To say that the left has a problem with handling sexual violence is not to imply that everyone else doesn’t. There is, however, a stubborn refusal to accept and deal with rape culture that is unique to the left and to progressives more broadly. It is precisely to do with the idea that, by virtue of being progressive, by virtue of fighting for equality and social justice, by virtue of, well, virtue, we are somehow above being held personally accountable when it comes to issues of race, gender and sexual violence.
Laurie Penny (via briefbutstillinfinite)
Victim-blaming has become so pervasive, it is hard to even identify—it has become like the air we breathe.
Jen Roesch, How a victim-blaming system excuses rape
There’s a strand of thought — I identify it especially with Corey Robin, although he’s not alone — that says that conservatism isn’t really about the things it claims to be about. It isn’t really about free markets and moral values; it’s about authority — the authority of bosses over workers, of men over women, of whites over Those People.
Paul Krugman (via azspot)
I’m as thrilled as anyone that the country rejected the GOP’s army of what James Wolcott calls ‘rape philosophers’ and birth-control McCarthyites. But let’s also remember what that means: in the 21st century, one of our two political parties mounted a serious national campaign, and came damn near close to winning, on the basis of a medieval ideology that we thought we had overcome a half-century ago. That we won this battle is good news; that we had to fight it is not.
Corey Robin, An Army of Rape Philosophers
“What was, for all its tragic dimensions, a minor event in Libya became a central campaign issue because it proved to be this season’s code word for the whole mythological package. For many Americans, the deepest reassurance may come simply from sensing that our traditional mythology — the familiar lens through which we view our nation and its role in the world — is still intact.”
On the pretense of destiny, the myth of American Exceptionalism, authoritarianism, and rank, putrid patriarchy as the drivers of U.S. foreign policy:
[…] The debate between Republicans and Democrats wasn’t about goals in the Middle East, where support for autocratic friends like Saudi Arabia and Bahrain is assumed, and both sides agree on the need for democratic elections, religious pluralism, a free press, empowering women, strengthening free enterprise capitalism, and destroying Islamist terrorists.
More broadly, both sides agree, as they have for decades, that Washington’s overriding foreign policy goal must be to shape history, control the world, and make it mirror American values and serve American interests. This mythic vision of American foreign policy is a rare example of long-term bipartisan consensus.
When I call it myth, I don’t mean it’s a lie. I mean it’s a foundational narrative of American power that expresses our most basic assumptions about the world, a story in which every nation on the planet is, theoretically, ours to lose.
To most Americans (though not to much of the rest of the world), this narrative does not reflect sheer hubris and intoxication with imperial power. It’s just good common sense. Throughout our history, at the heart of the dominant national mythology has been the assumption that the U.S. should be the world’s “locomotive” and all the other nations “the caboose” (as President Harry Truman’s Secretary of State, Dean Acheson, once said). The reason for this was simple (at least to Americans): we were the first and greatest nation founded on the universal moral truths that are supposedly self-evident to any reasonable person.
Sure, controlling the world would serve our self-interest in all sorts of tangible ways. However, our primary self-interest, so the myth maintains, always was and always will be the moral improvement — perhaps even perfection — of the entire world. By serving ourselves we serve all humanity.
The only question worth debating, then, is how we can use our preponderant power and wealth most shrewdly to maintain effective control. Most Americans expect their president to know the answer. At the same time, most Americans worry that he might not. A more recent pillar of the bipartisan narrative, the myth of homeland insecurity, suggests the opposite.
According to that myth, no matter how much military strength we have or control we exert, there is always “a rising tide of tumult” somewhere that threatens our national security. At every moment, somewhere in the world, we have something crucial to lose. The name of the threat can change with surprising ease. But the peril must always be there. It’s essential to the story.
And that story, in turn, is now essential to every presidential contest. As New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd once wrote, “Every election has the same narrative: Can the strong father protect the house from invaders?” (Think of Ronald Reagan and the Iran captivity tale or George W. Bush and 9/11.) If one candidate is the incumbent, the question becomes: Has he been a strong enough father to control the world and thereby protect the house?
