OPINION

Column: Martha McSally has a view on women's rights for both Republicans and Democrats

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Rep. Martha McSally, chairwoman of the Border and Maritime Security Subcommittee of the House Homeland Security Committee, asks questions of U.S. Customs and Border Protection Executive Assistant Commissioner of the Office of Field Operations Todd Owen questions during hearing testimony in Washington, D.C. on July 7, 2016.

When discussing feminism, people often get too wrapped up in divisive social issues that polarize ideas to the left. While these issues are important, what we want to focus on is a more practical fight for women’s rights, one that centers on breaking gender stereotypes that are still prevalent in society. Arizona’s conservative Representative Martha McSally has been fighting for women’s rights in this way throughout her life.

McSally has proven women’s rights need not only be a Democrat issue. When we talk about the fight for women’s rights, Martha McSally presents an example that Republicans and Democrats alike can strive to follow. 

McSally has been denounced as anti-feminist for several of her stances including women's health, abortion and pay equity. She has voiced her opinion against the right to an abortion except when a woman’s life is in danger, and because she supports defunding Planned Parenthood. 

Related: Martha McSally fights for women's rights

However, McSally’s views on women’s rights are strong, and people ought to look at her as a champion, rather than immediately denouncing her as an "anti-feminist" for her views .

In April 2016, McSally told Daily Wildcat reporter Amanda Oien her family encouraged her to follow her dreams and there were "no limitations because she was a girl." She took that idea to heart and became the first female fighter pilot to fly into a war zone, and also the first female to command a fighter squadron in US history. 

This is a very practical way to look at equality for women. McSally’s pursuit serves as a very defined example that can easily be understood by anyone. Looking past her stance on abortion, many of her actions are a lot more palatable to the general public. Her life testimony makes women’s rights a bipartisan issue. 

McSally is also a good example of perseverance of beliefs. In 2001, she was the highest ranked female fighter pilot. When she was in Saudi Arabia, women had to follow certain rules, including sitting in the back seats of vehicles, not driving any ground vehicles, wearing the customary head-to-toe gown and being escorted by men at all times. 

For McSally, this was an outrage. She believed that it went against all of the hard-fought women’s rights granted in the United States, because it required she act in the manner that women were subservient to men. She refused to comply, so she was threatened with a court martial. She took the issue to court, and risked losing her military status. 

McSally’s view was held, and Congress passed a law siding with her. 

She was prepared to lose the products of her hard work in order to follow what she knew to be right. It is a good model for what any protest should look like—extending beyond opinions and dissent, and into action.

Related: You as a student, can make a difference

This practical fight for women’s rights continues to be necessary. There are still stereotypes to be broken, and rules to be changed, and McSally continues to fight. 

In 2013, she spoke out against the fact that some military jobs, including the infantry, armor and special-forces operations were completely closed to women. 

In 2015, all military jobs became open to both genders. She continues to work so that every woman and girl has the full opportunity to follow their dreams. 

She launched a working group in the House in 2016 to look at the causes of challenges that women face, and to find solutions for them. She currently chairs this group. 

Martha McSally demonstrates a powerful way to address women’s rights—through her lifestyle, unwavering beliefs and persistence. 

Though her Republican views conflict with some liberal philosophies, she shows that Republicans are ready to address the issue too, in their own way. Democrats could gain from allowing stories like McSally’s to enter the discussion on women’s rights so that a huge, successful movement would be created. 


Follow Toni Marcheva on Twitter.



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