Identifying “Male-a-garchy”

This Tuesday, Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) argued, “the male-a-garchy has declared war on women’s health.” A male-a-garchy, as he defined it, is an institution “made up of men in Congress who always decide what they want to do for women, even taking away their rights.”[1] Sen. Lautenberg’s claims of a male-driven attack on female health came in response to the recent activities of various Republicans in Congress, who are looking to limit access to affordable birth control.  Sen. Lautenberg’s criticism of the American male-a-garchy is remarkable and significant because such an institution has waged America’s war on women’s health not only in our recent past—more broadly, male-a-garchy has waged this war throughout our nation’s history.

Congress itself began to exercise direct power over women’s health and women’s bodies as early as 1970, when the Senate Pill Hearings allowed the mostly male group to decide how much information women should know about the birth control pill’s potential side effects.[2] But deliberations, definitions, and depictions of the female body have resided in spheres of male power for centuries prior. Male doctors were the first to make abortion a doctor’s decision rather than a woman’s,[3] male psychologists were the first to categorize sexually interested women as mentally unstable,[4] and male professors were the first to claim that female biology made females unprepared for the same tasks as men.[5] The war on women’s health has been, and still continues to be, carried out in large part by establishments of male-a-garchy.

We truly applaud Senator Lautenberg for speaking up against traditional norms of male power, and we acknowledge and appreciate the many male voices in Congress that join his in supporting female autonomy. But we also hope that Sen. Lautenberg’s criticism of the male-a-garchy can serve to remind us of the importance of creating more gender-balanced legislatures on the national, state, and even local levels. In the fight for female choice, we need to elect strong, pro-choice female politicians to diffuse the archaic power of male-a-garchic establishments.

 


[3] James Mohr, Abortion in America: The Origins and Evolution of National Policy

[4] Elizabeth Lunbeck, “A New Generation of Women: Progressive Psychiatrists and the Hypersexual Female.”

[5] Edward H. Clarke, Sex in Education, Or a Fair Chance for the Girls (1873).

 

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