Last lashes of patriarchy

Alpha male lays down the lawThis election season has brought on a full-blown legislative assault against women, still another attempt by the forces of rightwingery to repeal Roe v. Wade, the 19th Amendment and, let’s be frank, the very Age of Enlightenment.

While these objectives remain out of their immediate reach, it hasn’t kept certain middle-aged white men of privilege from using their office to harass and scorn half of the population for simply trying to maintain reproductive health.

In a just world, of course, this gang would be packed off in tumbrels, but they should at least get the nod for sheer, fiendish inventiveness: mandatory probes of the nether parts? Penalties for miscarriage? Bosses screening employees for trollopy pill use?

Wow. You have to wonder what’s in it for these guys. Aside from the votes, of course — for many, there’s no bar too low, no blushes wasted in the serious pander for reelection. Even amid all the noise and posturing, it’s hard to miss the irony of small-government types who huff about The Nanny State, but assume that The Daddy State is just what Jesus would want.

The specter of daddy-ism probably brings us closer to what’s making them tick, if we can handle the awful truth. The claimed motivations — life, morality, fetal sanctity, religious freedom — are a smokescreen, pure and simple. It’s about the patriarchy preserving its power.

It’s the same old routine — father knows best and owns all the rest — that first appeared in neolithic agricultural societies and gave us city walls, organized warfare, land as private property, women as property, captive foreigners as property, and any number of proprietary fiddles geared to preserving alpha-male ease and privilege.

By the time the Enlightenment came around, it seemed that we as a species had cured the worst of all this, and certainly by the twentieth century. But no, apparently. This particular shadow-self of humanity keeps reincarnating, this time flag-wrapped and scripture-wielding, populating the rightward end of our politics with the current crowd of gender-warriors.

All the apple-pie-and-motherhood serves as their attempt to be plausible, even rational. But any lip-service to rationality slips away as their calls to action grow increasingly implausible and more overtly domineering. This could rightly be seen as a male supremacist movement, complete with its own legislative agenda of “Jane Crow” laws. We have the spectacle of wannabe patriarchs who want their perks back, spurred on by visions of better times when chattel could be secured.

This is raw power. It’s a bully’s bid for dominance. It’s war — on women, on equality, on rationality. As the political strokes get more and more outlandish, though, it’s clear that the bully is starting to throw some wild punches. It reeks of desperation.

Obnoxious as it is, this could be a good sign. To keep with the combat metaphor, once your opponent loses his temper, the fight has started to go your way. Once he loses it, well, he’s lost it. Those wild swings are easier to duck, and when he raises his club for the all-out overhead smash, he leaves himself wide open for defeat.

In a word — okay, five words — these suckers are going down.

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