Michelle Gillett: Once again, women are under attack

Tuesday October 30, 2012


The email from my friend reminding me to vote said she knew she was preaching to the choir. She knows how strongly I feel about voting and that I consider it a privilege. I was about to hit the delete button, but changed my mind and decided to read the email in its entirety.

The original email came from a woman who attended a screening of an HBO movie about the suffragists who fought for women's right to vote. She wrote, "Iron Jawed Angels" presents a graphic depiction of the battle these women waged so that I could pull the curtain at the voting booth and have my say." The rest of her email summarized the story of the group of 33 women, The Silent Sentinels, who picketed the White House on July 17, 1917, carrying signs asking for the right to vote.

They were arrested, convicted of "obstructing sidewalk traffic," and tortured by prison guards. One of the leaders, Lucy Burns, was beaten, her hands chained to the cell bars above her head and left there for the night, "bleeding and gasping for air." The warden at the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia ordered his guards to teach a lesson to the suffragists imprisoned there. The women's water came in an open pail, the food was infested with worms. When one of the suffragist leaders, Alice Paul went on a hunger strike to protest the conditions at the workhouse, she was moved to the prison's psychiatric ward, tied to a chair and raw eggs were poured down a tube forced into her throat.

The email continues, "Presi dent Woodrow and his cronies tried to persuade a psychiatrist to declare Alice Paul insane so she could be permanently institutionalized. The doctor refused, and told them, "Courage in women is often mistaken for insanity."

It is an ironic that less than 100 years ago women were prevented from voting, and now women's votes are among the most desirable. An article in the New York Times a few days ago, reported that in this election there is an "intense competition for the female vote." It was underscored last Wednes day "as both campaigns seized on a remark made by Richard E. Mourdock, a Republican Senate candidate in Indiana, in a debate last Tuesday night. He said, pregnancy is ‘something that God wanted to happen' even if it is the result of rape."

It is clear that women's votes are more important than ever. Our control over our future is at stake. Mourdock's statement, that he refused to apologize for, is representative of what many conservative Repub licans be lieve. Irin Carmen wrote a piece on Salon.co last week about the obvious misogyny coming from the Republican party.


She says, "Here's why this is happening: The newer crop of Republican candidates and elected officials are, more often than not, straight from the base. They're less polished than their predecessors; they're more ideologically pure. As a result, they've accidentally been letting the mask slip and showing what's really at the core of the right-to-life movement ... antiabortion absolutists have some explaining to do, and they're doing it very, very badly. . . every time a Republican politician says what he (usually he) really thinks about all this, we can ask ourselves the following: What are you if you think women have no idea what they're doing when they have an abortion, that they need the law to bully them, if not to change their minds, then to make things as difficult as possible for them? What are you if you think a woman's right to her own body should be entirely subordinate to the possibility of an hours-old fertilized egg, and thus want to ban emergency contraception, as (Todd) Akin does? What are you if you essentially render a pregnant woman an incubator, as Akin did when he described pregnancy as, ‘All you add is food and climate control, and some time, and the embryo becomes you or me'? What with all of the double-talk, I'll be plain. You're a misogynist." www.salon.com/2012/09/13/can_you_change_her_mind

If our government is run by men who hate women, we are no better off than when women were tortured for asking for the right to vote. We need to think about those brave women who suffered for us to have that privilege and how much we stand to lose if we don't vote next week.

Helena Hill Weed, one of The Silent Sentinel, served a three-day sentence in a Washington D.C. prison for carrying banner that read, "Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.'' Think about that. One pollster pointed out, "Groups of women simply don't resemble one another any more," when it comes to defining them as voters. I cannot imagine any group (well, maybe a couple) that would agree that rape resulting in pregnancy is a gift from God.

That the Romney campaign refused to remove its ad endorsing Mourdock's candidacy for Senate, that Mour dock refused to apologize for his statement indicate how conservative Repub licans think about women. They want our vote, but they don't take us seriously. As President Obama said, "those comments were outrageous and demeaning to women."

Michelle Gillett is a regular Eagle contributor.


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