Last week it came to light that a woman in the Birbhum district of West Bengal, India was recently gang-raped by thirteen men for the crime of having an affair with a man from a tribe different from her own. “Men my father’s age, and those who I knew as neighbors, as uncles and brothers raped me,” the woman claimed; the gang-rape occurred due to the woman’s family’s inability to pay a fine levied against her for the affair.
This is a crime that warrants, perhaps better than any other, the label “unspeakable,” at least insofar as it is difficult to speak of without wishing to speak of something else. The crime is not, however, free from its share of inane comparisons and dreadfully absurd equivalences. Writing in the U.S. News and World Report, Susan Milligan proclaimed:
That sort of thing doesn’t happen here. But similar attitudes are on display, albeit in a tamer way.
What’s her damning evidence? Well, Republican congressman Steve Pearce wrote in his memoirs how women should “voluntarily submit” to the authority of their husbands; meanwhile, Mike Huckabee claimed that Democrats have adopted a patronizing campaign that paints women as helpless, powerless and totally dependent upon the government for their success and well being.
That’s it. Those are the “similar attitudes” on which Milligan bases her claims that there is some kind of coherent similarity between a woman’s being gang raped throughout the night and the political and social climate of the United States. One struggles to know where to begin. While Rep. Pearce’s arguments are obviously antiquated and incorrect, it’s hard to draw the line between his Biblical views and the group sexual assault perpetrated on a young woman in a backwater village all the way across the planet: even allowing for the fact that female submission is a wrongheaded approach to marriage, the congressman at least appended his beliefs by allowing for their voluntary nature. There was nothing voluntary, in contrast, to the young woman’s being raped so many times that she could not even keep track, which should tell you something of the “similar attitudes,” and the values underpinning them, by which Milligan makes her comparison.
Still, one can at least debate the comparison, even if it’s a bizarre one. Yet drawing a parallel between the India gang-rape and Mike Huckabee’s statements is entirely incomprehensible, and indicative not only of a journalist’s poor analytical skills but, as well, how successful the “narrative” of the War on Women has been. It has been a stunning success, one of which it is difficult to find a corollary, and one that has been wholly bolstered by the current legal dust-up over the birth control mandate. The liberal intelligentsia’s approach to the “War on Women” and the birth control scofflaw has been such a smashing victory that it is hard to conceive of a more triumphant re-imagining of political, social and linguistic reality, at least outside of modern-day North Korea, or a Leningrad university circa 1935. In the age of the Obamacare birth control mandate, one marvels at not only the way in which truth itself has been re-tooled to fit a specific political agenda, but as a result how difficult it even is to engage in a reasonable debate with those who would have you believe in the paramount necessity of government-mandated “no-co-pay” contraception.
What constitutes a war?
To get a clear picture of how successful that re-imagining has been, it is entirely appropriate and important to first review Huckabee’s relevant comments in full, to wit:
“Our party stands for the recognition of the equality of women and the capacity of women. That’s not a war on them. It’s a war for them. And if 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…Women I know are outraged that Democrats think that women are nothing more than helpless and hopeless creatures whose only goal in life is to have the government provide for them birth control medication. Women I know are smart, educated, intelligent, capable of doing anything that anybody else can do.”
So decided: a politician’s proclamation that women are entirely equal to men is now held to be a shot fired in the “War on Women.”
There was a great deal of ink spilled over the misconception of Huckabee’s point: many were swayed by the idea that Huckabee was preaching his own beliefs regarding women, when of course he was ascribing this reprehensible set of values to Democrats themselves. Even the correct reading of Huckabee’s statements, however, was met with scorn: over at the L.A. Times, Robin Abcarian claimed, “That is not what Democrats tell women; it’s what Republicans tell women.”
This is, simply put, false. Republicans are prone to pontificating disastrously and incorrectly on a whole host of matters concerning women, as Abcarian points out, and to be fair Huckabee’s words were fairly bombastic, but there is only one source when it comes to the notion of women being unable to sustain themselves without the beneficence of a loving government, and it’s not the right. To take the most emblematic example, the Obama campaign device entitled “The Life of Julia” was one of the most brazen examples in recent memory of the belief in women’s lack of personal capability, as well as the belief of their utter inability to function without the constant, universal oversight of a gracious, philanthropic Leviathan bureaucracy. “Under President Obama,” began every placard denoting every step of Julia’s life, from the time she was a toddler until she retired. The ridiculous slideshow did not see fit to mention the effects of President Obama’s policies on men, presumably because its creator did not believe men were in need of any help—only women were held to be entirely dependent upon the largess of elected officials and compassionate bureaucrats: without such help, it implicitly declared, a happy life for women would always be just out of reach.
Contrast that with Mike Huckabee’s statements. I’m no great fan of Huckabee, but his words on the agency, ability and intelligence of women are, obviously, true. Anyone who has spent ten seconds in the actual real world knows this, and knows that women are as capable of the self-sufficiency and accomplishment that for thousands of years has been denied them. Everyone, that is, except for large swaths of the political left, which is determined that women must be taken care of as little children instead of adults. “Thanks to Obamacare,” read her 27th year of life, “[Julia’s] health insurance is required to cover birth control and preventive care, letting Julia focus on her work rather than worry about her health.” Thanks to Obamacare; thanks to Obama; thanks to the government itself. How quaintly horrifying is this glorious, resplendent vision of the future, awash as it is in the self-congratulatory celebration of a bunch of paternalistic politicians who, they surely tell themselves, know just what is best for Julia, and for every woman, everywhere. The “War on Women” rhetoric has made “The Life of Julia” the hill upon which progressives plant their flag, and made Huckabee’s beliefs about female equality the misogynistic standpoint. It is, quite honestly, incredible to behold.
