This shouldn't be surprising, because Republicans were also against the Lily Ledbetter Act. But it's really remarkable in the 21st century when right-wing Senate Tea Party leader Jim DeMint puts a hold on a women's museum, because he thinks the only thing women are known for is being abortion rights advocates. Now Sen. Tom Coburn is helping DeMint do it. This is what the Republican Tea Party stands for today, the marginalizing of women on the most extreme terms. Something all Independents thinking of joining their ranks should note.
The House passed the bill last year. Unless the Senate takes it up soon, supporters will have to start over with a new Congress next year.
"What they are doing is holding us to a standard that no museum associated with men has ever been held to," museum CEO Joan Wages said. "The content of the museum is being questioned, and it hasn't even been built. The Holocaust museum, the African-American history museum, the Native American museum -- they all had very little money in the bank when Congress passed their legislation."
"We are not going to do an exhibit on that issue because we have to raise $400 million. We cannot afford, literally, to focus on issues that are divisive," she said. "The reasons for the hold just don't hold water. It should not be held up because two male senators want to stop women from knowing their history."
There is no reason that abortion rights advocates or opponents should be center stage in a Smithsonian museum dedicated to women's history. But "Concerned Women for America" made this an issue by petitioning both DeMint and Coburn, because these women don't like the make up of the proposed women's museum's board of directors. The Republican senators are citing the fact that the museum hasn't raised enough funds, which is usually the case when these things begin. It's a fig leaf over Republican misogyny.
Back in 2009, Senators DeMint and Coburn were part of 30 senators who voted against an amendment that would have denied defense contracts to companies who wouldn't allow employees to fight back if she (or he) was sexually assaulted. You might remember the young woman who was held against her will, imprisoned in a shipping container without food or water, and gang raped, which inspired Sen. Al Franken's amendment offering remedy for these types of heinous crimes.
In the 21st century, Senators DeMint and Coburn also believe a woman who is raped should have to carry her rapist's baby to term. Mr. Coburn, who happens to be a doctor, also having the unmitigated gall to rail against mammograms.
Unfortunately, the reality is that most of the great work on behalf of women has been done by feminists who have pushed for equal pay in the workplace, which right-wing Republicans oppose. Equal freedoms for women that men have in society, which right-wing Republicans oppose. Also working for women to be equal with men in business, as well as politics, which right-wing Republicans never thought about until Sarah Palin was put on the national ticket, because Republicans thought they could take advantage of the Hillary effect after the 2008 primaries. Elevating a woman to the national ticket on merit alone never occurred to Republicans before Clinton's presidential campaign.
Republicans have always been about 30 years behind Democrats where women are concerned.
George W. Bush joined with Fortune Magazine to honor young women around the globe, putting together, with the help of the U.S. State Dept., the Most Powerful Women mentor program. No wacky right-wing women's group tried to derail this enterprise, which continued under Pres. Obama and Sect. Clinton.
The petty partisan politics being played with an important women's museum is typical of our time, but no one should stand for it. More from USA Today:
The museum got a push last week from actress Meryl Streep, who headlined a $350-a-plate gala in Washington. Streep herself pledged $1 million -- as did former Abbott Laboratories CEO Duane Burnham. "We will get permission, because I can't imagine those two senators who have put a hold on our museum have the stomach for war with the women of America," Streep said.
Senators DeMint and Coburn are wrong to listen to an organization like "Concerned Women of America," who thinks denying Americans a look into women's history should be predicated on an argument over abortion rights.
The right-wing needs to get a clue. The 21st century is not going to be about this debate, which the right has already lost. Abortion is a 20th century argument being made by a 20th century political party whose primary goal has always been to turn back the clock on women, because homemaker and wife are the only choices the Right thinks women should have, another battle they lost, because while many women understandably choose these roles, they're not for all women, and certainly not the only options.
Women today are now also choosing careers, along with being wife and mother, being breadwinners and heads of households, with husbands staying home with the children, women staying single longer before bearing children, or choosing a child-free life happily, and creating a life in the modern era that makes their prime concern about economics, something Republicans have never lifted a finger to help women achieve, starting with the fact that Republicans are anti-union, the prime builder of the middle class.
It's also why most women still vote Democratic, but also why they still should. Because Democrats would never stop a museum celebrating women, not for any reason.
Taylor Marsh is a political analyst and veteran national political writer out of Washington, D.C.
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