Patriarchy is defined as “…a form of social organization in which cultural and institutional beliefs and patterns accept, support, and reproduce the domination of women and younger men by older or more powerful men. Literally the ‘rule of the fathers,’ today sociologists view as patriarchal any system that contributes to the social, cultural, and economic superiority or hegemony of men.” If the American public elects Republican nominee Mitt Romney to presidency, they will be further entrenching a system of patriarchy where old men utilize methods of social control to repress women.
Throughout the 2012 U.S. presidential campaigns, women’s rights have been a major issue. While President Obama has offered more specific examples of how his administration supports women’s rights, candidate Romney has argued his proposed policies would be more supportive of women through a revamping of economic policies. A closer look at Romney’s perspectives on social issues specific to women’s rights, however, demonstrates that Romney would push America into a patriarchal abyss where wealthy men in positions of power dictate women’s decisions.
First of all, let’s not forget that Romney has openly supported Republican politician Richard Mourdock, a man who claims, “Even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.” Irrespective of how such sentiments are framed (i.e., focused on offspring or how offspring were conceived), you have men in extreme positions of power supporting one another in an attempt to limit women’s control over their own bodies (tell ‘em Cher; see video, below).
Romney's support of Mourdock is a classic example of patriarchy, where the institutions of government and religion combine to constrain women’s choices. The connection to government is obvious (these are politicians talking here), but also note Mourdock’s quote, which pays homage to “God.” Hence, it is simultaneously government and religion that are used in tandem as institutions of social control, which would render most women criminal if they were to choose abortion under a Romney presidency. As stated on Romney’s official website, “[Romney] believes that the right next step is for the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade” (and notably limits “defining marriage as between one man and one woman”).
Romney, of course paints himself as a “moderate” Republican. The party’s official stance on abortion, and that of Republican Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan, calls for total elimination of abortion rights – even if conception was the result of rape, incest, or if the birth of a child threatens a mother’s life. There would be literally no exceptions. As a self-proclaimed moderate, Romney would allow for these three exceptions to stand. Still, as Katha Pollitt argues, a Romney change in policy would criminalize the vast majority of women who want and/or need an abortion:
Romney, in fact, supports banning abortion except in cases of rape or incest, or to save the woman’s life. He’s running ads that tout these exceptions as evidence of his moderation, but what kind of moderate wants to criminalize 93 percent of all abortions? Among those who would not be lucky enough to qualify for Romney’s exceptions are women carrying fetusus with fatal conditions, the mentally ill and pregnant women at risk for any injury short of death. In reality, Romney would criminalize most abortions for rape and incest victims, too, since most rapes and incest are not reported…
Furthermore, a Romney administration would likely end aspects of “Obamacare” that enable working women “to obtain contraception, annual well-woman visits, screenings for sexually transmitted infections and gestational diabetes, breastfeeding support and supplies, and domestic violence screenings without any co-pays or deductibles.” And finally, a Romney administration would certainly end all federal funding to Planned Parenthood.
As stated by Romney, “Planned Parenthood is a private organization. What I want to get rid of is the federal funding of Planned Parenthood.” But deteriorating support for Planned Parenthood means decreasing federal support for cancer screenings and perhaps unsurprisingly related to the criminalization of abortion, birth control. So here we have a man hoping to end access to birth control, which would help decrease unwanted pregnancies and in turn, abortions, a practice this same man wants to criminalize! Neither the irony nor the patriarchy in a Romney/Ryan administration could be more obvious.
Granted, voting for Obama will not end patriarchy in the United States or even in government specifically. The Obama administration has not been perfect and could have done much more the last four years. But to vote for Romney/Ryan is to vote for a much more overt and pointed patriarchy; it is to vote for a country where a few men in extreme positions of power control women by limiting their choices. Is this the direction our world should be moving?