With the division of labour, in which all these contradictions are implicit, and which in its turn is based on the natural division of labour in the family and the separation of society into individual families opposed to one another, is given simultaneously the distribution, and indeed the unequal distribution, both quantitative and qualitative, of labour and its products, hence property: the nucleus, the first form, of which lies in the family, where wife and children are the slaves of the husband. This latent slavery in the family, though still very crude, is the first property, but even at this early stage it corresponds perfectly to the definition of modern economists who call it the power of disposing of the labour-power of others. Division of labour and private property are, moreover, identical expressions: in the one the same thing is affirmed with reference to activity as is affirmed in the other with reference to the product of the activity.
Marx and Engels, The German Ideology (via jayaprada)
The Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson — who has made a number of appearances on Fox News, founded a Tea Party group in California and is also the founder of a group called BOND (Brotherhood Organization of a New Destiny) — recently gave a speech (I hope it wasn’t a sermon), in which he said:
One of the primary reasons that it is over for America is because women are taking over, women are taking over, they’re in high so-called powerful position, they’re now running companies, they’re making decisions.
He then pointed out that he was not referring to all women:
The are some, a few out there that are logical women and can make sound decisions, but most cannot.
He prattled on nonsensically for a while, adding that “women cannot handle power, it’s not in them to handle power in the right way” and “women have been degraded, women are now degraded, they have no shame.”
I’m getting upset just transcribing this, so let me just get to the meat of it. Here’s the part of his speech I wanted you to see:
I think that one of the greatest mistakes that America made was to allow women the opportunity to vote. We should’ve never turned it over to women.
The church insists it’s an argument about religious freedom, not birth control. But, really, it’s about birth control, and women’s lower caste in the church. It’s about conservative bishops targeting Democratic candidates who support contraception and abortion rights as a matter of public policy. And it’s about a church that is obsessed with sex in ways it shouldn’t be, and not obsessed with sex in ways it should be. The bishops and the Vatican care passionately about putting women in chastity belts. Yet they let unchaste priests run wild for decades, unconcerned about the generations of children who were violated and raped and passed around like communion wine.
Close to home, this one.
The sexual heresies that truly upset the pearl-clutchers of middle America have nothing to do with whips and chains. That’s just faux-outrage, a bit of editorial baiting designed to upset feminists and titillate everyone else who likes to get cross and horny over the idea of dirty little girls tied up with tape. No, what really gets social conservatives angry still happens not in swanky fetish clubs, but behind the closed doors of abortion clinics. It’s women who want to be able to choose to terminate a pregnancy. Women who want to control their own fertility. Women who want sexual autonomy, which is what any attack on abortion rights is fundamentally about. Women who want to live independently or raise children without the help of men. Women who want sex on its own merit, whether it comes wrapped in black bondage rope or scattered with rose petals.
Female sexual autonomy itself is what’s really unorthodox today. Agency and self-determination, the right to own our own desire - those are the kind of forbidden fantasies women across the world still pant over in private, unable to pronounce for fear of being slut-shamed. As Rousseau might put it : “Whether the woman shares the man’s desires or not, whether or not she is willing to satisfy them…the appearance of correct behavior must be among women’s duties.” [Read more]
Women have few public defenders right now and it’s our fault. As the years passed, we grew overconfident. We took our hard-won rights for granted, we assumed our enemies accepted our triumphs — abortion rights, equal pay, work equality, contraception — as a done deal. We underestimated how much we were hated, and look at us now.
American women are fighting a rearguard action for something as basic as birth control to be included in health-care plans. They are called “sluts” for doing so.
They are also fighting state government-mandated pre-abortion ultrasounds to shame them into cancelling the procedure. “I cannot believe I still have to protest this,” one woman demonstrator’s sign read in Virginia. The women were hauled away by police on Monday, the same way pregnant women who attempt suicide are arrested for child murder in the southern states.
As things now stand, women are condemned for existing. Whatever we do, we will always be wrong.
Our appearance is dissected as if we were crayfish pinned to a lab table. We wear too much makeup, our clothes are too tight and short, we are too attractive for the workplace but too ugly to be sexually harassed, “sluts” when we get pregnant and “sluts” for not having a husband, bad mothers when we seek child care in order to go back to work, bad wives for working in the first place.
We’re too fat for our clothes, too thin to be healthy, we inexplicably outdo males in school, we are unattractively aggressive, we are out of line.
Women simply cannot win. If we don’t fight back against this tidal wave, we are in desperate trouble. And a Happy International Women’s Day to you too.