Helplessness as virtue
Julia’s helpless, government-dependent life was unnerving enough, but the broader full-fledged mutilation that has been wreaked upon the politics and the language of post-Obamacare America is another, and more concerning, matter. Prior to 2010, your humble correspondent had never been treated to the notion that a denial of purchase constituted an infringement upon one’s rights, or that a refusal to pay for something meant you were “denying” someone that very thing, or “imposing” your views upon them. The Affordable Care Act changed that; with the swoop of the president’s pen, it had suddenly, magically become the case that if an employer did not cover his employee’s birth control through health insurance, he was snatching the birth control itself from her grasp, dangling it out of her reach, “imposing” his views upon her as if he had broken into her home and stolen her prescription out of her hands.
This is an acutely twisted view of the way the world works; it is entirely likely that future generations will look back upon this indecipherable worldview with wonder and with scorn. One can only concede its believers are either truly ignorant or else willingly obtuse. A person may wish to forgo paying for someone’s birth control for any number of reasons, but to act as if any one of those reasons translates into the imposition of his views—to act as if a declination of payment is equivalent to an operative enforcement—is wrong; not merely wrong, but unbelievably so.
The argument simply falls apart upon close examination. I have the right, for instance, to purchase a car—that is to say, absent any compelling reason, my right to buy a car should be unimpeded by the state. Women enjoy the same right to birth control, given that there is arguably no compelling reason as to why we should restrict the right to purchase contraception. Yet to hold these two rights as correct is not to extrapolate them to the level of entitlements: my employer, for instance, is not obliged to buy me a car simply because I possess the right to own one, and I cannot hold that he is “imposing his views” upon me because he will not purchase me an automobile.
Even if birth control were as vital to women’s well-being as is often held, it still does not mean the employer must cover it—no more than, say, an employer must provide his employees with food, a thing far more vital to everyone’s lives. If the crusaders of employer-provided birth control are correct, then my employer’s not showering me with the appropriate number of calories per day constitutes a grave offense against my right to eat. If you were to posit this, of course, you would be deservedly laughed out of the room—and yet those who claim the same thing regarding birth control are afforded serious consideration, as if there position were any more tenable than the one outlined above. It is not.
The appropriate course of action would have been not to pile upon the American health care system yet another mandate and another later of obfuscating regulation, but instead to de-regulate the entire mess into something resembling a manageable framework. The current legal fight over birth control, for instance, could have been avoided by simply making birth control available over the counter instead of dependent upon a prescription (with the prescription itself largely dependent upon employer-provided health insurance). The solution proposed by Obamacare, however, by its very nature invited the current battle over religious rights, and indeed made it all but inevitable. We are, in short, being treated to an assault on religious liberty, and the resultant farcical arguments in its favor, simply because the architects of Obamacare made terrible choices in designing the law.
To add to the formidable pile of political preposterousness, those of us in the religious rights camp are treated to any number of doomsday scenarios that might result if employers are allowed to opt out of covering birth control through health insurance: if they are allowed to do so, it is claimed, then the door is opened to employers refusing to cover any number of medical procedures or treatments because they religiously object. This idea is informed by the notion that the pre-Obamacare United States was rife with employers manically denying health insurance coverage for whatever struck their fancy, “imposing” their “views” upon a helpless landscape of peasants desperate for some kind of remedy for the crushing employer-provided yoke under which they labored. And even if one is hard-pressed to find evidence of this pre-Obamacare dystopian wasteland of religiously-motivated denied medical care, that’s not really important—it might happen, and we don’t want to go back to the 1950s, after all.
The rational disconnect is seen in any number of other ways. After Huckabee’s pronouncement, the Planned Parenthood Action Fund declared that his statement was “a perfect illustration of why decisions about birth control should be left to a woman and her doctor, without interference from politicians.” Without interference from politicians? The Affordable Care Act constitutes an outrageous level of political interference, involving politicians, women and doctors alike, a fact made self-evident by the current wrangling over the birth control mandate. Obamacare took a medical matter de-politicized by the Supreme Court over four decades ago and made it unavoidably political. For Planned Parenthood to complain of birth control’s late politicization is truly extraordinary, and speaks of the abortion provider’s unwillingness to reap what it, and many others, have so determinedly sowed.
The maiming of logic by the left will continue, of course, as will the gaffes, both real and imagined, committed by those who are opposed to the left’s uniquely ridiculous assessment of American women, and their uniquely bizarre appraisal of what constitutes “rights,” and what constitutes a denial of rights. We should not be afraid of pointing out the absurdity of the progressive stance on Obamacare and on birth control, a fact Mike Huckabee clearly grasps.
To be sure, many on the right viewed Huckabee’s speech as impolitic. “For God’s sake,” Charles Krauthammer said, “why do you have to talk about that?” Practically speaking, one must concede that Huckabee should have certainly known he was entering into a minefield of political excoriation—and yet I find it hard to do anything other than applaud him for his acumen. The words he spoke, after all, were true—the infantilizing rhetoric that progressivism often heaps upon women is daily on display from the political and pundit classes alike. But why bother with addressing it? Under President Obama, Julia will qualify at age 42 for a Small Business Administration loan to start her own company. Assuming she’s okay with providing birth control to her employees, that is.