The day after the election last fall, I felt like the bespectacled teen movie archetype who just found out the POPULAR BOY (played by an actor with a suspiciously square twentysomething jaw for a high schooler) asked her to prom. Across the country, politicians who had publicly said dumb crap about women's roles, women's bodies, and women's choices were sent packing after an election season characterized in part by the mainstream media refreshingly giving a fuck about holding politicians accountable for antiquated views about how women's bodies work and what they should be doing with them. And even though what happened in November felt like a victory so resounding politicians would know to think twice before fucking with Team Women Are People again, as soon as Congress reconvened in January, the GOP's fetal warrior contingent got right back to focusing their energy on legislating female bodies. What gives? And why isn't the response this time around as dramatic?
Part of the dropoff in fucks given about the ongoing government intrusion between our American thighs can be attributed to fatigue. Hell, I get it — I was tired too. After the election, I was so tired of abortion and rape and equal pay and maternity leave and sick leave and sexual harassment and women in combat and military sex abuse ad nauseum ad infinitum that I took a week off to go to Chicago (and all I remember from that week is standing in my ex-fiancee's garage and staring at boxes and then seeing a guy get robbed of his iPhone on the brown line), and then I took 7 months off to write jokes for a talking heads cable TV show that never required me to utter the phrase LEGITIMATE RAPE except for that one time in a pitch meeting when I told one of my coworkers that LEGITIMATE GRAPE would be a great name for a flavor of Kool Aid whose sale proceeds go to support RAINN. I'm tired. You're tired. We're all tired. But you know who isn't tired? Dudes who think that God wants them to make sure women who get pregnant stay pregnant. Elected officials whose political survival depends on appeasing a constituency of Christian fundamentalists dismayed by the idea of women having sex without physical consequences. Scowling, sexless, silly hat wearing religious leaders who believe that, through the magic of God and sperm, a zygote is a baby with needs and thoughts more important even than the woman on whose body it depends. That's the kind of shit we're dealing with. And ignoring it won't make it go away.
Since January, states have enacted literally dozens of laws that restrict access to abortion, contraception, sexual education, and other issues related to women's confusing yet somehow very, very dangerous if left unregulated reproductive organs (DID YOU KNOW that an unregulated vagina has the power to wreak more havoc than 100 Exxon oil rigs? It says in the Bible). We've got conservative state legislators declaring women a "mystery" and then voting to restrict what women do with their mystery machines (idea: "Mystery Machine" as a vaginal euphemism. Try it; it's fun.) A female politician declaring on TV that women don't want equal pay because, I don't know, it's kinda fun when guys pay at restaurants because we can't afford it tee hee. And just today, a 20-week abortion ban authored by actual crazy person Congressman Trent Franks advanced past the House Judiciary Committee, thanks to the the votes of the 23 male Republicans on the panel.
So what gives? Why would the GOP, a party that was open palm spanked in the 2012 elections and that admitted its continued existence depended on "get(ting) with the times" (not saying dumb crap about rape) regress to the same old rhetoric that got them in trouble in the first place? Because they think no one's paying attention, and the ones that are won't remember when it counts.
And it makes sense, on a strategic level, to introduce War on Women-style legislation during a non-election year; the half life of a political gaffe meme (horses and bayonets, anyone?) is much shorter than Congressional voting records or a CSPAN sound byte that would make a great political ad. And a Congressman trying to court the favor of a district full of mouthbreathing parking lot pray-ers would be wise to make as many bold asshole moves as possible when the media isn't treating every day like it's the end of a goddamn horse race. Moving to ban abortions after 20 weeks now as opposed to this time next year gives legislators the fodder they want for ads to be used next year but spares them Todd Akinesque media scrutiny.
This isn't to say that suddenly, everyone in the mainstream media forgot again that women are humans — just that coverage of shit that actually affects half of the population in a corporeal way has once again been relegated to media's pink aisle (in addition to passionate, dedicated pro-woman activists, you'll also find Barbies and tampons there), until it's taken out and played with again next year when the entire House of Representatives and a third of the Senate is up for reelection. So while it might feel now is a time to sit back and rest on our laurels, women and people who love and care about women can't be lulled into a false sense of security. The neverending cycle of fuckery is still in full swing, and we don't have the luxury of not paying attention.