Women, Power, And A Hot Midterm Election Season


Gloria Feldt comes on to talk about women and power. The midterm election season gets ugly. And a healthy baby is born from a 20-year-old embryo—what are the implications?

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Links in this episode:

Gloria Feldt’s website

Vag Magazine

Anti-Reid ad

Fact Check checks this child molester claim

Jim DeMint claims non-virgin women and gay men shouldn’t teach

Bull semen?

Woah

The IVF inventor when the Nobel Prize

On this episode of Reality Cast, I’ll be interviewing Gloria Feldt about her new book on women and power.  Also, the midterm season gets really ugly, and a fertility doctor successfully implants a 20-year-old embryo.

Some women of the Upright Citizens Brigade have put together a comedy show about a start-up feminist magazine, with lots of in jokes about certain aspects of a kind of urban hipster feminism.  I enjoyed the trailer. 

  • vag *

I can’t say that I like anchors, but I nonetheless felt like I kind of had to laugh at myself with this, since I am a feminist fan of vintage skirts.

*************

In case you haven’t noticed, it’s midterm election season, and more than that, it’s one of the most aggressive, strange ones at least in my lifetime.  Any time Saturday Night Live thinks a Senate candidate from a tiny state like Delaware deserves to be mocked repeatedly on their show, you know that this isn’t a normal election season.  It’s gotten strange, and it’s gotten ugly.  And once things take an ugly turn, you know what’s going to happen next is that sexual health and sexual rights are going to become weapons in the political fights.  And that’s exactly what’s happened in this election.

To begin with, you have the out of control Nevada Senate race between incumbent Harry Reid and challenger Sharron Angle.    Reid is the Senate majority leader, so Republicans are particularly interested in booting him out the door, but they have a major problem, which is that the Republican base managed to pick Angle over the front-runner Sue Lowden in the primaries.  Lowden had embarrassed herself with some tone deaf arguments against health care reform, but Angle is even more to the right in a swing state like Nevada.  Reid took advantage, running ads highlighting Angle’s hard line stance against legal abortion that includes banning it even in cases of rape or incest. The Angle campaign hit back with this:

  • election 1 *

According to Fact Check dot org, this is simply a false claim.  In reality, Reid tabled an amendment that health care opponents in the Senate introduced for the pure purpose of being a nuisance amendment.  According to Fact Check, “There’s nothing in the legislation that supports, requires or even mentions such prescriptions.”  Convicted sex offenders will be allowed to buy health care, but I think it’s safe to say that since it’s what’s in your head that makes you a rapist and not what’s in your penis, whether or not they get a plan that covers it is irrelevant.

One sign that things have taken a turn for the worse is that many socially conservative politicians are getting bolder about anti-woman and anti-gay talk. In 2004, Senator Jim DeMint actually apologized when he said that gay men and unmarried women who aren’t virgins shouldn’t be allowed to teach school.  But now he’s apparently taking that apology back.

  • election 2 *

What was most interesting was that he seemed just fine with non-virgin unmarried straight men teaching.  As I noted in my column at RH Reality Check, the Tea Party movement was initially all about billing itself as libertarian, but now things are heating up and it’s becoming undeniable that they’re just as much about extreme social conservatism.  Perhaps even more than movement conservatism was before. 

Take, for instance, Carl Paladino, the Republican candidate for New York state governor.  He gained some measure of infamy during the primaries when he was exposed for sending out mass forwards that contained racist jokes and pornographic imagery, including a picture of a woman being sexually penetrated by a horse. Despite his enthusiasm for this kind of imagery, Paladino wasn’t shy about castigating consenting adults who happen to be gay. 

  • election 3 *

Obviously, the claim that being gay is simply an “option” that people choose, instead of who they are is wrong.  As is the claim that you’re somehow standing up for marriage and families when you deny gay people the right to get married and form families.  But what I find interesting is Carl Paladino claims that we pander to pornographers and perverts.  What does he mean by pandering?  Since he has distributed pornography of the most vile sort but got a nomination to major office anyway, is he the one being pandered to and coddled?  I think he must be thinking of pornographers that aren’t him, but simply everyone else who has done exactly what he did, which is distribute pornography.

But of all the sexually charged potshots taken this election, I think this one might be the weirdest.

  • election 4 *

That was a candidate for Maine governor named Paul LePage, and not only was it weird that he’s winding people up about big government attacking bovine manly essence, he’s basically wrong about what he said.  In fact, Maine exempts bull semen from its sales tax.  And in all 50 states, there are no restrictions on the millions of years long tradition of male animals of all species, including ours, simply giving their semen away for free.

**********

insert interview

**********

Well, this story certainly got my attention, I have to say.

