Published: Friday, February 15, 2013
Updated: Friday, February 15, 2013 00:02
On Tuesday the Senate reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act, an act originally passed in 1994 that expired in 2011 and was not renewed during the tensions of a divided congress.
The bill passed 78-22, but women rights groups were quick to point out that the 22 dissenters were Republican men. Memes and photos presenting these senators under titles such as "These 22 Republican Men who voted against The Violence Against Women Act" proliferated throughout the internet and left the undeniable impression that these 22 men were unapologetic misogynists.
Liberals today are quick to blame Republicans for the gridlock and inactivity in congress, for the deficit, the debt, the wars and every other problem ailing the United States. Figuring out who deserves blame requires thousands of pages of analysis and discourse, but much of gridlock and partisanship can be attributed to misunderstandings between the two main political ideologies, and organizations such as Planned Parenthood, which posted the aforementioned title, are not helping to diffuse the tension through vitriolic blood-rising half truths.
Did these 22 men vote against "The Violence Against Women Act?" Yes. Did they do it because they hate women? No.
They voted against the act because an amendment was added to the bill, which would allow tribal courts to try non-Native Americans who were accused of raping a Native American on a reservation. The logic behind this amendment was that Native-American women are twice as likely to be raped as a White woman, and most of the rapists are non-Native Americans, but because of the issue of sovereignty of tribal reservations, tribal authorities are unable to act against the non-tribal rapists. Under this revised act, they now can.
The dissenters voted against the act because they were troubled by this amendment, not because they don't care about the victims. They were concerned about the legality of empowering the tribal authorities to try non-tribal members in their courts as a possible violation of due process.
Whether the dissenting senator's qualms are warranted, or if the amendment holds up to constitutional scrutiny, the senators did not vote against the act because they hate women, but out of concern for the law. Some might believe that the law is clearly flawed if it does not protect a certain demographic of women and that any amendment, constitutional or not, is more just than then the existing law, but that opinion does not vindicate the animadversions directed at these senators on the basis of misogyny. Organizations like Planned Parenthood may not be explicitly stating that these Senators voted against "The Violence Against Women Act" because they hate women, but by contriving these half-truth bulletins they leave no reasonable observer without such an impression. This will only create acuter divisions between liberals and conservatives, which in the end will just hamper political, economic and social progress.