism and the GOP”
  1. Mike says:

    While I myself am pro-choice (to a point), I think the thought process of putting what some view as another human life at an equal level to the mother carrying that baby is perfectly reasonable. One can be all about women being equals in society but still take issue with them ending what they truly believe to be a life. It doesn’t mean they want government control over a womans body, it means they want legal protection for another human that still happens to be dependent on that woman. While I may personally not agree that a fetus is a person right off the bat, I can certainly understand and sympathize with that thought process.

    In response to Jan Brewer being anti “illegal immigration,” how is that a bad or evil thing? Any reasonable citizen should realize there is a practical and security risk to having open and unmonitored borders. This doesn’t mean these people are against letting others into the United States through legal immigration, possibly even in equal number, it means that they see a problem with drug and human trafficking as well as an overuse of public facilities such as emergency rooms (which for all intents and purposes are public) as a result of an unregulated border, and see a reason to monitor and regulate what causes the problems.

    Mike

  2. Lacy says:

    I love this article. Finally someone hits the nail on the head. Femanism is not simply about a woman’s right to have an abortion. It is about a woman’s right to choose her own path in life and to fight for the issues that she cares about.

    I am in that unrepresented category of woman who consider themselves to be both conservatve and a femanist. I had the opportunity to work for Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign and was horrified when my own party (the Democrats) told me that I should shut up and vote for Barack Obama because he was a Democrat and there was no way that a Republican would represent my interest as a woman. Obviously that is not the case because even though I am from South Carolina I am a huge fan of Senators Snowe and Collins.

    It’s wrong to have one party for straight, white, rich, old men and a party for everyone else. Republicans and Democrats don’t look the same anymore. Both parties should be a safe haven for any American that wants to come to the pols and vote no matter where they come from, their gender, or their sexual preference. Just ask Megan McCan!

  3. Darrell Ross says:

    Seriously, I don’t care what gender you are. If you think it is ok for your company to deny contraception coverage to women, your claim to be a feminist will come across as small minded. If you consider yourself feminist then by all means, take a feminism course and learn about the history of women. Learn more about the feminist movement.

    Or… you can try to redefine feminism to mean something it is not. Good luck with that.

  4. Mike says:

    Contraception isn’t a “woman’s rights issue.” It has been spun into one, but it is not. I personally don’t understand why birth control/vasectomies would be covered by medical insurance at all, unless it is for medical reasons (for example, regulation). I have nothing wrong with birth control, but I don’t think anyone else should have to pay for it, especially if they are opposed to it on fundamental levels, and that view has nothing to do with womens’ rights.

    Mike

  5. Dr. Ed Cutting says:

    I think Collegian alum Alana Goodman did a good job with the contraception issue: http://www.commentarymagazine.com/article/the-war-obama-wanted/

    As to the larger issue, I think the most telling thing is the salary ratio between Republican and Democratic staffs in DC. While there is salary parity in GOP offices, with the highest paid person in some cases being female, this is not true in the Dem offices where they guys earn a WHOLE LOT MORE.

    As to abortion, I hate to tell you this, but women are on both sides of it. The pro-life movement is largely led by women. Women.

    As to Michelle Bachmann, if half of what we are hearing about what happened in Libya is true, I think we all need to start agreeing that the concerns she was expressing last summer about the state department leaking classified information to terrorists groups was quite legitimate. She made it clear, it was terrorists, not Muslims, that she was worried about.

    I’ve met Michelle Bachmann, on multiple occasions, and she is one of those people who are so bright that, like some professors, need 5 minutes to really explain what they mean because they think in complicated terms. 5-second sound bytes make her look fanatical if not worse, but she’s not. And the Inspector Generals were taking her seriously, and these are career people who don’t get to be an Inspector General by being rash or reckless.

    Two facts that one might want to keep in mind about what happened in Libya — they attacked with RPGs and other stuff that beyond the means of the average street thug. This was well planned — and way in advance. (Possibly with some of the information that Bachmann was worried about the Muslim Brotherhood being given.)

    And it is being reported that they sodomized our ambassador — they raped him. Do any of the anti-rape people wish to have any comment on that one???

  6. Jamie says:

    Mike: First of all, if something is covered by health insurance, that does NOT mean that someone else pays for it. Everything covered by your health insurance is still paid for by YOU, through your monthly premiums. That’s how insurance works. Insurance is a contract between you and the insurance company, in which you agree to pay the company a certain sum of money every month (the premium) in exchange for them taking care of certain types of medical bills that you might get (the ones that are “covered”). They use YOUR money to pay those bills.
    .
    What happened with contraception was that some employers refused to provide their workers with access to health insurance that covered contraception. In other words, they told their workers, “NO, you may NOT use your own money to make a deal with an insurance company that results in contraception being cheaper for you.”

