Deference to Dogma Creates Public Policy Blindspots

This is a post about public policy and the consequences of non-governing bodies creating and enacting policy without considering the people whose lives will be impacted the most. But first, an observation.

A much discussed photo from the recent wedding of a Trump family member struck a chord with me. It was the physical similarities among the women, the sameness of them, the fact that Ivanka apparently cropped the non-conforming beauty standard out of the photo. Through some combination of genetics, cosmetic procedures, plastic surgery, and the perks of wealth, these women embody a ‘standard of beauty’ for a certain type of person. One who identifies women as accessories that exist to benefit a powerful man. To improve his social standing. To project to the world that he bagged the ultimate trophy. 

This photo is the second recent example of this view of women as accessories, or less-than. The first played out during the January 6 hearings in the testimony of Cassidy Hutchinson, former aid to Mark Meadows and Trump staffer. As I watched her testimony, I was struck by how much Hutchinson knew about the inner working of the highest ranking White House officials. Things were said near her, in front of her, and directly to this 23-year-old junior staffer. Why? Was she a particularly astute listener? Did she convey master-level administrative competencies to the extent that high-level officials sought her advice? It seemed unlikely. Then it occurred to me. Powerful men spoke of highly confidential and incriminating things near her, in front of her, and directly to her, because they never really saw her. She was inconsequential to them. Ornamental. Certainly not someone with a remarkable memory for detail who wrote things down and recited them with shocking precision. 

This relegation of women as not fully human is so fundamentally ingrained in the conservative psyche that it never occurred to pundits or lawmakers that a 50-year precedent struck down by an unelected, some would say activist, Supreme Court, could be damaging. To say that overturning a woman’s constitutional right to bodily autonomy and reproductive healthcare was a disaster for Republicans in the mid-terms is an understatement. A backlash was predicated, forecasted. They were warned. The real story here is that not only did they not believe that this would happen, they do not know why. After all, wasn’t the economy the most important issue to voters? Isn’t inflation at an all-time high? How was it that President Biden didn’t pay the political cost for that?

Because no prominent conservative correlated the economy to bodily autonomy, they missed the biggest, most glaring red flag in the history of policy; women control family finances. The Republicans lost the mid-terms because of their disregard for women as people and our domination over home economics. As a woman and a person, allow me to explain how inflation and the economy are inexorably tied to bodily autonomy in two words: Family planning. 

Women are almost twice as likely as our male partners to manage household budgeting. Women are also almost twice as likely as our partners to feel guilty for buying something for ourselves. This makes women acutely aware when prices go up for gas, milk, and other essentials. And here is where the link between economics and bodily autonomy is so important. If a gallon of milk has doubled in price, and back to school shopping amounts to what was once a small family vacation, then family planning is top of mind for women. We ask ourselves; can we afford another mouth to feed? Can we afford another pair of shoes, another backpack, another set of braces, another college tuition? 

When we learned that a non-elected body overturned our right make family planning decisions, and hinted that they might also want to restrict our access to contraception, women paid attention. What conservatives fail to understand is that aside from the sheer hubris, policies that force us to have and bear children impacts our household budget and therefore becomes our primary economic issue. 

Whether careless or malevolent, such disregard for the democratic process of policy-making, and of half of their constituency, is a mistake that conservatives make at their peril.

1 thought on “Deference to Dogma Creates Public Policy Blindspots

  1. J

    This is well written, although obviously its point is something obvious. The point is that the Republican party missed the point. And a fear is outlined: these people have learned nothing. They will continue to learn nothing.

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