anti-feminism


Thousands of people in 46 states rallied this past Saturday against the ‘War on Women.’ Though the marches received relatively little coverage from the so-called ‘liberal media’ (ha!), the issue of the GOP attacks on women are not going away.

Speaker Boehner will have you believe that the ‘War on Women’ is feminist hysterics. He’ll even throw a temper tantrum on the House floor to prove how upset it makes him. Steven Benen would like him to know that he could make the whole issue go away pretty simply: change your anti-woman policies.

Boehner can shout, point, and pound the podium to his heart’s content, but if he doesn’t want to be criticized for Republican measures that undermine women’s health, he should change his party’s agenda, not whine about Democrats shining a light on that agenda.

Rachel Maddow also recognizes that the GOP attacks on women is about policy. She put together a great segment highlighting the attacks and Republicans’ subsequent denial here: Maddow: GOP Denies War on Women. I encourage you to watch the whole thing.

Where I think Maddow really hits the nail on the head is when she points out that conservatives and progressives seem to be working from different facts. Just as the Republicans are currently denying they are waging a war on women, the same days/weeks that they are passing anti-woman legislation or taking money from women’s health programs, they seem to be clueless as to why they are being accused of this ‘war.’

As Maddow attempted to make a point about Equal Pay on yesterday’s Meet the Press, she was interrupted and treated condescendingly by GOP strategist and well-known sexist Alex Castellanos. He insisted that women don’t earn less than men by cherry-picking a small data point about single women ages 40-64. But he flat-out denied that women earn less than men, which is a well-documented fact.

Because the GOP is unwilling to change their policies that hurt women, they have to deny that any problem exists. They need women’s votes, as we are the demographic that elects the president. Moving forward, it will be interesting to see if they choose to lighten up on the attacks in recognition of the political toll they are taking, or if they will double down and alienate the most important voter block at the risk of losing their jobs.

It’s time to stop talking about women and start listening to women. Or you can laugh at us and interrupt us like Alex Castellanos. It may be good television, but it’s bad politics.

This video is a little old, but sadly still perfectly relevant.

After Tiger Woods got busted for serial infidelity, my 90-something-year-old grandpa concluded that would probably be the end of his career. My mom and I countered that would probably not be the case, as he had only wronged women. Just look at Kobe, we told him. The Pro-Am just concluded and sure enough, nary a mention of Tiger’s ‘personal problems’ as he continues to struggle back to peak form in golf.

That is not to suggest that cheating is even in the same ballpark as battery. Rather, I mean to point out the willingness to forgive high profile men for their bad behavior toward women. Just look at Charlie Sheen, who continues to be one of the highest paid actors in television and has a new show coming out in June.

Shortly after Sheen’s estranged wife is granted a restraining order against him, Sheen was welcomed at the Emmys. At the time, Heather Tooley suggested:

Hollywood and fans have a way of cutting celebrities a lot of slack for bad behavior if they play nice long enough.

No. The court of public opinion has a way of cutting celebrities a lot of slack for bad behavior against women. Period.

I didn’t watch, but I hear Chris Brown performed not once, but twice last night. He also won Best R&B album. A lot of people made light of his triumphant return, while still others glorified the abuse (TW for physical abuse at those links).

As Jay Smooth said, and you think you’re being persecuted?

What is Chris Brown complaining about? I’ve never seen someone complain so much, about getting off so easy, for doing something so bad. …You brutally, physically assaulted a woman, a woman you supposedly loved, that you beat to a pulp and then left there alone in that car so you could go get a head start on your PR strategy.

Rachel Maddow – An Exercise in Fertility

(Having difficulty with the video embed today, please click the link for video)

Currently all four Republican presidential candidates have taken an extreme stance on birth control. Birth control? Are we really arguing about women’s ability to plan their families in 2012? Yes. As Rachel Maddow points out in the spot on segment above, they are taking a stance on this issue that is even too extreme for the electorate in Mississippi.

Why has birth control become such an issue all of a sudden? I think Rachel hits the nail on the head that the beltway pundits are really missing the point on this one.

I realize that a lot of 60-something male pundits look at this and think it’s bad politics for the Democrats on the Catholic side. There is another way to look it.

