In the land of the “free,” “free” is only awarded to certain people

The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade has dominated the social and political landscape in the U.S. and across the world. In June, the UN voted to denounce the Court’s decision and when the Court released its ruling, Democratic politicians did not hesitate to reach out to their base through fundraising emails and texts. Additionally, many have expressed concerns about what this means regarding fundamental rights realized in the last 50 years. While these responses to the decision are important, it is time to also acknowledge the misogyny rampant in America.

Simply put, America hates women. The loss of the right to safe legal abortions threatens the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Recent headlines about a ten-year old girl seeking an out-of state abortion for a pregnancy as a result of a rape is just one extreme but not unique example of the great dangers that many of us may face in the not so distant future. It is a gross story of forced reproduction and pregnancy without considering the physical and emotional toll a pregnancy may have on an adult let alone a ten-year old girl.

Additionally, people have been similarly forced into carrying pregnancy; being held unfairly and unjustly responsible for pregnancy outcomes. For example, Purvi Patel, an Indian-American woman, was imprisoned and convicted to 20 years in prison for her pregnancy loss. She was charged with felony child neglect and feticide – charges that value the humanity and life of the fetus over that of the individual carrying the pregnancy. These stories of loss, loss of autonomy and life, point to a devaluation and dehumanization that grounds the misogyny in America.

Outside of reproductive rights, perhaps another poignant example of misogyny could be viewed through the legal battle between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard. The issue was domestic violence, a reality many  know all too well, but this serious concern was almost second to the social media reactions to the case. As the trial was publicly consumed and followed for six weeks, it became clear who was favored and who was not. In fact, Heard was met with mockery and vilification for sharing her story; it was as if the crime of defaming an apparently beloved actor (Depp) was more horrendous than the allegations of violence and abuse. Regardless of how one may feel about the case, it was objectively troubling to see the lack of empathy, to see how easily people mocked someone’s story of abuse.

In the land of the “free,” these stories demonstrate that “free” is only awarded to certain people. “Free” to live as we choose, “free” to speak your truth in the hopes of being heard are not realized by all. It is unclear where to move forward from here, but acknowledging this reality is the best first step.

(By Michelle Nguyen)

(Photo Credit: Christine Garlough / UW-Madison Libraries)

Assessing Misogyny in Candidates Battling for the 2016 U.S. Presidency

It is disheartening to see the rampant misogyny and racism that has surfaced in the current U.S. Presidential election speeches, debates, audience reactions, and media coverage.

None of the Republican candidates running for President have shown any concern for women’s health. In their denunciation of Planned Parenthood and threatening a shutdown of the government if funding Planned Parenthood is included in the budget, we see their failure to connect with women, especially poor women, rural women, and teenagers, who need organizations like Planned Parenthood for their overall reproductive healthcare.

One would think a woman candidate would speak up for women in the electorate. Carly Fiorina is more ferocious than any of the male Republican candidates in her denunciation of Planned Parenthood, basing her argument on a dubious video created by an anti-abortion group. In the attention paid to the Republicans’ heated exchanges about Planned Parenthood, Hillary Clinton’s support of women’s reproductive rights has been drowned out while the uproar over her email server is driving her views of women’s health to the periphery.

Earlier this month, candidate Donald Trump deliberately failed to stop an audience member making anti-Muslim comments about President Obama and Muslims in the country. Since Trump is very much in the thick of creating the argument that Obama is not American, he let this comment feed into the larger Birther controversy. The racism that is ladled out by the Republicans is plentiful and the crowd that is swallowing it has a voracious appetite, having bought into the equation of illegal immigration and the devaluation of America both economically and culturally. Since the racism is so palpable and coming from the mouths of “authority,” the crowd feels very comfortable about ensconcing itself in it.

The media plays into the frenzy of the Republicans. Journalists use language that seem to celebrate the candidates, by calling them “bold” and “delivering change,” and for being “outsiders” and not succumbing to Beltway politics. An alien who walks into this media reporting would think he/she is hearing about someone progressive who has uttered profound truths for the betterment of humanity! Why is the media so fascinated by candidates like Trump, and why aren’t there more intellectual debates about the flaws and lack of historical understanding in the Republican debates?

