After losing the Virginia governor’s race because single women voted for the Democrat by a margin of 42 points, Republicans have found the solution. They will teach their candidates how to, in Speaker John Boehner’s words, “be a little more sensitive” to the ladies. But Republicans painting over policy differences with pretty words piles insult on top of offense and will do little to close the gender gap.
Their problem goes much deeper than calling Texas’ Wendy Davis “Abortion Barbie” or “Retard Barbie” and making sexualized attacks on Kentucky’s Alison Lundergan Grimes-though it would be nice if Republicans would stop using sex to minimize women.
Apologies without change matter little. In this case women are only getting flowers and a stated desire to move on without acknowledging, much less fixing, the real problem. Republicans aren’t saying they will change, only that they will use nicer-sounding words when proposing policies diametrically opposed to the way women choose to live their lives in the 21st Century.
For example, they don’t like it when Republicans express Paleozoic attitudes on sexual assault, such as Todd Akin’s infamous “legitimate rape” comment. Most recently, Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-19th Century) theorized during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on military sexual assault that perhaps the young male soldiers just couldn’t help themselves around the opposite gender.
“Gee-whiz, the hormone level created by nature sets in place the possibility for these types of things to occur,” he said.
Here’s a tip for Republicans: The only proper opinion to hold on rape is that men should stop doing it. Sensitivity is not what is required here, but respect. To Sen. Chambliss’ comment, murder is also a possibility, but somehow a woman hasn’t shot him yet.
There is not a sensitive way to vote against equal pay for women, against funding to investigate and prosecute violent crimes against women, or for closing Planned Parenthood clinics where women receive annual exams and birth control pills.
There is not a sensitive way to lie to women that oral contraception causes abortions. There is no sensitive way to hold a congressional hearing on the birth control mandate in Obamacare and not allow women to testify. There is not a sensitive way to call Sandra Fluke a “slut” for wanting insurance to cover her birth control pills.
Here’s another tip for Republicans, just because it’s the holiday season: If a doctor prescribes it and insurance covers it, it is medicine. The Founding Fathers did not envision Louie Gohmert making medical decisions for women, though to be fair, they did not envision women voting either.
“Speaker Boehner thinks women continue to reject Republicans at the ballot box because of a lack of sensitivity? Think again. Women don’t need Republicans to patronize, condescend or be delicate about their feelings. They need them to represent the values important to them and their families. No softer language learned in media training will convince women that the party that opposes equal pay, pledges to defund Planned Parenthood and proposes bans on their health care choices is the one looking out for their best interests,” said Lily Adams with the Democratic National Committee.
Women care about things other than what directly affects their reproductive organs, such as jobs, education, crime, terrorism, traffic, the environment, and retirement. They’re really not that different from men in this regard, which is the last tip Republicans are getting today.
Regardless, Republicans seem singularly focused on lady parts, a habit that grates even on the top Republican elected woman in Texas, Comptroller Susan Combs.
“Tell me that you give a flip about women’s interests,” Combs said. “If all you want to talk about is my biology, ‘Gee what happened to my brain?’ That is my point. It is not all south of the waistline.”
The better question might be what happened to the party that venerates individual freedom but does not respect women enough to make their own health care decisions. They can have all the sensitivity seminars they want, but until Republicans learn there is not a nice way to insult women, women will continue to vote against them.
Jason Stanford is a Democratic consultant who writes columns for the Austin American-Statesman and MSNBC. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @JasStanford.