Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) made the case Sunday that the war on women is non-existent because the women in his own family are thriving professionally. Speaking on Meet The Press, Paul argued that if anything, young men are the ones society should be worried about. He ignored issues of reproductive health or justice in his comments, however, and focused solely on the professional success of women he is related to or who work for him:
PAUL: This whole sort of war on women thing, I’m scratching my head because if there was a war on women, I think they won. You know, the women in my family are incredibly successful. I have a niece at Cornell vet school, and 85% of the young people there are women. Law school, 60% are women. In med school, 55%. My younger sister is an OB-GYN with six kids and doing great. I don’t see so much that women are downtrodden. I see women rising up and doing great things. In fact, I worry about our young men sometimes because I think the women are outcompeting the men in our world […]
The women in my family are doing great. That’s what I see in all the statistics coming out. I have, you know, young women in my office that are the leading intellectual lights of our office. So I don’t really see this, that there’s some sort of war on women that’s, you know, keeping women down. I see women doing great and I think we should extol that success and not dumb it down into a political campaign that somehow one party doesn’t like women or that. I think that’s what’s happened. It’s all been for political purposes.
The limited sample size of his own family shouldn’t throw Paul off; in the professional world, women still lag far behind men. Though women ask for promotions and raises, they are given less compared to their male coworkers. Women are more likely to be asked for favors but less appreciated when they do them because people feel “entitled to female help.” Men out-earn their female counterparts by 33 cents on the dollar nationally. And while Paul’s relatives might not complain about it, they’re almost certainly victim to the gender pay gap: Women earn less than men no matter their level of education, their industry, or their job.
But outside of that, the language around the “War on Women” isn’t simply about professional standing. Largely, in fact, it’s about bodily autonomy and reproductive health. The term came to the fore when Republicans were pushing for insurance companies not to cover women’s birth control co-pay-free. It picked up steam when then-presidential candidate Mitt Romney said he wanted to “get rid of” Planned Parenthood.
Those attacks on reproductive rights haven’t ceased. And factoring that into the war on women, it’s safe to say women are losing. That’s particularly true at the state level where Republican legislatures are slowly but surely rolling back women’s access to safe and legal abortion, but also prevalent at the federal level where male members of Congress continue to look for new ways to restrict abortion access.