Posts Tagged ‘feminism’


This is What a Chauvinist Looks Like

September 30, 2016

Donald Trump’s ugly sexism has always been inescapable, but since the public humiliation of losing that first debate it has blown up exponentially. His wounded ego has been obsessed with two things: punishing Hillary for beating him by bringing up Bill’s infidelity, and punishing Alicia Machado for damaging his reputation by any means necessary.

On Monday night, Trump “held back” from attacking Hillary Clinton with her husband’s affairs (while making sure we all knew he might). When she mentioned Alicia Machado, Trump immediately threatened “I was going to say something extremely rough to Hillary, to her family, and I said to myself, ‘I can’t do it. I just can’t do it. It’s inappropriate. It’s not nice.'” In the days since, his surrogates have openly pushed for him to smear her this way, and he teases the possibility at all his public appearances. The breathtaking sexism inherent in attacking Hillary for Bill’s infidelity seems to escape all of them. How, exactly, is that attack supposed to work? Leaving aside that WE ALL ALREADY KNOW THIS, what would he be alleging about Hillary? That she failed in her duty to satisfy Bill? That she is less of a woman because Bill cheated on her? That since women are the gatekeepers of virtue, either leading men astray, or keeping them on the narrow path of monogamy, Hillary wasn’t a strong enough virtuous influence and is responsible for Bill’s fall into sin? No, seriously, explain to me how the fact that Bill Clinton is lech and a philanderer makes Hillary look bad. Is it because she stayed with him, forgave him, stood by him – does that make her weak? Is it that she is human and wasn’t “supportive” of the women Bill cheated with – is this some crazy attempt to suggest her feminism is lacking because she isn’t perfect? There is literally no way to tar her with her husband’s past that isn’t inherently, inescapably sexist, but Trump cannot stop talking about how much he wants to do it.

Still, his threats to discredit his actual opponent pale beside his unhinged attacks on Alicia Machado. Machado’s allegations of sexism and racism were the strongest blow HRC landed in that debate; Trump wants to destroy her for hurting him. He has gone after her even more than he went after the Khan family for daring to criticize him. He first “defended” himself on Fox & Friends by noting that she had actually gained weight after winning the crown, completely missing the point that dehumanizing her, belittling her, and mocking her are not ever acceptable. Somehow, his entitlement and sexism let him think he had a right to humiliate her for not being hot enough for him. He honestly believes she deserved to be dehumanized because she gained weight.

And then, at 5 a.m. last night, Trump let lose the following flurry of tweets:


What stands out, of course, is the obvious slut-shaming of Machado (as far as anyone can tell, there is no sex tape, but that is beside the point). Alicia Machado is a sexual woman, and therefore “disgusting.” Trump’s pathological sexism goes even further: being a disgusting sexual woman means she deserved to be treated like dirt. Somehow, he thinks he can justify being abusive to her when she was 19 by implying that many many years later she maybe made a sex tape.* Of course, disgusting sexual women not only deserve to be demeaned and mocked (preemptively!), they are also not to be trusted – she conned Hillary into presenting her as an “angel,” and “a paragon of virtue.” And this is where we see just how deep his chauvinism goes. Hillary, of course, never said a WORD about Machado’s “virtue.” She never painted her as a saint. She only said that Trump treated Machado terribly. Trump imagined that Machado was being held up as the vestal virgin, because to Trump, no other type of woman could possibly be credible, could possibly deserve to be treated as human being, could possibly cast aspersions upon HIM.

This week really has been a master class on Old School Sexism. All the classics are here, ancient hoary principles that uphold the patriarchy – Women are to blame if men sin! Women are to blame if their marriages fail! But women who stay are weak! Women who weigh more than 117 pounds are pigs! Women who enjoy sex are disgusting! Women are liars! Women are either Angels or Whores! Women deserve to be treated like dirt! And above all, any woman who challenges a man – especially a woman who bests him – needs to be torn down. Trump shall (apparently literally) NEVER REST until she’s destroyed.

* I am NOT mentioning Melania’s past, other than to say that not seeing the hypocrisy there really does suggest he’s mentally ill.


Distracting Tim Hunt

June 15, 2015

My response to the Tim Hunt debacle….


Happy International Women’s Day!

March 8, 2013


Women got the right to vote in the United States in 1920.

Middle class women joined the US workforce in huge numbers during World War II.

But true feminism, with the understanding of equal rights and equal dignity, did not come until the 1960s, until women were well and truly able to control when and if they would have children.

Reproductive rights are the foundation of women’s rights. Any attack on reproductive freedom is an attack on the rights and dignity of women. Period. You cannot deny access to birth control without denying women’s rights. You cannot mandate ultrasounds without attacking women’s dignity. The only way our daughters and granddaughters can have real choices about the lives they want to lead and the sort of women they want to become is for reproductive rights to move forward, never back.


