What women's rights look like when the two sides come together as one.
What women's rights are when women are no longer manipulated by party rhetoric.

Monday, July 25, 2011

As Promised----Sexism From The Right

Cynthia Ruccia

In my previous post, I talked about the sexism coming from the left with a promise that a discussion about the sexism on the right will soon follow. I've had alot of time to ponder these two views of sexism, and I am somewhat surprised with what I can define. You see, although there is the same sexism on the right that you find on the left, it is of a much simpler variety.

The right has approached women's issues completely differently. Issues that the left calls "women's issues" have been framed on the right in a context of cultural issues rather than gender specific issues. Where the left calls abortion, for instance, a woman's issue, the right puts abortion in a basket with other cultural issues. Whereas the the left has had an agenda that it calls women specific, for the right those same issues are in a totally different context. Forgive me for sounding repetitive, but it is necessary to say it a few times to understand that the arguments being framed in these two ways makes the debate completely asymmetrical. On abortion, for instance, if one sides says it is about women having control over their own bodies and the other side says it is a moral argument about murder, where is there enough common ground to even have the debate? Thus the enduring nature of that debate because it can't be resolved on the terms that the two sides stake out. It is a lopsided asymmetrical debate. The problem for the left is that it staked its stand on women's issues on this debate where the right hasn't.

Let's take another of these asymetrical arguments, and that is about equal pay for women. Both sides will readily tell you that they agree that women should be paid the same as men for equal work. No disagreement there. In fact, as a culture, although I haven't seen any polling numbers lately, my guess is that a large majority of Americans would agree that women and men should make equal pay for equal work. The lopsided debate begins when you try to get the two parties to agree on what to do. The left, as is typical, puts all its eggs in the legislative basket to get this issue resolved. The right, as usual, is repelled by government solutions. We end up in this lopsided debate staking out positions that have endured but not been resolved for the 235 years that we have been a country, and that debate is "what is the proper role of government?" I think that that is an extremely important debate-----a necessary conversation in our democracy. It is the constant pendulum swing between too much and not enough government. But I ask you,  if that debate hasn't yet been resolved in the 235 years we've been having it, why would we want  important women's issues like equal pay to get caught up in the unresolvable?

I've just decided that this party rhetoric is responsible for the almost complete halt in women's progress in the last 30 years. We made some phenomenal progress for women in the second wave of feminism. And then we've had a 30-year victory lap where we simply stopped thinking about what was left to be done. Whatever.

Back to the right and its sexism. The right never really had a woman's agenda the way the left did. And as a result, it developed a bit of an inferiority complex about women's issues and practically ceded the entire conversation to the left. The right became known as the party of men and the left became known as the party of women. End of conversation.

But not really. You see, the right still had plenty of women on board who managed to advance quietly and almost unnoticed by everyone. And conversely, the left still had plenty of men on board. The reality is that the men still run BOTH parties. The sexism on the right is that the women weren't encouraged so much to succeed, and the successes of the women went almost unnoticed. The left noticed the successes of the women on the right by issuing its own bilious sexist verdict that these successful women didn't count (see my previous post). It is disheartening to see excellent women like Condi Rice and Sandra Day O'Connor not being trumpeted for their accomplishments the way they should have been. But that is where the garden variety sexism of the right comes in. The right didn't lay claim to the excellence of their women because powerful women are still a threat to many of the men. Well heck, every woman in the U.S. has experienced that particular problem, and we experience it all of the time!! Party has nuthin' to do with it. It is this daily variety of sexism that knows no party and is in women's interests to address.

I must say that watching the sexist attacks on Palin and Bachmann, it can be hard to know from where they are emanating. It is just as plausible to see them coming from the right as from the left. Typical garden variety sexism.

What is very encouraging though is that since the right only has everyday sexism, and since they have been virtually out of the conversation where women's issues are concerned, they are also not so tied into their own ideology, and that gives women a unique opportunity right now that does not exist on the left. The right has a clean slate to take on some of these problems that all women face. We all need to celebrate the 2010 election as a time when the women on the right made a huge leap by electing more women than ever-----and it is about time!!!!

I have grown disillusioned about government solutions to our problems of women achieving parity. Legislating parity won't work. But what WILL work is that we can create a cultural imperative to make these changes because not only is it the right thing to do, but people of all political stripes can agree that women need to represented in government in greater numbers, women need to run more things, women need to take the reins of power in proportional numbers. The right is less mired in their own ideology than the left to actually move this agenda forward. And the women on the right are speaking up in fresh ways since they don't have to fight through redefining what women's issues should be. For many women on the right it is a little disorienting because they've been in their own bunker just being quiet, but they are shaking themselves out of that stupor and beginning to speak up.

