Ever since the complete firestorm surrounding GOP senatorial Candidate Todd Akin’s comments on “legitimate rape” the GOP has kept mum on “red-meat” social issues. The word “abortion” was barely mentioned all week in prime-time convention speeches, for instance, many of which were by women and delivered well. And even though the party’s platform contained a complete abortion ban, there appeared to be a concerted effort not to attract attention to that inconvenient fact.
But for those of us who believe anti-abortion fervor comes as much from societal misogyny as conviction in the “sanctity of life,” GOP speaker Mike Huckabee’s “joke” at the expense of staunchly pro-choice DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz felt like the party’s real position on women’s roles was spilling out of the seams.
Here’s the text of Huckabee’s bon mot:
“Tampa has been such a wonderful and hospitable city to us. The only hitch in an otherwise perfect week was the awful noise coming from the hotel room next door to mine. Turns out it was just Debbie Wasserman Schultz practicing her speech for the DNC in Charlotte next week. Bless her heart.”
In case you don’t get the point embedded in this joke, the point is that Wasserman-Schultz has a shrill voice, in Huckabee’s view (but bless her heart, really!). Shrill: the most common insult deployed to silence a strong voice from any downtrodden group in society, particularly a female one.
In light of an email tirade in which Tea Party congressman Allen West called Democratic National Committee chairwoman (and proud Jewess) Debbie Wasserman Schultz “vile,” and wrote that she has proved that she is “not a Lady,” The Daily Beast’s Michelle Goldberg pulls back the curtain on what she sees as West’s history of misogynistic behavior.
As much as journalist Rebecca Traister wants to embrace the new phenomenon known as the SlutWalk — in which scantily clad women take to the streets in hopes of taking the sting out of the moniker “slut” — she writes, in this New York Times magazine piece, that the gatherings seem “less like victory than capitulation (linguistic and sartorial) to what society already expects of its young women.” (Listen to a recent Yid Lit podcast featuring Traister here.)
JTA’s Sue Fishkoff — who in September will become editor of the Bay Area Jewish newsweekly j. (Mazel tov, Sue!) — writes about the unforeseen complications of non-Jewish mothers raising Jewish children.
Our Sisterhood bloggers have long mulled the appeal of having “Big Love”-style “sister wives.” In this recent New York Times op-ed, law professor Jonathan Turley defends the polygamous marriage of the Utah family that stars in the reality series “Sister Wives,” and calls state laws banning plural marriage examples of “unacceptable government intrusion.”
For a brief while, it seemed like the unending cascade of legislation that together comprise what many of us have been calling the “GOP War on Women” had slowed down from a torrent to a trickle.
But then the House brought back and passed H.R. 3, the bill that was the opening salvo in this assault, with its “forcible rape” and “let women die” clauses and its essential guarantee that insurance of all kinds, public or private, will stop covering abortion. Some may remember the bill as the one vehemently opposed by Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the new (and Jewish) Democratic National Committee chair.
While the Senate is unlikely to pass the bill, and President Obama has even threatened a veto, the cumulative effect of these assaults and retreats is a gradual siphoning away of abortion rights, until they’re basically rights in name only. Washington, D.C. and South Dakota’s women have both suffered major blows in the last few months.
I’ve spent the week reporting on the all-out assault against abortion access that’s happening state-by-state in America right now. It’s a scary scene, demonstrating how quickly many lawmakers will move against women’s bodily autonomy once they gain power.
But on the national level, the most headline-worthy move against women has been a new bill in Congress, H.R. 3, the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” or as NARAL calls it, “Stupak on Steroids.” which would not only strip existing abortion funding, it would redefine “rape” as forcible, leaving most instances of sexual assault in a gray area when it comes to abortion funding. In other words, the government can essentially analyze your rape to determine whether it’s worthy of abortion funding. Irin Carmon at Jezebel has an excellent analysis of why this language, even if it was accidental in intention or not really meant to be codified into law, is dangerous just in its existence. Several bloggers have started a #DearJohn Twitter campaign to draw attention to the bill (the John in question being Speaker of the House Boehner).
Leah Berkenwald at Jewesses with Attitude has a great rundown of how devastating this weekend was for pro-choice Americans who watched the anti-abortion Stupak amendment pass and get tacked onto the House’s healthcare reform bill.
On Saturday, one of two men who stood up along with a group of Democratic female lawmakers to argue against the amendment was Rep. Jerrold Nadler, who represents much of Manhattan and a chunk of Brooklyn and is one of the most prominent liberal and Jewish members of Congress. Nadler didn’t just complain that the amendment was a distraction: He spoke up strongly and clearly about the effect of the bill on women. “This amendment adds a new discriminatory measure against women,” he said, explaining that the amendment takes current policy even further into the anti-abortion realm.
“It should not be used as a political football,” he added.
I’m proud that a Jewish legislator from my hometown would be so unabashedly pro-woman, but appalled that he alone made up half the male legislators who felt it worth his while to express outrage at the amendment. The other man to speak out against the amendment was Illinois Democrat Mike Quigley. Clearly, we need more strident allies in Congress.
Watch Nadler here:
• A breast cancer diagnosis brought Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz closer to her Jewish heritage, according to a Moment magazine profile of the Florida Democrat.
• Meet the Jewish matriarchs of the “green revolution.” This impressive cadre of activists are touting the likes of LEED-certified shuls, and Earth-friendly weddings and bar mitzvahs.
• Expenses related to childcare — including private nannies, daycare and preschool — are indeed tax deductible, Israel’s Supreme Court ruled.
• The fervently Orthodox Jerusalem neighborhood Mea She’arim is ground zero for demonstrations for and against gender segregation on Egged bus lines that cater to the Haredi community.
• Israeli expat and Esquire-magazine darling Shirly Brener, who will appear in 10 feature films in the next year, discusses what it takes for an Israeli actress to make it in the thirty-mile zone. You can also check the Forward’s recent article on Hollywood’s love affair with Israeli talent.
• Everything you need to plan a Jewish wedding — band, dress, chuppah, ketubah — plus plenty of amusing commentary, is here.
• Formula One’s eccentric chief executive says the venerable auto race is in search of “a black, Jewish woman who, if possible, wins some races too.”