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Look out, ladies! The divinely-appointed duo of George W. Bush and Pope John Paul II are on the prowl again, bringing their patented one-two punch to boudoirs and back alleys everywhere. Last summer, the pious pair launched simultaneous broadsides against the apocalyptic threat of gay marriage; now they’re firing their missiles of moral correction at the ultimate source of the world’s distemper: uppity females.
This week the Pope’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (known as "The Inquisition" back in the glory days) released a "major statement" on the status of women. The Inquisitors declared that women who resist their subordination to men too strongly are "giving rise to harmful confusion" and perverting their "natural characteristics" of "listening, welcoming, humility, faithfulness, praise and waiting."
It seems these pushy broads should instead be focusing on the "deep intuition" planted in them by God that makes them want to breed and nurture. (As opposed to intuitionless men, who apparently have no role whatsoever in reproduction or parenting–which, come to think of it, might well seem a logical conclusion to the lifelong celibates luxuriating in the Vatican.) Today’s "gender-blurring" agitation for equality is not only making men feel all wiggly and "antagonistic," the Inquisitors say, it’s also having "lethal effects on the structure of the family."
And you probably thought that wife-beating, child neglect and all the single mothers living in poverty had something to with men abandoning their responsibilities. You probably thought that family breakdown had something to do with the systematic destruction of community ties, local economies, stable employment and social programs by rapacious corporate power and its government toadies. But no, it’s all the fault of those brazen hussies, same as it ever was: "She took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband, and he did eat."
This unctuous moralizing about family life and sexuality is pretty rich coming from a gang that has presided over the most widespread, elaborately concealed child abuse scandal in the history of religion. But then rank hypocrisy has never been a bar to militant self-righteousness. Witness John Paul’s fellow public scold in Washington. Not content with the pope’s merely rhetorical flourishes, Bush takes a more pre-emptive approach to inconvenient women–condemning thousands of them to gruesome, entirely preventable deaths with a simple stroke of his pen.
Just days before JP pitched his holy hissy fit, Bush quietly performed his now-annual gutting of appropriations aimed at helping the world’s most vulnerable women gain a bare minimum of reproductive health care. For the third straight year, Bush cut $34 million of Congressionally approved money for the UN Population Fund, which runs maternity hospitals, provides family planning advice and dispenses sterile emergency birth kits for refugees and other destitute women in developing countries.
The Fund is not involved in abortion in any way, but because it has a tiny operation in China–trying to stop the dwindling practice of forced abortions there–it has been damned to hellfire by the hard-right Christian culture warriors now in charge of U.S. health and social policies. Bush has not only anathematized the Fund, he has also cut off all U.S. money for private women’s health groups with even the slightest, indirect connection to the "tainted" UN agency.
The centers operated by the Fund and the other Bush-banned groups provide the only maternal and post-natal care available for millions of destitute women and their children. They are the only place where the world’s most downtrodden and uneducated women can receive information about reproduction and birth control, or treatment for AIDs, genital mutilation and rape. Starved of American funding by Bush, many clinics have already been forced to shut down; dozens more will close or be decimated by this year’s cuts. The result, of course, will be more women dying in childbirth, in illegal abortions, of untreated disease, violence, malnutrition, more infants and children dying of birth-related illnesses–an annual death toll in the hundreds of thousands.
Guess that’ll teach them gals not to get above their raising–or subvert the "natural order" by seeking control of their own bodies, their own fertility and sexuality.
Of course, it’s true that giving women in the developing world a few more choices on childbearing and sex–and enough health care to overcome the ravages of disease, neglect, poverty and violence–would actually transform the repressed, miasmic societies where terrorism now breeds so prodigiously. For female emancipation leads inevitably–if slowly, painfully–to new economic, political and social freedoms throughout any society where it takes hold. You’d think someone genuinely interested in ending terrorism–as opposed to, say, milking it for crony profits and political advantage–would support such efforts. Instead, Bush has taken sides with his supposed enemies–bin Laden, Mullah Omar, Abu Zarqawi, the whole sick crew–in throttling the freedom of half the human race.
This president-pontiff routine is drearily familiar. The Pope has long fought to roll back the bodily freedoms won by Western women, while American leaders armed, trained and financed the virulent fundamentalists who destroyed all traces of the budding secularism in Afghanistan–and have since taken their show on the road. Islamic extremism is thriving everywhere on the bloody chaos created by Bush’s invasion of Iraq, as societies under threat rebel against the "Western values" his murderous belligerence claims to represent.
But this doesn’t matter to our fine Christian mullahs; they share the extremists’ sanctified misogyny: Eve plucked the apple, and her punishment is eternal. Upon this altar of willful ignorance, millions of women are being sacrificed.
CHRIS FLOYD is a columnist for The Moscow Times and a regular contributor to CounterPunch. His book, Empire Burlesque: The Secret History of the Bush Regime, will be released this month. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.