  • embryo 1 *

You heard right: a 20-year-old embryo.  The story is actually a pretty simple one, but for one small detail.  Couples who go through in vitro fertilization often have a lot of embryos made so that they can perform multiple attempts, and sometimes the woman has a baby before they exhaust all the embryos.  Excess embryos can be thrown away or kept in storage, if the couple doesn’t mind the possibility of a child out there that’s genetically theirs but  actually someone else’s child. Or they can be donated for stem cell research, as long as your government doesn’t cater to a bunch of anti-choice fanatics. A woman of 42 whose infertility issues stemmed from a reduction in available eggs in her ovaries came in to this fertility clinic.  They decided to implant one of the donated embryos, and for various reasons, the best match happened to be one that was created in 1990. And now the woman has a healthy baby boy.

How is this possible, you might ask.  Luckily, the doctor who did it has answers.

  • embryo 2 *

Apparently, they can be stored indefinitely.  My first thought, unsurprisingly, went to how the anti-choicers out here are going to react to this.  Since they believe that life begins at conception, and this kid was conceived in 1990, does that mean he’s 20 now?  Does he get to vote?  Will he get to drink next year?  When he’s in kindergarten, will he be old enough to rent a car?  I honestly think half the reason anti-choicers hate IVF is that it brings up questions like this that destabilize their worldview, and so they’d just rather ban it and forget about it. 

Of course, since this is ye old mainstream media, they have to go straight for sensationalism. 

  • embryo 3 *

I highly doubt this will happen.  Even the more mundane use of this, which would be to allow women to store embryos for years while they decide if they want to have a baby, is still not going to be how most people do it.  What’s interesting about this, in many ways, is how interesting it’s actually not. IVF has become quite common, almost routine at this point.  About 1% of babies born in the U.S. now were conceived using IVF.  It used to be a last resort kind of move, but it’s gotten to the point where doctors are much quicker to prescribe it, because they’re just that much better at it.  And of course, IVF was recently  celebrated by the Nobel Prize committee. 

  • embryo 4 *

This is a decision that, unsurprisingly, has really teed off anti-choicers.  The Vatican has condemned IVF, and in general there’s a lot of conservatives who are hateful enough to begrudge infertile couples their chance to become parents through this technology.  But they know the tide of history is turning against them, which is why anti-choicers choose to attack IVF through the channel of attacking stem cell research.  They rarely take IVF on directly.

***********

And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, it’s not homophobia if you don’t get caught edition.  Jonah Goldberg had this to say about Carl Paladino’s ugly, anti-gay remarks that he made before a Jewish group.

  • Goldberg *

Have we really gotten to the point where pundits just laugh at the idea that bigotry’s only a problem if you commit acts of it in public?

Follow Amanda Marcotte on Twitter: @amandamarcotte

  • jenh

    They rarely take IVF on directly…

    Couples who go through in vitro fertilization often have a lot of embryos made so that they can perform multiple attempts, and sometimes the woman has a baby before they exhaust all the embryos.  Excess embryos can be thrown away…

     

    Amanda, I’ll gladly take on IVF directly, for precisely the reasons your post presents, in the utterly callous and thoughtless terms you used above.  Couples have a lot of embryos madeexcess embryos can be thrown away…

     

    You’re talking about new human beings, not spoiled fruit.  Having lots of them “made” like they were photo copies or plastic widgets.  Then just “throwing away” the ones you don’t want or need anymore like trash.  No respect whatsoever for life.  That is why IVF is morally wrong.  Human beings cannot be manufactured at will for “use” and then thrown away when they’re not needed.  We cannot treat human beings like a product and parents like consumers.  We’ve already seen what happens when the “product” is deemed defective after a few months of pregnancy — the “consumer” parents just ask for a refund and throw away the imperfect child they paid to create.  How unspeakably selfish and morally bankrupt.  Abortion becomes the answer to a manufactured and purchased child who then has the audacity not to be perfect.

     

    Since they believe that life begins at conception, and this kid was conceived in 1990, does that mean he’s 20 now?  Does he get to vote?  Will he get to drink next year?  When he’s in kindergarten, will he be old enough to rent a car?

     

    Seriously?  This is beyond a desperate, empty argument.  This is beyond reason.  This is just sheer ridiculosity.  I guess that whole “frozen” part escaped you.  This child was conceived 20 years ago, but his growth process was suspended and kept at a standstill for two decades because he was just thought to be a bunch of cells and not a real person.  He was treated like a thing rather than a “he.”  I’m glad he can now live his life.

     

    Your disdain for human life is very sad.

     

     

  • goatini

     

    Quick rule of thumb for determining if something is a child: If you can freeze it in liquid nitrogen, then thaw it out and let it keep growing, it is NOT a child.

