Even if they worked for businesses that had religious objections »« S.1696, The Women’s Health Protection Act

Oh dear, did you hurt your hand?

The National Women’s Law Center has a great, fierce analysis of the biases of the Evil Five in the Hobby Lobby ruling on its blog. Summary: Y U ignore women, Evil Five?

The majority opinion in Hobby Lobby erases women from the picture altogether. In a decision that is squarely about women’s health and equality, the male justices in the majority refuse to acknowledge the centrality of women. And in evidencing greater concern for protecting corporations from discrimination than in protecting women from discrimination, the majority opinion creates a hierarchy of discrimination where women are at the bottom (if they even merit consideration at all).

To begin with, Justice Alito’s opinion for the majority barely mentions women. As the Washington Post reported, the opinion uses the word “women” or “woman” a mere 13 times in 49 pages. Closer reading of the majority decision makes clear that seven of those mentions were either because the majority was refuting Justice Ginsburg (and her use of “women”); summarizing the government’s position (and its use of “women”) or describing the birth control coverage requirement (a simple recitation of fact).

Well you see it wasn’t about us, it was about the owners of Hobby Lobby, and the owners of corporations in general (let’s face it, most of them aren’t women), and the bosses of religions (also nearly all men), and the boss of the whole thing (definitely male). Women are peripheral to almost everything. They’re tiny little creatures way off in the corner somewhere, who don’t count.

That leaves precisely six instances in which the majority — on its own — mentioned the word “women.” There are two possible explanations. Both are troubling.

One is that the majority purposely, as a legal and literary strategy, left out “women” — the better to hide the actual women whose rights are at stake behind asserted concerns about religious freedom. Alternately, it was unintentional, but nevertheless the result of an unacknowledged but deep-seated and culturally-reinforced worldview that just does not take women into account.

It could also have been a combination of both, I think. The strategy of leaving them out would have seemed more obviously absurd if it weren’t already so normal to leave women out of everything as it is (and then look around brightly and observe that it’s all more of a guy thing).

I’m very tired of the deep-seated and culturally-reinforced worldview that just does not take women into account.

The justices in the majority are very concerned about discrimination, but only when it appears to harm for-profit corporations. The majority opinion paints a picture of for-profit corporations that are trying to operate according to religious beliefs, but are threatened by discrimination at every turn. Focusing on the need to protect these corporations allows the majority to ignore the other harm that is at issue in the case: discrimination against women.

If birth control does not really promote public health, then it doesn’t matter if taking the benefit from these female employees means more unintended pregnancies. If requiring insurance plans to cover birth control isn’t acknowledged to close gender gaps in health care, then it doesn’t matter if only female employees lose a health insurance benefit that they earned with their work. If gender equality is not a real result of birth control access, then there is no need to consider whether women are forced to give up educational or career opportunities. If birth control is not directly linked to a woman’s health and the course of her life, then sex discrimination deserves no attention by the majority. And so it gets none.

The bottom line for the majority is that when discrimination against women is tied to their reproductive health, it is different from other forms of discrimination and consequently less important. In this case, it is certainly less important to the majority than protecting for-profit corporations — which the majority decided, for the first time, can exercise religion — from asserted religious discrimination. That justifies the decision’s final conclusion: it is not just acceptable but legally required that the religious beliefs of bosses are allowed to trump a woman’s health and access to the health care she needs.

It’s a bit like rushing to comfort the guy who bruised his knuckles punching a woman in the face, while ignoring the woman on the ground with blood pouring out of her nose.

Comments

  1. Blanche Quizno says

    I’m still waiting for SOMEone to explain to me why, in a developed democracy like the US, corporations are allowed to rule as petty monarchies where the only thing that matters is the king’s view.

    Why do we tolerate this?

  2. Snoof says

    I’m still waiting for SOMEone to explain to me why, in a developed democracy like the US, corporations are allowed to rule as petty monarchies where the only thing that matters is the king’s view.

