Hitting the Trifecta in Women’s Issues by Michele Stopera Freyhauf

One did not have to watch the debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney this past Tuesday to know that Romney hit the trifecta in the area of women’s issues.  It was all over social media within minutes of statements being made that marginalized or treated women as “less than.”

The issue of contraception and rape is still a topic of debate.  Church’s post signs to “Vote for Religious Freedom” and hand out voting guides that help you gauge the moral candidate.  Bulletin boards stating that “Obama believes in abortion and gay marriage – do you? vote Republican” appear by the highway.  This issue will not be settled during the election.

If people in power set an example of bullying and/or oppressive behavior, this behavior becomes acceptable.  If women are treated “less than,” then their dignity as well as their humanity is compromised.

An extreme example of this de-humanizing treatment of women in American society appeared October 13th in Cincinnati.com.  A story was published about a flyer found in the men’s restroom of a co-ed freshmen dorm at Miami University.  The title of this flyer – “Top Ten Ways to Get Away With Rape:”

  1. Put drugs in the woman’s drink, therefore she won’t remember you.
  2. When you see a woman walking by herself take advantage of the fact that she is alone.
  3. Wear protection.
  4. If a women’s window is unlocked, sneak in and rape her to teach her not to do it again.
  5. Sex with an unconscious body does county, so don’t back down if she’s sleeping.
  6. Honesty is the best policy, if the girl says she doesn’t want to have sex tell her you are going to get her a drink, slip some roofies in it and you’ll have her in bed in no time.
  7. Practice makes perfect, the more you rape, the better you get at it.
  8. If your afraid the girl with identify you, slit her throat.
  9. Never take pictures with or give your number to the girl you rape.
  10. RAPE RAPE RAPE its college boys live it up!!

(Story and a picture of the original document is found at www.news.cincinnati.com/proart/20121012/news/310120154/miami-u-flyer-top-ten-ways-get-away-rape?pagerestricted=1 )

We have moved from the issue of abortion, banning contraception and legitimate rape, to how to rape and get away with it.  If politicians do not let us have control over our own bodies, then why should men?  Extreme – yes.  I am concerned about the impact this whole issue is having on society.

Continuing down this path of women’s issues, let us return to the debate.  During the course of questions and answers in the debate,  Romney made oppressive and undignified comments about women in the area of employment and equal pay.  As a woman, I cannot believe that a presidential candidate in the 21st century boasts his personal treatment of women in the workplace – positive treatment because he let female employees go home early to cook dinner.  I cannot believe that someone would go to “women’s groups” to look through “binders of women” to find qualified candidates to fill job positions. I cannot

believe that a candidate states that he filled 14 of 33 posts as governor of Massachusetts with women, but failed to mention that they were given “low-profile” jobs.  I cannot believe that his “new economy” creates so many jobs that employers will be “desperate” to hire women.

Through my disbelief, I begin to ask questions.  Is Mitt’s stance and statements a result of being “old-fashioned” and out of touch?  Does this have to do with Mitt being a Mormon?  Is he a product of a patriarchal system that still resonates throughout the United States – a system that continues to deny women equal rights under the Constitution?

Contrary to popular belief, there is not a Constitutional Amendment giving women equal rights as men.  Less than half of the States in the US have State Amendments guaranteeing women equal rights.  The proposed Amendment to the Constitution was first introduced in 1923 and failed.  The Amendment was brought up every session from 1923 to 1971, but never passed.  In 1972, the Amendment passed by two-thirds vote in the Senate and the House of Representatives and went to the States for ratification, with a seven-year deadline (which was extended until 1982).  From 1972 – 1981, 35 of the required 38 States ratified this Amendment.  From 1982 to present, the amendment continues to be presented into Congress and has yet to pass.  The fifteen States that have yet to ratify the Amendment for Equal Rights for Women are:

Alabama                      Arizona                       Arkansas                      Florida                   Georgia                        Illinois                         Louisiana                     Mississippi                 Missouri                      Nevada                        North Carolina      Oklahoma                  South Carolina           Utah                            Virginia

States that have guarantees of equal rights for women in their constitution are:

Alaska                         Iowa                            Pennsylvania               California                 Louisiana                    Rhode Island               Colorado                     Maryland                   Texas                           Connecticut                  Massachusetts             Utah                         Florida                           Montana                     Virginia                        Hawaii                     New Hampshire          Washington                 Illinois                      New Jersey                  Wyoming                    New Mexico

(all data from www.equalrightsamendment.org)

That is less than half of the States in the United States.

