If you are Republican or sincerely religiously Christian you may not want to read this, because I am mad as hell and I’m about to go off. Still here? Well no whining at the end of this post, because I tried to warn you.
There’s been a lot of press regarding the extension of hate crimes by our government to cover gender identity and homosexuality. This is a good thing. It’s about time. I’d now like to talk about another sort of hate crime. A group of crime that is so widespread it isn’t even acknowledged as hate crime most of the time. That would be crimes against women.
You may or may not have heard of Jamie Leigh Jones, the Halliburton/KBR employee that, while in Baghdad by way of government contract, was gang-raped in 2005 by her co-workers. In an attempt to cover up the incident, the company then put her in a shipping container without food or water and threatened to fire her if she reported the incident or attempted to seek medical attention. Jones was unable to sue KBR for sex discrimination in open court because KBR was one of many companies with government contracts that require employees to sign individual contracts barring lawsuits and forcing mandatory binding arbitration, where the company almost always wins.
Fast forward to October 2009. Senator Al Franken (D-Minn) introduces an amendment to the Defense Appropriations bill that would punish contractors if they “restrict their employees from taking workplace sexual assault, battery and discrimination cases to court.”
Now, most people might think this is a no-brainer. In an age where hate crime protection gets extended to include gay and transgender people, one might expect that an amendment that says raped women can seek justice through open court would pass unanimously and be embraced by all normal functioning human beings. But we aren’t dealing with normal functioning human beings. We’re dealing with the Senate. We’re dealing with politicians.
Thirty, that’s right 30, white male Republicans voted against this amendment. Included in this most classy of crowds is almost-president John McCain. Also included in the mix is my own Senator (not that I ever voted for him) John Ensign.
The question is this: WTF!?!?! What are they thinking?!
Republicans point out that the amendment is opposed by a range of business interests, including the U.S. Chamber of Congress. Oh. I see. So what you’re telling me is civil and criminal rights to women only count as long as it doesn’t impact some corporation’s bottom line. We need to protect the right of businesses to cover up rape and other violence against women in order to protect capitalism. It’s the American way, donchaknow?
Is there anything else that might be going on here? Take Ensign, for instance, since he is so near and dear to my heart. Ensign is an uber-conservative born-again Christian with a 100% approval rating by the Christian Coalition. He has participated in rallies by the Promise Keepers, a male evangelical group that promotes marital fidelity. It also happens that he is an adulterer. And not just any old commonplace adulterer, mind you - the kind of adulterer that fucks his own friend’s wife. But I digress. My point is that he is THE quintessential conservative Christian Republican. And by and large, what do most conservative evangelical Christians believe about the role of women in society? Stay at home, bear as many children as the Lord blesses you with, and remain subservient to and dependent on your husband. This, they profess, is God’s design.
So let’s go back to Jones and the issue at hand. If a woman is employed by a government contractor, clearly she is not at home popping out babies and serving her man. She is, essentially, going against God’s design by working outside the home and therefore deserves all the heinous punishments that are the natural consequence of disobeying The Law. If you take this argument to its logical conclusion, then clearly Jones, as well as any woman audacious enough to try to have a life other than popping out babies starting at the legal age of marriage, deserves to get raped and denied any hope of legal justice. This is God’s justice.
If this isn’t hate speech and hate crime, I don’t know what is. You can dress it up and say it’s a legitimate religious philosophy if you want. You can also put lipstick on a pig, so I’m told. At the end of the day a pig is a pig, and a violent crime committed against a woman for no other reason than the fact that she is a woman is a hate crime and deserves to be treated and prosecuted as such.
Is it too much to want protection under the law for all women, not only women who were once men? I don’t believe I’ll see the end of hate crimes against women in my lifetime. After all, hate crimes against women are probably the oldest form of hate crime in existence. I would like to think that the legal definition of hate crime may one day include the group known as women. But as long as this country is run by corporations and religious fundamentalist nutjobs, I won’t be holding my breath.