    Why do we tolerate this?

    Free market personal responsibility government overreach blah blah blah.

  3. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    Well said Ophelia.

    Of courses in theory at least women could be bosses too and (maybe?) use this to not fund viagra or suchlike.

    But really, yeah.

    The evil five and Supreme Court who are so confused, so durn wrong they somehow think that corporations are people but women are not. Appalling.

  4. says

    Sorry for trying to inject a little trans-awareness. Since my kind and knowledge of our existence are unwelcome here, I’ll just refrain from commenting or reading here anymore.

    Sorry to have intruded on your cis-perfect world with a polite suggestion. I’ll go back to being safely invisible for you now. Enjoy your feminism!

  5. hotshoe, now with more boltcutters says

    Jesus, after that shitty flounce, CaitieCat had to go over to pharyngula and whine about how xe didn’t get the respect xe deserves here.

    Damn, I can’t even.

  6. Portia (aka Smokey the Advocate) says

    Ophelia, can you elaborate? I have suspicions about your reasons for your comment but I would rather hear from you than speculate.

    hotshoe: Do you think that CaitieCat doesn’t deserve a modicum of respect? You can’t even what? You can’t even be the least bit respectful? You say that like respect isn’t something CaitieCat does deserve. Your context leads me to think maybe you meant “deference” but you said “respect” and that means something.

  7. carlie says

    What’s wrong with mentioning that “women” and “people with uterus-related healthcare needs” aren’t entirely overlapping circles? She wasn’t asking for any change in the reporting or discussion so far, just to keep that in mind. That doesn’t take away from the fact that, politically, the huge target in this situation is the overlap, just a reminder that the non-overlapping parts exist.

  8. says

    I’m with CaitieCat. She’s merely asking people to stop treating trans*men and women as if they’re invisible.

    ****
    Ophelia:

    I’d much rather you didn’t.

    I’m really curious as to why.
    The atheist/skeptic community has been having problems with inclusiveness for some time, which you’re aware of. Heck, you’re a proponent of a more diverse movement, provided that people are treated with respect.
    This is all CaitieCat was asking for-respect. Heck, she really was just asking people to remember that trans* people exist. That’s too much to ask for?

    ****

    hotshoe:

    Jesus, after that shitty flounce, CaitieCat had to go over to pharyngula and whine about how xe didn’t get the respect xe deserves here.

    That’s a mischaracterization. Trans*men and women are routinely ignored, or treated as if they don’t even exist. She’s asking for people to just consider the fact that not all women have uteri, and not all people with uteruses are women. Is it too much to take that into consideration?
    Not to mention she wasn’t asking for nor demanding any respect.

    Your response is akin to ignoring the views of bisexual people in discussions of marriage equality. They exist as well, and many of them have a stake in marriage equality, but often, the discussion only focuses on gay men and lesbians. Asking that people keep bisexual people in mind in such a discussion isn’t asking for much more than acknowledging that they exist.

  9. opposablethumbs says

    CaitieCat’s initial comment was literally no more than a request that people not forget trans*people exist. She explicitly said that she wasn’t suggesting a change of usage at all, let alone anything else.
    The legislation is an attack on anyone with a female reproductive system, the vast majority – but not all – of whom are women, and I guess all of us would be united in opposing it.
    .
    I was heartened to read your other posts (the petition one and the Canya fixit post I mean) about the counter-legislation proposals, Ophelia. Do they have a good chance of succeeding?

  10. says

    CaitieCat’s initial comment was literally no more than a request that people not forget trans*people exist

    Well actually if that were true Caitie Cat’s comment would have said “please people don’t forget that trans people exist.”

  11. Portia (aka Smokey the Advocate) says

    CaitieCat’s initial comment was literally no more than a request that people not forget trans*people exist

    Well actually if that were true Caitie Cat’s comment would have said “please people don’t forget that trans people exist.”

    How is what she said substantively different from what you said? And why would you much rather she didn’t say what she said?

