The Best and Worst News for Women in 2012

As a political junkie coming off a surreal election season, I can offer only the faintest apologies for skewing American. I’m sure for every pick I made, there are three I had to leave out. I invite you to show me the error of my ways–and your bests and worsts–in the comments section below. Happy New Year!!!!

The Best

1)   President Obama Wins Reelection
Rachel Maddow’s MSNBC promo pretty much says it all: ”We are not going to have a Supreme Court that overturns Roe vs. Wade. We are not going to repeal health reform. We are not going to give a 20% tax cut to millionaires and billionaires. We are not going to amend the United States Constitution to stop gay people from getting married. We are not eliminating the Department of Energy. We are not letting Detroit go bankrupt. We are not vetoing the DREAM Act. We had the choice to do that and we said ‘no.’” No president can do everything, but without Barack Obama in the White House, we’d have to do so much more.

2)   The Affordable Care Act Was Upheld
The entire country held its breath, and we progressive folk were the ones who got to exhale! Surprising everyone, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the liberal wing of the court in a 5-4 decision, ruling that the vast majority of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act—and most notably, the individual mandate—was constitutional and would move forward.

3)   20 and Counting
The election of five new women brings the number of women in the United States Senate to 20. That’s 20%! A nice big step towards gender parity. Let’s name them all, because we can: Deb Fischer (R-NE), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Patty Murray (D-WA), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Lisa Murkowski (R-AZ), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Barbara Milkulski (D-MD), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), and Kay Hagan (D-NC).

4)   Anti-Woman is Anti-Electable
The men New York magazine dubbed “the GOP Rape and Abortion Caucus“ weren’t misunderstood or misspeaking or plain old ignorant, they were dangerous and dangerously influential. You’ll find Todd Akin, Joe Walsh, and their now-infamous quotes in the “Worst of” list where they belong. Up here, I’d rather give props to Claire McGaskill and Tammy Duckworth, the pro-choice, anti-idiotic candidates who beat those bozos.

5)   Choice Battles Won in Ohio, Mississippi, and Oklahoma
Tomorrow we’ll undoubtedly have to fight on, but today let’s celebrate the victories: Ohio’s fetal heartbeat bill is dead, Mississippi’s only abortion clinic is still open, and two anti-choice laws were defeated in Oklahoma.

6)   The UN Calls for a Ban on Female Genital Mutilation
On December 20, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution banning the practice of female genital mutilation. We can and should wonder about how much good it will do and continue to search for ways to do more, but let’s appreciate this for the milestone it is and hope it’s one of many important steps needed to end violence against women worldwide.

7)   Girls Rule! Social Media Shamedowns Change the World
This was the year that young women showed us the way.

  • In June, SPARK blogger Julia Bluhm’s petition inspired the group’s “Keep It Real” Challenge, a three-day social media campaign aimed at changing the way women’s images are manipulated in magazines by asking them to feature at least one unretouched photospread per issue.
  • In July, three teens, Emma Axelrod, Sammi Siegel, and Elena Tsemberis, started a petition for gender equality when they learned that no woman had moderated a presidential debate in twenty years. Thousands of signatures later, Candy Crowley moderated the second presidential debate on October 16th. Coincidence? I think not.
  • Come November, 13-year-old big sister extraordinaire McKenna Pope used YouTube and a petition to ask Hasbro to make a gender-neutral Easy Bake Oven so her four-year-old brother knows “it’s not ‘wrong’ for him to want to be a chef.” After over 45,000 people signed McKenna’s petition, Hasbro invited McKenna to their headquarters and announced plans for a gender-neutral silver and black Easy Bake Oven that will be marketed to both boys and girls.

8)   “Forcible Rape” is History
After far too long—and far too many men in important places parsing the phrase for political gain—the F.B.I. has eliminated the term “Forcible Rape” from its Uniform Crime Report. The hope is that a broader definition based on unwanted bodily penetration regardless of gender or force used will provide a more accurate accounting of the crime.

9)   Abortion Coverage Extended to Rape Victims in the Military
New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen’s amendment to the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act was approved in the Senate and the House, ending the ban on health insurance coverage for abortion for military women and dependents who become pregnant as a result of rape or incest. The federal government provides abortion coverage in these instances to its civilian employees. Service women should never have needed Senator Shaheen’s amendment to ensure their equal treatment under the law.

10)   Same Sex Marriage Wins!
Remember when this used to be a wedge issue? On Election Day, voters in Maryland and Maine approved same sex marriage. Two states may not make a revolution, but the wins are a flashing rainbow-colored sign of things to come.

The Worst

1)   Girls Under Fire
That Malala Yousafzai, a 15-year-old Pakistani girl, could be shot in the head by a Taliban gunman for “promoting secularism”—in the form of daring to champion a girl’s right to education in the year 2012—is horrific. It should be unfathomable. Malala is recovering now in England. We can only hope that her legacy is to bring about meaningful change for the millions of girls—and boys—who are denied an education worldwide.

2)   Refusing to Perform Abortion Kills
Thirty-one-year-old Savita Halappanavar died after being denied an abortion in a Galway hospital. Responding to the international outrage that followed, Irish authorities hope to have new abortion laws in place by Easter. Unfortunately for Savita Halappanavar and her husband, that will be too late.

