The NY Times (April 3, 2012) made this provocative statement in an article called “US Culture War with Women at Its Center.” The article pointed out that recent political campaigns have focused on restricting women’s rights in the areas of access to health care, reproductive rights, equal pay and domestic violence. That was written well before the current political crisis which has seen an all-out assault on women’s rights.
In her chapter The U.S. Political War against Women (A Womb of Her Own. Routledge. 2017) Marilyn Metzl states that women still remain the hated “other” and a disdained minority. Metzl quotes Jessica Valenti (2010) who states, “We’re suffering under the mass delusion that women in America have achieved equality. Despite the immeasurable rights gained over the past decades, women are still being raped, trafficked, violated and discriminated against.” Metzl then goes on to affirm that international organizations are joining together and marshaling their energy to end the abuse and oppression of women and girls worldwide, and to enact laws to advance gender equality. Yet here in the United States, there appears to have been a concerted effort to turn the clock back. We have to face the misogyny at our doorstep and spotlight the systematic gender oppression at the basis of our culture. Whether this pattern of disturbing developments constitutes a war on women is a political argument; that women’s rights and health are casualties of policy is indisputable. There is an alarming regressive assault on gender equality and a surprising lack of outrage at these regressive policies.
The signs are there. Wars are fought by opposing sides who clash over land rights, inheritance, kingship, freedom and power. Efforts are made to subdue an enemy into submission, confiscate property, take prisoners and enslave the people. As I have shown in previous articles this not infrequently includes the rape and assault of the women as a way of humiliating a conquered people. Over the course of history much of that war-like behavior has been directed by men against women. We have never called it “war” because it has been couched in terms of law and religion—the “greater good.”
But what if it is? What if the cultural and religious dictates that men have imposed upon women are really an attempt to subdue an “enemy?” Of course, if it really is a battle, it is the most complicated war in the history of civilization. There is much fraternizing with the enemy! The combatants sleep in the same beds and raise their children together. They work side by side to make a living. They grow old together. They write great romantic tales which assuredly capture the tender moments that two human beings can experience. It may not be a battle fought by individuals though it certainly can be! I believe it is a cultural war—a battle in which one half of humanity has attempted to subdue the other half. At the very least, it expresses the deep ambivalence that is experienced between men and women.
Ellen Toronto is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Spring, Texas and has been practicing since 1980. In 2017, she was elected a Fellow in Psychoanalysis by the American Psychological Association. In 2016, Dr. Toronto's practice was recognized as one of the top Ann Arbor Psychology practices. She received her Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Michigan. Dr. Toronto is married to Robert Toronto, Ph.D., and together they have four sons and eleven grandchildren.