Saturday, March 17, 2012

Women using Women to help Women

Until recently, the accusations that politicians are abusing women's health and rights for ideological reasons have been one-sidedly flung at Republic legislators. But with the effort to renew the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) this month, Republicans and their lay supporters are attempting to turn the tables. Conservatives have accused Democratic legislators of manipulating the "GOP war against women" narrative to bully their friends across the aisle into voting in favor of some "controversial" additions to the act:
The Violence Against Women Act empowers law enforcement to crack down on domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. It was first enacted in 1994 and reauthorized in 2000 and 2005 with little opposition. The current reauthorization includes a new grant program and additional measures to accommodate same-sex couples and unauthorized immigrants, which Republicans on the Judiciary Committee unanimously objected to as it passed the committee last month on a party-line vote (Kapur, 05/16/12).
Republican law-makers assert that their opposition to this year's version of VAWA is not in any way about preventing abused women from getting the aid they need:

I "resent" being associated with the "war on women"!
"Nobody opposes the reauthorization of this legislation," Jon Kyl of Arizona, the second-ranking Senate Republican, told CNN. [...] "So what Republicans are focusing on is how to make a bill that should be reauthorized functional in this day and age of significant budget constraints so we can still accomplish the goals of the legislation," Kyl continued. "I really resent the implication by some of my Democratic friends that if you're trying to improve the bill that somehow you are for violence against women. That's reprehensible" (Barrett, 05/15/12).

Indeed, some GOP members are claiming that the additions to the bill are deliberately controversial, implying that Democrats are using the current political climate to pick a fight with Republicans:
Senator Jeff Sessions, Republican of Alabama, put it this way: “I favor the Violence Against Women Act and have supported it at various points over the years, but there are matters put on that bill that almost seem to invite opposition” (Rosenthal, 05/15/12). 
Well, I'll give it to Republicans that this is a particularly opportune time for Democrats to introduce some amendments to VAWA that would, at other times, probably be left off the table. It is undoubtable that Democrats --and anyone who is paying even a modicum of attention to the national news lately-- are certainly aware that the "GOP war against women" is currently a popular political narrative. One could even say, without much room for debate, that Democrats are using this narrative not only to pass legislation that would otherwise be too controversial (only because Congress is regrettably full of anti-immigration and/or homophobic folks), but also to increase their favorable standing with women voters and, yes, make Republicans look bad (isn't the thought of political parties trying to undermine each other in an election year absolutely appalling?!).

Here's why no one should be bothered by Republicans' complaints that they are being "unfairly" portrayed as anti-woman by Democrats trying to renew and improve VAWA: they are doing 90% of the work themselves. Even Fox News concedes that Republicans are making a sport out of alienating themselves completely from women voters. The Republican legislative assault on reproductive rights is basically undeniable:
Read the full report.
And, as the legislative attacks  on women's reproductive rights become increasingly outrageous, women are going to become increasingly outraged and, thereby, more receptive to further confirmation that many Republican legislators simply do not care about them (us). So, pardon me if I see absolutely no point in criticizing Democrats for "fir[ing] the latest political shot in what they are calling the Republican 'war against women' (Associated Press, 03/15/12). They're just calling it like they see it, folks. Democrats have been allowing the GOP to play offense (offensively, I might add) on women's rights for too long. This newly demonstrated initiative is sure to win a few elections!

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