  12. says

    Ophelia:

    Well actually if that were true Caitie Cat’s comment would have said “please people don’t forget that trans people exist.

    The words she used indicate the same meaning. I’m disappointed that you’re taking this route.

  13. carlie says

    And she also mentioned that it’s not just about trans people – technically, the ruling doesn’t affect women who are post-menopausal, or who have had hysterectomies, or who have any number of intersex conditions that render their uteruses not entirely functional, or who are just plain infertile. Her first comment was about as gentle of a comment as it can get.

  14. Rob Grigjanis says

    @11: I’m struggling to see the significant difference between “may I point out that…” and “please people don’t forget that…”.

  15. carlie says

    Well, I read it as “functional uteri”, which is what my #13 was about, which was reading into it. But yeah, the main point of before still stands. It was a very soft reminder of awareness of the simple existence of people who don’t fit the classic gender binary, not trying to take over the conversation or force anything.

  16. says

    Ok, maybe my first reply was too brusque. But, frankly, I don’t see the relevance of Caitie’s request.

    Plus she’s now calling me a TERF and a transphobe, so clearly that ship has sailed.

  17. screechymonkey says

    carlie @8:

    What’s wrong with mentioning that “women” and “people with uterus-related healthcare needs” aren’t entirely overlapping circles? She wasn’t asking for any change in the reporting or discussion so far, just to keep that in mind.

    But doesn’t that imply that Caitie thinks people have forgotten it? Which seems to be based on nothing more than the fact that the OP used the term “women” instead of “people who are at risk of getting pregnant” or whatever the ideal precise phrase is* — and yet, Caitie insisted that Caitie wasn’t asking for a change in usage.

    So if Ophelia’s usage was fine, then why does she or anyone else here need a “reminder” in this specific thread of the existence of trans people? It’s either off-topic to this thread, or it’s an implied rebuke hiding behind a polite disclaimer of being one.

    It seems a lot like the folks who showed up at the thread at Pharyngula today regarding income inequality in the U.S. to “remind” us that there is income inequality in other countries, too.

    Or, as Ophelia asks @16, what’s the relevance?

    *even that phrase isn’t perfect, either, because some people take oral contraceptives for reasons unrelated to preventing pregnancy.

  18. Pteryxx says

    So if Ophelia’s usage was fine, then why does she or anyone else here need a “reminder” in this specific thread of the existence of trans people? It’s either off-topic to this thread, or it’s an implied rebuke hiding behind a polite disclaimer of being one.

    Um, any thread would be “this specific thread”. Caitie specifically asked to keep the existence of trans people in mind as this topic continues to be discussed, remember? (see #4)

    Just for consideration in the discussions over the next few weeks around these issues.

    And yes, since this particular OP is about the erasure of women as a class from the Hobby Lobby decision, I think it’s on-topic to point out the erasure of trans people from the ongoing discussion and this OP itself. There cannot be ANY on-topic way to point out an erasure if the group being erased isn’t mentioned in the OP, can there?

  19. screechymonkey says

    And yes, since this particular OP is about the erasure of women as a class from the Hobby Lobby decision, I think it’s on-topic to point out the erasure of trans people from the ongoing discussion and this OP itself. There cannot be ANY on-topic way to point out an erasure if the group being erased isn’t mentioned in the OP, can there?

    Well, you could bring it up in the Withdrawing Room. But I take your point about there being a connection between erasure of women as a class and erasure of other groups. Still, that seems rather remote to me, especially because Caitie didn’t explain how trans people were being erased from this discussion.

    Are there particular concerns of trans people that relate to the Hobby Lobby decision that haven’t been covered? That’s not a rhetorical question, by the way — I may very well be missing something. But it’s not very productive to a discussion to just drop an implied “you’re missing something important here” without explaining what that important aspect is.

    Because honestly, if I take Caitie’s post at face value and accept that there’s no intended criticism of the language used, then I don’t quite understand what the point is. Which is perhaps a Trans Issues 101 -type question on my part, but is that out of place here?

