Americans like to pretend that our nation is the “land of the free,” forged on ideals of tolerance and equality, a shining star of civilization among the unwashed masses of the world. This election cycle has proved that this is true – if you happen to be a white Christian male. Any other demographic will find a much less accepting and tolerant America than the one politicians effusively laud in their stump speeches.
It is especially bad if you happen to be a woman in America. A United Nations working group recently released a report that had a scathing indictment of how we discriminate and repress a full half of our population:
“Nevertheless, in global context, US women do not take their rightful place as citizens of the world’s leading economy, which has one of the highest rates of per capita income. In the US, women fall behind international standards as regards their public and political representation, their economic and social rights and their health and safety protections.
The extreme polarisation of politics is profoundly affecting the ability of the Government to ratify CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of All of Forms of Discrimination Against Women) and to guarantee women’s human rights. We understand the complexity of federalism but this cannot be regarded as a justification for failure to secure these rights. Under the Vienna Declaration, these rights are universal, indivisible and inalienable.
The United States, which is a leading state in formulating international human rights standards, is allowing its women to lag behind international human rights standards. While all women are the victims of these missing rights, women who are poor, belong to Native American, Afro-American and Hispanic ethnic minorities, migrant women, LBTQ women, women with disabilities and older women are disparately vulnerable.
Anyone who has paid attention to recent politics knows this is true – and knows that conservatism is at the heart of the problem. The rise of religious extremists in the Republican Party are behind the relentless campaign to strip women of their right to make their own reproductive choices, to demonize and ostracize them for exercising their right to an abortion; and to deprive them of their healthcare providers. This disgusting smear campaign has become a central theme in the Republican presidential discourse and has been accompanied by a wave of barbaric legislation in red states that is more appropriate for Wahhabi Saudi Arabia than the so called-land of the free.
The report goes on to roundly disparage the United States and our Republican politicians for refusing to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (rejected by heavily Republican states), for being one of TWO (the other is Papa New Guinea) countries in the world that does not have mandatory paid maternity leave, for having a healthcare system that severely neglects poor women and minorities, and for doing extraordinarily little to address the epidemic of sexual violence that American women must endure at the hands of men – some 293,000 reported cases of sexual assault every year – or one every 107 seconds.
That’s just reported attacks. 68% of sexual assaults are never reported, because American society shames the victim and blames her for her own rape. Almost half the victims are under the age of 18. Monstrous crimes take place in the United States every minute, but all the Republican Party has to offer is victim-shaming and loud condemnations of female sexuality while celebrating the white Christian male’s right to be a sexual predator.
It is the foulest of hypocrisies with which we criticize other nations for their human rights agendas when we cannot protect the rights of half our population. The Republican Party needs to look deep within themselves and ask them how their virulently misogynist agendas differ from those of the Islamic State or other ultraconservatives theocracies. American women may not have to wear a hijab, but what does it say about us that there is an entire news channel dedicated to shaming women for their sexuality? That we must put up with reprehensible gender-traitors like Carly Fiorina who have made reinforcing the patriarchy a central tenet of her campaign, in a desperate and pathetic sell-out to white Christian voters?
The medieval zealots of Iowa and Texas do not represent the American people, and it’s far beyond time we stopped accommodating the delusional demands of religious extremists at the expense of women, minorities, and the well-being of the American people as a whole. This report by the United Nations is a damning indictment of our entire political system for allowing such rampant discrimination and a refutation of our entire self-image. This next election will be a referendum on what kind of nation we want to be, and only by voting Democratic can fully bring our nation out of the putrid swamps of primitive patriarchal structures and into a more enlightened union of diversity and tolerance.
Colin Taylor is the editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.