That other way to look at it is as a woman. Novel concept! Except that it shouldn’t be, considering women have elected every president since JFK. Or another way to look at it could be as a Catholic woman, 98% of whom have used birth control.

In this economy, Rachel breaks it down to the bottom line.

Hey, women of America! Under a democratic president your birth control pills will be covered by health insurance, and if you don’t have health insurance you can go to a clinic and get subsidized birth control there. If a republican is elected your insurance won’t cover birth control, and if your insurance doesn’t cover it there are no clinics to go to any more to get birth control pills. Planned Parenthood defunded. Title 10 gone altogether. So you can’t get it from insurance, and you can’t get it from a clinic. You are paying cash, out of pocket, retail cost for birth control…$600 to $1200 a year. That’s if you’re lucky. Because if you’re not lucky, you live in a state where birth control has just been declared illegal. Do you want a democratic or republican president women of America?

A year or two ago I got fed up with the sexism of The Huffington Post (intentionally not linked). Try this and you’ll see what I mean: On any given day, go to their homepage and just scan your eyes down the page for stories about women. More often than not, they’re not actual news pieces, but gossip or polls dealing with some sensational tidbit meant to increase the website’s click count.

Today (for ‘research’ purposes I went there, though it makes me want to wash my hands) we have stories about Gaddafi aids, Bernie Madoff, and Lawrence O’Donnell, all accompanied by a picture of the man in question in a suit. For stories that feature women, we have ‘Jessica Simpson Tweets Photo of Herself from NYC Bathroom,’ ‘Kelly Clarkson Reveals Why People Think She’s a Lesbian,’ and ‘Jenna Lyons’ New (Female!) Love Interest Revealed.’ You get the idea. Today Name It Change It, a project of the Women’s Media Center that calls out sexism in the media, especially toward women in politics, called out HuffPo’s sexism toward Hillary Clinton.

Yesterday Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Peruvian Prime Minister Salomon Lerner. Instead of focusing on diplomatic issues between Peru and the United States, the Huffington Post created a poll to gauge how readers are “feeling (about) the Hillary scrunchie.”

I know I shouldn’t be surprised any more. But this one irked me a little more than usual because just minutes before the scrunchie post caught my eye, I was reading about Clinton’s views on the limits of power and its implications for advancing the U.S.’s interests abroad. That’s some heavy stuff! And hair accessories don’t come into the piece at all. It takes time and brain power to analyze Clinton’s beliefs, especially in the broader historical context of the U.S.’s reliance of military might. It’s much easier to focus on an aspect of her appearance and urge readers to vote on it. But that serves to minimize what comes out of her mouth as secondary to what she looks like. This is a message women and girls receive loud and clear everywhere they turn, but I wouldn’t expect to be sent by a popular ‘news’ outlet founded by a woman (Arianna Huffington – voted 12th Most Influential Woman in the Media by Forbes).

The media, as we all do, make choices about what’s important and who’s worth listening to. Huffington Post’s choice to focus on Hillary Clinton’s scrunchie, or Kelly Clarkson’s sexuality, rather than their newsworthy contributions to society, reinforces the notion that women are not to be taken seriously. That women are there for a good laugh, or a sexy picture, not relevant to the business of ‘real’ news, which is exclusively the realm of men. This carries over into our daily lives. Are we subconsciously giving people permission not to listen to what women say when they open their mouths?

Another choice the media makes involves the photo that accompanies their stories. More often than not, especially during the 2008 campaign, the photo that accompanied articles about Clinton where less than flattering, to put it mildly. The pattern continues through her tenure as Secretary of State, as Melissa McEwan of Shakesville highlights here. Clinton was at a press conference talking about the Somalian famine. She was urging the Shebab militants to stop preventing aid from reaching children during Ramadan. And what Getting Images photo was chosen to accompany her statement? The photo is after the jump with McEwan’s spot-on analysis below.

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I wanted to share an example with you of what I was referring to in my previous post, where people brag about fitting into smaller sized jeans. This example showed up on my friend’s Facebook page two days after Love Your Body Day (with names and faces blocked for confidentiality):

This friend of mine has an eating disorder. We’ve known each other since we were very young and I’ve watched her struggle with it for more than a decade. So to see her ‘friends’ uniformly praising her for losing weight is quite upsetting, though not surprising. Isn’t there one of them who knows, deep down, that her thinness is not a sign that she is more healthy? Isn’t there one of them concerned for her health? Not one who chimes in to tell her she is a beautiful person no matter her size?