The women on the left are angry that the women on the right have been able to take advantage of the work the left did to open more doors for women. The left needs to get over that and move on. It is too petty to let that attitude linger and watch women flounder and not succeed. We need all hands on deck talking about electing more women on both sides. Our moment may be finally arriving, but it's time to get over our ridiculously petty differences and join together to make this final push. Sexism---on the right and the left be damned!!!!!!


  1. well put----the left needs to get over its pettiness and stop worrying about who benefits from their actions. I like that.

  2. I was worried that you were only interested in bashing the left Cynthia. Thanks for bashing the right as well. Both sides are guilty.

  3. The Primary campaign run by Obama and so called Liberal/Progressives should have laid to rest any fantasy that the "left" couldn't behave in a purely sexist manner.
    HOWEVER...while some of the ire directed at Palin and Bachmann is certainly sexist in nature to say that all of the "left's" criticism is sexist is absurd.
    ANY candidate who made the number of appalling historical mistakes, displayed such a fundamental ignorance of the Constitution and limitless ability to misstate to outright lie about easily checked facts would receive equally blistering coverage. Anyone remember Dan Quayle?
    Is SOME of the criticism sexist? Clearly. But from your post it seems you feel the left is MORE sexist then the right. Just because the right wraps their sexism in religion/cultural disguise doesn't make it any less pure and simple sexism.

  4. I enjoyed the first article alot. Feminism should / must trump party lines to succeed. The bigger picture is that both parties - the players often become corporate soldiers to succeed which makes so many bigger important issues mute. The parties to me are myopic in their limited ability to effectuate the big changes we need as a world. We debate abortion, environment, school choice, while the oil war goes on in so many ways obvious and not, to the masses. That along with a few others in fact result in so much misery and destruction that the other issues are minor comparitively. Our future is developing energy technologies, and changing diet/consumption for the masses. Those are the issues that will improve lives (all) most. So We need visionaries with the ability to effectuate change in our ability to control our physical world. In other words we belabor the smaller details because we cannot control the big things. The things that make our society barbaric for instance. Beef industry, oil industry, tobacco industry. Predatory, destructive and miserable at present. (not neccessarily for us here) I'm just thrilled that you and I are enjoying the information revolution! The glass is half full! John F. Kennedy made battle cry for going to the moon publicly. We need more of that! Maybe an article on women with vision and what they are doing about it... : ) People are smart and they follow good ideas. Sexism is dwarfed by industrious intelligence.

  5. Hey David----thanks for posting!!!! And welcome!!! I appreciate what you have to say. I just believe that if a party puts itself out there to be the party of women, NO SEXISM is acceptable. I didn't say all of the criticisms were sexist. I believe that a person's views are always subject to criticism-----it's the American way. But sexist criticisms are unfortunately too ubiquitous and they are part of the reason women have stalled in their progress. I am sorry that I wasn't more clear about that, and will work to make the distinction you mentioned a little better. Thanks again and I hope you keep coming over and keeping me on my toes!!

  6. The Primary was a hard slap in the face to a LOT of liberal/progressive/lefties. We thought we were the good side. But this pretty much ripped that facade away.
    HOWEVER, the Dems are STILL the only one of the two parties that have women's rights as core values they are supposed to fight for. Reproductive choice being foremost and pay equity and getting more women elected following close behind.
    I simply reject what appears to be your assertion that BOTH sides are at BEST equally at fault. The Dems are in NO way fighting to take womens rights AWAY, which has been one of the primary focuses of the Right since the off season election.

  7. David----it all comes down to how you define women's issues. I have made a stab at another way of looking at it in my previous post about sexism on the left. I hold the left more accountable because of all their posturing about being the party of women and then the blazing barrage of sexism coming from them during the 2008 election. In case you need a reminder of that sexism watch this video


    This sexism can't be swept under the rug. and BOTH parties engage in it. It's just worse when the Dems do it, in my opinion, because they are so pious about supposedly being pro-women. No "pro-women" party behaves in such a fashion.

  8. And I might add that neither the Democratic Party nor the Obama campaign ever stood up against this outpouring of sexism when it could have mattered.