3)   Outrageous Outbursts from the Mouths of Boobs
This election season brought a fraternity of blowhards who effortlessly proved what writers have been arguing about their craft for years: it’s a lot harder than it looks! Because seriously, people, you can’t make this stuff up. I give you some of the year’s most offensive old men:

  • Todd Akin, senatorial candidate from Minnesota, was a one-man argument for mandatory sex education when he argued that “legitimate rape” doesn’t result in pregnancy. Because, you know, “the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
  • In Illinois, Joe Walsh lost his House seat after claiming that “With modern technology and science, you can’t find one instance” of a woman’s life being endangered by pregnancy.
  • Richard Mourdock lost his Indiana Senate race for coming out against an abortion exception in the case of rape, saying “life is a gift from God — and I think even if life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that is something that God intended to happen.”
  • Not to be outdone, Maryland Congressman Roscoe Bartlett had this to say about his reasons for allowing abortion in the case of rape or incest: “There are very few pregnancies as a result of rape, fortunately, and incest—compared to the usual abortion, what is the percentage of abortions for rape? It is tiny. It is a tiny, tiny percentage. … Most abortions, most abortions are for what purpose? They just don’t want to have a baby! The second reason for abortion is you’d like a boy and it’s a girl, or vice versa.”

4)    Arson Against Women
A disturbing trend, to say the least. On April 1, a homemade explosive device was found outside a Planned Parenthood clinic in Wisconsin. On May 24, Women With a Vision (WWAV), a New Orleans advocacy organization that provides health care and other support for poor women of color, was the victim of arson. Earlier the same day, a fire broke out at a Cobb County obstetrics and gynecology office near Marietta, Georgia, the second fire of questionable origin at a Georgia clinic that week. Why didn’t we hear more about these cases?

5) A Rash of Anti-Choice Legislation
Whether it was Arizona passing a 20-week abortion ban using the widely discredited “fetal pain” argument,  Arizona Republican Trent Franks’s sudden urge to legislate away the abortion rights of Washington, D.C. residents he does not represent, Ohio’s so-called “Heartbeat Bill”, Virginia’s creepy “transvaginal ultrasound” bill (which did, admittedly, give Amy Poehler SNL’s best bit of the year: “I’ve got so many miles on TransVaginal that I always get upgraded to Lady Business”)—or my personal favorite, for sheer closed-door under-cover-of-night-by-a-lame-duck-legislature chutzpah, Michigan’s make-believe efforts to help women being ”coerced” into having abortion—it was a banner year for anti-choice activists. I know it’s tempting fate to say “Elections have consequences,” but maybe the tide is turning.

6) What War on Women? Part I
Remember when the House Oversight Committee held a hearing on contraception and didn’t invite anybody who could actually conceive? I almost felt sorry for chair Darrell Issa. That is, until he started comparing his panelists to Martin Luther King.

7) What War on Women? Part II
When Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown University Law student barred from testifying at the House Oversight Committee’s hearing on contraception, spoke before a House Democrats’s panel, Rush Limbaugh called her a “slut” and a “prostitute“—because wanting cheaper birth control is exactly the same thing as wanting to get paid for having sex. Rush isn’t going anywhere, but it still felt good to see those advertisers jumping ship.

8) What War On Women? Komen Edition
Sure, it had a happy(ish) ending, but the Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s decision to defund Planned Parenthood was a woeful sign of how effective the far right’s attacks on Planned Parenthood have become. The public outcry may have shamed the group into reversing its decision, but the smear campaign against Planned Parenthood continues. And to think, once upon a time Planned Parenthood was considered a mainstream bordering-on-feminist-sell-out organization.

9) Outrageous (Plagiarized) Outbursts in the Philippines
Our very own Janice Formicella was one of the writers Filipino legislator Tito Sotto plagiarized in histrionic rants against a reproductive health bill. Bad enough that he did it. Worse, that he continues to deny having done so despite the evidence to the contrary. Worst of all, he willfully misconstrued their words to the point of absurdity. The Senate Ethics Committee is said to be moving forward with plans to hold hearings on the plagiarism complaints. We’ll have to see if that’s enough to keep Sotto quiet.

10) Sex and the Summer Olympics
Only two countries won as many gold medals at the 2012 Olympics as the 29 earned by the United States women. And the women bested the men both in gold medals won (29 to 17) and medals earned (58 to 45). So why were we talking about beach volleyballers, their bikinis or lack thereof, and Gabrielle Douglas’ hair? Happily, that wasn’t all we talked about. But could we maybe have a little less sexist commentary and a little more sports reporting in our sports reporting?

About Jodi:
Jodi is a freelance writer and recovering academic with more enthusiasm for sports than athletic talent and a prodigious taste for the health food known as dark chocolate.


  1. Damn! you are *good* ! I love seeing allll this information, in one place.

  2. What a great list. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing all these points summarized so well. Thanks!

  3. That was fabulous, Jodi. I loved the way you listed the events, and also gave your views, (with sparks of your special humor thrown in). Thanks for the walk back through 2012 and may we keep going onward this year. By keeping our attention on the atrocities to women in the forefront of the news, it could help..

  4. Bill O’Reilly said it best when he said the white establishment is the minority and over 50% of Americans want stuff and Obama’s giving out the most stuff. The next generation of Americans will ask what will their country do for them. Not what JFK had in mind.

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