Mickey Skidmore, AMHSW, ACSW, MACSW

Even if you are not from a Catholic background, you may have heard variations of this observational comment (that has been advanced by numerous comics):  If men could bear children … abortion would be a sacrament!

By now just about everybody has learned that the US Supreme Court disregarded 50 years of legal precedent last month by overturning the Roe v. Wade decision, thereby striking down the federal protection of women to have an abortion and returning such authority to the States.

Earlier this year, in March 2022 I had the privilege of teaching a practice skills course in an accredited Social Work program preparing students for professional Social Work practice in NSW. One of the focal points of this course was an emphasis on sexuality in the Psychosocial Assessment process. Early in the course I stressed that the Social Work profession was one of the few that afforded clients the opportunity to have genuine conversations about this topic — and that we needed to do better in this regard. For me in particular, I conveyed that this was beyond issues of abortion, sexual orientation or LBGTQI issues, but underpins a wide range of issues associated with reproductive health. I also conveyed that the political climate in the USA had set into motion efforts to radically undermine these issues that were previously protected. Sadly, by the conclusion of this semester, my concerns and predictions were realised.

The politicians on the conservative far right often portray this topic as a “sanctity of life” perspective — a quintessential theme within their range of culture war issues. However, one only need to look at statistics in the states that embrace and support such themes in the United States. In fact, the sanctity of life is only touted until the child is born — after that, screw you, you’re on your own. You’ll find alarming numbers of children in poverty; undernourished; lacking in heath care; lacking in child care; lacking pre-school educational programs; poor public schools; and a foster care system overwhelmed and in shambles putting them at risk of enduring abuse while in that system as well. These same politicians are generally unwilling to support legislation that would genuinely enhance the sanctity of children’s lives once they are out of the womb.

I have come to the conclusion that the results of these events is less about abortion or even access to reproductive health care. Simply put, it is nothing short of misogyny — an aggressive anti-women campaign intended to undo many of the progressive gains that woman have achieved since the right to vote (1920). History and a whole library of research show that civil rights gains for women ended up making seismic changes in society. Women getting the vote has been connected to the growth of government social programs and a rise in women’s wages. Suffrage leaders went on to press for access to birth control. And that was a revolution so profound that its effects are still being studied. 

Certainly, women’s progress has led to discomfort for a subset of men: They now compete with women for jobs, women are choosier about whom they marry (if they marry at all), more women than men get college degrees. You have to watch what kind of jokes you make, and it’s no longer cool or appropriate to catcall. Sometimes, there are consequences for sexual misconduct.

Last month I wrote about Deranged White Man Syndrome. This cohort has identified a list of concerns to distract from their shrinking power base and outdated views of society. Rather than effectively govern, they would undermine the progressive gains of society to take us back to the dark ages where white men of privilege ruled and were not questioned. While critical race theory remains an opaque legal philosophy and not an instruction manual for K-12 students; immigrants commit crimes at a lower rate than those born in the USA; and vaccine mandates save lives. But women with agency? They threaten these men’s entire world order.

Women with authority are increasingly unafraid to use their power. And yes, that can disrupt the lives of men. It can also help men and improve their lives. A more equitable society is not inherently bad for the male species. Just ask men enjoying the benefits of robust parental leave, to take just one very easy example.

During my college days I lived in a convent with a group of Catholic nuns. They exposed me to feminist thinking and provided the simplest and most profound explanation of feminism that I’ve encountered, which is:  “the rising of the women … means the rising of the race.”

Perhaps it’s time to allow female political leaders the opportunity to address the seemingly endless crises that men have created and unite us in a return to what democratic societies are truly capable of.