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With the election nearly upon us, it's almost impossible to pick up a newspaper or turn on the TV without hearing about the Tea Party.  What began as a collection of protests in early 2009 has exploded into a runaway political movement, with all American eyes fixed on the Party's candidates in Tuesday's Midterm Elections.  With a clear shift in the landscape ahead of us, what can we learn about how the election of these candidates will impact American women?

As early as March, Politico's Kenneth Vogel was pointing out the central role of women in the Tea Party, with participants stating how much they enjoyed the grassroots nature of the movement, and the freedom it allowed them to make their own decisions of how to run the party in their geographic regions.  Indeed, many of the Tea Party's key figures -- Michele Bachmann, Christine O'Donnell, Sarah Palin -- are women.  How ironic, then, that so many of the Tea Party's policies are so vehemently opposed to giving women more control over their own lives.

While the movement itself purports to want less government interference on everything from health care to the financial system, the Tea Party's point of view on the rights of women is markedly less hands-off.  Candidates like Sharron Angle and Christine O'Donnell are anti-choice, and the majority of the movement's members believe that fewer rights should be extended to women when it comes to reproductive rights.  Indeed, there is no doubt that a woman's right to her own body is under siege from this movement.

Beyond reproductive issues, the Tea Party embraces conservative Christian values, including the notion that women are subordinate to their husbands, including in financial matters.  By advocating to repeal health care reform, for example, they implicitly call for women to depend on their spouses for health care. After all, many women require flexible work hours and consequently seek employment that often does not provide health care coverage. A call for privatization of Social Security would disproportionately hurt women who depend far more heavily on this government program as their primary source of income in retirement years. This viewpoint clearly damages a woman's rights in her own home and undermines her autonomy.

In the workplace, women still make cents on every man's dollar, even when doing the same job.  Between work, home and the doctor's office, it's no doubt that the Tea Party is not a party for women (no matter how many are at its helm).  And with the outcome of Tuesday's election just around the corner, it may very well be that the future for women in this country will be anything but a party.

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