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I am not ashamed to admit that, after more than a half century of close study, I don’t understand women. This conclusion became impossible to deny after the last few weeks of unrelenting misogyny from self-identified Republicans. Specifically, what I don’t understand is why any self-respecting female would vote for or otherwise support anyone who identifies as Republican. What is the payoff a female Republican-supporter gets for the contempt, humiliation and degradation to which Republicans subject her gender?
This is not a rhetorical question. Calling this a result of low self-esteem doesn’t seem to be an answer at all, but just another label on the phenomenon. Why, for example, hasn’t there been near-universal female condemnation of Rush Limbaugh? What did women find admirable in Slutgate, Limbaugh’s demeaning schoolyard attacks on the bright, compassionate young woman, Sandra Fluke, solely because she argued the health benefits of ready contraceptive access? Limbaugh is a fat, greasy drug addict, demonstrably unable to form lasting bonds with women (three divorces; working on his fourth). Other than the lovely voice, he’s the sort of guy traditionally thought to be repellent to women. And yet Republican women have not en masse demanded that their representatives and leaders condemn him categorically and disavow any connection with him. Indeed, some of them have supported him and attacked Ms. Fluke.
We’ve recently documented in this blog the Republicans’ increasing belligerence toward women. See here and here. Politically, this belligerence appears to be counterproductive; women now favor Republicans less, Democrats more than they did last summer. Common sense, intuition, whatever you want to call it, suggests that this should be the case. Yet substantial numbers of women continue to support Republicans.
What’s going on here? Viewed in the light of natural selection, it’s clear why males seek to dominate females. The more you dominate, the more genes you’re likely to launch into the next generation. Perhaps natural selection is a sufficient answer for female willingness to be subjugated, too. Perhaps for that same reason — male dominance works to launch genes into the future, and natural selection is only about what works to launch genes into the future — women are attracted to indicia of male dominance. And a powerful, mellifluous male voice may be the only indicium needed — for some women, at least — to trigger the female submission response.
Research pioneered by Benjamin Libet in the 1980s has empirically challenged the popular concept of “free will” as a causal element of human decision-making; that is, “free will” as something other than a purely physiological brain process. One strong interpretation of this research is that we make choices before we become conscious of having made those choices. What we imagine as “free will” may not be the agent of choice, but rather an after-the-fact explainer, a narratizer of choices already unconsciously made.
So now we arrive at those two layers of our human reality: what seems to be going on and what actually is going on. This is where the overlay, the usefulness, of divine planning comes in. Males understandably want to dominate females, but how to do this, particularly now that women sit on the Supreme Court, run huge corporations, head up federal executive departments and are allowed to vote? Divine planning to the rescue. The Bible, both Old and New Testaments, makes it clear that women are not equal to men; that they are less clean, less moral, less valuable; that they are things to be bought and sold. There is no mushy equivocation here; the inescapable Biblical message is that it is up to men to manage and control women. So that unconscious male urge to dominate women becomes precisely what the Biblical god or gods want; it’s part of a divine plan.
Divine plans always come in handy. Once you understand them, they offer the perfect answer to any troubling question. They’re unequivocal; no Ifs, Ands or Buts. They quiet a troubled mind, like when you were little and upset and your mother gently stroked your hair and fevered brow and soothed you, “There, there, everything’s going to be alright.”
U.S. Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), for example, might be expected to feel anxious, uneasy about the possible threat of anthropogenic climate change. He is, after all, the ranking Republican on the Committee on Environment & Public Works. He bears some responsibility for preserving the planet, or at least our part of it, for future generations. The obligations imposed on him by his office and by this potentially existential threat might understandably feel highly disruptive, too burdensome.
Divine planning to the rescue. Inhofe’s reading of the Bible is that only “God” can change Earth’s climate; he feels this divine control so strongly that “the arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what He is doing in the climate is to me outrageous.” This belief in divine management of the environment also has probably quieted any feelings of conflict that Inhofe might otherwise have as a result of the $1,352,523 the oil & gas industry has contributed to his campaigns. He’s only doing what a non-arrogant human should be doing to protect the climate anyway: nothing.
He doesn’t just claim that he, and we, need take no steps to protect this Earth, this precious cosmic oasis of air and water, but that to take such steps is an arrogant rebuff of the Biblical plan, an invitation to divine wrath. One of the most powerful senators on the committee that concerns the environment — and the one, presumably, who would chair that committee if the Republicans gain a Senate majority in November — purports to believe that it is positively wrongful to try to protect the environment. Seriously. This is just about as nutty as it can get. It would be no nuttier if Sarah Palin’s witch-hunter Thomas Muthee were appointed Surgeon General of the United States.
And from the evidence of the divine plan for women identified above, it is no surprise that Inhofe gets a 0% voting rating on women’s issues from NARAL Pro-Choice America. He never has to agonize over, or even ponder, these issues. He just recalls the divine plan, the Biblical view of women, and that tells him how to vote on any bill: against women’s autonomy and for male control of women’s bodies. And yet women vote for him
At this writing, Slutgate proceeds apace and advertisers continue to flee Limbaugh’s radio show, 156 and counting was the number I heard this morning. This is happening because the combined voices of We The People have imposed human values on those who otherwise are willing to subscribe to nutty fantasies. This is the majesty of the worldwide web of connectedness now available to us. This is the necessary response to the tyranny of absolutism, divine and otherwise. This is the way of salvation, for Earth and its inhabitants, but only if we pay attention and respond promptly whenever some loud voice demeans women or men or tries to substitute some personal fantasy for the truth we all have to live.
ARC, 13 March 2012
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