While being a feminist and a conservative are not mutually exclusive, the Republican Party maintains viewpoints towards women’s issues that vacillate between indifference and misogyny. I believe, however, that liberal feminism is well-represented by the policies and leaders of the Democratic Party.
Conservative leaders, both elected and unelected, have consistently expressed misogynistic sentiments. Rush Limbaugh, who is considered by many to be an unofficial leader of the Republican Party, has stated on his list of “35 Undeniable Truths”, that “Women should not be allowed on juries where the accused is a stud,” and that “Feminism was established as to allow unattractive women easier access to the mainstream of society,” while Ann Coulter, another popular conservative commentator, does not believe women should have the right to vote. Senator John McCain has made jokes about Chelsea Clinton’s and Janet Reno’s looks and also about beating his wife, while Senator Jon Kyl recently stated that because he “doesn’t need maternity care” it should not be a part of health care reform.
These reckless statements from Republican Party officials demonstrate not only failure on the part of the Party to recognize women’s equality, but also a disturbing and demeaning attitude toward women.
Beyond rhetoric, Republicans have proven consistently that they are indifferent to women’s issues. The last three Republican presidents have enforced the Global Gag Rule and, in doing so, placed ideological beliefs about abortion above supporting international women’s health initiatives. Republicans also declined to support the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which removed the statute of limitations on filing pay-discrimination lawsuits: an important piece of legislation, considering the fact that a large pay gap persists.
Perhaps the most reflective policy of the Republican’s attitudes toward women is its anti-choice stance. Conservatives rejection of abortion symbolizes a larger sense of ownership that the party claims over women’s bodies. By rejecting the right to choose, the Republican Party imposes its beliefs on women’s privacy.
In stark contrast to the Republicans, liberals continue to advocate for a woman’s right to choose. The presidential elections of 2000 and 2004 saw the rise of the religious right as a powerful constituency with the ability to get out the vote; despite this, the Democratic Party has not shied away from including its pro-choice stance in its platform, even though it could have been politically beneficial to do so.
While the Democratic Party could certainly do more to advocate for women, under President Obama’s leadership, crucial changes to legislation and to American policy have been made. Soon after taking office, the President revoked the Global Gag Rule, restoring aid to health clinics worldwide that offer information on abortion. He also signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into law, allowing women to continue the fight to end pay discrimination. The President also made health care, an issue that disproportionately affects women, a main priority for reform.
While conservative feminism exists, the Republican Party fails to support this feminism because it consistently fails to promote women’s causes, imposes its values upon them, and, with a blasé attitude, demeans them publicly. In contrast, the Democratic Party supports many of the goals of feminism as it advocates for a woman’s right to choose, promotes causes related to women’s health and works for woman’s equality.
Contact Amanda McKeon at [email protected]