I repeatedly find myself following the political pundits and updates from the campaign trail. This is especially true with the crucial 2012 Presidential election upcoming. There were two speeches made by Rick Santorum which elicited frustrated responses from me. One thing that amazes me as I listen to the candidates out on the campaign trail is some of the inflammatory remarks that are made which are both untrue and offensive. These comments further stereotypes and alienate historically marginalized groups from the mainstream. The most consistent repeated culprit is Rick Santorum. I want to use this blog post to examine the some of the comments that he has made, question their validity, and put them in the broader context of realities about gender and race in the United States. Furthermore, I will prove how these archaic and bigoted remarks will lead to further inequality in our country which is still recovering from both the civil rights and women’s rights movements.
The first video above provides Rick Santorum’s remarks following a Pentagon decision to allow military women to serve in important roles closer to front line combat. While many would believe that this is an important step towards equality in our country, Santorum immediately communicated “concerns” about this change citing “other types of emotions that are involved.”
Santorum said: “I want to create every opportunity for women to be able to serve this country.” He followed that statement up with: “I do have concerns about women in front line combat. I think that could be a very compromising situation where – where people naturally, you know, may do things that may not be in the interests of the mission because of other types of emotions that are involved.”
Santorum continued his shaky defense by saying: “probably, you know, it already happens, of course, due to the camaraderie of men in combat.” He concluded by saying that women serving on the front lines is not in the best interest of any party involved.
Santorum must have ignored the fact that women were already serving in the roles granted to them by the new Pentagon guidelines in temporary positions prior. He certainly didn’t cite any evidence that the “camaraderie” was disrupted or that “emotions” prevented unit cohesion. His claims are not grounded in fact but rather scripture.
To this day, in 2012, women cannot serve on the front lines. The new guidelines further restrictions on women in infantry roles, for example. This begs the question: If women want to serve on the front lines; why can’t they? I know plenty of strong women.
The problem is leadership in this country that clings to archaic and outdated approaches to life which aren’t in line with the current views of the US citizenry. Santorum tries to portray individuals fighting for equality as “elitist academics” instead of looking in the mirror and seeing who truly is trying to enforce their life views on others.
Santorum followed up in another interview that: “It’s not a matter of putting women in dangerous roles.” He mentioned in an interview that women were certainly able to “fly small planes.” It seems like Santorum; however, would like to keep the heavy weapon clad aircraft for the men. It is not surprising that a Santorum continues to employ a staffer that once claimed that: “having a female president is against God’s plan.” The gender roles of men and women are socially constructed and can be reversed.
So why are these statements dangerous?
Obviously, these remarks further subjugate women by making them seem weaker and less capable than men. While the various institutions in our country continue to enforce these policies, inequality still permeates through society. A Time article from April of 2010 proves this. U.S. women still only earn around 77 cents to the male dollar. This difference is furthered when you look at African American women at 68 cents and Latinas at 58 cents. This is unacceptable! President Obama has made several efforts to pass legislation to decrease this gap. Nevertheless, his efforts will be in vain if social conservatives continue to legislate based their religion as opposed to principles applicable to all people of any faith.
Let’s examine the second video. This gem occurred while Santorum was on a campaign stop in Sioux City, Iowa prior to the Iowa caucus. He was discussing entitlement reform when he added (to a room filled with white people, I might add): “I don’t want to make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money; I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn the money.”
The response to these remarks was immediate and intense. A CBS Article from January 2012 quotes NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous as saying: “Santorum’s targeting of African Americans is inaccurate and outrageous, and lifts up old race-based stereotypes about public assistance.” Jealous went on to clarify that federal benefits are determined by income level, not race. And, in direct contrast to Santorum’s false claims, Iowan food stamp recipients are 9% black and 84% white. Also, in the United States as a whole, white recipients of entitlements outnumber African Americans.
These comments splinter the various diverse groups in our country and further contribute to misunderstandings about the current state of inequality in our country. It is not fair for right-wing evangelicals to push their life views on other Americans. Regardless of one’s views on how to best assist those disadvantaged, every person must avoid trying to justify sexist and racist stances on issues. We need to focus on the facts to decrease inequality and avoid misconceptions to rally a group of misinformed people who rely on stereotypes.