Call them bad boys or men behaving badly, but in either case these males said and did things in 2012 that not only got us talking but had us asking, "Did he really say that?" A big hint gentlemen -- attacking women rarely wins hearts and minds.
Does it make sense to hold a Congressional hearing on the Affordable Care Act's contraceptive coverage provision with only male experts? Or refuse to hear the testimony of a woman who would be impacted by the provision? That's what Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) did in February 2012 when he hand-picked his witnesses, all of whom opposed Obamacare's contraceptive coverage. He pointedly did not invite representatives from two notable organizations, the Catholic Health Association (which oversees Catholic hospitals and is run by a woman) and Catholic Charities, both of which support contraceptive coverage. In an interesting twist of irony, the excluded witness -- Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown Law student -- went on to testify at another hearing and became embroiled in an even bigger news story (see below).
It's no surprise that radio show host and conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh has always had a woman problem. His audience is predominantly older white males, he popularized the term "feminazi" and he can't seem to stay married. While incendiary comments about women are par for the course on his radio show, Limbaugh crossed the line in in late February 2012 when he humiliated a law student for her testimony on the importance of contraceptive coverage for women under the Affordable Care Act. When he went on the attack against private citizen Sandra Fluke, calling her a slut and a prostitute, he went too far. The story spawned hundreds of headlines in mainstream media, attracted plenty of coverage in the blogosphere, and led to a massive grassroots social media campaign targeting his advertisers and pressuring them to pull their backing. While it made him a hot topic throughout March 2012, Limbaugh's radio show took a serious hit, gaining the kind of attention that one program director characterized as "[not] worth the damage that's been caused in loss of revenue and advertiser confidence."
The forefathers of the GOP would be ashamed to see that their 21st century counterparts are no longer the standard-bearers when it comes to women's rights. Historically, it was the Republicans who backed the 19th amendment granting women the right to vote; yet you'd never know it from that party's efforts in the past year to curtail women's rights and introduce legislation that would turn the clock back decades. From repeated attempts to defund Planned Parenthood, block contraceptive coverage and other services specifically designed to support women's health under Obamacare, and restrict access to abortion, the Republican War on Women isn't an election year myth, a headline or two trumped up by Democratic operatives, or a media creation. It's a deliberate and ongoing effort that is a very real threat to women's health and well-being.
When Rep. Todd Akin uttered his 'legitimate rape' remark and sincerely expressed his view that "the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down," many of us were flabbergasted by his ignorance and stupidity. How does a politician with a seat in the nation's highest legislative body get that far without knowing basic biology? It was a fluke, we reasoned, a complete anomaly. He's only one man with one isolated opinion. But that was just the first of several stupid rape remarks uttered by GOP politicians on the campaign trail, including one from vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan who noted that rape is "another form of conception." And the ugly trend culminated with Richard Mourdock's observation that pregnancy from rape is God's will. For women who were horrified by the cavalier attitude of these arrogant pols, there's one bit of good news: not one of these politicians running for office won their respective races. And as many an exit poll revealed, it was these ignorant rape remarks that turned voters off.
Once upon a time, a certain vice presidential candidate was selected as a running mate partly because it was believed his good looks would attract women voters. How far we've come in the two decades since Dan Quayle. Mitt Romney's candidacy was proof that optics don't really matter if the candidate is clearly out of touch with women. While he continually tried to connect with women, citing his wife Ann's influence in his decision-making and relying on her as an appealing surrogate to attract the women's vote, he seemed not to understand the issues that really mattered to women. His about-face on abortion, contraception, and universal health care -- all issues he'd once supported -- made him seem untrustworthy and changeable. But many women were willing to give him a pass until the presidential debate in which he tried to emphasize his pro-woman stance as governor of Massachusetts. In describing his search for qualified prospects for his cabinet, he referred to "binders full of women" and showed us that he approached women not as people but as objects to be categorized, three-hole punched, and filed. This awkward gaffe made for a funny meme in social media but had larger repercussions; it proved to be the final straw that broke the camel's back and lost him the women's vote.
6. John McCain's Attack on Susan Rice
Although the Benghazi incident didn't help Republicans derail the re-election of President Obama, the deaths at the U.S. Consulate in Libya were the primary weapon wielded by Senator John McCain in his ongoing attack of U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, whom many have identified as Obama's likely choice to replace Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. McCain's public declaration of his intent to block her nomination is petty and sexist; and his absurd assertions that the former Rhodes scholar was not qualified rings false. As conservative pundit Kathleen Parker wryly noted, McCain's "understanding of qualified women candidates is legendary" and added, "McCain’s opinion about Rice’s qualifications is only slightly less compelling than his thoughts on Playtex vs. Spanx."