  7. Jamie says:

    But more importantly, the argument that “I shouldn’t have to pay taxes to fund things that I am morally opposed to” is nonsense. Here’s why:
    .
    Let’s say I am morally opposed to war and violence. Many people are. So can I stop paying taxes that are used to fund the military? Or let’s say that I’m a hardcore vegan and I don’t think anyone should eat meat. Can I demand that the federal government stop using my tax money to buy meat or animal products? Or let’s say I’m a Mormon and I am morally opposed to drinking coffee. Can I demand that all coffee be removed from government buildings, because I don’t want my tax money paying for it? Or let’s say I’m an anarchist and I don’t believe in government at all. Can I just stop paying taxes completely?

  8. Mike says:

    Dude, that’s not how insurance works.

    Mike

  9. Dr. Ed Cutting says:

    Jamie, let’s say you are a “hardcore vegan” and “don’t think anyone should eat meat.” Now imagine that the government tells you that you must have meat in your refrigerator (notwithstanding your beliefs), that the government would come check to see if you do, and further that you must serve it at every meal even though neither you nor any of your like-minded friends want to eat it.

    Would you have a problem with this????

    As to your coffee example, the government building is public. Now if it is a private building owned by the LDS church, I suspect that coffee has already been removed.

  10. Brian D. says:

    Ed… in order for your metaphor to make sense, the government would have had to force people to buy contraceptives and store them in their home. That’s not what happened. That’s not even CLOSE to what happened. What the government actually said that everyone should have health insurance covering contraception – which doesn’t mean you MUST get contraceptives, it just means you CAN get them if you want to.
    So, to use your meat metaphor, the government is just making cheap(er) meat available to everyone.

  11. The Juggernaut says:

    One of the largest portions of the Republicans against abortion, contraception, etc is the heavily Catholic Latino population.

    Enough stereotyping the Republicans under the guise of being “open minded.”

  12. uttopolis says:

    you can personally be pro-life and a feminist, but you cannot be anti-roe v wade and be a feminist. abortion gives women control over lives and having children has a BIG impact on a woman’s ability to work (not so much for dudes, but that’s a whole nother thing) without abortion any man that can over power a woman can force her to have a child. it is unconscionable to force a woman to have a child no matter if she were raped or you think she’s a slut. the truth is most women who have abortions already have children and choose to abort because they cant afford more kids (look it up)
    also, because child rearing has such a large impact on women’s ability to work, their longtime earning power in the market and whether they even have a job or not (the pregnancy protection act milling through congress right now wasnt created for nothing) then it is a necessary part of womens health and thus should be covered by health insurance for any employer offering health insurance that goes for religious businesses too (this is how we do business in america, deal)
    and finally, you know abortion wouldnt be a question if men had babies. abortion would always be here and always be protected in that alternate universe. dont think so? check out how much more money is spent on medical research for dudes compared to women. hey, many of the methods used to treat women for various diseases was developed for men – its a mans world, baby,but it shoulndt be were all in it together men dont need to act more like women, women dont need to act more like men. we all just have to act in a way wed like to see others act

  13. Dr. Ed Cutting says:

    uttopolis, you will not understand this, but your diatribe is why a lot of men (and women) are dismissing feminism completely. I can summarize your entire rant in one sentence: “the world revolves around me.”

    You appear to feel entitled to sleep with whomever, wherever, whenever without ever having to worry about any consequences. Do you have any idea what happens to a guy with this attitude? Yep, almost inevitably he winds up paying child support or he goes to jail. He winds up paying it for 18 years, but heaven forbid you be “inconvienced” for 9 months. As the world revolves around you….

    Wanna talk about male and female medical research dollars, compare funding for breast and prostate cancer. Yep, compare it and compare where the death rates for both were a half century ago and where they are now. And then remember that (a) heart attacks, the “dude’s” disease, is also the #1 killer of women, with the #3 killer of women having essentially similar roots, and (b) the leading cancer death of women is LUNG CANCER.

    Yes ladies, worry about breast cancer as you puff away on your cigarettes — it’s like worrying about being hit by a meteorite while playing hopscotch in the center lane of the MassPike — do we not understand that you will be run over by a truck long before you have any chance of being hit by a meteorite?

    It stopped being a “Man’s World” on March 4, 1933. Facts do matter….

  14. Michael says:

    >”You appear to feel entitled to sleep with whomever, wherever, whenever without ever having to worry about any consequences. Do you have any idea what happens to a guy with this attitude?”

    He… wears a condom and continues doing it without any problems? Or, if he doesn’t wear a condom and the woman gets pregnant, she has an abortion and therefore he DOESN’T have to pay child support?

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