There were several times during the first GOP debate last night that I had to remind myself that I was actually awake watching an actual political debate – not having some 1950’s throwback nightmare. One thing was made clear last night, through all the yelling, double-speak, and rehearsed sound-bites – all of the men on that stage weren’t even pretending to care about the female vote.
Within the first 10 minutes of the debate, Donald Trump was asked by moderator and Fox News host Megyn Kelly if he thought it was okay to call women “fat pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals.” These are all words that Trump has hurled at women in the past few years. He was reminded that he said of one of the contestants on his show The Apprentice, “it would be a pretty picture to see her on her knees.” What was Trump’s response to Kelly’s question? He said, “I don’t have time for political correctness.” He then added, “oftentimes it’s fun, it’s kidding, we have a good time.”
Who has a good time? The women you’re calling pigs, slobs, and sexually harassing? That’s doubtful.
As if it wasn’t bad enough that he just shrugged those horrible comments off with a smug grin (he wasn’t even compelled to act apologetic), he then essentially threatened Kelly, “I have been very nice to you although I could maybe not be based on the way you have treated me.” This is a man who thinks he can put women in their place with intimidation, fear, and insults. And he is currently the Republican frontrunner for nomination.
Let’s move away from Trump’s blatant misogyny for a moment, to the issue that the majority of women care most about in this country: the right to control their own body. The war on women’s rights takes various different forms in each election, but it always essentially boils down to a woman’s right to access the reproductive health services she needs. This election, the reproductive rights debate is being cloaked in a ridiculous argument over whether Planned Parenthood is selling “baby parts” and should be defunded.
All of the candidates last night were falling over themselves to prove that they cared about the rights of women the least. If last night’s debate had a mascot, it would be a zygote – and if that zygote were female, it would be the only female who was actually shown any respect.
Scott Walker was asked, “Would you really let a mother die rather than have an abortion?” to which he responded, “I’m pro-life. I’ve always been pro-life. I’ve got a position that’s consistent with many Americans out there in that I believe that that is an unborn child that’s in need of protection out there.” He then threw in some bit about there being “many alternatives” that would protect the life of the mother. Please get back to us when you figure out what those are, Dr. Walker. There are plenty of women who identify as “pro-life” that still think a mother’s life matters.
Mike Huckabee actually claimed a zygote’s constitutional rights were being violated by abortion- and pointed to the 5th and 14th Amendments. Only, zygotes don’t have constitutional rights, but women do. They also can’t vote (spoiler alert – women can!) – but he doesn’t seem to care about that. Trump, not to be trumped, rushed in to claim that he was “very pro-life,” although for years he’s been claiming the opposite.
Jeb Bush bragged endlessly about “defunding Planned Parenthood” when he was governor of Florida. Do you know what the result of that has been for his state? It’s nothing that he would be bragging about if he gave even one single, solitary fuck about women’s health. The Center for Reproductive Rights reports that Florida is tied with Oklahoma and Arkansas for the worst state for women’s well-being in the country. Now, 25% of women in Florida are uninsured (highest in the country next to Texas), 20% reported being in poor health, and 20% reported having no access to a personal doctor or health care provider. Florida also ranks 46th in the percentage of women (80.2%) ages 21 to 46 who have had a pap smear in the last three years.
Great job, Jeb.
In a Pew Research Center survey, “55 percent of women ranked abortion as very important, compared to 37 percent of men. In a similar discrepancy, 44 percent of women said birth control was very important, while only 27 percent of men said the same.” Women care about the services Planned Parenthood provides. They also care about reproductive freedom and choice. None of the candidates last night seemed to care. Yes, it was a Republican debate, and fewer Republicans than Democrats identify as pro-choice, but that number is growing – a lot. In 2015 50% of Independents identified as pro-choice as well as 33% of Republicans. Also, the debates serve to inform the entire country of your platform – not just your party.
Women outnumber men in several important ways in this country. There are more of us who vote (63.7% versus 59.7% of men) and just more of us, period (161 million versus 156 million men). By the time women are 85, they outnumber men by 2 to 1. Still, some male politicians like to pretend that they don’t need to pander for our votes. Wrong.
In the immortal words of Beyoncé, Bow down, bitches.
Our lives matter, our health matters, our rights matter – and after last night’s debate, you can be damn sure we’re voting.