March 6, 2012 | Chandler Marrs, PhD
Yes, you read that correctly. The current diatribes and debates about women’s health and our rights to health care are a good thing. We are seeing, perhaps for the first time in a very long while, what many individuals and organizations really think about women’s rights. For this we have the Supreme Court and Citizens United to thank.
Citizens United, the infamous Supreme Court decision that decreed corporate personhood, cemented a long brewing trend in American political conscience favoring the rights and goals of corporations and institutions over those of individuals. More than simply allowing organizations or the super-rich to buy politicians of their choosing and do so entirely unencumbered by messy citizen-based fundraising or even approval, Citizen’s United capped, like an exclamation point, the corporate and institutional priorities of the last half of the 20th century.
Unhindered by legality, or even the good sense to mask a blatant trampling of the rights of human citizens, organizational power, under the corporate personhood decision, can now progress to its logical absurdity, which it is doing with astonishing alacrity. And women’s rights are in the cross-hairs.
Nothing but the pure hubris that comes with the unbridled power of corporate sponsored politicians can explain the all-male congressional hearings on women’s health, the Blunt Amendment or the continued political capitulation to the vile diatribes of a male radio host who debases women with every breath. Did they really think these events would go unnoticed by the female population? Obviously, they did. How else does one explain such a huge strategic error in political engineering? Even a neophyte political operative, if asked, would have suggested at least giving the appearance of inclusion of women or paying lip-service to those with differing opinions, if only to manage the optics.
With corporate personhood and corporate sponsored politicians, many politicians, it appears, believe that managing the optics is no longer necessary. Forget about working for the citizenry that the politician was elected to represent (that was lost long ago) it is much more expedient to manage the ‘corporate persons’ that sponsor one’s political longevity. In many ways, politicians in this post-Citizen’s United world are freer to behave in accordance with their actual beliefs. This includes favoring the prerogatives of the corporation or large organization over those of individuals; and as we’ve seen in recent weeks, throwing women’s health under the bus.
I would argue, however, that this is dire mistake, because despite the apparent victory that Citizen’s United granted corporations and other large organizations, it was rooted in 20th century trends (and even earlier ideological foundations). Romney’s ill-fated “corporations are people” bespoke a critical truth, too quickly ignored. A corporation is not a unified entity, with a monolithic point-of-view, no matter how much money those at the top decide to throw at their chosen politician or desired political goals.
Corporations are comprised of millions of actual citizens (>50% are women) who are technologically connected and capable of launching powerful movements for or against their corporate or political leaders. Indeed, corporations and politicians are far more dependent upon the goodwill the citizenry than most realize. Consider the social media onslaught that befell proponents of the heavy-handed, industry-sponsored legislation to curtail online piracy (SOPA/PIPA) or the more recent attempt to block public access to tax-payer funded scientific research (HR3699/RWA). Both bills were blocked by internet activism. And these were relatively arcane bills. Imagine the power of millions of angry, connected women? Talk about a countervailing force to Citizen’s United, corporate shenanigans and feckless politicians; yes, this war on women is a good thing. It is awakening a sleeping giant. What this giant will do is anyone’s guess, but I’d hate to be the wrong side.