Take Your Balls and Go Home

Ultimately, the Republican assault on women's rights is a loser's game

Having spent the long weekend with my knuckles up against my teeth in astonishment at the load of cruel, mean-spirited legislation men across the nation have been proposing lately—no funding for Planned Parenthood, no food for impoverished pregnant women, no abortions for rape victims, no Head Start for poor kids—I have to ask: What’s got the white dudes so riled up? Why, exactly, have Republicans declared open season on women all of a sudden? Are their wives not being obsequious enough? Have their daughters all come out as lesbians? Are they having Fantasy Football withdrawal?

Of course, they cloak their legislative efforts as vital budget-cutting, far more vital than slicing back on, say, military spending. Do they know what the war in Iraq has cost? (Go here to see the dollars ticking away.) Do they really not want me to be able to get a Pap smear at Planned Parenthood, to guard against cervical cancer? They’re happy to deny contraception to women but want to provide it to wild horses? Dan Burton, are you kidding me? Don’t you guys have anything better to do?

That’s just the problem. They don’t. In America today, vastly more women than men are attending college (and doing better while they’re there). Industries that were largely male have been shedding employees in the recession, accounting for 82 percent of all jobs lost; those that are largely female, like nursing, are on healthy ground. The number of babies born to unwed mothers has been rising steadily, and now stands at 40 percent. More women today are living spouseless than espoused. Frankly, we’d rather hang out with our girlfriends or gay friends than go on bad dates—much less to the altar—with guys who adore Judd Apatow movies. So if we don’t need men to put a ring on our fingers, provide for us and our offspring, or even entertain us, what do we need them for?

Nothing gets under the collar of a self-righteous, Bible-thumping, “The man’s the rightful head of the household” jerk more than the notion that he might be superfluous. What else could explain the sudden tsunami of legislation intended to put the little woman right back where she belongs, barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen, with a bunch of toddlers clinging to her apron strings? In a world where even Sarah Palin calls Rick Santorum a “knuckle-dragging Neanderthal” for opining that she has more responsibility to stay home with her kids than he does to stay home with his, do House Republicans really expect to get away with this crap?

Some of it, maybe. The rest of it—the posturing, the preening, the foot-stomping, the name-calling—is just the death rattle of their world of privilege. America is becoming, inexorably, a place where white males are a minority, where their importance is diminished and they’re the ones who have to shout to be heard. Maybe a lengthy stint of irrelevancy will bring them to their senses, and they’ll grow some humanity.