  9. I get do tired of arguing with the left about this one. Just like you said in your last post, the left isn't stupid, but they sure are blind!!!!

    On another note, the right has had some really fantastic women. I love Condi Rice. Now there is a class act.

  10. David is using leftist talking points. First of all, Palin did not misquote history. She has been proven correct in that the teaparty took place in 1773 and that Paul Revere did warn the British. So, stop quoting misinformation; we are not stupid on this site.

    I refer to the Democratic Party as the Sexist Party of America...ever since the 2008 election that became very apparent. Bunch of hypocrits. I'm not a Republican either and although they are not so blatant in visible actions, they work behind the scenes just as effectively. However, there must be something going on there because it is in the Republican Party that women are rising to the top.

  11. you tell em Puma for Life!! David needs to do his homework instead of being a robot

  12. One huge problem is no sacred feminine in the mainstream culture. The ruler of
    the world is male. This leads people to think it strange anytime a female is a
    political leader.

    We need the sacred feminine to be accepted by everyone.

  13. As a woman on the right, the problem I see is that a lot of groups claiming to be pro-women turn out to be oxymoronic in application. When I was designing websites, I had a friend who had a mommy website. She had posted a link to NOW. They told her to take it down because she did not have the desired type of website they wanted to be associated with. How in the world is motherhood anything other than an all woman institution? NOW sure didn't think so.
    I agree the left is much more sexist, but they hide it behind their need to make people think they are getting the real thing. People need to open their eyes a little better and look at the whole application and what a certain group stands for. I used to be a bra burning woman's rights activist until one day I looked at the groups I was supporting and realized they did not support motherhood, they had no desire to support anyone who wanted to stay at home and be a mother. They were too busy fighting against two of the baser applications of femininity, motherhood and wifedom.

  14. Anonymous---I TOTALLY agree with you. I wish that these lefty women would just get a grip and realize that we are all in this together. I just HATE seeing the left put down women who don't agree with them as if it is ok to be sexist to someone if you disagree. When did we ever learn something like that?

    I think that the left will be the last ones to get it, but I am hoping that they will wake up at some point

  15. I just have such a problem with the herd mentality on the left. It has become almost an article of faith with them that everyone is wrong except them and if you don't agree with them you deserve to be made to feel stupid, intolerant, racist, etc. Isn't that close-minded and intolerant too?

  16. David is absolulty right! I know that we would be no where if the left had not fought for these issues. The right may have elected more women in the 2010 election. But any woman does not do it for me! Women that stand for womans issues are the ones I want to see! Republican women who run on being submissive to their husbandsand making false statements about history, telling people that masturbation is evil among other things is not going to come up on my radar as serious. Bachman even said it was her husband that told her what areer and school to go to and did it to please him! Come on!
    I conceed that the left does have sexism yet and we need to work on that without end. But we are a lot closer to equality on the left. We didn't vote in Hillary? Maybe because people just didn't like her. I am quite sure the left is ready for a woman president, it just wasn't Hillary. I could see someone like Condi with a different ideology make it easily.

  17. In America, the rightwing is really out to take away all rights of women in healthcare. A few days ago I wrote on my Facebook page how the anti-abortion movement believed the second fertilization happened BAM, That was a human being that was more important than the health of the women. They are nuts and have to be stopped.

  18. Laura---your point of view and mine always seem to butt heads. although I agree with you that the left made progress for women, I believe that their approach has become the opposite. By this I mean that the agenda is 30 years ago and hasn't evolved with the times, it has become more exclusive, and it hasn't made much of a dent in the fact that women hold little to no power in our country. In addition, the positions have become so calcified that in order to sustain interest, the left has become extremely sexist in its criticisms. The arguments are brittle, meanspirited, and make it impossible to have any dialogue with anyone who may have different ideas.

    I must say though that I am thrilled that you took the time and effort to read and comment Laura. I can see that you are someone who likes reaching out and having a dialogue, and I for one appreciate that so much. I hope you keep adding your voice to our discussions!!! :)

  19. Hi Frank----I read your paper with interest. Hopefully you will come back here and leave that link so others can read it too!!

    although there may be some "nuts" on the far right side of the healthcare debate, there are also some "nuts" on the left side too. I feel as if you are beating up on a caricature. There are some valid points ob both sides, and I believe it would serve us better to find areas of agreement to move things forward rather than stay in our bunkers lobbing bombs at each other. I live in Ohio, the ultimate swing state, and as such, I work, live, and play with people everyday with opposite points of view. They aren't nuts, just mostly Americans who love our country with sincere POV's that are different. But from that difference can emerge brilliant solutions or at least workable solutions. IMHO we need to give that process a chance. Just saying....

