The GOP primary election has brought much misery to this nation. It seems like Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul will never give up the ghost and the Republican Party will never give up on Rick Santorum in the fleeting hope that they might avoid having Mitt Romney as its presidential nominee. But the GOP election debacle has also brought about the awakening of an old movement.
One of the reasons Santorum has gained so much popularity in this primary is because he represents the last hope for evangelical Christians and social conservatives to regain the kind of power and influence they once held in the Reagan presidency. Over the past couple of decades, we have seen major inroads for women, the nonreligious and the LGBT community. This is something that enrages those like Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, who just this week met with Santorum in an attempt to figure out how to boost his declining candidacy after his primary loss in Wisconsin.
The fact that Santorum has lasted this long in the primary has brought into focus some of his ideas for political policy that he would impose on the United States if he were elected president. This coincided with an incident that occurred last February, in which President Barack Obama ordered that contraceptives be included in basic medical care as part of his health plan, including at Catholic-run hospitals and clinics. This set off a firestorm of controversy in both the various feminist and religious communities. The GOP-led House of Representatives responded by holding a religious freedom panel on the subject in which no women were present to discuss the contraceptive decision, only male religious leaders. To rub salt in the wound, one GOPer, a Republican from California, Darrell Issa, even went as far to say that the issue had more to do with religious rights than contraception.
In the last few months, other controversies have arisen regarding women’s rights. Rush Limbaugh received stern rebuke from many across the nation (including many advertisers) after calling the one woman allowed to testify at the hearing, Sandra Fluke, a “slut” after she defended birth control. Many in the media have brought attention to the plight of women in Middle Eastern countries, like Egypt after the Arab Spring, where Sharia Law is now being implemented. Saudi Arabia has said it might ban women from participating on its Olympic team, leading some to call for the country to be banned from the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. And the latest controversy to gain national attention is that of the Augusta National Golf Club, a private Georgia golf club that was picked to host the Master’s Tournament this year, which has banned women from membership in its club since its founding in 1933.
In the past few months, issues that have always affected women but have been sidelined by the media since the early 1980s are once again gaining prominence. And as always, issues of freedom FROM religion and LGBTQ rights (which are closely connected to women’s rights historically) also remain in the spotlight simultaneously. Could we be seeing the rise of a new wave of feminism? One that might settle many of the issues facing both women and sexual minorities? If that is the case, and if the GOP is partially responsible for sparking this movement, then that is one thing we can thank it for.