Early on, when John Aravosis asked if I’d be interested in writing for his blog, I said yes, of course! And he asked what topics I might like to write about. Science and technology, I told him. LGBT rights. And women’s rights and issues.
Well, the science and tech news tends to be turned into open threads. And there’s been a lot of positive news lately with LGBT rights — except in Russia — but both of those lend themselves to easy posts.
Honestly, I’ve had a lot of trouble coming up with the right kind of essay or post that isn’t just another re-hash of the ‘War on Women.’ (Which nevertheless remains an apt description.) And over the last few months, I’ve been collecting link after link of news posts that touch on issues of anti-woman policies or culture.
Part of the problem is it feels like a veritable flood lately. And from so many different — yet often similar — directions.
My own interest in feminism and feminist topics dates back to awakenings in the late 1970s, when it began to become clear that a rising tide of conservatism and religious fundamentalism not only would stop the Equal Rights Amendment, it soon would begin as well undercut the entire women’s equality movement.
What’s worse, is the women’s rights movements seemed to gradually lose their steam, even as the anti-feminists gathered their strength for an all-out assault on women’s equality. We left the battlefield undefended.
For many years, we seemed to be making good progress on most fronts while holding the line on others. But during the last decade or so, it all seems to be unraveling. We have:
- The Rape Culture: Women and girls said to be deserving of being raped. Women blamed for being raped. Rape victims being accused of lying, and often literally hounded to suicide. (Coincident with this is systematic ‘slut-shaming.’)
- The Forced Pregnancy Cultists: It should be clear by now that by tying opposition to abortion and contraception, the real goal is of these particular misogynists is to give men the right to impregnate women at will, and for even a rapist’s sperm cells to have more civil rights than the woman he just violated.
- The Women as Chattel Cabal: These are the ones who believe women don’t deserve education or careers or lives of being anything other than wives and mothers. And before you think, “Oh, that’s just al Qaeda and Talibanists” — no, we have them here in America, too. Plus now they’re trying to take away our right to vote!
- The Poverty and Economic Disadvantage Fiends: Opposition to anti-discrimination and fair-pay laws. Caring more about a national park being open than the elimination of Head Start, WIC, and Food Stamps. There’s often some overlap here with the other groups, such as the demands that women’s particular medical needs not be covered by health insurance and government programs.
- The Women are Inherently Inferior League: While this may seem similar to the Chattel Cabal, it isn’t quite. These are the ones who just insist there’s no point in women fighting for equality because we will always be of less worth and ability than men. Some argue from religion, because of the Eve myth. Some in the past have argued that women simply can’t deal with combat or we’re physically weaker and therefore should be denied certain opportunities. Some will point to an angry man and say he’s just being aggressive, whereas a woman displaying the same behavior is branded as ‘shrill and hysterical.’
- The Anti-Feminists: Simple enough, it’s those who hold forth that if it’s something women care about, they’re 100% against it. Rush Limbaugh is a prime example of this, with his constant invocation of ‘Feminazis.’
So, I’m going to assign acronyms to each of those categories — RC, FPC, WCC, PEDF, WIIL, and AF — and start applying them to the various news accounts in my collection. You’ll notice a lot of overlap.
Here are just a few of the things that men never have to deal with
The co-founder of a magazine (‘Vice’) claiming not only does equality and feminism make women unhappy, only 7% don’t want to have children. (A number he assuredly pulled out of his ass.) He further claims that women simply don’t belong in the workplace because we’re not violent enough in our language and behavior. (WCC, WIIL, AF)
A “men’s right’s activist” and founder of a website called “A Voice For Men” (not going to link it), says he didn’t “give a f*ck about rape victims anymore.” He seems to think too much money and effort is being spent on trying to prevent and/or prosecute rapes. (RC, AF)
A woman in the United Kingdom led a campaign to try to keep at least one woman on their bank notes who isn’t Queen Elizabeth II, and was then subjected to a torrent of Tweets threatening violent rape and murder. Her crime? Wanting to keep Jane Austen on one of the notes; Austen’s removal would leave nothing but white males on them. (Just like here in America… and no, the Sacajawea coin doesn’t count because nobody uses it.) (RC, AF)
Another woman, Anita Sarkeesian, launches a kickstarter project to examine sexist portrayals of women in computer gaming, and is subjected to an “organized and sustained effort” to harass, terrorize, and destroy her. Her YouTube video comments were full of rape, violence, and death threats. Her Wikipedia page has been repeatedly vandalized. They even tried to get Kickstarter to ban her project. (RC, WIIL, AF)
And if you think it’s couldn’t possibly be that bad and why would any males get so upset they’d resort to this… well, there’s an archive of the worst of it over on Feminist Frequency. I have to issue a warning: This is some seriously vile stuff and they don’t censor any of it. We’re talking possibly major trigger material — essentially it’s the ‘Rape Culture’ out of control.
I’ll share a sampling of some of the less awful comments:
- “Reported for sexism and terrorism.”
- “The bigger the hoops, the bigger the whore.”
- “Get back in the kitchen, if you hate it make your own games.”
- “Tits or get the f*ck out.”
- “She is a JEW.”
- “I hope you get cancer.”
- “You disgust me, you f*cking b*tch.”
(Note: I asterisked some of those words so as not to ruin John’s ad revenue stream. They were spelled out in the comments, and many of them were far more explicit in their threats and crudity. I saw the c-word invoked more than once.)
Apparently one of the ways women are shouted down over on Youtube is if there’s a feminist-themed video, the haters flag it as ‘terrorism.’ If it’s Twitter, it’s a Tweet-flood of misogyny and threats of violence and rape.
