Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus' Compares War on Women to War on Caterpillars

What Women Really Think
April 9 2012 12:29 PM

Reince Priebus’ "Marie Antoinette" Moment

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus.

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus had the mother of all “Then let them eat cake” moments last week when he compared what Democrats are calling the GOP’s “war on women” to an imaginary “war on caterpillars.”

Priebus wanted to argue that the media had invented a false animosity between Republicans and the fairer sex. It’s not that the party’s leading presidential contenders hope to slash federal funding for family planning, restrict contraception, and force women to undergo costly and unnecessary ultrasounds while limiting access to medical procedures like mammograms and cervical cancer screenings. Rather, liberal newsrooms are pushing some mythical notion about sexism in the GOP by talking it up endlessly. They’re encasing the country in a cocoon of lies. Those leaf-crunching blue-state creeps are spinning their fictions all over the airwaves and dragging America through the dirt!


Actually, my point is not that Reince Priebus has some sort of psychological hang-up involving larvae. And while it is silly, in the process of defending yourself against bigotry, to compare the group of people who think you’re disenfranchising them to insects, the real blunder here involves an almost comical unwillingness to acknowledge how political acts that cut against women’s autonomy over their bodies are, yes, attacks on equal rights (and yes, will be recognized as such). The media is being reactive, not proactive, in its coverage of the “war on women.” And what elevates Priebus’ statement to Marie Antoinette levels of out-of-touchness is its complete dismissal of an actual issue for the sake of being cute. Just as the queen’s fabled “cake” line flippantly skirted responsibility for France’s ills, the glibness of the caterpillar analogy hints at how trivial this whole kerfuffle—women, their problems, their perceptions—seems to the Republican Party chairman.

Plus, as one XX Factor colleague observed, if we’re going reduce women’s rights to a cocktail party game, I’d rather be a butterfly.   

Katy Waldman is a Slate staff writer. 


Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore

And schools are getting worried.

160 Countries Host Marches to Demand Action on Climate Change


Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

Why a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Is Stirring Up Controversy

How Worried Should Poland, the Baltic States, and Georgia Be About a Russian Invasion?

Trending News Channel
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Sept. 21 2014 1:15 PM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 5  A spoiler-filled discussion of "Time Heist."
Brow Beat
Sept. 21 2014 2:00 PM Colin Farrell Will Star in True Detective’s Second Season
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 21 2014 8:00 AM An Astronaut’s Guided Video Tour of Earth
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.