In contrast I’d like to share this article that encourages you to think twice before praising someone for weight loss.

So when we actively and publicly praise someone for his or her weight loss (especially young women/girls), are we praising someone for a healthy and balanced approach to living or someone who is facing a critical, mental health crisis? Are we mistakenly encouraging someone to continue a process that has allowed them to lose weight, a process that will, if gone unchecked, lead to their death?

So will you be the dissenting voice on the Facebook thread that chimes in with something other than praise for pounds shed? You may be surprised at the reaction you get (not always positive). But perhaps you’ll awaken someone else who is in the habit of affirming problematic, even dangerous, behavior. It’s fast and easy to click “like” or to chime in with the crowd. But consider what you’re affirming and whether it’s what you value most about your friend.

Last week I participated in a book discussion at the college where I work. We were discussing a book by a journalist who was kidnapped by the Taliban while reporting on the war in Afghanistan. During our discussion, one of my colleagues mentioned how dangerous these combat zones have become for journalists. She then said, “Look what happened to Lara Logan in Egypt. I mean, what was she thinking?”

Today as I listen to reports of the filmmaker and photojournalist killed in Libya, I can’t help but notice that not a single person has questioned their decision to be there. Instead, these men are lauded for bringing us the truth and taking risks in the process. Despite the fact that they chose to put themselves in harm’s way without protective gear, no one is questioning their judgment.

Several reports I’ve heard have pointed out the sensitivity with which Tim Hetherington captures images of war. I dare to suggest that Lara Logan brought a similar sensitivity to her work in Egypt. Simply due to her gender, she was better able to gain access to Egyptian women’s experiences, a perspective often overlooked in the coverage of that story.

The recent loss of these brave journalists in Libya is tragic, and I am not suggesting that they should not have been in a combat zone. I do, however, wish to draw attention to the very different narratives surrounding male and female journalists in conflict areas. With Lara Logan, the story was about her appearance and her gender, and it was chock full of victim-blaming. Newsweek immediately did a story about “Women in Harm’s Way.” Some even suggested she was enjoying all the attention her assault would bring her. She was not viewed as a brave journalist willing to venture into a dangerous situation to bring us the truth, but rather as a woman who took an unnecessary risk.

Over the next few days as you learn more about the story unfolding in Libya, please notice the narrative surrounding Tim Hetherington and his colleagues. They are described with praise, admiration and dedication. All of these words are undoubtedly appropriate, but should not be attributed selectively, based on the person’s gender.

“We have an epidemic here,” [Rep. Jane Harman] said. “Women serving in the U.S. military today are more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire in Iraq.”

That was 2008, yet little has changed.

Kori Cioca, 25, of Wilmington, Ohio, tells about how she was raped while serving in the U.S. Coast Guard.

Long story short, I was raped.

When I told my command they waited. They didn’t do anything to help me. It’s like they didn’t care. It wasn’t important. I wasn’t important.

The coast guard’s a lifesaving service yet they didn’t save mine.

Military doctors say that 40% of women at veterans’ hospitals report being sexually assaulted during their service.

[Rep. John] Tierney said, “what’s at stake here goes to the very core of the values of the military and the nation itself.

“When our sons and daughters put their lives on the line to defend the rest of us, the last thing they should fear is being attacked by one of our own.”

Will we kick the can down the road on this, as victims of sexual assault in our own military suffer in silence? Will we continue to hold hearings and listen to the military say it takes these issues seriously, while the evidence in these cases proves the opposite to be true. We must listen to these women’s stories. We must believe and trust them. And we must demand justice.

Please check out the Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN) for more information and ways to get involved.

Justice Elena Kagan was confirmed today by a 63-37 vote. Women now comprise one-third of the justices on the Supreme Court. If that doesn’t sound all that impressive, consider the fact that Elena Kagan is just the fourth woman justice in the Court’s history, out of 112 total justices. That means just 3.6% of Supreme Court justices in U.S. history have been women.

