Voices on Voting: Big Deal

By Alice V

Alice is an artist who lives with her husband and their three cats

Recently, one of my husband’s politically conservative male coworkers asked him why he plans to vote for President Obama in the upcoming election. This coworker explained that had begun dating a woman who was planning to vote for Obama, and he was hoping to gain some insight into her thought process.

My husband suggested to this coworker that he ask the woman in question directly about her political opinions, since she is likely an expert on that topic. His coworker replied, “I have asked her. I just wanted to get another perspective.”

This anecdote is, for me, the perfect pre-election complement to that viral image of Darrell Issa’s anti-reproductive rights hearing from earlier this year, because both illustrate so clearly how the collective conservative mind views women: we cannot be trusted to tell our own stories. Republicans might have heard about how many women aren’t exactly into their platform, which would (among its many heinous positions) deny us the right to basic bodily autonomy. But they won’t address our concerns by considering our points of view and responding accordingly.  They don’t let us tell the stories of our own minds, our own bodies, and our own lives. Instead, they send Ann Romney to silence us by telling us what we should really be worried about (teh economy, DUH). They think that will take care of our complaints.

My husband’s coworker, for example – who describes himself as pro-choice despite his conservative leanings – said that he doesn’t personally feel that reproductive rights are under attack in the US.  So he doesn’t really think his girlfriend should be worried about all that lady stuff.  In other words, because of his personal feelings, dude doesn’t want to think about anyone else’s. He, along with the party he supports, won’t trust women and other people with uteri to be experts about themselves and their experiences. And that’s why he, along with the party he supports, can’t understand why reproductive rights could matter so much to anyone else.

Romney says he will repeal the Affordable Care Act if he becomes president. How does he expect people who now count on birth control covered under the ACA to respond to that bit of news? My suspicion is that he doesn’t expect much of any response, other than gratitude at our being “freed” from (imaginary) anti-religious government zealotry (in the name of anti-government religious zealotry, of course). Romney hasn’t bothered to consider the stories of the millions of people who depend on birth control as necessary medical care. Otherwise, he might have addressed the potential loss of healthcare that would have a huge impact on so many people’s lives.

But even though conservatives won’t recognize our voices, we recognize what’s going on in this country. The attacks on reproductive rights keep coming, even as many people, even many who claim to be nominally pro-choice (like my husband’s coworker), remain unwilling to acknowledge that this is a big deal.

I have witnessed family members, real-life friends, facebook friends, acquaintances, and even relative strangers express a lack of urgency about the part of the Republican platform that would deny more than half of the population our fundamental right to do what we like with our own bodies. I’ve heard people who describe themselves as pro-choice make similar arguments against the urgency I feel when I read about the legal erosion of my bodily autonomy.  They tell me that they get it and all, but I seriously need to calm down. Because everyone knows that reproductive rights are safe enough in this country!  There are other, more important things to worry about. Those are the stories that matter.

People have told me that I don’t need to worry about reproductive rights because I live in a biggish city in a blue state, which presumably is supposed to make me feel just fine about what people not in my situation are having to go through.  People have told me that the Republicans are all talk and no action, despite the many actions they’ve already taken around the country to curtail reproductive rights. People have told me that this country won’t ever criminalize abortion again, even though it’s already beginning to happen. I’ve been told, again and again, that I’m overreacting. Geez lady, it’s not like it’s 1972!  No need to get hysterical!

Because, as we all have been told, this election is all about The Economy and Jobs and stuff, in the broadest, most ill-defined respect. Implicit in this viewpoint is the false assumption that economic concerns don’t have anything to do with the economic realities of raising children and seeking adequate medical care.

Yes, there’s a lot to dislike about the Democrats’ positions on reproductive rights, including the support so many of them have thrown behind the Hyde amendment, and many of us will continue to fight these anti-choice positions. But there is simply no comparison between the two major parties’ platforms when it comes to reproductive rights. Democrats have allowed women and other people with uteri to speak for ourselves, while Republicans haven’t. This is not a little thing for those of us whose bodies are at stake. It shouldn’t be a little thing for anyone who values the rights of all people to govern their own bodies, direct their own lives, and tell their own stories.

My body is who I am. It’s how I engage with the world; it’s what makes everything I do and have and think and love in this world possible for me to experience. That one of the major political parties’ platform explicitly calls for the curtailing of my bodily autonomy is a big deal. I will not let anyone tell me otherwise.

[Editor’s Note: more people than just cis women are affected by laws regarding reproductive health care access and rights to bodily autonomy.]

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