Read the stories about violence against women coming out of India, and you feel like you're reading about a culture in another century, in some backwards, primitive country instead of in the world's largest democracy. There seems to be an almost daily report of a brutal rape against a woman, either a female traveler (like the Danish tourist, recently) or a local Indian woman on a bus – but in pretty much all cases, women who dared to go out without a man escorting them.
On Thursday, it was reported that a woman was gang-raped by 13 men under the order of a local tribal council. She was being punished for falling in love with a man from a different religion, and the rape was a way to not only destroy any relationship she could have with a man, but to remind her, and all women, that they must live under men's rules and religious dictates.
That sort of thing doesn't happen here. But similar attitudes are on display, albeit in a tamer way. Witness the two GOP politicians of late who have resurrected what they say is a religious directive that women "submit" to their husbands. As the Washington Post reports, Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., writes in his memoir that while he does not see his wife as inferior to him (and that she should be involved in major decisions), he agrees that the man should be in charge in the marriage, writing:
The wife is to voluntarily submit, just as the husband is to lovingly lead and sacrifice. The husband's part is to show up during the times of deep stress, take the leadership role and be accountable for the outcome, blaming no one else.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, then, gave a speech at a Republican National Committee meeting calling for a GOP "war for women." That's a good line, but he followed it with remarks that insulted women and suggested there was something scandalous about female sexuality. Said Huckabee:
If the Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control, because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government, then so be it. Let us take that discussion all across America, because women are far more than the Democrats have played them to be.
The idea that birth control is only for promiscuous or sexually obsessed women is not only something from two centuries ago, but absurd and judgmental. It's reminiscent of Rush Limbaugh saying Sandra Fluke must be having nonstop sex to need to take birth control pills every day (though birth control pills must be taken every day to be effective, even if the user only has sex once a month). And how is it possible for a woman to "control [her] reproductive system"? That's' what birth control does. It controls a woman's reproductive system so she doesn't get pregnant from having sex.
But it's not about basic science, even – not like Todd Akin saying women who are raped don't get pregnant because their bodies have a way "of shutting that whole thing down." It's about an antiquated and offensive idea that men, or government, or religious authorities can tell women what to do and what not to do. It's about putting women in a restrictive role in which their jobs are to get pregnant while men run the show. No, it's nowhere near as bad as keeping women under control by gang-raping them into submission. But making a religious case for female submission to men is rooted in the same offensive ideology.