How about some more, this time not in social media
More things men don’t have to deal with:
A safe and well-tested medicine that not only allows women to choose how and when to have children, but is also used for a wide variety of non-reproductive medically necessary reasons, being declared “immoral” by major religions and a conservative political party. A woman, Sandra Fluke, tries to testify to Congress as to those non-reproductive uses for these medicines and is branded a sex-crazed slut. As a contraceptive — both taken routinely and as the emergency Plan-B — it prevents ovulation, yet the Forced Pregnancy Cult always insists, falsely, that it causes abortions. Meanwhile, there is zero controversy however in the pharmaceutical reversal of God-given impotence for men. (FPC)
In 2013, more than 300 new anti-abortion state laws and regulations were passed, all designed to deny women the right to a safe and legal abortion. Often, the legislators pushing these laws say “it’s to protect women’s health” — but invariably they admit the entire purpose is to make it impossible for any woman — but especially poor women — to obtain an abortion. Meanwhile, these same legislators do not want poor women to have access to affordable healthcare, even while pregnant or for these women’s kids after they’re born. (FPC, PEDF)
A Catholic website, “Fix the Family” advises families not to send their daughters to college, urging instead that girls be taught to be wives and mothers, rather than to seek education. Raylan Alleman says that young women who go to college become “hypnotized by their own hormones.” Women don’t need education, he says, not for those “likely to be mothers.” (WCC, WIIL, AF)
In El Salvador, women are sometimes jailed for aggravated murder if they have a stillbirth or miscarry. Essentially, a woman has to prove her innocence, but all it takes is a biased doctor or an abusive husband, and a woman can be jailed for life simply for failing to carry a pregnancy successfully to term. This includes pregnancies resulting from incest or rape. Of course, all abortions, for any reason whatsoever — even to save a woman’s life, and even if the fetus inside her is dead — are illegal there. Right-wing groups in America hail El Salvador’s brutal laws as a model of what they want to have here. (FPC, WCC)
A company in Texas decides to market its ultra-realistic vehicle decals by creating a decal that makes it look like there’s a bound and gagged woman in the back of a pickup truck bed. The upside is the owner of Hornet Signs realized he’d made a serious error in judgment and launched an effort to give money and raise more for abuse victims groups. The downside? He continued to receive a great many inquiries from customers disappointed they couldn’t buy the “female kidnap and assault victim” decal. (RC)
Then, in the news
Fox News invited a criminal defense attorney on to talk about the Missouri case where a 14 year old girl and her 13 year old girlfriend were (allegedly) given alcohol until unconsciousness and then raped by high school football players.
The attorney, Joseph DiBenedetto says, “I’m not saying she deserved to be raped, but…” — and then proceeds to make it clear he does believe these teenaged girls deserved it. Other accounts, of course, focused on the damage to the reputations of the older teenaged boys who raped these girls, as if that’s the real tragedy. A scenario that’s played out time after time after time. (RC)
That Missouri girl, by the way, was hounded by death threats, urged to suicide, her family forced by the stress and harassment to move out of their home — which was soon after burned to the ground in ‘suspicious’ circumstances. To her credit, that young woman, Daisy Coleman, is speaking out. (RC)
I know… this is getting heavy. How about a topically relevant video break, from All India Bakchod:
Okay, ready for a little more?
Texas Republicans are looking to disenfranchise women — who tend to vote Democratic on average — so they come up with bright idea to require that a name on a photo ID match exactly the name in the voter registration database.
Guess who tends to change their surnames and/or middle names upon marriage? Women. Up to 34% of Texas women may be prevented from voting in upcoming elections. (Or delayed from voting and have to sign an affidavit, or be consigned to the often uncounted provisional ballot…) (WCC)
Only 66% of voting age women has ready access to a photo document that will attest to proof of citizenship and what Texas considers a “legal” name. This is largely significant because married women don’t always update their documents with their married names, while changing names after marriage isn’t something that usually affects male voters. 34% of women voters – those who are even aware that such an ID will be necessary or they will be prevented from voting – are hurrying to update their documents, not so easy to do and, tellingly, not that quick. Texas is making obtaining this photo ID with a so-called “up-to-date” name as difficult as possible; women must show original documents, along with both a birth certificate and proof of marriage, divorce degree, or court-ordered changes. Photocopies just aren’t good enough.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott (R-obviously) retweets an article from a conservative blog that refers to State Senator Wendy Davis (D) as “too stupid to be governor,” “Abortion Barbie,” and “even dumber than her fake blonde hair would imply.” (FPC, WIIL)
Anyway, I think the themes are pretty clear. The very acceptance of women as equally contributing members of society, deserving of respect — and deserving not to be raped or to be forced into involuntary pregnancy — is under assault.
Moreover, this undeniably real War on Women is being fought on far more than just one front. They would deny us the right to control our own bodies, deny us economic opportunities, and take away all our rights of self-determination, based on the assertion that we simply do not deserve to be treated as equals. Why? Because they say we’re inherently inferior to the men who are supposed to rule over us.
Re-subjugation and forced dependency for women are common threads in this, too.
This is the message they’re trying to teach to our daughters and our sons. And this, I believe, is where the battle should now be fought most fiercely.
(Becca draws some lines on the battle map, scrunches down her honorary general’s cap, and strokes her chin thoughtfully…)
In Part 2 of this post, it’s my hope to take all this negativity and bad news, and try to find the constructive, effective ways we can fight back.
Because we simply must fight. The battlefield has been left almost undefended for far too long. It needs to be us women and the men who support us as equals, to resume fighting the war we fought but which hasn’t yet been won.