Romney Binds Women’s Feet, or Something
The presidential debate last night covered a variety of important subjects, from Libya to jobs to energy policy. That being the case, it was inevitable that Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, seminary professor and Democratic Party shill at the Center for American Progress, would focus on an off-hand phrase uttered by Mitt Romney, and seek to turn it into a window on his soul. She wrote in the Washington Post, in a column bizarrely titled, “Why we need feminist theology: Romney and ‘binders full of women”:
Why did Mitt Romney’s reference to “whole binders full of women” in response to a question from a town hall attendee in Tuesday night’s second presidential debate at Hofstra University simply drive many women up the wall?
Romney’s seemingly off-hand remark sparked outrage.
Among those who are unable to leave darkened rooms because they are so sensitive to…just about anything.
The Twitter meme, #bindersfullofwomen, that immediately popped up, illustrates the policy implications of this kind of faux chivalry that hides an anti-woman agenda.
Well, given that it’s a Twitter meme, it actually illustrates the extraordinary shallowness of those who decided to make a 90-minute debate about a 4-word expression that doesn’t mean what they’re twisted minds think it means. But do go on.
But we need to go a little deeper. Women’s health, life, work and rights have been at the center of this presidential election season for a long time now. Dubbed the “War on Women,” the issues of most concern to women in terms of their reproductive freedoms and equal pay rights seemed to be very important through the summer and early fall. Women’s rights groups and progressive organizations pressed home these policy-related questions, and debate over who was more “anti-woman,” the Democrats or the Republicans, ensued.
It must be nice to live in a fantasy world of your own creation. Here’s the reality: the only people for whom issues of “reproductive freedom” (i.e., abortion and contraception) and “equal pay rights” (a debunked leftover from the 1980s and 90s) have been “at the center of the presidential election season” are those who think that women are nothing more than their “lady parts” or who incredulously think that nothing has changed since the equal pay for equal work debate started decades ago. For these people, there has been no “debate” about which of the parties is more “anti-woman”; these people are all hard-core Democrat activists to whom the party is in absolute thrall.
Most Americans, on the other hand, have indicated that their primary concerns are jobs, the general health of the economy, health care (Obamacare as a whole, not the contraception mandate), taxes, and national debt and deficits. They have also indicated that they don’t think of these as being “women’s issues,” but American issues that concern all of us. When Thistlethwaite talks about abortion and birth control as if that’s what the election is all about, she indicates that she lives in a bubble from which virtually all Americans are excluded.
But that wasn’t enough to keep a “gender gap” going, that is, women voters stating they preferred President Obama and his agenda on women’s rights, after the first presidential debate. Why?
Maybe because they listened to the debate for more than just as answer about whether the federal government would make insurance companies pick up the tab for birth control.
In my view, this was due to the fact that the fundamental question of women’s full humanity was not brought sufficiently and clearly enough into the whole presidential contest. Women’s health, life, work and rights cannot be reduced simply to a matter of good policy, though those issues are, of course, important in terms of crafting good policy. It just isn’t only about policy.
Thistlethwaite and her ilk have spent this entire campaign talking as if the only thing that really concerns women is public policy regarding abortion and birth control. Now, all of a sudden, Mitt Romney is to be cast aside because he can’t bloviate like a seminary professor about feminist theology. To wit:
The most compelling question to me, from a theological perspective is why women should be treated equally.
From a Christian feminist theological perspective, as theologian Letty Russell wrote so well, we, as male and female, “are known by God.” Women are created in God’s image and when Mitt Romney, or anyone else, treats women as “less than,” it is not only an offense to them, but to their Creator.
All the rest follows. Religious patriarchy is grounded in the idea that only males image God, and women are secondary, derivative and not completely in the image of God. So you don’t have to treat them equally. As feminist Mary Daly so tellingly said, “When God is male, the male is God.” This exact equation has had devastating consequences for the lives and health of women and girls throughout the world.
My colleague and co-author, Dr. Rita Nakashima Brock, with whom I wrote the book “Casting Stones: Prostitution and Liberation in Asia and the United States,” did research in many areas popular with the so-called “sex tourists.” As Brock recently reminded me, as we walked in these areas, men would rush up to us with binders full of the pictures of women, some very young women.
That’s the bottom line. Women and young girls aren’t fully human. They are a commodity.
And so here we get to the nub of the problem. When Romney referred to “binders full of women” (his way of referring to reams of information about women qualified to sit in the Cabinet of the Governor of Massachusetts), Thistlethwaite thought he was talking about a picture book of Bangkok prostitutes. I can see how she could make that mistake–if that is, she was downing mass quantities of mind-altering substances. Of course, it could just be that she’s a mindless, gibbering partisan. You be the judge.
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