Class Warfare Blog

February 8, 2013

Republicans Can’t Have It Both Ways

Recent actions by Republicans, especially at the state level, have made it very clear that as far as they are concerned: a woman’s place is in the home, submitting to her husband’s will. Their actions have picked up the tag of “The War on Women.” This is not surprising in that the current state of fundamentalist Christian conservative ideology began in the late Victorian era focusing heavily on the dominant positions of men vis-à-vis women in the Bible and on the “separate spheres doctrine.” The separate spheres doctrine held that men and women had separate spheres over which they held sway. For men this was the world of work, business, and politics and for women it was the home. (She is a queen . . . in her home! they shouted. Apparently they hadn’t heard of spousal abuse or maybe didn’t care. Many assumed that if a husband beat his wife, she must have deserved it. Amazing!)

Modern Republicans haven’t changed much from those conservative men of a hundred years ago, but they have created a bit of a conundrum for themselves. Women should be at home under the thumb of their men, they think, but Republican policies have so eroded the wages of working people that no one can afford to do this anymore.

A study indicated that a married couple in the 1950’s, with but one wage earner, had more disposable income than a comparable couple have now. The Republicans have been pushing more and more of the tax burden onto “individuals” and off of corporations. The Republicans have been writing legislation to disempower unions which depresses wages. The Republicans have been busy creating tax breaks for the wealthy and sticking it to the working man so much that he can’t afford an “at home wife” even if she were interested in being one.

The tipping point for this came during the administration of that icon of Republican virtue, Ronald Reagan. Women went to work in droves during his years in office, in an attempt to defend working people’s standard of living and to provide good educations for their children. It was noticed at the time. (Boy, was it!)

As usual, Republicans have barely noticed the tides of history as their boat just bobs along, ignoring the currents. There are fewer men than women in college (and graduating from them, too). The whole profession of real estate agent seems to have been completely taken over by women. Women more and more are becoming business people and have lives that are not totally focused on home, nor are they subject to any man in their life.

Occasionally Republicans notice these changes and stand up in their boat and yell “Stop!” They should be grateful that the metaphor is the tides of history and not the train of history, because were history a train, they would have gotten run over decades ago. Now their boat merely bobs along with a full complement of occupants looking dazed and confused and wondering “What happened?”

(If you want to know more about the roots of this ideology, read “Ungodly Women” by Betty A. deBerg (1990).)

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