Stamatakis: No, Republicans don’t want to keep American women in the kitchen

By Nick Stamatakis

Reconsider common beliefs about Republicans and women’s issues

Despite rhetoric from women’s advocacy groups, Republicans do not want to push women back 50 years.

MCT Campus

Last week, Democrats spent hours preaching that the Republican Party is anti-women.

Well, not just anti-women, but directly opposing women. Lumped alongside the War on Poverty, the War on Drugs and the War on Terrorism, the Republicans wage a War on Women, specifically legislating with the firm intent to push women backward.

Many students share these Democrats’ interpretation. High-minded undergraduates think Republicans want to keep all women in the kitchen, and they’ll base their votes on this belief. The Democrats are mistaken as the only party that is aware of the past fifty years.

But beyond rhetorical flash, this claim holds no weight. Republican positions on abortion, contraception or fair-pay bills can be distorted, and the statement of a Missouri Senate candidate can be magnified, but the statements “Republicans hate women” or “Republicans are bad for women” hold no truth.

Start with the suggestion that Republicans don’t favor equal pay for equal work. Supposedly, filibusters of the Paycheck Fairness Act and similar laws prove Republicans want women to earn less than men for performing the same jobs.

Nobody wants this. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has issued statements to this effect. And opposition to this bill creates no conflict with pay equality.

Such bills, after all, would not work. For one, most of the existing 22-cents-on-the-dollar gap between men’s and women’s pays is explained by recognized differences in work habits, not outright discrimination. While experts differ on the magnitudes of their influence, occupation choice, workplace history, willingness to do more dangerous work and willingness to sacrifice family time play a greater role in pay differences than gender.

But even if legitimate discrimination were rampant, bills like the Paycheck Fairness Act wouldn’t be very effective and would fail any cost-benefit test when considering compliance costs.

Every employer would not only need to make public all salaries, but be able to justify all pay differences: Any employee could legally protest a discrepancy on grounds of sexism.

This is doable for a large company, where large human resource departments can track everything that goes into a salary: teamwork skills, negotiation skills and communication skills among others. But the cost for documentation, let alone legal expenses, in small- and medium-sized companies could tip balance sheets into the red.

Add that pay factors like teamwork and communication are very hard to quantify, and you have a situation where proving discrimination becomes nearly impossible in the first place. The bill is just flawed.

So the Republican filibuster was simply smart legislating, not sexism. They opposed the act on grounds that it could destroy small businesses, while doing little in the way of actually equalizing whatever discriminatory behavior exists. That sounds very 2012, not 1812.

More emotionally, Democrats point to efforts by Republicans to control reproductive health as evidence of discrimination. But this characterization is also incorrect.

First, women are more than simple reproductive systems. The constant focus by many on birth control and abortion turns the spectrum of female beliefs on reproduction into a simple binary “with us or against us” paradigm. The softening of Democratic positions to reflect different beliefs, which began during the Clinton administration, seems a relic of the past.

But even if reproductive health is viewed as the sole issue facing women voters, Republicans will not push women back. The Republican platform, which advocates abstinence rather than birth control and restricts all abortions, was written by activists and will not become law. Activists wrote a 1992 Republican platform in Washington state outlawing yoga, yet unsurprisingly yoga is still legal in Washington. This year, the Democratic platform guarantees women a right to abortion regardless of their ability to pay, opening the doors for taxpayer-funded abortions — a position just as fringe as the removal of a no-rape exception according to Quinnipiac and Gallup, and one that would not be accepted by any electorate.

Mainstream Republican thinking regarding reproductive issues simply seeks two things: to reduce the amount of abortions (not radical) and to address in what cases taxpayer dollars should fund contraception and abortions. With Obamacare, contraception is now subsidized; under Romney, that policy would hardly change, with organizations simply being able to opt out of such coverage in case of moral conflict in an organization. Is this an extremist viewpoint?

And on abortion, a Romney presidency would not force women onto the street for unsanitary abortions. Romney just wants no federal dollars directed toward abortion, favoring low-income support to come from private foundations. He favors abortion rights in the case of rape, incest or health of the woman. For other abortions, he would appoint pro-life justices. The only conceivable, very unlikely outcome, is that eventually Roe vs. Wade gets overturned, but even then, the abortion debate just moves to the states.

Mitt Romney, in other words, is not by decree of pen going to significantly alter abortion rights.

The War on Women rhetoric is an attempt to distract voters from a bad economy. Abortion and contraception still rank very low on voter concerns, but many are still voting for Democrats out of the belief that Republicans want to return women to the Dark Ages. But in likely outcomes based on issues related to abortion, public funding of birth control and women’s pay, Republicans are sensible and not out to throw women over the cliff.