  20. John Morales says

    Pteryxx @20,

    And yes, since this particular OP is about the erasure of women as a class from the Hobby Lobby decision, I think it’s on-topic to point out the erasure of trans people from the ongoing discussion and this OP itself. There cannot be ANY on-topic way to point out an erasure if the group being erased isn’t mentioned in the OP, can there?

    It is true that referring to ‘fecund people’ rather than to “women” would be more accurate, but it is not true that trans people have been erased from the ongoing discussion, as preceding comments demonstrate*.

    (What is the population percentage of fecund men?)

    * The expectation of which was perhaps in Ophelia’s mind in her unfortunately snippy retort.

  21. HappiestSadist, Repellent Little Martyr says

    It is transphobic as hell to refuse to acknowledge that some trans (asterisks are not necessary or helpful) people are affected by this shit. While the main focus of the shit is against women and strictly misogynist, trans people of various sorts are hit by splash damage, and while the focus should be on the misogyny, aggressively denying that trans people are also hurt is not at all okay.

    love,
    A nonbinary trans person with a uterus. That doesn’t work.

  22. carlie says

    I read it as pre-emptive, that if this keeps going into an ongoing discussion about the way women are being treated in US society, that at some point there might be a big intersection with trans issues, so just laying some groundwork to start with to remember it’s there.

  23. HappiestSadist, Repellent Little Martyr says

    screechymonkey: Not all people who can get pregnant are women. Ignoring the splash damage that trans people of various sorts get, and then getting shitty when it’s pointed out that one did so, is not cool.

  24. carlie says

    I guess I just don’t see the harm? An “ok, will do” would have ended it right there. And there are some intersections – what about a transman who gets pregnant? Now you’ve got multiple layers of difficulty. It’s no more off-topic than if someone said “and remember that women of color are going to be hit by this even harder by this restriction than you are imagining due to the fact that society already sides with their aggressors in a racial way too”. It’s not “people in another situation entirely have it worse”, it’s “please remember there is a range of how bad this particular situation is for all the people it affects”.

  25. says

    @ 24 – I didn’t refuse to acknowledge that some trans people are affected by this shit.

    @ 26 – What does it mean to say “Ignoring the splash damage that trans people of various sorts get is not cool”? Are you saying a blogger has to mention everything, and that failure to mention everything is not cool?

  26. says

    carlie, it’s not that there’s harm. It’s that I don’t much like being told what to write about. I can’t cover everything; other people are far more knowledgeable than I am about many things; therefore I don’t write about everything.

  27. carlie says

    Ophelia – oh, I see where you’re coming from now. I read CatieCat’s suggestion as to everyone commenting and discussing it, not directed at you specifically.

  28. says

    yes by all means refer to us as “uterus bearers” or “vagina havers” or “people who can get pregnant” as to obscure the sexist nature of the oppression that exists in the fight to restrict abortion and birth control access. Because that helps a lot, right? Yeah no. Gender is a hierarchy with men on the top and women on the bottom, and this is one of the many manifestations of that (since women are generally the people who are getting pregnant and need birth control to prevent it). Its a class analysis.

    The vast, vast majority of people who can get pregnant are women. All of the people who can get pregnant are biologically female. Although I know pointing that out is also deemed problematic for transactivists. I want women to be able to name their experiences in a way that is authentic to them and their experiences of oppression.

  29. HappiestSadist, Repellent Little Martyr says

    No, if you’re talking about people who are being hurt, you should not just get huffy if someone points out that you’re either ignoring or misgendering them. Yes, you should focus on the misogyny behind it, but there is also transphobia, which is a thing!

    And you pretty much did say you don’t wanna acknowledge it with the “I’d rather you didn’t”.

  30. HappiestSadist, Repellent Little Martyr says

    “Biologically female”

    Okay, Skeptifem. Nice TERFing.

