Politicians Have Made Some Outrageous Claims About Women's Rights

by Seth Millstein
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images News/Getty Images

The world has made enormous strides toward gender equality over the last several decades — but humanity still has a long, long way to go. If the loads of data and statistics confirming this aren't enough to convince you, the loads of horrible things male politicians have said about women's rights probably will.

In one sense, the lingering sexism and unequal treatment of women is reflected in the data. Women suffer higher rates of poverty than men, according to the Institute for Women's Policy Research, while simultaneously earning less in the workplace, holding fewer seats in Congress than men and, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, shouldering the lion's share of childcare duties.

One might argue that these are merely undesired outcomes — end results of complex, intertwining factors that don't necessarily reflect any actual sexist intent. That argument becomes a lot less compelling, however, when you look at the many times that male officeholders have actually denounced basic rights for women, either directly or indirectly. This happens in America and beyond, and the frequency with which it does suggests that these problems extend far beyond unintended consequences.

In fact, there are some men who truly don't seem to believe in basic, equal rights for women. Here are some of the worst arguments they've made.

1. Equal Pay Is Bad For America

In February, Utah Republican James C. Green wrote an ill-advised letter to the Park Record, saying that women shouldn't be paid as much as men because that would prevent them from being good, obedient housewives.

"Traditionally men have earned more than women in the workplace because they are considered the primary breadwinners for families," Green wrote. "They need to make enough to support their families and allow the Mother to remain in the home to raise and nurture the children."

Needless to say, not all women are mothers, not all mothers want to forego a career in order to be housewives, and more women in the workforce is not, as Green also claimed, "bad for families and thus for all of society."

2. It Should Be Legal To Grope Women

In 2015, New Hampshire Republicans proposed a bill that would make it illegal for women, but not men, to expose their nipples in public. In a now-deleted Facebook comment, State Rep. Josh Moore argued that if women have the right to bear their breasts in public, men have the right to assault said women.

"If it's a woman's natural inclination to pull her nipple out in public and you support that, than [sic] you should have no problem with a mans [sic] inclantion [sic] to stare at it and grab it," Moore wrote in response to a post from one of his Democratic colleagues. "After's ALL relative and natural, right?"

You can almost see the self-satisfied grin on Moore's face as he clicked "enter" on that comment, but his argument didn't make any sense. In no way does supporting equal legal treatment of male and female nipples imply that men should be allowed to grope women without their permission.

3. Women Are Too Dumb To Get Paid As Much As Men

Polish lawmaker Janusz Korwin-Mikke made an even more offensive argument against closing the pay gap in March, insisting that women are too stupid to be paid as much as men.

"Of course women must earn less than men because they are weaker, they are smaller, they are less intelligent," Korwin-Mikke claimed. "They must earn less, that's all." Korwin-Mikke, who had previously been suspended for giving a Nazi salute inside the European Parliament, was suspended once again for these remarks.

4. "No" Doesn't Mean "No"

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In 2011, the then-president of Chile claimed that no matter what a woman says, she never really means "no."

"When a lady says 'no', she means 'maybe'," Sebastián Piñera said at a summit in Mexico. "When she says 'maybe', she means 'yes', and if she says 'yes', she's not a lady."

Piñera was implying that women don't have the right, or even the capacity, to reject sexual advances, an antiquated but still-common attitude that encourages men to disregard the necessity of consent in sexual relationships.

5. Better For Women To Die Than Have Abortions

During a 2012 debate, then-Rep. Joe Walsh said that he opposes all abortion access, even when the operation is necessary to save a pregnant woman's life.

"I'm pro-life without exception," Walsh said. "Understand though, that when we talk about exceptions, we talk about rape, incest, health of a woman, life of a woman. Life of the woman is not an exception."

Between 700 and 800 women die giving birth every year in the United States, according to the Scientific American; Walsh, who calls himself "pro-life," evidently doesn't think that these women have the right to live.

6. Recreational Sex Isn't A Right

During his 2012 presidential run, former Sen. Rick Santorum argued that contraception isn't okay, because it allows women to have sex without ultimately giving birth.

"One of the things I will talk about that no president has talked about before is, I think, the dangers of contraception in this country, the whole sexual libertine idea," Santorum said. "Many in the Christian faith have said, 'Well, that’s okay. Contraception’s okay.' It’s not okay, because it’s a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be. They’re supposed to be within marriage, they are supposed to be for purposes that are, yes, conjugal, but also in unity, but also procreative."

Fact check: Women have a right to recreational sex.

7. Women Shouldn't Be Able To Enlist, Because Hormones

In a 1999 op-ed, future Vice President Mike Pence argued that the Disney film Mulan was a piece of feminist propaganda aimed at convincing children that it's okay for women to serve in the military.

"Many young men find many young women to be attractive sexually," Pence reasoned. "Many young women find many young men to be attractive sexually. Put them together, in close quarters, for long periods of time, and things will get interesting. Just like they eventually did for young Mulan. Moral of story: women in military, bad idea."

In actuality, men and women who possess the capacity for sexual attraction are, indeed, capable of serving alongside one another in combat.

The idea that women have the same rights as men should be a foregone conclusion, especially in 2017. Sadly, a lot of male politicians seem to have missed the memo.