Paralleling the Republican denunciation of illegal immigration is the crisis in Europe of migrants and refugees crossing the borders of Syria and Turkey into Hungary, Greece, France and Germany. Republicans are not addressing the refugee crisis for they have built a wall around their position. While part of the public in European countries is advocating porous borders, many Republican candidates are exploring the aesthetics of walls that can be built on the borders with Mexico and Canada.

Since Carly Fiorina is the only woman standing for elections among the Republicans, and Hilary Clinton among the Democrats, both women had to deal with their opponents’ comments that had nothing to do with their political positions. Trump commented on Fiorina’s “face,” saying her appearance would not inspire people to vote for her. When Hillary was First Lady in the 1992, some people remarked that she should be baking cookies instead of designing healthcare legislation. Today, she faces remarks about her age. Neither woman can escape comments about their clothes and hair. Hillary faces the additional demand to convey emotion, talk about her personal life, and periodically shed a few tears, so she can garner more votes.

Are we still at the stage of having to prove that women can run for office and be accepted for who they are in terms of their personalities? Do women running for office have to subscribe to stereotypical notions of gender? Will immigrants of color continue to be an anomaly in the Republican Party? Will Republicans ever recognize that while the U.S. is using global resources, it is hypocritical to talk about “walls” to prevent people from coming across its borders? Will the Republicans ever acknowledge that our economy is supported on the shoulders of “illegal” and “legal” immigrant women’s labor, from farm to factory to our dinner table?

(Photo Credit: Coalition of Immokalee Workers)

Misogyny and Racism among Republican Contenders for the 2016 Presidency

The current competition among several Republican candidates to win the Republican ticket for the 2016 Presidency is overwhelmingly centered on statements and promises to support policies that are misogynistic.

Candidate Donald Trump is gaining popularity among the Republican voters for his stance on immigration. He vows to deport the children, even if they are American citizens, born to “illegal immigrants.” Apart from this notion being unconstitutional, it exposes an immigration restriction that used to be applied more than a century ago–the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, “which severely restricted the entry of unmarried Asian women [my emphasis] into the United States as part of an effort to limit the growing Asian and Asian American population” (Gurr 30). Other Republican candidates, like Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush, are in agreement with Trump, although Jeb Bush has picked Asians over Mexicans as his voodoo doll.

In giving credence to the belief in ousting children of illegal immigrants, Republican candidates are enhancing the population control practices that have been historically enacted on poor and non white populations.

The most recent battle is being waged to defund Planned Parenthood, an old battle that has now become frenzied and vicious. The gradual erasure of Planned Parenthood from many states attests to the gradual diminishment of health care for women who are particularly disadvantaged—rural women, poor women, teenagers, women of color. While the Republicans have built up arguments about Planned Parenthood’s evil, like their trade in “baby organs” (fetal tissue), based on evidence collected by decoy clients, the facts remain glossed over and unheeded: Abortion is a vital service PP offers, but is not federally funded and is a tiny percentage of the care that Planned Parenthood offers women, from prenatal care to breast cancer screening and HIV tests.

Also, much talked about in the news is Trump’s crass treatment of Fox’s news anchor, Megyn Kelly. In critiquing Trump, one finds oneself supporting an equally misogynistic and neoliberal institution, Fox News. Interestingly enough, during the first Republican debate, Megyn calling out Trump’s misogynistic name calling of women made her a target of Trump’s humiliating riposte—he questioned her intelligence and her work as a journalist. And she was not spared the name calling either; on social media, Trump continued his war days after his first fracas, and called her a “bimbo.”

While many have rallied to Megyn’s support (due to her privilege of being an anchor on Fox, her youth, her whiteness, and her class), there was no protest or walk out when Jorge Ramos, a top Latino journalist, was summarily kicked out by security when he tried asking Trump a question about his proposed immigration policy! Here we see, along with misogyny, a deep and fertile racism, (the two often go together), but a section of the populace is eager to overlook these events as harmless, pure theater.

These recent events bear a dangerous echo to the beginning of the Nazi era and Hitler, with Mein Kampf as the bible that would build a country based on exclusions through genocide of the unwanted. If Americans select a President who will enact policies that are racist and misogynist and do away with press freedoms, we can begin to believe that we have lost our basic human and civil rights. We need to be angry, stay alert, and organize more than ever.

(Photo Credit: Getty Images / Fusion)