Apparently, corporations are people and women are not. That was my first thought upon hearing the Hobby Lobby Birth Control decision. There are many subtexts that bother me in this whole decision, which my first thought reflects almost entirely.
However, breaking it down, the troubling subtexts are separable into ones regarding the default state of being in this country, the purpose of women, and the line of demarcation on religious rights. These are all inextricably intertwined, but I will attempt to tease out them out a bit.
Subtext 1: The default state of being is white male, with anything else viewed as “other”, alien beings, automatically placed into a lesser category, ripe for exploitation.
Subtext 2: Women want nothing more than to become wives, mothers, and caregivers to men, men’s children and their needs. It is considered that women have a genetic programming, inclination and knowledge for this state. Any deviation from this “norm” is deviant, radical & strange, even in 2014.
Subtext 3: Religious rights (of the right franchise) trump all others and therefore the line of demarcation is allowed to be blurred in regards to where your rights end and those of another start.
I call these subtexts background music… things that we believe deeply as a society. However, this music is such a part of our collective cultural beliefs that they act as white noise, hiding themselves in a faint buzz that we take for granted, often acting on them without even knowing that we hear them at all. Noticing the music and really hearing the lyrics is a rare and jarring experience.
The Hobby Lobby case has made a lot more people hear the music and perhaps notice the lyrical content. It becomes problematic when the while noise lulls the consciousness back to somnolence. With the speed of the news cycle and the constant annoying lullaby it provides, we become forgetful and sleepy… and just worn out over all the “issues” we are told we need to care about on a daily basis. Outrage fatigue sets in… almost no matter how passionately you care about any given item.
I read one article this week that posited Hobby Lobby and cases like it are really a rearguard action, with the keepers of the status quo continually fighting against the changes happening all around them and beneath their feet as they retreat. I posit the change began in the 1960s (-ish) and the backlash began in the 1980s with the rise of Reagan. But the dynamic of change has continued even though sometimes slowed and even pedaled backwards since then. Some of the backwards momentum that the Right gained, though, is starting to slow as people do hear the background music and listen to the lyrics.
With the Hobby Lobby case, what is hard for people to understand is how the Green Family and their ilk (including the 5 men on the Supreme Court) can be so illogical and hypocritical when the science doesn’t support their assertions that IUDs and Morning After Pills cause abortion in most cases, or the fact that they don’t care about a child once it’s born, or the fact that their 401K plan is invested in those very products, or the fact that their dealings in China actually support a country with a forced abortion policy. That is because they don’t really care about that. They are being driven by the background music, whether they know or want to admit that. Religion is the smokescreen heavily informed by the subtexts.
First of all, considering subtext #1: women are “other”, not fully human… this leads to the women being treated as children, incapable of making decisions for themselves. We need to be “taken care of” since we don’t know what is good for us, let alone society in general. So anything that limits a woman’s autonomy & life choices, and enforces her proper roles & natural inclinations, as outlined in subtext #2, cannot help be anything but positive, for everyone.
And it’s not just in this case that women’s rights and choices are being truncated. There is the hot button issue of abortion, no matter how you feel about it, it is a choice that women can and will make, legalities aside. The availability of both abortion and birth control gives women choices to become mothers when and if they want, freeing them from being slaves to their biology. But for those who are driven by the background music, women need to be tied to their biology because it keeps them under control… and under the threat.
Another area of reproductive health in which women are being forced or coerced is in the sphere of birthing options. Women are being forced by courts to undergo cesarean sections, inductions of labor or hospital births when they don’t follow their doctor’s instructions. There is a lot of use of “safety” jargon around the business of babies, as well as women talking about being “allowed” to have a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) or a home birth or a water birth or just a vaginal birth. It’s as though once a woman is pregnant, she isn’t a part of the process anymore, and she is just a vessel for the baby. Her rights don’t matter, it’s all about the baby. Women are also being arrested for drug use while pregnant, so rather than helping that woman, she is penalized… and the baby is taken away. Another interesting fact is that in 31 states, if a woman is raped and chooses to have the child, the rapist father can sue for custody or visitation rights of that child. Again, the woman in the situation was just the vessel and is not considered in the situation. But if the vessel isn't white women, they don't care about that either... it's just a bunch of useful sub-humans.
The last rearguard action is cutting across a wide swatch of minorities, including women, people of color, former convicts, etc. is the curtailing of voting rights. In Texas, if a woman’s name doesn’t appear exactly on the voter roll as it does on her license, she will have to produce documents to show legal name changes, marriages, and birth certificates just to be allowed to cast more than a provisional ballot. It doesn’t matter if she has been voting in the same precinct for 40 years with the same stuff on her driver’s license, she may suddenly have to produce her entire safety deposit box of documents just to be able to vote.
Please, this November, vote. Keep paying attention to the man behind the curtain and what he doesn’t want you to see. Don’t let the white noise lull you back to sleep… if you do, the only person you will be hurting is yourself and your fellow citizens. Don’t let their rearguard action establish a bulwark.