Community editor at The Nation.
DAVID GREGORY: Let me ask you more about some of the debates within the Republican Party. Former candidate Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas, got in some hot water this week with comments he made, I’ll play a portion of it, as he talked about a war for women. Here’s what he said.
MIKE HUCKABEE: The Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government, then so be it. Let us take that discussion all across America because women are far more than the Democrats have played them to be.
DAVID GREGORY: Is this helpful?
SEN. RAND PAUL: Well, you know, I think we have a lot of debates in Washington that get dumbed down and are used for political purposes. This whole sort of war on women thing, I’m scratching my head because if there was a war on women, I think they won. You know, the women in my family are incredibly successful. I have a niece at Cornell vet school, and 85% of the young people there are women. In law school, 60% are women; in med school, 55%. My younger sister’s an ob-gyn with six kids and doing great. You know, I don’t see so much that women are downtrodden; I see women rising up and doing great things. And, in fact, I worry about our young men sometimes because I think the women really are out-competing the men in our world.
What Mike Huckabee said about “Uncle Sugar” and the relationship between women’s libidos and their need for contraceptive coverage was highly misleading at best, and at worst absurdly out of touch. But Paul’s comments in response were representative of something much more insidious about the way politicians on both sides of the aisle talk about “women.” While Huckabee’s comments reflect a conservative Christian ideology that some women do subscribe to, Paul seems to forget altogether that women might be listening to his interview.
Take these statements:
I have a lot of successful women in my family and I don’t hear them saying, “Oh, woe is me. This terrible, you know, misogynist world.”
You know, the women in my family are incredibly successful.
I have a niece at Cornell vet school, and 85% of the young people there are women. In law school, 60% are women; in med school, 55%. My younger sister’s an ob-gyn with six kids and doing great.
Those would be great answers if David Gregory had asked him, “How’s your family doing?” But he didn’t. Sure, Paul referenced some statistics about enrollment in professional schools, but the bulk of his response to a question about the “war on women” was about the “incredibly successful” ladies of the Paul clan. As if that’s any comfort to the women who can no longer access the reproductive healthcare they need or struggle to get by on low wages.
Can you imagine a politician answering a question about the high unemployment rate by saying something like this?
You know, everyone in my family is doing great. My brother is a dentist, and my children all have jobs working for my businesses, and my wife has chosen to stay home and work in the domestic sphere, and we’ve always had plenty of money. So I really just don’t see this whole “recession” narrative playing out in reality.
No, because even Mitt Romney would know how out of touch that sounds.
In fact, Rand Paul took a very different approach when he talked about the economy on Meet the Press yesterday, saying: “You know, we’ve been talking a lot about poverty. It’s about debating not who wants to cure poverty but it’s about what policies work.” In this case he followed a pretty simple formula: acknowledge that the social problem exists and argue that your party has the best plan to fix it. A far cry from “I’m scratching my head, because if there was a war on women, I think they won.”
The problem of talking about women in the context of their relationship to others—primarily men—is not limited to conservatives. President Obama frequently employs this rhetorical device. In his State of the Union address last year, he framed his argument for passing VAWA and the Paycheck Fairness Act this way:
We know our economy is stronger when our wives, our mothers, our daughters can live their lives free from discrimination in the workplace, and free from the fear of domestic violence.
Here the president is talking about women—more accurately, about wives mothers and daughters—not to us. In doing so, he implies that convincing men to support these policies is paramount, and that doing so will require appealing to their affections for the women in their families. As Melissa McEwan wrote at the time:
That framing is garbage. It is reductive, it is misogynist, it is alienating, it defines women by their relationships to other people, it suggests that Obama is speaking to The Men of America about their “wives, mothers, and daughters” and not speaking to those wives, mothers, daughters, and any women who are none of those things and/or do not define themselves that way.
The Republicans’ track record on this issue is so bad that the GOP has started training candidates on how to talk to women. But politicians from both parties could benefit from learning to talk to and about women as if they were people, rather than the mothers, sisters, daughters and wives of men.
Live feed courtesy of the Texas Tribune.
Thousands of people have descended on the Capitol in Austin today to rally against anti-abortion legislation being taken up again in the Texas legislature. After Senator Wendy Davis’s successful filibuster led to the defeat of the anti-abortion bill SB5 in the Texas legislature last week, Governor Rick Perry called a second special session to attempt to pass the bill again. That special session begins at 2 pm CDT today. From Reuters:
This time, anti-abortion lawmakers won’t put themselves in a position in which time is about to run out, said Jonathan Saenz, president of Texas Values, which advocates for anti-abortion policies and other conservative causes.
“It seems as close to a sure thing as you can get,” Saenz said of the bill’s passage. But he added: “As we saw during the first special session, until it’s completely done and the process is finished, there are no guarantees. That’s going to motivate both sides to do everything they can to ensure victory.”
While Republicans likely have the votes—and the time—needed to pass the bills, on ABC’s This Week yesterday Wendy Davis said, “I just refuse to say I believe it will happen, I’m an eternal optimist. I believe in people; I believe in the power of democracy. And I’m going to fight with every fiber I have to keep it from passing.” She’s joined in that effort by pro-choice activists who flooded the capitol during the daylong filibuster last Tuesday and have promised to return again during the second special session. For live updates on the special session and the continuing demonstrations in Austin, check out the hashtags #TXlege, #SWTW, #TXrally, #HB2 on Twitter.
