The Furious Sound of Women Rising

My sister-in-law is steamed. She’s one of the kindest people I know, but she’s filled with rage at what the GOP has been doing and has joined “The Virginia Women’s Strike Force.” My wife, a lifelong Quaker-pacifist, is also on the warpath and prone to saying things like, “What are those morons doing now?”

I’m seeing this same intense, angry reaction a million times over from otherwise stable, strong, intelligent, sensible American women. I see them on the news, in the blogs, in my Twitter feed, signing petitions, and showing up in poll results. There’s a sound like a freight train roaring across the political landscape — it’s the sound of furious women rising. Women are mad as hell at the GOP, and they aren’t going to take it anymore.

Last month, the Pew Research Center ran a presidential preference poll, and the storm warnings for the GOP were already becoming apparent. Not only did Obama lead Mitt Romney by 8 percent overall, but among female voters, Obama led by a lopsided 59 percent to 38 percent against either Romney or Crazy Rick Santorum. That’s a 21-point lead. That’s bigger than a landslide; it’s a tectonic shift.

This weekend, The New York Times ran a story about the growing resentment of centrist and moderate Republican women toward the GOP. What should be most alarming to the GOP establishment was that the Times story included people like Mary Russell, 57, a retired teacher from Iowa City who describes herself as an evangelical Christian and “old school” Republican. Russell told the Times she may now vote for Obama and that, in no uncertain terms, “Women’s reproduction is our own business.”

From the infamous all-male panel on birth control coverage to Rush Limbaugh’s obscene rant and non-apology about Sandra Fluke, the GOP has been setting itself up to look like a bunch of raving Elmer Gantrys on crack. The GOP keeps pushing measures to meddle with the personal and private affairs of women, and it is causing outrage.

Consider, just recently, on the state level:

  • This past week, 8 of the 9 women in the 51-member Georgia state Senate walked out in protest, saying that the state GOP is waging a war against women. The Senate had passed a bill declaring that employees of private religious institutions have no right to demand that their insurance policies pay for contraceptives.
  • And there is another bill pending in the Georgia legislature that would apply to pregnant women in situations where the fetus was not expected to survive. Regardless of any complications surrounding the pregnancy, under HB 954 a woman is expected to carry the child until birth. Critics of the bill say that it would force women to carry stillborn fetuses or to have Caesarian deliveries.
  • In Virginia, the far right pushed a bill that meant women would likely have to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound in order to determine how far along their pregnancy was. This would have applied even for victims of rape.
  • Thanks to Republican-controlled state legislatures all across the country, tens of thousands of low-income women and teenagers have lost or will lose access to subsidized birth control as budgets for family planning are slashed.
  • Montana and New Jersey have eliminated family planning programs altogether. New Hampshire cut its funding by 57 percent and five other states made more modest program trims.
  • But the biggest impact, by far, has been in Texas, where up to 130,000 may lose the access to the reproductive health care that they need.

On the national level:

  • Santorum has called birth control immoral, is against prenatal testing, thinks women should not be allowed to serve in combat, and says that it was “radical feminism” that led women to work outside the home. Women should be grateful he hasn’t suggested legislation about women wearing pants.
  • Republicans in the Senate have, for the first time ever, blocked and politicized the re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act.
  • Republicans passed a bill in the House to end all funding for Planned Parenthood.
  • Republicans introduced the Bunt amendment in the Senate that would have essentially outlawed many popular, safe, and effective forms of birth control. Democrats voted it down, but the Republicans have made it clear that they are not done.

Women look on at these all-male panels pontificating about birth control. They look at the U.S. Senate with just 17 women out of 100 members. They look at the U.S. House with just 17 percent women, and they look at the state houses like in Georgia, where women make up just 17 percent of the membership. And they are asking themselves in greater numbers every day: “Where are the women?” and “What are these insufferable middle-aged fools doing, putting their clammy intrusive laws all over women’s bodies?” They are women. And pretty soon, the GOP is going to hear them roar.

  • Beth C

    It’s about time women united. The two party system is out-dated. Vote for the individual, not the party. The GOP has gone too far!

    • Betty in VA

      For me, it started with the Susan G Komen fiasco. The connections with religious right wing politics was obvious and so was the message that they would rather poor women die of breast cancer for lack of screening than have a single penny go to an organization that also does abortions. It showed us where their priorities really are; we can all die or sink into poverty for the sin of being born female just as long as we do our duty to produce children for our men. Yeah, we’re angry.

