As a woman, few things are as disturbing as studying history other than watching history unfold as progress takes a giant leap backwards. The outcome of the Hobby Lobby case has proven yet again that patriarchy (and slut-shaming) is alive and well in the United States, and may have women who consider themselves moderate Republicans rethinking their votes in the upcoming elections.
Consideration of Women in American History: “You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby”?
It’s no secret that women have had to navigate a minefield in their attempts to gain a modicum of legal equality and possession over their own persons. In the early 18th Century, domestic patriarchalism was “both a set of beliefs about power relations within families and households and a description of behavior within the family. This ideology of domestic patriarchalism placed husbands over wives within the family, asserted that women were legally inferior to men, and separated the economic roles of men and women into distinct spheres.”(1) This week’s outcome in the Hobby Lobby ruling has re-opened the question: Just where do (or should) women stand politically in order to protect the underlying interests unique to their gender?
Going back in time even further to March of 1776, Abigail Adams asked her husband John to “Remember the Ladies” in order to protect women from the legal tyranny of their husbands. “If particular care and attention is not paid to the Ladies, we are determined to forment a Rebelion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation.”(2) Certainly less than eighty years after women were burned at the stake for witchcraft and adultery and “Puritan ministers railed against the ‘uncleanness,’ ‘whore mongers,’ and ‘mothers of bastards’ for whom the ‘fire of lust’ led to the ‘fire of hell’”(3), Abigail saw that little had changed for her gender.
The public, relentless, slut-shaming reaction on social media outlets regarding the Hobby Lobby ruling has proven that things really haven’t changed much in 300 years. Patriarchy and misogyny are still quite commonplace and are the products of the firmly held, religion-based beliefs that women are less valuable to society and less-deserving of equal healthcare treatment provisions than their male counterparts in the eyes of many fundamentalist Christian men.
Throughout history in America, and, in the name of Christianity, women have been denied access to preventative healthcare, land ownership, child custody, interest payments on their investments, openly belittled in publications as idiots and whores, and considered radical progressives simply for demanding equality when it pertains to voting in elections, decision-making authority over their own bodies and reproductive systems, equal pay and workforce opportunities. In 1968, the slogan targeting the young, professional female consumer by Virginia Slims “You’ve come a long way, baby” no longer seems to have merit.
If nothing else the Hobby Lobby case pushes Republican-leaning women to make an unsavory choice: vote based on their economic and fiscal philosophies that support capitalism, or vote their conscience as women who have been consistently fighting the battle to protect the medical and reproductive rights and marginal legitimacy that have taken over 300 years to accomplish in this country.
Hobby Lobby: Self-Proclaimed Fundamental Constitutionalists Are Sadly Misguided
The Hobby Lobby case is being touted as a “Constitutional” win by improperly informed so-called patriots, and since most of them are unaffected by this ruling simply due to their gender or economic status, they have jumped on an embarrassingly ignorant bandwagon. The lawsuit itself was not and is not based on the First Amendment or the Bill of Rights, an argument that is laughable yet simultaneously disturbing because (a) those (mostly male) people believe that a corporation’s First Amendment “rights” which should belong solely to individuals have been upheld, and (b) these people vote.
The Hobby Lobby case was a statutory lawsuit that broadly misapplied the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which notably, was enacted to support and enforce the 1978 American Indian Religious Freedom Act. The Hobby Lobby lawsuit bastardized the purpose of a law positioned to protect Native Americans’ religious practices from the overreach of white-man expansion and oppression, and was instead used to enhance the “person”-rights of a large company to impute the owners’ fundamentalist Christian will on its staff.
Though it remains to be seen the actual breadth of this ruling, it is safe to say that at least forty other corporations are awaiting their day in court so they can deny all access to all birth control medications to all women employees. It seems unlikely the next forty companies will lose, since all it took Hobby Lobby was to cry that the heart-felt, moral beliefs of the majority owners were in direct conflict with a federal healthcare law (the Affordable Care Act) so therefore, they should not have to comply. The winners are the corporations and fundamentalist religious lobbyist groups. The losers are women employees making low wages that will have their access to preventative care greatly reduced, especially as Title X programs continue to get hit with funding cuts.
