“It’s like being a HABS fan.”
By Julie Cadieux.
As The Hudson St-Lazare Gazette goes to press The United States will be voting for their next president. Last weeks’ column by Suzana Vukic, American’s War On Women, (see her article at the bottom) made some passionate and interesting points about how the Republicans have stirred up women’s rights issues. However, having lived in the U.S. for over a decade I have a slightly different perspective. I can see how to many Canadians it might seem as though American’s have allowed women’s rights to be eroded. But that’s because Canadians understand American politics, from their own experience, not an American’s.
Of course I am not defending any of the wrong and backwards remarks that some politicians have made over the last few months. Least of all Republican Senator, Todd Akin (Missouri) who, in case you needed a refresher, said in a televised interview: “First of all, from what I understand from doctors, (pregnancy from rape) are really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” It’s no shock that as of this past weekend his opponent, Democrat Senator Claire McCaskill was ahead in the polls. But the bigger shock is that she only had about a 5 percentage point lead. How is it that this guy (Akin) was still even in the running you ask? Does this mean women don’t care and men agree with him? No, I don’t think so. Let me try to explain:
In the U.S. you are either a Republican (37%) or a Democrat (39%), for life! There is a small percentage of Americans (23%) who are undecided which includes the ‘liberal Republicans’ and ‘conservative Democrats’ who are considered swing voters because their voting patterns cannot be predicted. (Statistics from the PEW Research center, November 5th, 2012.)
For the lifers (76% of Americans), there is little objectivity. There will always be a reason, explanation or excuse that can be used to defend or forgive their beloved party. Need proof? How about the ads that have been running for Akin like this one “You don’t have to agree with everything he says, but you can be sure, in the Senate, Akin will vote for (Republican nominee Mitt) Romney’s policies.” I compare it to sports fans: the same way a Habs fan will always be a Habs fan. As a fan you might get frustrated with a coach’s decisions or dislike a player, but you still believe in your team and will cheer them on no matter what. This is how U.S. politics is for millions of Americans and why some who might actually disagree and be completely disgusted with Akin, will still end up voting (Republican) for him anyway.
In Canada (and Quebec) there is not the same kind of passion and entertainment in our politics. We have more parties to choose from and the majority of us have no loyalties to one or the other. If we do bother voting at all, we choose the candidate or party we hate the least. We don’t trust or care enough to be faithful. To put it in American political terms, Canadians are mostly all undecided/swing voters.
The next and other very important factor which plays a huge role in U.S Politics and one which many of us here cannot truly relate to in the same way, is religion. There are so many Americans who are very conservative and deeply religious. Their beliefs and values come from their church and bible teachings and this is reflected in their politics and why a variety of women’s and gay rights are still hot button issues. Right or wrong this is why many Americans support candidates who mirror these values.
I am not defending or undermining U.S. politics or trying to say that Canada’s way of doing it is better or worse. I am just trying to explain it. I understand how from the Canadian perspective it might seem bizarre. The same way I imagine from an American perspective having a province that would have an elected party which is against English as its primary language, might seem bizarre to them!
Hmmmm. I would love to hear your perspective on this: JulieLovesHome@gmail.com
America’s war on women (By Suzana Vukic)
Throughout the course of the year, I’ve been so caught up with my projects that I haven’t found the time to address a very real, pervasive phenomenon that has taken root in our own backyard, so to speak: America’s war on women.
And just to clarify: this is very specifically a Republican war on woman. Americans are preparing for the impending presidential elections. Democrat and Republican leaders are facing off. And a very ugly and all-too real war on women has been taking shape for the longest time now.
Earlier this year, right-wing radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh launched a very personal attack against Georgetown University Law Center student Sandra Fluke, calling her a slut and a prostitute. Why? This was in response to Fluke’s speech to house Democrats in support of mandating insurance coverage for contraceptives.
It was no surprise that Limbaugh lost a lot of support — including sponsorship — as a result. And of course, Republican leaders wasted no time distancing themselves from this man and his remarks.
Yet the onslaught against women continues. And it very evidently comes from the Republican camp. Issues relating to women’s basic health, safety and well-being — ranging from rape, access to abortion and contraception, domestic violence — all of these have come under attack, one way or another.
It’s absolutely shocking to hear some of the ignorant remarks made by Republican leaders or leadership hopefuls regarding women’s issues. A good example that comes to mind is that of U.S. Senate candidate from Missouri, Todd Akin, who stated this past summer that a “legitimate rape” rarely results in pregnancy, as “the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” More recently, Indiana Republican Senate candidate said that pregnancy resulting from rape is “something that God intended.”
I’d like to see either of these “gentlemen” tell that to Bosnian victims of wartime rape, especially those who were impregnated by their rapists while being held in captivity and released only after their pregnancies were so far advanced that any possibility of a safe abortion was out of the question.
And while Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney makes every effort to distance himself from these PR fiascos, he has nonetheless proven time and again his willingness to undermine women’s rights.
It’s scary to think that in America — a country that’s supposed to represent a beacon of light and freedom for all nations — women’s rights are being eroded today, in 2012. Even more disconcerting is the thought that many politicians are out there actively seeking to pass laws that would curtail women’s rights. Why is this happening?
I’ve come across right-wing rhetoric that espouses and idealizes traditional values centred around the family. It’s a viewpoint that often derides feminist values, blaming the advances made by women for the breakdown of the traditional American family. The solution? Take away women’s rights, bit by bit. Make access to safe, reliable contraceptives and abortion nonexistent. Turn a blind eye to domestic violence. And keep on re-victimizing rape victims.
Do any of these options sound like a solution to you? That shouldn’t be the case. Because if you’re saying that family is essential to the strength of a society and a nation, then you must understand this: when you tear down a woman and her rights, you are tearing down family.
I thought that we women, here in North America at least, had come so far that our rights were practically enshrined in law, if not set in stone. Obviously, I was wrong. Why are we allowing our rights to be taken away from us? The assumption that we are liberated and emancipated — it’s obviously a false one if it’s so easy for (mostly) male politicians to come along and decide to do their best to make sure we end up barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen. Why are more women — and men — not doing more to oppose this?
I certainly hope that American women keep all of this in mind as they prepare to vote next week. It’s insane for any woman to vote for a politician or a party that would work actively to take away her rights. Let’s hope this sentiment is reflected in the outcome of next week’s American presidential elections. And let’s hope the results will help put an end to this misogynistic, right-wing rhetoric for once and for all.