  • arekushieru

    Your disdain for your own gender is very evident AND very sad.  Case in point: Anti-abortion proponents, such as yourself, believe that every pregnancy must be brought to term no matter how much this dehumanizes women by denying them the same rights that everyone else has, at the SAME time that you believe that no infertile woman should be able to GET pregnant simply because she will have to use IVF, again, no matter how much this dehumanizes certain women, in this case even FURther, by punishing them for a FAILure of a certain organ function.  THIS is why we say anti-choicers = anti-women.  Because it’s NOT about life in this sense:  It’s about punishment for the function (or lack thereof) of organs present in one’s body.  But only a woman’s body.  You don’t give the same kind of forethought to a man who has two healthy kidneys, that may be needed by an organ recipient or who actually passes along an inheritible kidney malfunction, to his child, after all;  And it’s NOT about life in the other sense, either: You disregard the moral, physical, emotional, mental, social and intellectual agency of indisPUTable human beings, while GRANting moral, physical, emotional, mental, social and intellectual agency TO disPUTable human beings.

    I guess the whole idea of time passing for everyone else while the embryo was frozen, escaped YOU.  Meaning it WASn’t ‘frozen in time’, as you, apparently, would like to believe.  It simply stopped the physical process of aging.  

      

  • panhandler

    Nonsense. There is no such thing as a “right to kill” and asserting that denying women the “right” to do as much to be dehumanizing them is utter idiocy. 

  • forced-birth-rape

    You know panhandler, I know from experience there is “No right, No good reason” to cause any female, any vaginal pain against her will, or terrorize her with thoughts of future vaginal pain against her will. You are a utter sadomasochistic misogynistic creep! If you do not have a vagina it is very, very easy to be pro-birth. Telling me I have to anticipate extreme vaginal pain against my will reminds me of “RAPE!” It is extreme rape! If a women has custody of her own body she can get an abortion, if she does not have custody of her own body she can not get an abortion. Any woman, little girl or pregnant rape victim who has to be pregnant and give birth against her will is “NOT FREE.”

  • saltyc

    My guess is no.

    They may talk a good game when it comes to IVF, but what they really hate is for women to be able to say no to motherhood.

  • arekushieru

    …people’s arguments before responding, don’t YOU think so?  Since that is NOT the right I am talking about, which WOULD have been OBvious, if you HAD.  *I* am talking about the right to bodily autonomy.  And YOU are basing rights on the expression of one’s organs and their functions present in that person’s body.  I am basing the expression of one’s organs and their functions present in that person’s body on their RIGHTS, the CORRECT way to determine expression of rights, after all….  If you WEREN’T doing the former, you would REALize that the simple presence of the uterus and its function inSIDE a woman’s body IS what requires that she opt-OUT of organ sharing.  Which are NOT her responsibility.  OTHerwise, LIKE JUlie says, you are just enabling nature’s sexism even further.  You are enabling it by forcing her to be MORE responsible during sexual congress and/OR by denying her the SAME rights that EVeryone else has.  

  • derekp

    Amanda attempts to make a reductio ad absurdum when she claims that the belief “life begins at conception” is false.  She writes about the embryo that has been frozen for twenty years:

    Since they believe that life begins at conception, and this kid was conceived in 1990, does that mean he’s 20 now?  Does he get to vote?  Will he get to drink next year?  When he’s in kindergarten, will he be old enough to rent a car?  I honestly think half the reason anti-choicers hate IVF is that it brings up questions like this that destabilize their worldview, and so they’d just rather ban it and forget about it.

    But what if we had the technology to freeze a two-year-old for twenty years?  Suspended animation is a common sci-fi element in fiction and no one claims it creates logical impossibilites.  If we kept a two year old “frozen” for twenty years, so that he would have been alive for twenty years but not have aged at all when he is unfrozen, it would still make sense to refer to his developmental age when recognizing what rights and privledges he has.  If the frozen embryo is a human being (and “embryo” by definition refers to a particular stage of development in the life of a human being) then we should treat them the same way we would treat a born person kept in suspended animation.  Amanda’s ad absurdum, therefore, fails to show the human embryo is not a biological human being like the rest of us.

     

     

  • forced-birth-rape

    Amanda makes a fabulous point DerekP, and “NO” one ever has the right to use my body against my will, or cause me vaginal pain against my will, or scare me for nine months with worry of future extreme vaginal agony. Of course you do not have a vagina do you DerekP.

  • amanda-marcotte

    But I just….can someone explain to me what the argument is? I’m genuinely confused. I think the random capitalization is giving me a headache. Apologies if I don’t understand what’s going on.