Senator Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, speaks as she begins a filibuster in an effort to kill an abortion bill, Tuesday, June 25, 2013, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Update, 6/26/2013: Texas Senate Bill 5 was defeated last night after a nearly eleven-hour filibuster by Senator Wendy Davis. From NBC News:
There were chaotic scenes after a filibuster attempt fell just short and protesters cheered, clapped and shouted from 11:45 p.m. to midnight and beyond as lawmakers tried to hold the vote before the session ended at midnight (1 a.m. ET). The filibuster by Senator Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, who wore a back brace, lasted almost eleven hours but ended after three challenges to her speech were upheld. The only way Democrats in the Republican-controlled Senate could defeat the measure was by not letting it come to a vote on Tuesday.
Pro-choice activists packed the Capitol in Austin all day and night, and at points the livestream of the proceedings (provided by The Texas Tribune) had well over 100,000 viewers watching around the world. And Twitter activity around the filibuster soared.
Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards said in a statement, “Gov. Perry knew all along he couldn’t pass this bill by the books. He and his allies resorted to shutting down the debate, blocking testimony from the very women whose lives would be affected, voting in the middle of the night, and employing cheap tricks to try shut down a heroic filibuster by Senator Wendy Davis.” On the Republican side, Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst said he was “very frustrated” with the days events, blaming the bill’s failure on “an unruly mob using Occupy Wall Street tactics,” according to The Texas Tribune.
Live feed courtesy of the Texas Tribune.
Today in the Texas Senate, Senator Wendy Davis has promised to filibuster SB5, a drastic anti-abortion bill, with a thirteen-hour speech. From the AP:
When combined in a state 773 miles wide and 790 miles long and with 26 million people, the measures would become the most stringent set of laws to impact the largest number of people in the nation. “If this passes, abortion would be virtually banned in the state of Texas, and many women could be forced to resort to dangerous and unsafe measures,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund and daughter of the late former Texas governor Ann Richards.
Today’s filibuster is a last-ditch effort on the part of Texas Democrats to block the bill, which, if passed, would close thirty-seven of the forty-two abortion clinics in Texas, all but eliminating abortion access in the state. Read more on the history of the bill and the fierce activism around it at RH Reality Check, and find out how to help in the effort from Texas activist Jessica Luther here.
Fast food workers strike at a Jimmy John’s in Soulard on Wednesday, May 8. (Photo from Ben Zucker)
Fast food and retail workers in St. Louis, Missouri, walked off the job Wednesday in the third major strike of its kind in recent weeks. The walkout came after a citywide fast food and retail workers strike in New York on April 4th and another in Chicago on April 24.
Workers at Jimmy John’s in the Soulard neighborhood were the first to walk out in a surprise strike, and employees at a McDonald’s in north county followed Wednesday evening. Organizers anticipated that workers at at least thirty restaurants, including Wendy’s, Hardee’s and Domino’s, would join in additional walkouts on Thursday. Like strikers in New York and Chicago, the St. Louis workers are calling for a living wage of $15 an hour and the right to form a union without retaliation. The current hourly minimum wage in Missouri is $7.35.
The “STL Can’t Survive On $7.35” campaign is being spearheaded by the organizing group St. Louis Jobs With Justice. And while a living wage is a central demand of the campaign, Missouri Jobs With Justice director Lara Granich says that at organizing meetings, the most common complaints have to do with issues of dignity. Workers overwhelmingly express that they’re not being treated with respect by their employers. Rasheen Aldridge, a striking Jimmy John’s employee, described the disparaging treatment workers in his store are subjected to in a video for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch“We’re treated like crap basically. It’s almost like new-day slavery.”
Angela Harrison, a McDonald’s employee striking on Wednesday, echoed that sentiment. “We want respect, and we want fifteen and a union, and that’s not too much to ask for.” She said that even workers who had been physically hurt on the job or burned by equipment were not treated properly. “We want simple things, like the first-aid kit to be fully stocked all the time.” Harrison also pointed to the lack of sick days as an issue she’d like to see resolved. Right now she has to choose between coming to work sick, putting customers at risk or missing out on pay.
Harrison, who first learned about the plan to strike less than two weeks ago, has worked at McDonald’s for three and a half years, yet makes only $7.75 an hour—just fifty cents more than the wage she started at. She says that pooling her money with her boyfriend’s is the only way to make ends meet, and often that’s not even enough. “Sometimes we have to choose between paying the phone bill and buying groceries. We shouldn’t have to do that.”
Harrison had never participated in a strike before Wednesday, and said that it was knowing there was so much community support behind the strikers that helped her make the decision to walk out. Organizers have committed to helping workers get their jobs back in case of retaliation.
With the fast food industry growing twice as fast as the rest of the economy, improving working conditions and raising wages for these workers is even more urgent, Granich says. “These are the jobs of tomorrow, so we need to work together as a community to make them family-friendly. And that’s not only about wages, but also sustainable hours, a voice on the job, healthcare coverage—all these things really matter.”