  • Frederick

    Interesting that this war has been raging for more than 25 years and one side is only noticing now. Interesting also that awareness seems to have finally dawned only after the obscene mutterings of an unelected GOP mouthpiece.

  • Janie

    Frederick: the war in Virginia was noticed weeks before Rush ran off at the mouth. When it became known that since the mid-term elections there have been over 1100 bills put forth across the country regarding reproductive rights, women realized that they could no longer be silent. We are also on a full-on mission to get the ERA ratified.
    We may have taken a nap, but I will never give Rush Limbaugh credit for this – he’d love it, but it’s not true.

    • Frederick

      Janie –

      I didn’t mean to imply that NO women were aware of the obvious atrocities perpetrated and advocated by the GOP. But too many have been too silent for too long. The fact that there are ANY female Republicans, let alone gay Republicans, just boggles my mind. These monsters are out to destroy us all, make no mistake. Their fundamentalist Repture-driven dogma drives everything they do.

  • Rebecca Geller

    Thank you for your terrific post and shout-out to the Women’s Strike Force! Who is your sister-in-law? We would love to connect with her personally. Our email is Thanks! Rebecca Geller, Women’s Strike Force spokeswoman

    • Barry Nolan

      Dear Rebecca,
      I will pass along your kind invitation to my wonderful Sister-in-Law Karen. She sent a very impressive letter to her VA representative and heard back right away from him. He spoke in apologetic tones for what they had done – at bayonet point thanks to the far right – and realized that they had in effect thrown their Governor under the bus. Interesting.
      Barry Nolan

  • Elaine

    In mid-Feb. word of the now infamous transvaginal ultrasound bill became known to the women of Virginia. Personally, I think the VAGenAssembly for the most part kept this as quiet as they could). My daughter and I immediatly formed the Facebook Group One Million Vaginae Against the Virginia GOP in 2 days 1,000 members were in the group. Our group began to find other social media groups online and more and more women began to hear what the Republican TeaParty Dominated State House had in store for them. Not only was this hateful ultrasound bill on a passing course but also a “personhood at conception” bill. Within a couple of days, news the Speak Loudly With Silence silent protest was being spread via social media and old fashioned word of mouth…on Feb. 20, over 1500 women and men showed up in Richmond at the State Capitol. They lined the walk between the state office building and the capitol where the legislators had to walk to get to “work.” This was no little group, and I know the large number had to have come as a surprise to the members of our House of Delegates. We are keeping on, we have a lot to do. The transvaginal probe portion of the bill was “sort” of removed after massive national attention and the women of VIrginia expressing their rather deep feelings in regard to these bills. Personhood has been postponed until after November…Bob McDonnell signed the ultrasound bill…and on April 28, women from across the state will march both on Washington and on Richmond. In fact, April 28 women will march in all 50 states. We will change this years election…and if the GOP doesn’t get it..they will.

  • Jan D

    Forgive me if I’m wrong, but I thought the GOP’s focus has been to keep the government out of people’s daily lives, kill the healthcare bill, and squash every Obama proposal. Why is it that the GOP does a 180 when it comes to women’s issues and decides that government should take control of issues pertaining to women’s bodies?! Time for women to stand up, unite and fight for our rights. Count me in on 4/28!

  • J. Smith

    I am one of the roaring women. I have never been an activist before but the so called right wing forces in this country are trying to push the status of women back 300 years. I thought we had evolved past these issues but in an effort to pander to the ‘old, white, male’ consituency and defeat President Obama’s re-election they have turned their back on traditional conservatism and attempted to invade women’s lives in barbaric and inexcusable ways. The days of old men telling women what is best for them have long passed. It appears that the days of old men knowing what is best for themselves has passed also.

  • Barry

    Dear J.
    Take a look at this story from today. A NC county turns down state money for family planning because the white male commissioners don’t approve of women having non- procreative sex. The one of the commissioners gets set straight by – his wife. Keep making noise

    Barry Nolan

    • Ama

      That is a beautiful story. I wish more men would realize this is a COUPLES issue and a family issue.

      Thank you Barry. I have been a fan of yours since your early days on Evening Magazine, and am always glad to see your work.