Reynolds is an ordained minister, a columnist for TheRootDC and the author of six books, including “Out of Hell and Living Well, Healing From the Inside Out.” She is a former editor and columnist for USA Today.
The recent token actions at the Augusta National Golf Club and the repugnant comments of Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) serve as the best public reminders of how entrenched male domination and arrogance carry the power to wound women deeply — and the fight that must be waged to stop them.
Both actions force the public mind to return to the often overlooked crime of gender abuse and domination. They arrive at
a perilous time in this highly politically charged season to demonstrate the abusive power privileged men have to define the role of women, to exclude them from normal affairs of society and to act as if male birthright has made them the center of the universe.
This week Akin, who is running for the Senate in Missouri, spoke as an authority about why rape should not be an exception to bans on tax-supported abortions. “If it is a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down,” he said, as if females have some mysterious power to Karate chop violent sperm from their bodies.
This same week, after 10 years of cane-raising by feminist leader Martha Burk, past president of the National Council of Women’s Organizations, the club finally broke its 80-year policy of treating women like skunks trying to crash a poker party and invited two outstanding women — Condoleezza Rice and Daria Moore — to tee off on their hallowed greens.
Rep. Akin and Augusta are two sides of the same coin, Burk told me in an interview. Both represent an institutional culture that aggressively resists women freely controlling their own bodies and being treated fairly and with dignity.
“As Akin is a symbol of political resistance for women, the larger issue around Augusta is not the golf course but fairness in the workplace,” she said.
Whether Akin stays in the Senate race or not, his statement and Augusta point to larger gender issues that might have been buried if not for the outrage both incidents have caused.
In Tampa on Tuesday, those drafting the GOP platform agreed to retain a plank calling for a constitutional amendment banning abortion without specifying exceptions for cases of rape, which is precisely the Akin position and that of Rep. Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney’s pick for vice president. And both Ryan and Akin were among 235 Republicans and 16 Democrats who co-signed legislation that would have narrowed the definition of rape, preventing federal government funding for abortions except in the case of “forcible rape.”
Romney has also vowed to defund Planned Parenthood, which provides critical services to women such as cancer screening, contraceptives and testing and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases. Only three percent of its funds go to referrals for abortions. In addition, Romney has pledged to get rid of President Obama’s hard-fought Affordable Care Act, which provides free mammograms and other health screenings to low-income women.
Is it little wonder that the GOP looks like it has declared war on women’s health? That sentiment is backed up by an Aug. 21 poll by NBC and the Wall Street Journal. It showed that on the question of which candidate is better dealing with issues of concern to women, only 24 percent of voters chose Romney, compared to 52 percent who chose Obama. Those numbers are particularly relevant as Romney and many GOP leaders have disavowed Akin’s comments. But those who remember the GOP’s past and current positions aren’t swayed, says Burk, the author of the newly published “Your Voice, Your Vote: The Savvy Woman’s Guide to Power, Politics and The Change We Need.”
“Corporate heads who play on those greens head billion- and million-dollar corporations,’’ Burk said. “Where many of their female workers earn only 78 cents for every dollar earned by men doing full-time work. That has to change.”
Burk sees her book as a catalyst for change. “Confront both parties, read their records, call in when you hear the politicians on the radio. If they don’t mention women, ask why not. E-mail. Blog. Facebook. Twitter. Raise hell. Arm yourself with knowledge and vote your own interests.”
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