As expected, the warm and happy fuzzies I had last week have run their course and have now turned back into cynical and sarcastic pointy spikes. On the heels of Obama’s progressive steps in regards to women’s issues, we now have a bizarre backlash against women, namely the idea that we need to protect women from themselves because they apparently have no agency. It all started with the simple request by Nancy Pelosi to put an affordable sexual health care provision in the new Obama stimulus bill, in order to help struggling families avoid unplanned pregnancies, help lower health care costs for women, and save local governments around 200 million which they could then invest in other things (like "shovel-ready" projects, perhaps).
They might as well have put in a provision declaring that Obama as the new Jesus. Locking in on this provision, those against the stimulus found it to be a convenient way to discredit the Democrat’s bill in total with claims that it’s somehow detrimental to families and the economy to help families prevent unplanned pregnancies. Realizing that the majority of sexually active women in this country use birth control and vote, the bill’s critics could not just come out and admit they are against helping women with their sexual health and against helping families prevent pregnancies they cannot support right now, so instead they fell back on an old favorite from the anti-choice crowd – the idea that women are too weak-willed and childlike to make their own rational decisions, so if the government makes something available, their feminine minds will not be able to resist.
And that is how a policy of affordable and accessible sexual health care became a policy of mandatory pregnancy termination. It doesn’t make a ton of sense to me either. But all the same, it was removed form the bill to convince Republicans to vote for the stimulus, to which the Republicans responded by not voting for the stimulus. Such a good trade.
With their Dobson-inspired talking points distributed, the pundits made the rounds to convince the public that making condoms available is just like the one-child policy in China. Jack Cafferty accused Pelosi of "starting to sound a little like Chairman Mao, and even liberal hero Chris Matthews, always a champion of women (yes, sarcasm), picked up on the claimed the policy sounded “a little like China” and questioned the government’s role in reducing births. That the government is correctly assuming that women have minds of their own and are merely allowing access to the tools to make choices possible for those that might be denied some of those choices never seems to occur to Matthews and his ilk. Which makes sense if we look at this policy through a lens where women are not rational individuals that can make choices, but instead are idiot children that cannot help but be coerced into doing whatever someone else tells them to do.
This point was illustrated perfectly in a much-talked about political cartoon this week as well, in which a shady-looking Barack Obama is pushing what looks to be a very pregnant white woman into an abortion clinic. Obama has never advocated for anything other then choice in the matter of reproductive rights of course, which makes one start to wonder what it is about choice that some just aren’t getting. But it makes sense if you take on the viewpoint that it’s not important for women to be active participants in this debate as they can’t make rational decisions, therefore the real debate is between those that are willing to make those decisions for them - that would ban abortion in order to “let” women make the “choice” to bring pregnancies to term, and those mythical creatures that are using the legality of abortion to kill off the population by “forcing” and tricking frivolously-minded women to abort the pregnancies. In an interesting aside, note that the fetus is apparently able to make a rational and active decision by suggesting “waterboarding” instead, while the woman can do nothing but stay silent and look sad while being led by our President into the abortion clinic.
In other news, it appears that if we allow that women can make their own decisions, then it follows that they will choose to be objectified for the greater good. I was debating with myself whether or not to comment on this past week’s latest PETA outrage, being that the best way to get rid of an attention-starved troll is to ignore it. But I can never resist, because I think it’s important for PETA to get the message that they are misogynist assholes that have little respect for the women that work so hard for their organization, and as a result, they are alienating the very audience that they are trying to convert. Their latest ad features women dressed in their best sex-object attire (as usual) and performing sexual acts with vegetables, with the tag that going vegetarian makes one a better lover (based on a study linking meat consumption with impotence). It was prepared to run during the Super Bowl (so says PETA’s spokespeople), but was yanked do to its overtly sexual nature.
PETA has always held the philosophy that any attention, even negative attention, is good for their cause. As far as activist groups go, they are admirable in their success at creating outrage and drawing attention to their organization. But I feel sometimes they hurt their own cause by their tactics, being that often people that talk about PETA are not talking about the welfare of animals or merits of vegetarianism, but instead are talking about the outrageous campaign PETA is running now. But perhaps this sort of thing is helpful, and all or the animals will be saved because there is much discussion of the use of asparagus as a dildo for hot chicks. Or perhaps alienating women by constantly objectifying them is what will help stop animal cruelty. However that works.
PETA has claimed that the ad is merely a spoof on other sexed-up Super Bowl ads, if women’s bodies can be used to sell beer and television sets, then it’s funny to also use women’s bodies to promote vegetarianism as well. It’s apparently ironic, as most sexist tripe often is. But when PETA makes it a point to constantly use women’s bodies as sexual bait or “meat” to woo potential male vegetarians, that excuse falls flat pretty quick. The ad in question isn’t even applicable to women, being that they don’t have to worry about impotence, the only purpose that the women in the advertisement have is to be compliant sexual objects that will totally do you if you eat a celery stick.
Although I don’t disagree with many or PETA’s stated goals, their twisted logic that it’s perfectly acceptable to treat women not as living beings but as products for men’s consumption in order to show that it’s wrong to treat living beings as products for men’s consumption will always prevent me from supporting their organization. Perhaps when they start running out of women’s to objectify it will occur to them that showing a complete lack of respect for half of the world’s population while claiming that we need to show respect for animals isn’t the best way to gain supporters.
PETA weren’t the only ones assuming that women only exist for men’s pleasure this week. Former Texas representative Dick Armey was on Hardball this week debating with Salon’s Joan Walsh about the economy and the stimulus package. In the midst of throwing a tantrum because he was being challenged on his ideas, Armey blurted out:
“I am so damn glad that you could never be my wife, 'cause I surely wouldn't have to listen to that prattle from you every day.”
To which Walsh responded the only way she could, that she was okay with this as well. Personally though, I think I would have just looked at him strangely before I burst out laughing.
Only in a society that values a woman’s worth based on her appeal to men can the idea that Walsh should be totally schooled (in a debate about the economy) by Armey not wanting to marry her make sense. And it shows a change in that society when outbursts like Armey’s are starting not to result in head nodding and high fives, but instead in the collective agreement that Armey is a douchebag and is deserving of much ridicule for actually thinking that Walsh would be terribly upset with the prospect of never getting to make sweet, sweet love to Dick Armey. In reality, it appears that Armey’s “slam” says much more about him then it does about Walsh.
But let's end on a positive note, I encourage you to head on over to the blog Feministe, which juxtaposes two different pictures of two different bill signings to make a very strong statement. The first, as some may recall, is the signing of the Partial-Birth Abortion ban, signed by former President Bush while surrounded by a group of old guys. The second? The signing of the Lilly Ledbetter act, in which Obama is surrounded by both men and women, all smiles. I recall having so much anger at the first picture when it was released, but realizing at the same time how it's a pretty apt one-picture summary of Republicans and choice. And if one picture is worth a thousand words, then certainly two pictures are worth at least two-thousand words, right?
See you next week.