The irony of the Hobby Lobby case is that not only did the company’s insurance program previously provide for all preventative reproductive health products for women prior to filing the lawsuit, but the company’s multi-million dollar 401(k) plan is divested in Bayer, the manufacturer of one of the IUDs (Mirena) that Hobby Lobby alleged is an abortificant. Interestingly enough, the word “abortion” is not mentioned on the product description page, because it doesn’t cause abortions as alleged in the lawsuit.
It wasn’t until the Becket Fund approached this kind, Christian couple (Mr. and Mrs. Green), that they permitted their company to symbolize the anti-woman efforts of the GOP to throw us right back into the 18th century patriarchy with which they’re most comfortable. The other ironic value in all of this is that the Becket Fund represents slews of Muslims in similar cases. Fundamentalist Christians everywhere may be disappointed that they’ve been used as a pawn by a non-profit group to increase their legal celebrity. Honestly, the Becket Fund couldn’t care less about Mr. and Mrs. Hobby Lobby, and we now know, the SCOTUS majority couldn’t care less about women.
The Hobby Lobby Precedent Will Likely Sway the Female Vote Further into the Blue
The Hobby Lobby case has been eye-opening for many women, especially those that may have previously defined their political persuasion as “fiscally conservative/socially liberal.” Women who, perhaps, do not spend their time as a political and legislative watch-dogs but ample time on social media have seen Facebook strings and Twitter posts blow up in a most disturbing way. With men shamelessly making statements such as: “… if you want fuck coverage pay for that shit yourself” and “[t]he whiny ass bitches are the ones that didn’t agree with the Supreme Court’s decision” it’s becoming more difficult for women to jump on the GOP bandwagon.
Other comments by men when it comes to this issue are more obvious in their viewpoint of where women belong, such as “[r]oles in society are predetermined by our genetic makeup” and, “[g]o work somewhere else if you don’t like it”, and dismissive quips such as, “that’s like saying since men won’t pay for dinner anymore [so] women can’t eat.”
These fundamentalist self-declared Christian men are also, evidently, extremely knowledgeable in women’s medical care: “[t]he whole argument about the hormonal benefits of these pills that women take, but not for the contraceptive itself is ridiculous,” and that the “…extreme amount of pregnancies that women put themselves into by just sleeping with whomever they want because that’s what this generation does now” is by no means a reason to permit access to birth control that is only available by prescription.
Perhaps, women should just know their place: “Too many women believe the ‘my body my choice’ crap” and women should also keep this in mind next time she’s sexually assaulted: “Nobody told a chick to say yes. Nobody told her not to use protection. Nobody said she couldn’t say no.”
It’s Already Getting Ugly: The Fallout from Hobby Lobby Has Just Begun
As the slew of cases are now being heard on the coattails of Hobby Lobby, Wheaton College just received their injunction to ensure they too, will not be “overburdened” by providing an insurance policy that offers contraceptive care to women which, they feel, is in conflict with their deeply held religious beliefs. It only took a few days, and we are already watching angered women SCOTUS justices file scathing dissents against their male counterparts.
A Discouraged Woman will Likely Vote Democrat
Sadly, as women watch decades of progress get dismissed by the majority-male, conservative justices sitting on the bench in the Supreme Court (despite contentious dissents from their female counterparts), there are serious philosophical questions they must ask themselves: How do we protect and promote our economic philosophies while protecting my personal rights to my body, workplace equality, and prevent fundamentalist ideologues brow-beating me with their dogma? Since it’s merely a two-party system in for primary purposes, and until that changes, the GOP’s special-interest groups have placed the party at a great disadvantage when it comes to capturing or retaining female voter loyalty.
Christianity has its own form of Sharia Law, it seems, and while the American right-wing fundamentalist Christian men spew their disdain for all-things woman, legislate from the bench, and await the Rapture…female voters who once considered themselves fans of Reagan’s GOP, now must sadly consider jumping ship to protect themselves from the very party they once supported.
 See Women, Families and Communities: Readings in American History, (Hewitt & Delegard, 2008), 82.
 Abigail Adams “chose to make a significant observation about women’s inferior legal status by putting a standard argument to new use and by applying to the position of women striking phraseology previously employed only in the male world of politics.” Major Problems in American Women’s History, (Norton & Alexander, 2007), 128.
 See Born for Liberty: A History of Women in America, (Evans, 1997), 31.