Monday, June 30, 2014

Hobby Lobby Supreme Court Decision: A Setback for Women


Today's Supreme Court decision brought about a major setback for American women. Corporations are now allowed to deny women the right of full healthcare coverage if it conflicts with their religious beliefs.

So the 5-4 majority decision (notably voted for by all men and not a single of the 3 sitting women justices) has voted that religious rights trump women's rights. And furthermore, corporation rights trump individual rights.

Birth control, like abortion, has always been at least somewhat available to wealthy, mostly white American women. Money and race can allow you to buy out of misogyny in certain respects although of course not fully. But what about the masses of women who do not have easy access to birth control?

This Supreme Court decision will doubtlessly have greater ramifications than just Hobby Lobby. This decision has set a precedent that will allow more corporations to have greater ability to deny their female workers their rights. The female workers most impacted by this will be low income, women of color.

Although many have claimed that we live in a sex-negative culture, I'd argue that we actually live in a sex-saturated culture that is simultaneously woman-negative. Pornography culture is ubiquitous. This does not only include literal pornography but also the objectification and hyper-sexualization of women's bodies common throughout the media.

Sex is everywhere. But it's a specific kind of sex. The kind of sexuality represented is hetero-normative and misogynist. Even out-rightly violent towards women with even worse results for people of color who have always been typed as having dysfunctional sexuality. Pornography culture is linked to everything from cat-calling on the street to sex slavery.

This is the norm. And it's coupled with the expectation that women will participate even at the expense of their physical and emotional health.

Rights for patriarchal cisgender, heterosexual men to express their sexuality -- really the manifestation of their power over women -- continue to broaden.

This is reinforced when rapists are given a slap on the wrist in court or when they don't even make it to court. When young girls are blamed for sexual assault and the pedophilia of adult men is ignored. When erectile dysfunction pills are viewed as more necessary than birth control. When breast-feeding is stigmatized but breasts are fine when selling men products. When you turn on the TV and realize that coercive and physically violent representations of sex with woman are becoming increasingly prevalent. When sick forms of sexual oppression and abuse are called "kinks" as a euphemism to make them palatable to the public.

It seems as if the cis, hetero male's right to have sex has long superseded a woman's right to sexual and emotional health.

This version of society isn't just marketed to men. But also to women who are encouraged to normalize this as well. So sexual aggression and violence become "passion" and "love" and misogyny is shrouded in a woman-hating fantasy of what normal sex is. And furthermore, this version of sex is spoken of as an indispensable aspect of relationships. Any other kind of sex is not normal and therefore wrong.

Meanwhile, the same women who are manipulated and even forced to participate in this culture are losing ground in their ability to protect themselves with birth control and access to abortion.

This is a time where a woman is a "slut" or a "ho" for the smallest indiscretion and a "prude" if they do not engage in sex with men. Because of this, it's common for women to be pressured into sex by male partners. It is not rape because she "consented" even though she "consented" because she was brainwashed to believe that a woman's role (even a girl's role) is to "give" sex to men on their terms.

Just because a woman does not have the financial means to procure birth control doesn't mean that she has magically escaped this culture which manipulates her into have sex not on her own terms.

That's the fallacy of the pro-Hobby Lobby argument. They say that if women want to have sex (with the underlying belief that women shouldn't want to have sex and only "sluts" like Sandra Fluke even have sexual desire) that they should pay for their own protection. But something far more insidious is revealed when one understands that many women are having sex and it's not on their terms at all.

I had my first OBGYN check-up last week and I was asked to fill out a questionnaire. Some of the questions took me aback: Does your partner support your form of birth control? Does your partner allow you to use birth control?

I've heard so many times from women that they didn't use a condom because the man didn't want to use a condom. The casually sexist sociopath might respond: "Well she's stupid! She should have just demanded he use a condom or bounce!" but we can't undervalue the power of negative messages telling women that they owe men sex and they owe it on their terms.

Women are expected to objectify themselves and see themselves only through the "male gaze" and if she doesn't then something is wrong with her.

And so these terrible messages are relentlessly shoved down the throats of women and girls and now more than ever in recent history: women do not even have the legal backing to protect themselves when they're literally doing what they're expected to do by participating in this male-dominated hyper-sexed culture.

It's not simply that in our culture men demand sex from women. That's unfortunately not even the crux of the issue. It's that our patriarchal culture demands women's ultimate subservience and that is in terms of mind and body. Only one facet of this is within the realm of sex.

But it is surely one of the worse injustices that women cannot choose when and under what circumstances to give birth in 2014. According to today's Supreme Court decision, women can't even choose when and under what circumstances to prevent pregnancy... unless they have enough money.

But this is not surprising on more than one front. America is not exactly known for its benevolence to poor people. And it's definitely not known for it's great love of women. So this decision is in tandem with the status quo.

But the status quo is so dangerous.


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