  31. says

    Carlie – oh. Yes, I read it as asking me to add mentions of trans people when I write about Hobby Lobby. That seems just kind of insultingly formulaic to me, not to say a form of appropriation.

    But if I read it wrong well then um ooops.

  32. says

    @ 32 – who are the people I’m either ignoring or misgendering?

    Yes, transphobia is a thing; what does it have to do with the Hobby Lobby ruling?

  33. John Morales says

    Ophelia @34, I think you did read it wrong because CaitieCat was addressing the reader, not just you.

  34. carlie says

    I’m way overstepping in assumptions, but CaitieCat comments at Pharyngula a lot, and you know that there we talk at everyone in the comment section with impunity – once the comments start in I don’t think it’s ever assumed that anyone is talking at the Original Poster anymore as much as to everyone else commenting and reading along. At least, that’s the spin I took on it (especially since she said “anyone” and “discussions” instead of “posts”). It’s a much different type of interaction here because you are much more active in the comment sections, and the comments are much more often conversations directly with you. I can see how she might have assumed one audience (everyone) while you and other commenters more familiar with this setup read it as being more pointedly aimed.

  35. hotshoe, now with more boltcutters says

    If youR’e referring to her post in the Lounge, this is patently NOT true.
    She said you had a tolerance for TERF comments.

    And CaitieCat was lying when xe said that.

    Here’s what xe actually said:

    Given her [Ophelia's] long history of being okay with some pretty TERFy comments [a lying slur against Ophelia with no evidence from CC], I think the chances of her apologizing and/or in any way acknowledging a problem are twofold: slim, and fat.
    And in the end, knowing who the transphobes are [as CC underhandedly insinuates Ophelia is one] just makes my reading list shorter, so I’ll go find someone [other than Ophelia] who doesn’t prefer not to acknowledge that I exist [a lying slur against Ophelia with no evidence from CC], and give them my eyeballs on their ad-bearing posts. *shrug* I don’t much give a rat’s arse whether a transphobe respects me or not, and it is useful to know your enemy [Ophelia] .

    Earlier here, CaitieCat made a remark, got a short answer xe didn’t like, and then had a vicious meltdown in 5 sentences — then apparently psyched up for more drama – went back to pharygula to agitate. Err, to “vent”.

    And here you are. On the wrong side of the facts. Too bad. I like you, usually, but you really do need to pay more attention before you believe hoked-up reasons to scold Ophelia.

  36. says

    hotshoe

    And CaitieCat was lying when xe said that.

    She was not. There’s a really transphobic comment right here in this thread by skeptifem who insists that transmen are female.
    Even if she was lying, what does it have to do with the price of butter?
    Even if Ophelia had never let a transphobic comment stand, this still does not make the claim “she calls me a TERF and transphobic” true in any sense.

    a lying slur

    You don’t know what a slur is, right?
    Also, could you provide some evidence that Caitie is lying, as in “intentionally not saying the truth”?
    No?
    Thought so.

  37. says

    The fact that a comment appears and remains should not be taken as = I am “okay with” it. I don’t remove or rebut every single comment I disagree with – there aren’t enough hours in the day, and besides it would make for a boring wasteland.

    And it is indeed bullshit to say I have a “long history of being okay with some pretty TERFy comments.”

    Also – that “No? Thought so.” trope is annoying. You can’t pretend people haven’t answered when you’re still in the same comment where you asked the question.

  38. hotshoe, now with more boltcutters says

    Even if she was [were] lying, what does it have to do with the price of butter?

    It has to do with CaitieCat’s garbage distortions which, somehow, spur people like you into behaving like fools.

    Okay, maybe CC wasn’t actually lying, not deliberately telling something xe knew was untrue – I think xe was lying on purpose, and I think xe did it for the hurt drama – but maybe not. Maybe CC just said it out of stupidity, with less impulse control than the average adult, and with uncharitable desire to tar Ophelia to bolster CC’s own narrative of imaginary victimhood in this place:

    [CC says] Since my kind and knowledge of our existence are unwelcome here … Enjoy your feminism!