Of Crazy Bitches and Empty Vessels

January 21, 2013

Ladies and Gentlemen: the  single most misogynistic statement of our time:*

You actually don’t need context to understand how appalling that is (though this is a great source if you want it). You don’t need to know that Betsy Andrea is the wife of one of Armstrong’s former teammates, or that she has maintained for years that she heard Armstrong tell a doctor that he used performance enhancing drugs, or that Armstrong retaliated by trying to destroy her credibility and end her husband’s career in cycling. You don’t need to know that she was labeled a bitter, vindictive psycho just because she wouldn’t lie for him. Even without knowing who the hell Lance Armstrong is, that is some pure-grain misogyny right there. It’s textbook:

  • Yeah, I did call her crazy – Sure, I admit that I suggested she was irrational, unhinged, emotional, not to be trusted. Yeah, I attacked her intelligence and her understanding of the world around her. So? Doesn’t every guy who has conflict with a woman call her out for being psycho? So what if I implied that nothing she says or feels is valid, because it comes from her disordered, fevered imagination? Chicks, man. They’re nuts.
  • Yes, I called her a bitch – Yeah, I said she was vindictive, cruel, mean, petty, and selfish. I suggested that she’s emotionally deficient, cold, despicable, a castrating shrew, a nag, a scold, an ice-queen. BITCHES, amiright?
  • But I never called her FAT – So it’s okay! I mean, I know I said she was insane, and a terrible human being, but it’s not like I said she isn’t conventionally attractive! That would be mean, I would never attack her like that! I’m a nice guy!

Betsy Andrea is Not Impressed

Watching that clip, it’s obvious that smirking jerkface Lance Armstrong is being a complete douchebag here, and it would be easy to dismiss this simply as a terrible person being terrible. It goes beyond that, though – “crazy bitch” is far too common in our culture; it’s our favorite way of dismissing inconvenient women. It bears mentioning, too, because Betsy Andrea calmly and rationally asserted that Armstrong doped, for years. Even though it seems transparent now, for years the media happily bought into – and perpetuated – the slander that she was just some “crazy bitch.” (I’m sure it’s no consolation to her that if the media ever said she was fat, well, that didn’t come from Armstrong, who obviously thinks that’s the worst thing he could say about a person woman.)


You know who was neither fat nor a crazy bitch? Lennay Kekua. This story has been everywhere; examined from countless angles. Jezebel and Feministing both did a great job pointing out the hypocrisy of the media being all over Manti Te’o’s imaginary girlfriend’s imaginary death, while largely ignoring the very real suicide of a very real woman who was raped by a Notre Dame football player. Still, for all the coverage this scandal has generated, I haven’t seen any discussion of how sexist the whole construct of Lennay Kekua was in the first place.

The media bought this story unquestioningly – Lennay was held up as Manti Te’o’s inspiration, her death as a heartwarming reminder of the power of love. Lennay Kekua was beautiful. She was devoted. She was so in love with Manti that she didn’t need his comfort, his company, or his time – no, as she lay dying of cancer, all she wanted was for Manti to win football games. Apparently, no one found it odd that he was the love of her life, but she never asked him to be at her side.


Photographs of women are so much less demanding than the real thing…

Fake Lennay fake died in September – months after the fake car wreck which led to the fake discovery of her fake cancer. Their inspirational love and her tragic death were the subject of countless news stories: on ESPN’s College GameDay, Fox Sports, and CBS, in Sports Illustrated and the New York Times, the Associated Press and Los Angeles Times… and yet the truth only came out last week, ten days after Manti’s football season ended. Te’o’s knowledge about the details of his girlfriend’s life was often murky, including her majors in school, occupation and extent of her injuries after an alleged April 28 car accident with a drunk driver.” Why didn’t that set off alarm bells with reporters? All this media around him, all these outlets repeating this heart-warming story, but even while she was “alive” no one needed to talk to her – and after her tragic (fake) death, it seems no news outlet  tried to get a fuller picture of this woman.

After all, who cared what she did for a living, or majored in in school? That was all beside the point. Lennay Kekua had been the perfect girlfriend: a beautiful empty vessel whose only concern was that her boyfriend succeed. She was as undemanding in death as she was in life, telling Manti to skip her funeral so that he wouldn’t miss any football games. She didn’t have messy emotional needs, or thorny contradictory ideas, or passionate competing dreams of her own… because Lennay Kekua didn’t exist. Conveniently, not existing made her the feminine ideal. After all, imaginary girlfriends are never fat, crazy bitches.


*Excluding every single thing Rush Limbaugh has ever said about women, of course.

(I hope that this will be a resumption of regular blogging. Lord knows there’s been enough happening politically to keep me busy writing outraged entries daily, but my post-election crash ran into the holidays which ran into illness which went straight on through to a much busier new year. I think I’ve got it under control, at last.)


It’s my birthday! Let’s talk about abortion!

March 16, 2012

With birthdays come reflection, looking back and looking ahead. I have been blessed in many ways, but perhaps in none so much as this: the only time I’ve been pregnant, I wanted to be pregnant. I was emotionally and financially secure enough to welcome a child. As for my personal “beliefs” on abortion, I am what I call a pro-life pro-choicer. Personally, I find abortion horrific, and don’t think I could ever make that choice. But I also know that I have absolutely no right (or desire) to substitute my judgment for another woman’s – and that the State is even less qualified to do so.

