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China Times, Taiwan

Sexism in Politics as Seen Through
the US Presidential Election

By Chinghuey Tiao

Translated By Nathan Hsu

2 November 2012

Edited by Kath­leen Weinberger

Taiwan - China Times - Original Article (Chinese)

As both parties vie for women's votes in the U.S. presidential election, Republicans have committed a series of gaffes. From the assertion of Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) that "if it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down," to a statement by Wisconsin state Rep. Roger Rivard (R-Rice Lake) that "some girls rape easy," Indiana Republican U.S. Senate candidate Richard Mourdock's belief that pregnancy from "rape... is something that God intended to happen," and presidential candidate Mitt Romney's "binders full of women" catchphrase. The psychological term "Freudian slip" is no longer enough to explain the subconscious of these men under the spotlight.

The deeply-rooted sexism in male-dominated societies can be likened to the iPhone's modern exterior. Although it has already "evolved" to become as thin as a pencil and capable of carrying seemingly limitless amounts of information in its clouds, its essence remains operations of zeros and ones in the primordial binary mud.

Adam and Eve, born of the earth, must still bear the original sin of "the Fall" for all mankind, regardless of what names they may take. A woman's ability to give birth stands as testament to God's curse - "I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth; in pain you will bring forth children. Yet your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you." (Genesis 3:16)

Because of this command from God, women ceased to be the sword and bow-wielding Amazonian heroines of old, and were tamed to become maternal figures fit only for needlework and cradling babes. The honor of motherhood is a necessary ploy of patriarchal rule. With this universal ideal of femininity in mind, even if a woman does not have a maternal disposition, she will still convince herself that raising children is her duty in life, and that she cannot otherwise become a complete woman.

Modern politicians and religious groups are radically opposed to abortion, even going so far as to oppose birth control. Outwardly, they prattle on ceaselessly about defending the so-called traditional family, but in actuality they are suppressing the independence and awareness of women in order to perpetuate their dominance and control over women's bodies.

Recently, as she gave a speech in front of Parliament, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard fiercely accused opposition leader Tony Abbott of being a misogynist for a full 15 minutes. After this shocking challenge was issued, some called it the speech of the year; there were also some who disparaged her use of feminism to attack her opponents, evoke sympathy, and consolidate power. Why? Because Peter Slipper, the parliamentary speaker whom she has so strongly protected, is even more discriminatory against women than Tony Abbott.

In April, Slipper was accused of sexually harassing a bisexual staffer, with Australia in shock as more than 200 pages of lewd text messages were uncovered. If Gillard cannot endure being called a "man's bitch" by Abbott, how can she ignore Slipper's comparison of female genitalia to "shell-less mussels?" Gillard criticizing and seeking the dismissal of the morally lacking Abbott is hypocritical. Is this not also some sort of selective and false justice?

The gravity of the sexual discrimination that Western women in politics currently face, as well as the resilience of the glass ceiling, can be seen in this joke from Gillard to Obama: "You think it's tough being African-American? Try being me. Try being an atheist, childless, single woman as prime minister."

Gillard, who in 2007 was called "deliberately barren" by her political enemies, was lately accused again of lacking experience in raising children, and therefore being unable to bear such heavy responsibilities.

A society that judges a woman's intellectual capacity based on the state of her belly is clearly still a fairly primitive one. Regardless of the merits or shortfalls of Gillard's political views, her outburst at the Australian Parliament can still be considered reasonable and appropriate, even if it was nothing more than a diversion under a feminist flag.

The author is a commentator on art and current events currently residing in the U.S.



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