  • amanda-marcotte

    Works better if you know what they mean. I didn’t take anti-choice arguments to an actual logical extreme. You guys did that yourselves, by pretending that an 8-celled embryo is the same thing as a 5-year-old. You can’t ad absurdum the already absurd. I just made jokes about your already extremist positions.

  • beenthere72

    See first comment from JenH.

  • derekp

    Does the quality of my argument depend on whether I have a vagina or not?  Would your argument still be true if you had a penis?  Besides, it’s possible that because I can’t become pregnant my view on the morality of abortion is more objective and unbiased, and therefore more relaible, than most women’s views on the subject.

  • arekushieru

    Actually, not having a vagina makes you LESS objective and unbiased, and, thus, less reliable because it simply makes you more willing to reMOVE rights from the group that DOES have it.  Derrrr….

  • arekushieru

    Capitalization was for emphasis.

  • prochoiceferret

    Does the quality of my argument depend on whether I have a vagina or not?  Would your argument still be true if you had a penis?

     

    I gotta admit, that’s the weirdest pickup line I’ve ever heard.

     

    Besides, it’s possible that because I can’t become pregnant my view on the morality of abortion is more objective and unbiased, and therefore more relaible, than most women’s views on the subject.

     

    Hmm… there’s something very familiar about that logic…

     

    Besides, it’s possible that because I am White my view on race relations is more objective and unbiased, and therefore more relaible, than most Black people’s views on the subject.

  • forced-birth-rape

    ~ I do not like men forcing my body or vagina into doing something I do not want it to do. I do not like men commenting on my body, or vagina unless I ask. Any men doing so is being a sex offender, and is sexualy harassing me. We are not talking about your body, or your genitals, we are talking about mine. You invited your self to violate me, my peace of mind, and my privacy. “Words can violate people.” It is very easy for you to offer the opposite sex to have their bodies used, their vaginas used. Pregnancy and birth is private, personal, genital, and female. A men has no right and is being gross, rude, and hateful inviting himself to badger women about their bodies, and vaginas. I would never try to tell men their man business, because I do not know what it is like being a man, having a mans body or mind, basically walk and live in a mans shoes. I would feel like a pervert if I did try to invite my self into mens body business. Men do not die!, men do not split open vaginally, men do not get cut open vaginally, men do not have vaginal “pain” while giving birth, men are not the ones who worry and wonder while pregnant for nine months how painful thier giving birth is going to be, men are not pregnant for nine months having their bodies “USED”.~

  • squirrely-girl

    Your reasoning still assumes that an “outside” opinion is a necessarily “better” or “more” moral opinion. It also assumes that this is a topic that can be settled with a perfectly objective or unbiased opinion (which I can’t help but get the impression is what you narcissistically would like to consider yours). I don’t know many real philosophers or ethicists (and yes, I know a few) that would argue for this case. Rather, for the most personal of bodily decisions, for which such divisive opinions exists, deferring to the individual(s) most directly involved and affected is fairly standard.  Writing flat policy is not. In other words, some decisions just can’t… or rather shouldn’t be made by “others” or by a bureaucracy.

     

    Your lack of a vagina doesn’t make your argument less sound, your lack of understanding of the human condition and morality does

  • crowepps

    The less experience you have, the less you know, and the less likely it is that you’ll ever actually have to bear the pain, the more ‘objective and unbiased’ and ‘reliable’ one’s opinions would be.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen a clearer plea for resurrecting the aristocracy.  That way we could all let our ‘betters’ make the decisions.

  • crowepps

    Defeating Religious Authoritarians:

     

    The thing to do with these Folks, if you want to remove them from your own life and from the body politic, is call them on their weird sexual habits. They seem to believe that their opinion about my sexual life should be relevant and potent. I do not even talk to my Mother about my sexual life. My sexual life is private and not subject to religious review.  

     

    Religious Authoritarians suffer from a paraphilia (perversion) that seems to be a combination of voyeurism, exhibitionism, and sadomasochism….

     

    I do not get it. If a strange person came up to me on a bus and started talking to me about my sex life, tried to show me weird pictures (think Alvin Greene in the library) and pinched me, he would get arrested. If the strange person did that in a public thoroughfare, a boardroom, a meeting, or a public building, the strange person would get arrested. Could an exhibitionist (or assassin) of ordinary stripe avoid arrest by pleading “You can’t touch me or stop me, Cop, because I am religious! Stalking that woman while I show her the penis (gun) is what God wants me to do.”

     

    When I discuss this issue, I feel like the kid who has to keep pointing to the Emperor’s nakedness. Religious Authoritarians do not occupy the moral high ground. They have no clothes on. Point it out. Okay, rant over now.

    http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2010/10/21/912266/-Defeating-Religious-Authoritarians

    Has some absolutely eye-popping youtube links featuring various nutjobs!