Why now? That was the question that I decided to answer when I set out to write this speech for this year’s Skepticon about the religious right’s war on women, which—in case you haven’t noticed—has been turned up dramatically in recent years. I’ve done a lot of written and spoken work chronicling the war on women in that time, but it was nice to have an opportunity to stand before a pro-secular audience and talk about why.
The why, I think, is not immediately obvious. I mean, we all get why the religious right wants to take away women’s rights and pressure women to return to the status of second class citizens, because, for the men who run the religious right, being superior is its own reward. That, and you get to have children without changing diapers. But why are they all fired up about it right now? My theory is, in part, that it’s because of Barack Obama, and not just because women elected him. As I state in the speech, Obama’s election is a crisis moment for the religious right because it makes it pretty much impossible for them to maintain the illusion that they are the dominant culture in American society. If a black man with a “Muslim” name can be President, then the alarming possibility arises that they not only are losing their control of this country, but that it might actually all be over already and the secularists, feminists, and anti-racists have won. So they’re lashing out and trying to reassert authority in the best way they know how, but intensifying claims of ownership over women. This isn’t just conjecture. You’ll see in the video that right wingers speak regularly as if the end of our country were near, and then use that claim to support arguments for undermining women’s rights.
That it’s gotten more intense, I believe, is indisputable after watching that video. I made a point to barely talk about abortion but focus on all the other battles. Not that I don’t think abortion is an important issue—it is—but because it’s easy to get distracted by disingenuous claims that conservatives oppose it on the grounds of “life”. But the discourse about women and their lives coming from the right has grown beyond just hand-wringing over fetuses. Just today, for instance, we got to enjoy Fox News do a segment where women were straight up told that it’s impossible to have a husband and a full time job. Perhaps this clip will go into the talk the next time I give it. Anyway, enjoy the talk and the clips and my love of talking with my hands. And check out the rest of the talks at Skepticon, most of which were delightful.