    Me, I’d rather believe that CC was, unfortunately, lying than to believe that you prefer defending a stupid, childish, self-pitying arse. But that’s just me. Suit yourself.

    You don’t know what a slur is, right?

    Yes, I do know. Do you? Do you think the pharyngula usage of “slur” is the only legitimate definition?

  39. hotshoe, now with more boltcutters says

    The fact that a comment appears and remains should not be taken as = I am “okay with” it. I don’t remove or rebut every single comment I disagree with – there aren’t enough hours in the day, and besides it would make for a boring wasteland.

    And it is indeed bullshit to say I have a “long history of being okay with some pretty TERFy comments.”

    Also – that “No? Thought so.” trope is annoying. You can’t pretend people haven’t answered when you’re still in the same comment where you asked the question.

    Thanks for that, Ophelia.

    Also, thank you for being more concise, reasonable, and polite than I ever am; you show me somebody I can aspire to be like. When I grow up :P

    And sorry, I know it’s not really appropriate for me to carry on side-discussions with people from pharyngula here in your home, but I did it anyways. Sorry, going to stop doing that.

    [Here's me shutting up now]

  40. says

    Oh, it’s fine, hotshoe – it’s certainly not a conversation I want to have, and it’s good to have the bullshit called bullshit.

    And thank you!

  41. says

    Hotshoe

    Okay, maybe CC wasn’t actually lying, not deliberately telling something xe knew was untrue – I think xe was lying on purpose, and I think xe did it for the hurt drama

    By now there’s no other interpretation than you misgendering her intentionally.
    I have no interest in any further discussion with you. Bye.

  42. says

    Very confusing thread, no idea why CatieCat’s simple suggestion that people commenting on this might want to consider trans people too was handled so badly. It wasn’t a demand or directed at anyone, I really can’t think how the comment at #4 could have been phrased any more politely! Must be very frustrating to phrase a simple request for acknowledgement that your struggles and identity are important and more often than not totally erased in these conversations, and be dismissed. In a comment section, where you are supposed to bring up things like that!

    Anyway, I’m sorry to see her (Pretty sure she/her are preferred pronouns, not “xe”) go, she is a great commenter who has blogged at Shakesville and posted guest posts for Miri. The loss is B&Ws and down to a dismissive response to a reasonable request, all presumably a misunderstanding … But seemingly this is to be ignored in preference to focussing on her subsequent comments and how terrible they are. Hmm…

    Anyway, a good bit of CatieCat’s writing to add to the thread where she leaves B&W.
    http://www.shakesville.com/2010/06/defensiveness-as-signpost-of-privilege.html

  43. says

    Ha, Hitler, funny. Cos mild criticism is equating people to one of the biggest mass murderers of all time, maybe I’m being an FTBully too? Disappointing to see you use the same tactic there Ophelia, not the response I’d expect of you. A person was seriously hurt by your words, you didn’t mean to I’m sure. None of this is the “worst” thing ever, neither is it so piffling that it is not worth talking about in a comment section. Trying to dismiss the criticism by painting it that way is not good.

    Personally I empathise as I just can’t imagine Ophelia herself acting in anything other than a similar way if there was a post on RDF (for example) about something which affected women, but didn’t mentioning them or how it affects them particularly. Ophelia says, politely, can we just remember that thing X also affects women and this is often forgotten about or they are erased. Male-blogger responds dismissively saying, “Can we not” … Hmmm. I can just see an “It’s a guy thing” like reaction, with roles reversed and the usual suspects dismissing the “three words of sheer horror” as “making them just like Hitler” and being an “FTBully” to “Male-blogger” with the terrible, searing, mild criticism and pointing out of how the words used seemed to dismiss the valid concerns of a marginalised group. So yeah, ironic that applying my mental model of how Ophelia would respond in the same situation makes me side with CatieCat here!

Trackbacks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>