Tuesday, 1 July 2014

The Hobby Lobby tradition

Everything about the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby case, from its name to the ruling itself, echoes the 1950s, a Father-Knows-Best fantasy world of small-town, white America where men went to the office and women kept house, with plenty of free time to stitch needlepoint pillows and pursue “accomplishments” like Jane Austen heroines. The Court majority, which ruled companies can object to healthcare packages on religious grounds, is determined to push us back there despite the anachronism, forgetting that Reagan smashed the postwar social contract that made the ‘50s possible.

Reagan made sure that corporations got all the rewards of growth without sharing any with its workforce and thereby propelled women into the labor force. He guaranteed that the stay-at-home mom would die out. Now, hobbies and leisure time of any sort are such a luxury that the women who sell the Green family’s stuff will have to save their hobbying dreams for old age.

Some commentators are pointing to the lousy science behind the court majority’s mistaken assumption that the contraceptive methods the Green family, in the form of its corporate personhood, objected to were abortifacients when they’re actually not. That misses the point. The right-wing crusade in defense of “life” is not really about abortion at all as the current attack on all birth control is illustrating with admirable precision: it’s about getting women back under control.

Underneath the assault on all women’s reproductive autonomy is a partially hidden primary target: black women. It was the Hyde Amendment to prohibit Medicaid financing of abortion that opened up that wedge in which reproductive concerns are separate from everything else. That division keeps growing year after year, and who is most inconvenienced by that? Women whose ancestors’ bodies used to be the repository of value for slaveowners who “bred” them and disposed of their human output for cash.

In those days, frequent pregnancy and childbearing was encouraged; as soon as slavery ended, black population growth had to be suppressed through the “Mississippi appendectomy” (involuntary sterilization) and other means. Now the fight has moved into new terrain, but the principle remains the same: as long as black and other poor women cannot determine when to bear children, they and their families can be dominated. The ideological vehicle with which to accomplish this control may need to vary with the times, but the rich don’t really care about sexual mores; they care about money.

Which is not to say that some individuals do not feel strongly about sex, birth control and abortion as well as gays, extramarital cohabitation and whatnot. But the sustained, right-wing attack over the “social issues,”which continues in this miserably politicized verdict, was first mounted to bring Christian conservatives into the Reaganite counter-revolution and enable him to reposition the rich at the top—which has now been accomplished quite handily. If they had needed to push in exactly the opposite direction and denounce motherhood as a commie plot, they would have done that, too.

The Green family was thought by some to be an example of those sincere objectors of conscience in the anti-choice movement. But then a tragicomically hilarious sign of the indifference of the Hobby Lobby owners to their own supposed core religious beliefs surfaced in this Mother Jones article from April outlining the investments made by the same allegedly pious types in all sorts of birth control products.

A columnist at Forbes picked up on the story and lambasted the Greens as world-class hypocrites.

While I may not agree with the legal position Hobby Lobby has taken in their lawsuit, I always stand in admiration of those willing to fight for their constitutional rights when they believe they are being taken. Hobby Lobby is entitled to no such admiration—only contempt. You simply can’t say that you will give your all in defense of your closely held beliefs when it suits you while seeking to make money in violation of those beliefs.

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