Why is there so much opposition to women’s rights?

By Nathan Fulkerson

Women are once again under attack, faced with a slew of anti-abortion bills, a campaign against Planned Parenthood and other measures.

This new wave of conservative activism is riding the energy of the so-called budget crisis, coming like a thief in the night under a guise of “fiscal responsibility” and “pro-family” initiatives.

Anti-abortion bills are nothing uncommon, though the nature of these measures is the harshest in some time. Such proposals include mandatory counseling through “crisis centers” that attempt to dissuade women from abortion.

Other extreme measures include obligating doctors to provide descriptions of the fetus, including their heartbeats, to women who are seeking abortions.

These proposals seem like outright acts of cruelty and malevolent manipulation, carefully marketed as being for the education of pregnant women.

Recent conservative measures go beyond abortion. They also seem intent on financially disabling women. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) has proposed a system of tax benefits to heterosexual couples, a move that critics say may include raising the taxes of single parents.

Such a move would put an unfair burden on single parents, a disproportionate amount of which are women.

I often wonder how much of this vilification of women derives from world mythologies that have engrained themselves within our social consciousness. In the Greek myths, all evils are released into the world because the first mortal woman, Pandora, disobeys a divine command.

Likewise, Eve from the Judeo-Christian tradition, having been created from Adam, brings about sin through her disobedience.

“I think it’s generally a very privileged class of people, typically conservative Christians, who have a certain moral view they find superior to others and so they seek to impose it by law, even though their views may not fit everyone,” said Megan Woiwode, junior political science major and activist with Advocates for Choice.

Although women and girls are both explicitly and implicitly valued less than men in a score of religious texts, religion cannot take the sole blame for the mistreatment of women and denial of their rights, tempting as it may be in search for an answer.

Cases of female infanticide as a consequence of China’s one-child policy come to mind as one such example that occurred independently of religious background.

“Across the world, there’s a widespread devaluation of women. It transcends national borders, religions, and cultures, and you can’t really look at one period of history and say, ‘This is when it started,'” Woiwode said.

What we witness seems to be a chicken-or-the-egg phenomenon; there is a deeply rooted devaluation of women in the oldest religious texts and stories, which seem to be a primary motivator among religious conservatives, and yet it continues to exist outside of those religious boundaries as well.

For this reason it’s hard to say exactly what fuels these negative attitudes, but we can at least acknowledge that they exist and have experienced a revival.

It is my hope that, although we can’t point out when this perception arose, perhaps we’ll be able to point out when anti-women positions begin to decline.