So when you hear conservatives whining about how President Obama is nominating so many women and minorities to important positions within his administration, consider this: Even if the next 100 Supreme Court justices are women, without a single man thrown in there, the majority of Supreme Court justices in our history would still have been men.

There continues to be a lot of press about the recent murders of two young girls here in San Diego. As the community mourns, the denial and sadness have turned to anger. The anger is understandable and justified, though at times misguided. People want to write new laws to ‘protect our daughters’ without first examining the failures of the laws already on the books. Laws that likely would have prevented these latest murders if enforced properly.

After Gardner was charged with killing Chelsea and linked by police to Ambers disappearance, prison officials disclosed that he had violated parole conditions seven times but was never returned to prison.

According to parole records, Gardner allowed his GPS battery to lapse four times. He also missed a meeting with his agent, was ticketed for possessing marijuana and was cited for breaking residency conditions.

The San Diego Union-Tribune reported last week that Gardner opened a MySpace account despite a parole condition banning him from using computers; agents failed to discover the violation.

Excuses are made and fingers are pointed. The board that’s supposed to investigate the parole violation has few staff and no budget. Many of the people on the board are representatives from the department of corrections, which is essentially tasked with policing itself. One has to wonder if the governor really wants productive outcomes to come from this investigation.

Nationwide, government and law enforcement often go through the motions when it comes to crimes against women. Their actions speak much louder than their words. It is clear that sexual assault cases are not a priority. Picture storage rooms full of untested rape kits. Listen as victims of assault are deemed not credible. Observe as our community implores girls to take self defense classes, placing the responsibility solely on the potential victims rather than the perpetrators.

We need to call out the empty nods and broken promises. We need to get everyone involved in working toward a solution, not just stakeholders who have their own political interests in mind.

A new commission was formed in Cleveland, in response to the bodies of 11 women being found in the home of a registered sex offender, that looks a lot different from the one here in San Diego. The three accomplished women leading the commission are meeting deadlines, documenting problems and making recommendations. All of their 26 recommendations were accepted by the mayor. Now we wait to see if this is yet another example of paying lip service or if a community will finally demonstrate that they believe that indeed women and girls deserve better.

As my community is plastered with the face of yet another missing teen girl, I can’t help but ponder the interconnectedness of things. A registered sex offender is in custody, and there is a strong possibility he was involved in at least one other attack on a jogger nearby. As I read about the outpouring of support for the family and the search effort, something just doesn’t add up on a deeper level. The amount of energy and support put into the search for Chelsea King should now be put into preventing such a thing from happening again.

People don’t connect this incident with larger-scale issues like sexism and misogyny. Some of the same people whose hearts go out to this girl and her family would turn around and deny the inequality that women face. They don’t associate this negative viewpoint of all-things-girly with other examples of hatred towards women and girls. And if you try to connect the dots, they come at you with anger and more personal hatred. If you doubt the anger that women face on a daily basis, just take a look at the comments in articles such as this or this one. Many feminist sites have recurring features about the hate mail they receive. As Jessica Valenti points out in a response to the comments on her Washington Post piece (emphasis in original),

As irritating as it can be to read comments like these, they prove a valuable point: Sexism is not only alive and well; it’s angry. These comments are not taking issue with my article with a ‘well, I don’t really agree women have it that bad’ kind of argument. They’re furious and they’re hateful. And they’re an excellent reminder for why feminist work is so important.

Another example of a connection that’s not being made is the widespread practice of treating women’s bodies like objects (see here and here). There is such a clear connection between this kind of objectification and a sexual predator who uses his victim and throws her away.

If you are genuinely concerned about this young girl and others like her, you have to acknowledge that sexual assault does not happen in a vacuum. We live in a society that teaches men that success can be measured by access to women as sexual objects (Tiger Woods). A culture that sexualizes young girls, laughs at rape jokes, blames victims or turns the other cheek breeds these predators.

A refusal to acknowledge deep-rooted sexism and pervasive violence against women makes you part of the problem, rather than the solution. If you care about your sisters and daughters, you have to make the connections between these incidents and the bigger picture. Every time. It can’t be selective. It’s got to be consistent. The same people who were out there searching for Chelsea should be dedicating their time and energy into preventing future sexual assault. It can’t just be when it hits close to home, but maybe the close to home ones will open people’s eyes.

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