The pro-choice movement opposes forced ultrasounds because they override the doctor’s discretion and the doctor-patient relationship, in a manner that is not only condescending to the woman’s preferred course of action, but also often requires a greater outlay of time, sometimes an entire extra day, as well as money. Not only do they not change anyone’s mind, ultrasounds stigmatize and intimidate women who are already under stress.
The ultrasound fallacy (via iamdrtiller)
The script plays out pretty much the same way every time the Republicans plant the flag in the uterus. A bunch of men take to the teevee and the op-ed pages talking about the “culture war” (what the fuck is that anyway) and slutty slut slut sluts. Everyone concludes the Dems should cower in fear and come up with their own mandatory chastity belt plan. Then, slowly, it begins to occur to people that maybe the womenfolk are people too and have a few opinions on this stuff.
Half The Population And A Few Of Them Vote (via underthemountainbunker)
The chunk about Tyler Cowen can be read at the link. I felt this point was more interesting:
This bit from Dahlia Lithwick’s piece caught my eye:
During the floor debate on Tuesday, Del. C. Todd Gilbert announced that “in the vast majority of these cases, these [abortions] are matters of lifestyle convenience.” (He has since apologized.) Virginia Democrat Del. David Englin, who opposes the bill, has said Gilbert’s statement “is in line with previous Republican comments on the issue,” recalling one conversation with a GOP lawmaker who told him that women had already made the decision to be “vaginally penetrated when they got pregnant.” (I confirmed with Englin that this quote was accurate.)
That notion “once-probed, always-probed” sounds an awful lot like the notion of implicit sexual consent that dates back to the 18th century and that justified marital rape in this country until the 1980s. As I write in my book:
Until 1980, for example, it was legal in every state in the union for a husband to rape his wife. The justification for this dates back to a 1736 treatise by English jurist Matthew Hale. When a woman marries, Hale argued, she implicitly agrees to give “up herself in this kind [sexually] unto her husband.” Hers is a tacit, if unknowing, consent “which she cannot retract” for the duration of their union. Having once said yes, she can never say no. As late as 1957—during the era of the Warren Court—a standard legal treatise could state, “A man does not commit rape by having sexual intercourse with his lawful wife, even if he does so by force and against her will.” If a woman (or man) tried to write into the marriage contract a requirement that express consent had to be given in order for sex to proceed, judges were bound by common law to ignore or override it. Implicit consent was a structural feature of the contract that neither party could alter. With the exit option of divorce not widely available until the second half of the twentieth century, the marriage contract doomed women to be the sexual servants of their husbands.
Resonances like these are why I sometimes suggest that modern conservatism is just a neoliberal gloss on medieval domination.
Today in rightwing weapons of mass distraction:
Republican Darrell Issa, chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, will convene a hearing tomorrow, “Lines Crossed: Separation of Church and State. Has the Obama Administration Trampled on Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Conscience?”
The lead witness is the Most Reverend William E. Lori, Roman Catholic Bishop of Bridgeport, Connecticut, and chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty. Judging from Lori and the rest of the witness list, it’s obvious that Issa has posed what he considers to be a rhetorical question and lined up nine like-minded rhetoricians to answer it anyway. None of the religious groups supportive of the Obama administration will be heard from.
Issa’s lead witness is also his lead cheerleader. Last year, after Lori testified before the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, and urged Congress to investigate, among other things, “illegal conditions” he claimed the Department of Health and Human Services was placing on faith-based contractors, Issa heeded his call.
Eight out of nine of Issa’s witnesses are Orthodox Christian, Catholic, and evangelical, and represent Christian institutions, one of which, Belmont Abbey College, has sued HHS over the contraception requirement. The sole exception is Rabbi Meir Soloveichik of Yeshiva University, an Orthodox rabbi who last week penned a Wall Street Journal op-ed with Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, and Watergate felon-turned prison evangelist Chuck Colson, claiming a united, ecumenical front against the contraception requirement. Wuerl, promoting dire slippery slope arguments, has compared the contraception mandate to the government requiring Catholic schoolchildren to watch pornography.
One name notably missing from Issa’s witness list: Sister Carol Keehan, president of the Catholic Health Association, which placed its blessing on the accommodation President Obama announced last Friday. Under the modified rule, insurance companies, rather than employers, will offer and bear the cost of providing contraception coverage to employees.
Hopefully these thoroughly apolitical wise men, who are, honestly, seriously, only concerned with American liberty in this case, can figure out what’s best for women.