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Madeleine M. Kunin Headshot

Is There Really A War on Women or Are Men Just Being Stupid?

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When House Republicans stall on reauthorizing and expanding the Violence Against Women Act, they are blinding themselves to the everyday experiences of women's lives. There is hardly a woman who has not felt a brief pang of fear as she searches for her car in a parking lot after dark, rummaging in her purse for her keys. After checking the back seat to make sure it is empty, she locks the door, starts the engine, and feels safe.

Most men have not had the same experience. Women are still the most physically vulnerable gender in the parking lot, on the street and yes, in the home. Male violence against women is part of the culture in some societies and unfortunately, at times, in our own. If violence is to be condemned and curtailed, women need the force of law to help defend themselves. House Republicans passed a version of the bill that fails to protect lesbian women, illegal immigrant women and Native American women. It's hard to figure out why, except that opponents of the Act may believe these women should be denied protection of the law -- any law? Ironically, by opposing the Violence Against Women Act they are denying protection against violence to their own wives and daughters. If that's not stupid, I don't know what is.

On another front of the war against women is the question of contraception. Women are asking, "whose business is it, any way?" Legislative proposals that would enable an employer to determine whether or not a woman's insurance would cover the cost of birth control strikes women as particularly bizarre. Is the boss going to take care of the children that are conceived accidentally? Stop treating us like children. Women are grown ups. They know what it means to bear and raise a child. It's time for lawmakers to stay out of other people's bedrooms and stop trying to crash through the door.

Access to safe, legal abortion, as defined by Roe v. Wade, is a subject that divides women as well as men. Agreed. But male lawmakers (just to remind you, they make up 83% of Congress) should not decide for themselves what is good for everyone else. They tend to treat women as if we had no moral compass, as if we had to be instructed and even punished for making our own decisions. The imposition of vaginal ultrasounds on women who seek legal abortions cannot not be interpreted any other way than this: You sinned. Now, we say you have to be humiliated, made to suffer.

One territory that should be free of strife is the Paycheck Fairness Act. Instead, it is struggling for life under the assault of the House Republicans. The goal is to help reduce the 77 cent wage gap between men and women who do the same work, but don't get the same pay. It's hard for women to understand why men, assumed to be at good at math, don't understand the numbers.

The battle against Obamacare provides another instance of men's ignorance of women's lives. Women could give them a benefit of the doubt for not understanding that women now pay as much as 40 percent more than men for health insurance and that the health care law would end that practice. But they must know, I hope, that women would receive important preventive care under the law, like mammograms and pap smears. By opposing the law they are once again raising their fists against women. It's as if having ovaries is being treated as a pre-existing condition.

Women today are not going to cower in the face of this male attack. What some men don't understand is that by opposing policies to reduce violence, promote equal pay and universal healthcare and voting to limit access to contraception and legal abortion, they are relegating women to another century, a time when men ruled exclusively and women were considered property and had to be guided by a firm masculine hand. Those days are over, boys. If you want peace in the workplace and and at home -- and that includes the bedroom -- it's time to smarten up and declare a truce. If you persist in continuing to fight women on these fronts, it shouldn't surprise you to learn that, especially in an election year, you end up looking and sounding stupid.