On the floor of the United States House of Representatives, Phil Gingrey railed against the horrors of gay marriage and said:
[W]e need to go back into the schools at a very early age, maybe at the grade school level, and have a class for the young girls and have a class for the young boys and say, you know, this is what’s important. This is what a father does that is maybe a little different, maybe a little bit better than the talents that a mom has in a certain area. And the same thing for the young girls, that, you know, this is what a mom does, and this is what is important from the standpoint of that union which we call marriage.
In case you’re wondering, Phil Gingrey is not a caveman. He’s a Republican Congressman from Georgia (although the distinction between the former and latter can sometimes blur). And in case you’re wondering, this did not happen in 1813 or even 1913 but just this past week, in the year 2013. A year in which a record albeit still pathetically low number of women were elected to Congress and yet we still have prominent male politicians and political commentators arguing that incremental progress in women’s equality is a sign of the downfall of civilization, not progress.
But you might also be wondering: What would such gender classes look like? Because before we dismiss Rep. Gingrey’s grunts about raising “ideal” women and men in society, maybe we should explore what he might mean.
To begin with, there’s hunting and gathering. Traditionally, women do the gathering and men do the hunting. So, bonus for Republicans, I’m sure men will be needing more guns. As for the womenfolk, I guess the modern day equivalent of gathering in America is going to Walmart though if women aren’t working and Republicans refuse to raise the minimum wage for the men who are, I’m not sure how the women are supposed to afford anything. So in our hyper-commodified economy, does “gathering” mean shoplifting? Gonna be a real tragedy when, thanks to conservative three strikes laws, moms who take food for their kids or socks end up with life sentences.
Okay, so maybe the gender classes would be more circa 1800s. In that era, for the first century or so of our nation’s history, women were considered the property of their husbands. That meant, for instance, that since one could do whatever one wanted with his property, marital rape was not a crime — rape of course being a topic I know Republicans don’t like to talk about but I thought I’d bring it up just in case. Also women couldn’t vote, which might come as a let down to Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.) who chaired the session at which Rep. Gingrey made his tirade and then thanked Gingrey for his remarks. Gingrey’s wife and three daughters might also want to vote and, you know, exert control over their own lives and bodies but, as Rep. Gingrey said himself, “father knows best”.
In many traditional gender role society’s today, from Malawi to Saudi Arabia and in between, girls are discouraged or outright blocked from getting an education. However, importing this practice to the United States could be handy. We could deal with our student debt crisis not by lowering interest rates, which Republicans oppose, but simply removing half the population from college altogether. Also, without access to an education, perhaps the next generation of women wouldn’t learn how oppressed they are — which would certainly be helpful in maintaining the sexist status quo into the future.
Recently, my colleague at Fox News Bill O’Reilly suggested that if your son likes the color pink, “you might have to send him to camp.” Which implies that in addition to Gingrey’s in-school tutorials on traditional gender roles, there will also be a summer program! The boys will learn archery and domestic violence. The girls will scrub floors and crochet burkas. And unlike my favorite memories of summer camp, there will be no hanky panky in the bunk houses, especially not with bunkmates of the same gender — or else you’ll be sent to an even worse summer camp that more closely resembles the third ring of hell.
I know change is hard and that some folks like Rep. Gingrey see our nation’s slow but steady march toward equal opportunity for women as a mark of shame, not pride. I know some men would like women to just stop complaining about rape and equal pay and instead standby — or behind — their men and all men. But still, thankfully, there’s a majority of men and women who see progress toward gender equality and liberation as as a positive development — reaching toward our nation’s promise of a more perfect union in which more of us are more fully included. For us, Rep. Gingrey is the real shame.
UPDATE: The Huffington Post cross-posted this here (thanks Arianna!).