  20. I believe you need to do a little more research to help you determine which side offers women the most and best opportunity to succed and achieve. Cynthia, there is never a middle, somthing or someone is either right or wrong. But, I do find your challenges and analysis interesting.

  21. I disagree Emmanual----I think that there are always many shades of gray and solutions can be found that are win-win for everyone.

  22. Things are pretty mixed up nowadays aren't they, when it comes to feminism, women in general, ideologies of women, etc.

    Whatever there was (the rigid ideologies of twenty years ago) no longer exists.

    When there are no longer rigid ideologies, then one has to think deeply about things.

  23. As a righty, I've been chewing on this one for a couple of days because I believe misunderstandings of motivations on both sides, intentional or otherwise, are a huge part of our problem. Like pointing out that just because people on the right don't want the government to try to legislatively fix (heaven forbid) disparities in pay between men and women doesn't mean we don't think it's wrong or want to fix it. We just disagree on the solution.

    You mention one problem on the right that I don't know what we will ever do about it. Women like Rice and O'Connor have in fact been trumpeted loudly as successes by the right. Rice could win the nomination tomorrow if she ran for Pres. The problem is that leftist feminism insists we label them as they see appropriate. Like Rice must be categorized as +1 point for woman and +1 point for being black. So to trumpet appropriately you can't just say "Wow I love Condi Rice!", you must say "Wow I love black woman Condi Rice!." People on the right don't want to do that. Our idea of not being sexist or racist is to NOT make a big deal out of "noticing" gender or race etc. She is just incredibly accomplished, smart, tough, well spoken, and cool as a cucumber. And we LOVE her! It feels weird to add to that note that she's black and a woman. If she were white I would still love her. If she were a man I would still love her ideas. Those things feel weird and somehow condescending to continually notice much less point out at every turn. If I say "I really like Congressman Allen West." If I add to that "black Congressman Allen West" I feel that implies that I like him MORE because he's black, or that implies that I like him IN SPITE OF the fact that he's black. Neither is true. The same applies to noting gender. Part of it may be that the right has been so constantly slapped around at every turn by the race card, the sexist card, and a whole deck of other cards we're afraid/bored with trying to talk about any of it.

    I agree completely that women should have equality in all aspects of life and government. But I don't know how we are ever going to accomplish that when we can't, won't, or sometimes shouldn't frame everything by "identity" politics. I am a woman. I am also a veteran, and an American, and a Texan, and about a million other "identities" that make me ME. I've never figured out how so many people on the left so easily and neatly pop themselves into a "category" and then think, speak, and vote accordingly. And yet I agree women should certainly be treated equally in business, gov, legally, and every other way. I'm stuck in a loop!

    I don't know if that made any sense at all but it's my .02 ;+)

  24. wow Thia----the position you express above is tough. I guess as long as there is negativity towards women BECAUSE WE ARE WOMEN we have to be prepared to defend ourselves. To accept people as people and not as a certain type of this or that person is certainly an ideal to aspire to. All of us in our better selves would prefer this type of approach. However, until we get there, to not speak up to defend because we wish it weren't so leaves us vulnerable to being walked all over by the more powerful.

    I absolutely agree that legislative solutions are worthless. We need to create our better reality by speaking up when wrongs are done. Some of the times the negative is done in pure ignorance.But other times it is intentional. And then there's that squishy middle where it's a kneejerk reaction without even realizing that it is harmful. At this moment in time, IMHO it is better to speak out too much rather than not enough. We've gotten too far away from feeling shame for our sexists ways, and the public needs to be re-educated!!!!!

    Anyways, that my two cents worth too!!

  25. Oh I'm not arguing not to address sexism or any other ism loudly and clearly when we see or hear it. But we have to be honest about not using it as a political hatchet when it isn't warranted. The negative noticing of gender like "she's smart... for a hot chick" should always be pounced on. I guess in the positive a lot of righty people go with the idea that NOT noticing or evaluating people based on race or gender as the ideal. The problem is the existing power structures whether in government or business use what I think should be the ideal to hold on to the status quo ie their power. Road block.

  26. You're absolutely right not to overuse sexism. And unfortunately the cynical use idealism to trip people up. Let's just hope that the ideal becomes the norm. I believe that the idealism of the right is really nice!!!!