If you check out my run-down on gender, sex, and sexuality topics that came up in the 2012 U.S. elections, there are a slew of significant things happening: women, sexual, and religious minorities are being represented greater numbers than ever before in elected positions. Male politicians who make ignorant or disparaging comments about rape (a.k.a. “Republican Rape Philosophers“) are not winning their campaigns. And so on.
There are, however, a number of subtler changes that also impact sexual health – which is, no matter how you slice it, a public health issue. One woman’s letter to an elderly, conservative-leaning relative points this out very clearly: “your vote against Obama is a vote against me. It is not neutral. The provisions of Obamacare are life-changing for me as they continue to go into effect. Obama’s Lilly Ledbetter Act ensures that I might have a chance to earn fair pay for my work as I struggle to find better footing in the work world. His commitment to programs like Headstart, WIC, CHIP might make the difference between whether I can ever afford to have a family. That’s right, AFFORD to have a family. This is a growing concern for young people my age. I have about 10 years left to have any babies I want to have, and it’s not happening if I can’t break into the middle class.”
The ability to afford to have and raise children is a society-wide public health issue. I’m glad that the conversations happening around this election have brought it to the forefront (especially given that the US has the highest infant mortality rate in nations in its economic bracket – clearly we still have some work to do).
Feministe also has a post-election round-up, and they point out that, among other things, Washington and Colorado have legalized selling and buying small batches of locally-grown marijuana. Driving under the influence will be treated similarly to existing DUI laws, which will help protect people who don’t wish to be users. Again, this has wider social implications: people are beginning to recognize that it’s a problem to be sending so many people to jail for a drug that is not that different from substances that are legal, such as alcohol, cigarettes, and prescription drugs. According to the Huffington Post: “Nationally, marijuana possession accounts for nearly half of all drug arrests, at well more than 500,000 a year.” Hopefully those numbers start to go down, at least in the states that have legalized possession.
So for many liberals, minorities, marginalized groups, and special interest groups wanting inclusion, this election was full of victories. However, I think that for the the conservatives, there are also victories, albeit more difficult ones. I believe this conservative blogger summed it up well when he wrote: “It is long past time for the leaders of the Republican party to wake up, look around, and see what an incredible mess they have created for us all. No longer is this a country driven merely by the wants of rich white men. Today, more than ever, we are a multi-cultural blend of the best and worst the world has to offer. There is a whole country out there that is about social justice, personal freedom, and the rights of individuals. And, unlike even a decade ago, there is no escaping immediate and ubiquitous social communications throughout all strata of the society. If you’re an idiot, it will be found out both quickly and publicly.”
This is a challenge to the conservative thinkers who remained narrow-minded, who refuse to see the effects their policies have on the country’s social and public health as a whole. But in addition to a challenge, it is a chance: a chance to learn, a chance to grow, a chance to (dare I say it without sounding snarky?) evolve. Stop refusing to learn about science and climate change because one particular interpretation of the Bible told you to. Stop demonizing sex education – proven to reduce teenage pregnancy and disease transmission rates – while claiming to be pro-life. Stop hypocritically policing others’ sex lives. Stop trying to erode the boundaries between church and state that are fundamental to our nation’s identity.
I really, really hate that the liberal-conservative divide seems to have grown insurmountable. I would like to see more intelligent dialogue, and I’m hoping that the public health issues brought out in the election will give us some topics to politely discuss. I’m also hoping that more education will expose our young people to new perspectives and teach them critical thinking skills. I know it’s been said that reality has a liberal bias, but I’ll take reality over misinformation any day.
Thanks to wikimedia for the image
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