As I said, I have been blessed never to face that choice. I know several women who’ve had abortions – who had been raped, who were very young, or who were simply not in any position to provide for a child. I also know women who made the other difficult choice – to have a child while still in their teens, or to give birth to child knowing that it had a genetic disorder which meant it would only live for a few days after birth. In every single case, the woman wrestled with her options, and what her choice would mean for herself, her partner, her family. None of them made their choices blithely.

In the current round of state-sponsored misogyny, several states have adopted or are considering “compulsory ultrasounds” for women seeking abortion. I am not going to address the obviously grotesque suggestion that women in their first trimester be forced to undergo “transvaginal” ultrasounds – Rachel Maddow and Garry Trudeau have said all that need be said on the subject – but I want to take a moment to question the basic premise of any ultrasound requirement. The politicians who advocate for it always defend ultrasounds as necessary for “informed consent,” as if a woman seeking an abortion just is too feeble-minded to understand her choice; as if doctors who provide abortions don’t have other means of ensuring that their clients understand the procedure fully without the State writing the script for them. Every woman I know who has grappled with this choice – whether she was a teenager or in her forties – understood intimately exactly what was involved in her specific case, in a way a room full of male legislators never can.

In reality, the Republicans see ultrasounds as a way of rubbing a woman’s face in her difficult decision, as if she were being a bad dog. Why not just require women seeking abortions to initial every page of an Anne Geddes’ calendar? Just as ineffective, almost as humiliating, and far, far cheaper!


Musings on Birth Control

March 14, 2012

“If the right of privacy means anything, it is the right of the individual, married or single, to be free from unwarranted governmental intrusion into matters so fundamentally affecting a person as the decision whether to bear or beget a child.”

– Justice Brennan, writing for the majority in Eisenstadt v. Baird, 405 U.S. 438, 453 (1972)

I’ve been meaning to post about birth control, but the issue seemed to die down after the Blunt Amendment failed in the Senate a couple of weeks ago. That bill would have amended the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to allow employers not to cover care that was “counter to the[ir] religious beliefs or moral convictions.” It was clearly aiming at birth control, though the wording left it open for someone who finds over-eating to be morally offensive to refuse to cover Type 2 diabetes care. The House GOP retreated from pushing anything similar, because they finally realized that it was not a winner for them, and the media emphasis switched to Rush Limbaugh and Sandra Fluke and it seemed birth control might be safe for the time being…

Then this happened: Arizona proposed a measure that not only allows employers to decide whether birth control will be covered, it also allows them to fire employees who use birth control at all, even if those employees pay for it out-of-pocket. Wrap your brain around that for a moment. If the government has no right to intrude into your decision to use birth control, what possible argument could be made for your BOSS having that right?

Birth control is fundamental to women’s rights. Contrary to pop-culture mythos, women have worked outside the home since the dawn of specialization. Poor women, at least, have always worked. Middle class women in the U.S. joined the work force in droves during World War II, and never looked back (in part because the economy shifted enough to pretty much require two incomes for a family to survive, but that’s another post entirely). Women had the right to vote from 1920 onward. Yet the massive change in attitudes and expectations for women didn’t happen until the late 1960s, early 1970s. You don’t have to trust the accuracy of Mad Men to know that even 40 years ago, blatant sexism and sexual harassment were casually accepted. What changed? Women finally had access to effective contraception. The pill was introduced in 1960, and two Supreme Court cases, Griswold v. Connecticut (1965) and Eisenstadt v . Baird (1972), ensured that no state could outlaw the sale of contraception. That one, incredibly important, change allowed women to finally imagine – much less attain – lives that weren’t defined by their roles as mothers. We could choose when we wanted to start having sex, and when we wanted to stop having babies. We could, finally, fully express a sexuality that didn’t fall into “good girl/mom” or “easy girl/slut” paradigms. The pill gave us ownership of our sexuality and our bodies.

You and me both, lady...

There is a loud and powerful fringe in the Republican party that honestly wants to go back to the “simpler” time before the sea changes of the sexual revolution. Whether because of true piety or misplaced nostalgia, they see only excess and licentiousness, where we see the foundations of women’s equality in and out of the home. Women have used birth control for thousands of yearsWe have understood that sexuality is a fundamental aspect of our being, and that it demands expression even when having a child is out of the question. It just took 4,000 years before birth control was reliable enough to change the world. We cannot let politicians pander that away.

In the 1960s, the debate was over whether states could make it illegal for a married couple, or unmarried persons, to purchase birth control. The conversation now is about who pays for it. If highly effective birth control were available over-the-counter, this would be a very different argument. Ridiculous medical costs and the requirement of a prescription mean that many many women cannot afford the pill if their medical insurance doesn’t cover it. Restrictions on insurance coverage act as very real barriers to women’s access to birth control. Planned Parenthood cannot carry the burden alone, especially when its funding is also under attack. The Blunt Amendment, and the insane legislation proposed in Arizona, both underscore the ridiculousness of our current healthcare system. Why should your boss have anything to say about what coverage you have? Haven’t we passed the era of the company town? Corporations already buy and sell our politicians. They already decide our fates in so many ways, large and small. Are we really going to let them control our sexuality, our relationships, our families?