Following on the heels of the Pussy Riot verdicts in Moscow, about a dozen women from the feminist group Code Pink dressed up in vagina costumes outside the Republican National Convention yesterday to protest GOP policies regarding women. There were no arrests. Here was the scene:
An unusual sight, to be sure. Donning a giant vulva costume to demonstrate on behalf of women might seem to be a strange choice, just as there is a mismatch between bra burning and complaints about the patriarchy. But on second glance, this mode of demonstration makes perfect sense. A series of events over the past few months confirms that disrespect for the choices and bodies of women is one of the animating principles of the Republican party. The Tampa protesters are showing the world exactly where these insults are landing.
The most recent example of the war on women is, of course, Todd Akin’s ludicrous claim that because “legitimate rape” victims rarely become pregnant, there is no reason to allow rape victims to choose to have an abortion. Big Thinkers Tauriq Moosa and Will Wilkinson have exposed the pseudoscience and moral errors behind Akin’s inanity. More under the radar, as Paul Slansky points out, was Paul Ryan’s equally offensive claim that rape is just another “method of conception."
The first salvo in the offensive on women came early in the year, when Republicans supported Catholic bishops in their quest to deny women preventive health care benefits under the Affordable Care Act. President Obama rightly insisted that freedom of conscience for Catholics did not extend to controlling the lives of women who work at Catholic institutions.
And then there was the remarkable moment in June when, in the chambers of the Michigan state legislature, Rep. Lisa Brown was rebuked and silenced by Republicans for using the word “vagina” during debate over a restrictive abortion bill. The term should not be used in “mixed company,” one GOP leader said. Speaker of the House James Bolger declared that because Rep. Brown’s choice of words "failed to maintain the decorum of the House of Representatives," she would be banned from speaking the following day.
The assault on women’s rights took a new turn this week when Texas announced it will cut all funding for Planned Parenthood following a 5th Circuit Court ruling allowing such a move. As it stands, no Texas or federal dollars support abortions performed in Planned Parenthood clinics. That’s already the case. Texas wants to take the additional move of stripping away support for non-abortive health care services Planned Parenthood provides. Why? For purely symbolic reasons. Texas doesn’t want to be associated with Planned Parenthood, even if the organization provides 130,000 low-income women in Texas with pap smears, cancer screenings and wellness checkups. Texas Republicans are choosing ideological purity over the health and welfare of the state’s most disadvantaged women.
So, vagina costumes? Absolutely. The more attention to Republicans’ dreadful policies toward women, the better.
Follow Steven Mazie on Twitter: @stevenmazie
Image courtesy of shutterstock.com