The bottom line is that women remain vulnerable and victimized because their rights remain unprotected in the United States.  If society cannot grant women equal rights, how can we expect the Church to do so?

Michele Stopera Freyhauf is currently a doctoral student in the Department of Theology and Religion at Durham University.   She has a Master of Arts Degree from John Carroll University in Theology and Religious Studies, performed post-graduate work in History focusing on Gender, Religion, and Sexuality at the University of Akron, and is an Adjunct Instructor in the Religious Studies Department at Ursuline College.  Her full bio is on the main contributor’s page or at http://durham.academia.edu/MSFreyhauf.  Michele can be followed on twitter at @MSFreyhauf.

Categories: Abuse of Power, Catholicism, Christianity, college, Ethics, Feminism, Gender and Power, Gender and Sexuality, General, Identity Construction, Mormonism, Power relations, Rape Culture

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6 replies

  1. “If politicians do not let us have control over our own bodies, then why should men?”
    “If society cannot grant women equal rights, how can we expect the Church to do so?”

    I think you pose two important questions here, but the agency may be misplaced. Both male and female politicians grow out of a patriarchal society—and often out of a religion with the same perspective. I think society has to change to influence the politicians to legislate change. The rights and protections women and non-whites do have were granted as a result of social justice movements who organized and protested until (and after) legislation was enacted.

    Regarding your second question, it’s my hope that Christian institutions (not just Catholic ones, but all denominations that still place limitations on women) will lead, or perhaps co-lead, society in granting women equal rights. I’m not a theologian or a historian, so I couldn’t tell you whether God gave men laws that would oppress women, or whether the men, at some point in some translation, adjusted what they heard God say (or read that God said) to reinforce a patriarchal structure. But if we continue to have politicians who claim Christianity as the reason they deny women equal rights, then we need Christianity to tell them that’s wrong.


  2. Or we need to stop believing that patriarchal religions are “true.”


  3. I’m so highly disturbed right now about that list, I don’t know how to respond. It is shocking to me that someone thought it was reasonable to post a list like this and that others think the same way – which confirms our rape culture! This is just unbelievable to me although it clearly shouldn’t be!


  4. I think it is safe to say that patriarchy is about the big lie, every religion that men have created, every institution, really everything men say is a lie. There’s no need to waste time with this.
    THE GREATEST challenge in the struggle for the LIBERATION of women is for women to organize and stop collaborating with the male religions, stop believing their nonsense, and that would change the world.

    But the thing is, women are still going to those churches and believing that men are gods, and doing the bulk of the work to prop up the men who are the Romneys of the world. And that is the hard part. I’ve written off men. When will women say WE HAVE HAD IT AND WE ARE walking out!! That’s what I’d like to see, an end to liberal feminism and a return to radical feminism.

    Romney, what about Obama endlessly mentioning his girls, his grandma etc etc— if having female family members created feminism in men, we would have had that revolution. Both candidates disgust me in their condescention towards women!!!


    • I agree with you that women need to organize, but I must say, I think your comments are a good example of why many women cringe at the mere thought of feminism. Writing off all men just means you write off real and potential allies. Men can believe in women’s equality, too, and I believe the cause is far better when everyone of every gender sees they have a stake in it.

      And what’s condescending about President Obama mentioning the women in his life? He’s given examples of women he looked up to who didn’t get a fair chance, and he expresses his desire to see his girls get that chance.


  5. I think men can be feminists and allies and I think Obama is one some of the time, but I also think he fails to have a coherent critique of the white male power system and all too often is dazzled by white men who hold institutional power–in the military, in politics, in finance, in higher education–and defers to them.


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