As a supporter of Bernie Sanders, my only decision when following the GOP race is which candidate is the lesser of what is now 13 evils. I decided during the first Republican debate that Jeb Bush, John Kasich and Carly Fiorina seemed like the three sanest of the GOP candidates for the 2016 election. Still, during the most recent debate I was pointedly reminded that, as a woman, approving of any of these candidates would be to effectively hand over my bodily autonomy to the Oval Office.
Fiorina, the GOP’s only female candidate, is contributing to the party’s so-called “war on women” just as much as her competitors — despite the belief of some that she is a shining beacon of hope for women voters everywhere. But it is important to remember, as The Week’s Shikha Dalmia put it, that “the X chromosome is not coded with any particular ideology.”
Viewing Fiorina as a champion of women’s rights just because she is a woman is shortsighted for many reasons, and is downright neglectful of one of the most pressing American political issues that currently exists: the Republican fight to defund Planned Parenthood.
This issue is not just a topic for the debate stage. Millions of women would be affected if Planned Parenthood is defunded, and women of color would disproportionately bear the brunt of the decision. According to The Nation, the number of black and Latina women needing access to publicly-funded healthcare services has risen more than the number of white women in the past several years, and the fate of this access is now threatened by the goals of millionaire politicians.
Whatever guise the Republican candidates choose to promote this goal under — the protection of the sanctity of life; the defense of religious liberty; because they, as Donald Trump said, “care about women” — the bottom line is clear: they don’t value the free will of women. Seeing that the Democratic Party traditionally attracts the female vote, Republic candidates should be trying to these votes over. According to the New York Times, the Republican nominee would need to win over more than 56 percent of female voters to win the election.
What’s frightening, then, is the lack of American women speaking out against Republican candidates, specifically dark horse Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett Packard. Many political news organizations, including The Guardian and CNN, have declared Fiorina the winner of Wednesday’s debate, specifically for her appeals to female voters.
“I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said,” Fiorina said in response to Donald Trump’s recent unsavory comments on her appearance, staring coolly into the camera. Her elegant retort rendered Trump speechless and has earned her significant media praise. It should not, however, have anything to do with her ability to lead this country.
Being a woman is not enough to win the votes of women, and standing up for herself is not the same as standing up for female citizens, something that she is failing to do both in her platform and in her campaign rhetoric. An example: her passionate yet blatantly false remarks about Planned Parenthood in the very same debate.
Fiorina and several of her competitors added an unsound argument to their anti-Planned Parenthood platforms Wednesday night by imploring the American people to watch the videos released by the Center for Medical Progress attacking the health clinic — videos that nearly two months ago were proven to have been manipulated, according to Politico.
Fiorina went so far as to exaggerate and lie about the content of the videos. During an impassioned address to the audience, she challenged both viewers and President Obama to watch the footage of a “fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking, while someone says ‘We have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.'” That footage simply doesn’t exist, yet Fiorina refuses to admit her mistake.
If voters are receptive to empty rhetoric like this, then the Republican Party is capable of inflicting some serious damage to women, especially those who rely on publicly-funded clinics as their sole source of reproductive healthcare. With election season not yet upon us, dangerous policies are already beginning to surface — last Friday, the House approved a bill blocking federal funding to Planned Parenthood for a year.
Ironically, despite Fiorina’s stance on abortion (pro-life), paid maternity leave (opposes a federal mandate), the pay gap (thinks it’s caused by unions and the seniority system) and virtually every other issue regarding women’s rights, she emphatically stated at the debate that “this nation will be better off when every woman has the opportunity to live the life she chooses.” If we lived in a nation where every woman was pro-life and didn’t mind being paid 77 cents to a man’s dollar, I suppose she wouldn’t be wrong.
But the fact that she and her counterparts are releasing language like this into the ether — and that people are listening — is frightening. We as women and as Americans will face incredible difficulty in fighting patriarchal norms if we’re competing with prominent politicians who will say anything to gain favor.
So be angry. Be loud. Most importantly, be skeptical. That is what this country’s women need.