Tourette's syndrome. There's really no other explanation, at this point, for why a cadre of Republicans and conservatives keep putting their feet in their mouths on matters involving sex and gender.
First, we have Rep. Michael Burgess, a Texas Republican, who has come up with the most novel "proof" of the medically-disputed idea that fetuses feel pain in the womb: the male fetuses, Burgess said during committee debate on an anti-abortion bill, are masturbating while still developing inside the uterus. Said Burgess, an ob/gyn, during debate on the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act:
There is no question in my mind that a baby at 20-weeks after conception can feel pain. The fact of the matter is, I argue with the chairman because I thought the date was far too late. We should be setting this at 15-weeks, 16-weeks.
Watch a sonogram of a 15-week baby, and they have movements that are purposeful. If they're a male baby, they may have their hand between their legs. If they feel pleasure, why is it so hard to believe that they could feel pain?
It would be great if that theory meant that Burgess was unabashed by and unashamed of human sexuality. But that appears not to be the case. If Burgess is right – that the mere gesture of a fetal hand positioned between still-developing legs means the fetus is seeking sexual pleasure – why wouldn't he notice females doing the same? Or does Burgess think that even in the womb, the boys are looking for sex and the girls are looking for an engagement ring? And it creates an awkward situation for the vigilantly religious. If a baby is sexually pleasuring himself in the womb – well, that kind of eradicates the clean-slate theory of newborns.
Then we have Rep. Phil Gingrey, a Georgia Republican, who suggested on the House floor that schools teach gender roles to boys and girls. Said Gingrey:
Of my three daughters and one daughter-in-law, they all work. They all work, some of them full-time, some of them part-time. But they're still there as moms. And when they come home and take over that responsibility, they need a shared partner, and that partner is that partner for life. And I'm talking about, of course, the father.
You know, maybe part of the problem is we need to go back into the schools at a very early age, maybe at the grade school level, and have a class for the young girls and have a class for the young boys and say, you know, this is what's important. This is what a father does that is maybe a little different, maybe a little bit better than the talents that a mom has in a certain area. And the same thing for the young girls, that, you know, this is what a mom does, and this is what is important from the standpoint of that union which we call marriage.
It's obvious that there are still people – lawmakers and others – who have a problem with women competing with men in the workforce, in a sports arena and on the battlefield. But that train has left the station – not only is it offensive to tell girls that their future husbands (if they marry and if they marry men) are naturally better at certain things than they are, but it's unrealistic. Girls today are as competitive, even more brutal sometimes, on the soccer field than their male classmates (thank you, Title IX). That has helped them develop a confidence and an ambition in other fields, including the workplace. That is not reversing.
And finally, we have an Illinois county Republican chairman who is so upset that a female, African-American woman is challenging a sitting male congressman for office that he actually called her a "streetwalker." Erika Harold, a Harvard-trained lawyer (and former Miss America, for what it's worth) who is running in a primary against Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill., got this response from county chair Jim Allen, who emailed:
Now, Miss Queen is being used like a street walker and her pimps are the DEMOCRAT PARTY and RINO REPUBLICANS.
Never mind the undignified, sexist and juvenile nature of the comment. And for that matter, never mind that there are still members of Congress who actually think women are just going to give up opportunities in business, politics, sports and the media. What is baffling is – why hasn't someone told them to shut the hell up?
The Republican party, which includes many modern-thinking, dignified and respectful people, is having its image ruined by a bunch of backward-thinking sexists. There may be no way to keep them from getting elected, but can't the party convince them to keep their thoughts to themselves – or at least voice them only among themselves?
There's one right they won't succeed in taking away from women, and that's the right to vote. Perhaps only the ballot box will muzzle the anti-female wing of the party.
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