Republicans are suddenly pretending to be feminists — but it's all a sham

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GOP rhetoric about protecting women is part of an ongoing fight against transgender equality.

Republicans opposed to the Equality Act this week claimed that it would harm the rights of cisgender women.

But the GOP has spent decades attacking the rights of women and other marginalized groups.

On Thursday, the same day the House of Representatives passed the Equality Act with only three votes from Republicans, Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) tweeted, "The 'feminists' who run around with pink hats glued to their heads are silent as women's rights get completely obliterated under the Equality Act."

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) railed against the Equality Act on Wednesday and Thursday. On Thursday, she said on the House floor, "The Equality Act is not about stopping discrimination. It's about causing discrimination against women and religious freedoms."

Rep. Greg Steube (R-FL), who also opposed the Equality Act on the House floor on Thursday, introduced a bill in January called the "Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act of 2021," which would remove funding for athletics groups that have inclusive policies for transgender athletes and would define sex as "a person's reproductive biology and genetics at birth." The bill doesn't get into detail on how recipients of federal funds will determine who is transgender, nor does it acknowledge the existence of intersex people.

Despite this, Republicans such as Rep. Andrew Clyde of Georgia have claimed that they care about the privacy and safety of cisgender women, who they say would be harmed by nondiscrimination protections for transgender women.

Republicans have spent years trying to limit access to abortion care; opposing bills that include programs for victims of intimate partner violence, many of whom are women; and supporting political leaders who attack protections included in Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.

In 2017, the Senate, which was then controlled by Republicans, passed a bill that allowed states to prevent funds allocated in accordance with the Title X Family Planning Program from going to abortion providers. Republicans also championed the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett, who has expressed extreme anti-abortion views, to the Supreme Court in 2020.

In its ruling in Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court found a right to privacy that protects women's personal decisions from interference by the government. Some restrictions championed by Republicans, including the requirement that medical providers perform an ultrasound on a patient before they are permitted to have an abortion, would infringe on this right.

Republicans have also blocked or opposed the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act numerous times over the years, including over a provision that would stop people convicted of misdemeanor stalking offenses from getting or owning guns. The act provides funding for programs for victims of intimate partner violence, sexual violence, and stalking.

The same Republicans who claim to care about Title IX, the federal civil rights law that prohibits sex-based discrimination in federally funded education programs, spend a lot of time attacking it.

In 2017, Republicans advocated changes to the Higher Education Act, such as stopping criminal investigations of charges of assault, that would restrict the rights of victims of sexual violence under Title IX. The U.S. Department of Education under Donald Trump pushed regulations on investigations into sexual assault at universities that would make it harder for survivors to bring complaints.

Gillian Branstetter, media manager at the National Women's Law Center, said Republicans are using the terminology of women's rights to appeal to people who might not be reached as easily with language rooted in God, and in Christianity specifically.

"If they can play puppetry with the language of feminism in the way that they do, they hope it will appeal to new audiences that are increasingly secular and that are being increasingly radicalized by online spaces that are far more evolved in capturing this language, because the country is becoming more secular," she said.

Branstetter called it a "desperate attempt" to disguise anti-equality messages behind the language of women's equality, which, she said, is a variation of messages used to block passage of the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s. 

Republicans are making efforts to pit cisgender women against transgender women to distract from the fact that both groups face violence from cisgender men, Branstetter said. In 2020, a record number of transgender people were killed, mostly transgender women of color, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

"Why would a man put on a dress in order to get away with violence against women when he could just put on a badge? Abusers are enabled by power imbalances," Branstetter said. "And it's why abusers seek power because they expect power to protect them. ... At large, [transgender women] don't have a ton of power."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.