, , , , ,

A few months ago an acquaintance drew my attention to the fact that a local rightwing blogger was a bit agitated by the way I pointed out that Republicans were attempting to exploit their sparse crop of female legislators in order to mute the furore caused by anti-woman rhetoric used by male GOPers to justify anti-woman policies. I had observed that the GOP House leadership had “trotted” Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) out to manage another of their endless anti-abortion bills, this one initially sponsored and nearly sunk by Todd Akin clone, Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ). The use of the word “trotted” seemed to strike a deep chord:

“A woman…was ‘trotted out?'”

Trotted out?  Like a horse or a piece of livestock?

Like an animal that doesn’t have the ability to think for itself?

WillyK shows a contempt here that needs highlighting.

In WillyK’s opinion, Blackburn was told by her superiors to go out and use her lady parts to save the bill, and she just nodded along and did what she was told, presumably because she was “a woman.”

It’s not that Blackburn is stridently pro-life and volunteered for the job.  It’s not that Blackburn is an intelligent and capable legislator who felt passionately about the bill.

Nope.  She was “trotted out.”

That’s sexist, my friends. …  

High dudgeon indeed! Unfortunately, I wasn’t the one doing the trotting out nor did I condone it. It was the leaders of the Republican Party in the House who seemed hellbent on displaying their female colleagues like show ponies. Disgraceful, I absolutely agree, and I wasn’t the only one who noticed it. There was at the time a general consensus that Blackburn’s gender (or her lady parts, as the blogger would have it) was intended to help ameliorate the damage done by Frank, who, like Akin, is apt to express the uncensored GOP id.

The fact that the GOP “trots” out their female “show ponies” – and it is they who treat them that way, not those of us who call them out for it – does not mean that the women in question aren’t competent and capable at what they do – although, I have to admit, Blackburn, specifically, has never struck me as more than a fairly adroit ideologue. Missouri’s Rep. Ann Wagner (R-2), the actual focus of the post that so incensed this blogger, though, is another issue. She strikes me as a very competent corporatist Republican and I am sure that her rapid rise in the House GOP leadership reflects not only her gender, but her ability to play ball very effectively.

Evidence of Wagner’s skills abound in her regular email newsletters. She frequently references her motherhood and implies that her wealthy family shares the travails of a middle class beset by what she represents as governmental incompetence. Her schtick is “caring.” She wants us to know that mama’s gonna fix the booboo the naughty black man made. She asks in one of her recent newsletters, “do you trust government?” – and then reassures us that, “I hear your shouts, I read your letters and I will not stop fighting until you have a government that you can trust in again.” A bit over-the-top (shouts? really?), but clever. What do Republicans want more than to undermine our faith in our government as an agent that serves average people? Isn’t that at the heart of the made-up scandals and misrepresentations about which Wagner agonizes so eagerly in most of her newsletters? You gotta hand it to her – she’s good.

The feminine touch. Invaluable. Except when you put it into context and yesterday we got some real context. The Supreme Court dealt a blow to women’s reproductive rights and at the same time effectively undercut the rights of men and women to be free from the other guy’s religion. I’m talking about the infamous Hobby Lobby decision. Wagner, that oh so feminine, caring and motherly woman, was one of the 71 representatives who signed an amicus curie brief on behalf of Hobby Lobby.

And let us be clear. This decision, delivered under the rubric of religious freedom, is about anything but the exercise of liberty. Ed Kilgore accurately observes that:

… the whole “religious liberty” movement of which Hobby Lobby is so conspicuous represents a new strategy of “aggressive separatism” in which supposedly persecuted conservative Christians claim the right to create their own segregated world of laws and institutions that its proprietors ultimately intend to impose on us all.

And it gets even worse, uniting oppressive religion with the conservative devotion to maintaining and increasing corporate power. As Paul Waldman writes:

In Hobby Lobby, the court ruled that corporations have religious rights that trump the rights of their employees and allow the corporation to pick which laws it would like to follow and which it would like to ignore. The decision extends the corporation’s control over its employees’ lives beyond what happens when they’re working, beyond even things they do that could affect their work, to a purely private arena that touches on their employment only because that’s where they’re getting their health insurance.

And Ann Wagner, clearly part the GOP’s strategy to put a feminine face on their destructive policies, is just fine with that, women’s rights, women’s lives, be damned. Yesterday, she proudly celebrated the decision to make it harder for women to use any form of contraception, proclaiming on her Facebook place that “I stand with Hobby Lobby.” I would suggest that women who are concerned about the ability to exercise control over their own bodies carefully avoid standing anywhere near the vicinity of Ann Wagner when it comes time to vote.

Second sentence in fourth paragraph replaced with text inadvertently omitted.