I already posted a comment about this elsewhere, but I think it's worth getting a post all of its own. The health of women is, of course, an important issue, but Sara Robinson over at Alternet makes a point I haven't seen made elsewhere. It explains something that seems to be a mystery to progressives: why have conservatives gone from their obsession with abortion to what is clearly a determination to make contraception unobtainable if not outright illegal?
Understand that, and you can begin to understand their anger, and their desperation. Robinson in an aside puts it as clearly as I've heard it stated.
(The first rule of understanding apocalyptic movements is this: If someone tells you the world is ending, believe them. Because for them, it probably is.)More below the Orange Omnilepticon
I'll make this brief: Robinson makes a case we all need to think about. Contraception affects every human society everywhere at the most fundamental level. The assumptions underlying thousands of years of social patterns no longer apply. Read the whole thing - but if you want a quick start, here's three paragraphs that spell it out:
Until the condom, the diaphragm, the Pill, the IUD, and all the subsequent variants of hormonal fertility control came along, anatomy really was destiny — and all of the world’s societies were organized around that central fact. Women were born to bear children; they had no other life options. With a few rebellious or well-born exceptions (and a few outlier cultures that somehow found their way to a more equal footing), the vast majority of women who’ve ever lived on this planet were tied to home, dependent on men, and subject to all kinds of religious and cultural restrictions designed to guarantee that they bore the right kids to the right man at the right time — even if that meant effectively jailing them at home.emphasis added
Our biology reduced us to a kind of chattel, subject to strictures that owed more to property law than the more rights-based laws that applied to men. Becoming literate or mastering a trade or participating in public life wasn’t unheard-of; but unlike the men, the world’s women have always had to fit those extras in around their primary duty to their children and husband — and have usually paid a very stiff price if it was thought that those duties were being neglected.
Men, in return, thrived. The ego candy they feasted on by virtue of automatically outranking half the world’s population was only the start of it. They got full economic and social control over our bodies, our labor, our affections, and our futures. They got to make the rules, name the gods we would worship, and dictate the terms we would live under. In most cultures, they had the right to sex on demand within the marriage, and also to break their marriage vows with impunity — a luxury that would get women banished or killed. As long as pregnancy remained the defining fact of our lives, they got to run the whole show. The world was their party, and they had a fabulous time.
When you hear conservatives ranting how liberals are destroying America and the family, when you hear them raving incoherently about values and religious freedom, the values they're really defending are the ones spelled out in that last paragraph above. This is why they are excluding women from the conversation - because they've always excluded women. And the religious freedom angle?
It’s this rage that’s driving the Catholic bishops into a frenzied donnybrook fight against contraception — despite the very real possibility that this fight could, in the end, damage their church even more fatally than the molestation scandal did. As the keepers of a 2000-year-old enterprise — one of the oldest continuously-operating organizations on the planet, in fact — they take the very long view. And they understand, better than most of us, just how unprecedented this development is in the grand sweep of history, and the serious threat it poses to everything their church has stood for going back to antiquity. (Including, very much, the more recent doctrine of papal infallability.)emphasis added
That same frantic panic over the loss of the ancient bargain also lies that the core of the worldwide rash of fundamentalist religions. Modern industrial economies have undermined the authority of men both in the public sphere and in the private realms; and since they're limited in how far they can challenge it in the external world, they've turned women's bodies into the symbolic battlefield on which their anxieties over this play out. Drill down to the very deepest center of any of these movements, and you'll find men who are experiencing this change as a kind of personal annihilation, a loss of masculine identity so deep that they are literally interpreting it as the end of the world. (The first rule of understanding apocalyptic movements is this: If someone tells you the world is ending, believe them. Because for them, it probably is.)
If you want to know why the right seems so unhinged lately, it's because the effects of the last 50 years since contraception really became available are finally starting to sink in to their consciousness, along with all the other things shaking up their world. It's why they are so determined to demonize women on the left, why they hate Nancy Peolosi and continually slander Michelle Obama. It's why they're obsessed with all the alleged fornication in Occupy encampments. And if you want to know why they're also trying to discredit science and rewrite history, it's all of a piece. They've seen the future, and they don't want it.
Robinson's back from a year doing other things - just in time. Again - go read the whole thing. This is not a temporary issue - in one form or another it will continue for years to come. We're in unknown territory here - but going back is not the answer.
I see too many would-be pundits who try to equate the Tea Party crazies with the Occupy Movement. This misses the key difference: the Tea Party wants to turn the clock back; the Occupy Movement is all about trying to make a future for more than the 1%. Robinson has a long standing interest in the Future as an academic discipline; if we want one worth living in, there are far worse people to whom to listen.