Secretaries, Sluts, and Anti-Choice Radicals


How do secretaries fit into feminist consciousness? Anti-choice rhetoric gets nasty and Slutwalks get popular.

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Links in this episode:

Anthony Weiner did it

Tim Pawlenty gets radical

Jilted man uses “pro-life” rhetoric to abuse ex-girlfriend

Anti-choice faux horror movie

Jessica Valenti on Morning Joe

“Pro-abortion” is a meaningless term

On this episode of Reality Cast, Lynn Peril will talk about the history of the female-heavy profession of secretarial work.  Also, anti-choice rhetoric gets more radical, and Slutwalk is getting even more attention.

Last Monday, I released a podcast where I expressed skepticism at the idea that Andrew Breitbart could be so lucky as to get penis pictures of Anthony Weiner so soon after the Chris Lee scandal.  Well, truth is stranger than fiction.

  • weiner *

I’m irritated that Weiner let so many progressives defend him so vigorously, but I think the lesson here is one we should take to heart. The best argument against his attackers was to say, “How is this your business?”  Those of us, including myself, who focused on the evidence made a big mistake by not going for the larger moral questions immediately, and for that I am sorry.

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As you all know, and as this podcast has been covering extensively, this is the year of outrageous incursions against reproductive rights, on a level that hasn’t ever been seen before.  Nearly 1,000 anti-abortion bills in state legislatures, a federal attempt to eliminate family planning funding, and now various states are attacking Planned Parenthood.  There’s even been attempts to rewrite laws so that it’s possible for anti-choice terrorists to get away with killing doctors, though thankfully there was massive pushback against that. 

But it’s been more than just an escalation in the legislation and even an upswing in right wing violence that’s been going on.  The rhetoric around women’s rights is also getting more extremist.  On Rachel Maddow’s show, they covered an example of Tim Pawlenty not being extremist enough on abortion rights, and then having to take it back and go all in.  Pawlenty was asked what the penalty should be for a woman who gets an abortion or a doctor who performs one.

  • abortion 1 *

Now a bunch of anti-choicers are freaking out because they wanted Pawlenty to immediately respond to the question by foaming at the mouth and demanding the death penalty for anyone involved.  Though I’m sure that they may understand if Pawlenty holds off and says he’s okay with mere life sentences for women caught using contraception.

But the meanness is expanding beyond just the demands made on political candidates, though that is alarming in and of itself.  There’s also been a huge escalation in anti-choicers publicly making claims that men have a right to control women’s bodies and force them to give birth.  And I mean men specifically, even though there are plenty of anti-choice women who also have a sadistic interest in forcing sexually active women to pay with unwanted childbirth.  But this has always been about gender, and at its most raw, it’s about men dominating women.  And this really comes out in some of the public anti-choice fantasies we’ve been subject to.  For instance, this one.

  • abortion 2 *

It’s pretty obvious to me that this is a form of domestic abuse, and that the use of so-called “pro-life” rhetoric is just a flimsy cover.  In fact, what this manages to do is expose how much the whining claims about “life” are nothing more than a weak attempt to justify the desire to dominate, control, and punish women.  This abusive man grasped that immediately.  Of course, most anti-choice leaders realize they’re not really in a good position if that becomes too obvious, so some distancing is going on.  But the fact that Fox News actually presented this as a question—did he go too far?—tells you how much sympathy there is for the control and abuse position.  If you’re not sexist, then you wouldn’t even consider the question.  Of course putting up a billboard accusing a woman of murder because she doesn’t want to be with you is wrong.  It’s abusive and certainly a red flag for violence.  It is emotional violence, for sure.

But what really made me fall off my chair recently was the revelation of an anti-choice horror movie where a man kidnaps three women who are pregnant and seeking abortion, and forces them to give birth instead.  Naturally, the women are all white, young, nubile, and unmarried.

  • abortion 3 *

The press release promises a “surprise twist” at the end, but it’s pretty easy to figure out from the preview what that’s going to be.  The twist is that the kidnappers turn out to be the good guys, and that the women who have been held captive and forced to give birth are actually in purgatory paying for the sin of abortion.  Disgusting, of course, but an excellent peek into the worldview of people who think that forcing childbirth on women is such a great idea.

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Insert interview

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SlutWalk is really blowing up!  There was one in LA and in August there’s one scheduled in New York City.  There’s a couple of reasons for this.  Part of it is just that the name is intriguing.  But I think there’s more to it.  I’ve been feeling that there’s been a drift towards prudery in our culture in the past few years, and one of the results of that is it makes rape easier to get away with because people are all that more eager to judge the victim.  And just as Riot Grrrls were reacting in no small part to 80s-era prudery, so young feminists now are saying, we don’t lose our right to live free of violence and coercion just because we’re sexual.  Which is awesome. Jessica Valenti went on Morning Joe to defend SlutWalks.

  • slut 1 *

Every time this discussion happens, I find myself getting stuck on what people mean by “those clothes”, since my feeling is that what counts as “those clothes” changes from person to person.  I don’t agree that there are such thing as “slutty” clothes, but I do have to point out there’s a real irony here, since as of late female news anchors that are not Rachel Maddow have been wearing clothes more suited to nightclubs than news desks.  I would, however, not suggest that they are somehow asking for it if someone rapes them, or that the rape of them should open up a discussion of what counts as too much bling on a lady news anchor.  My response would be, what kind of monster rapes a woman?  I think that is basically the beginning and end of it. 

Women wear “those clothes” for various reasons, including wanting positive sexual attention from men.  This in no way rationalizes, justifies, or has any bearing on the choice of men to provide negative and violent attention.  In fact, I generally think the entire category of violently assaulting someone because you don’t approve of their clothing choices is so beyond the pale that I can’t believe we’re discussing it.  I don’t really approve of Birkenstocks, but I think that in no way means that a person who wears them brought it on himself if someone beats him up.

I was shocked and amazed to hear Joe Scarborough, of all people, actually say something that makes sense.

* slut 2 *

I couldn’t believe it.  Let’s be clear: Scarborough, before he ran for Congress, went as far in his anti-sex, anti-woman views to offer pro  bono representation to an anti-choice terrorist.  Working at MSNBC seems to have mellowed him out considerably. 

I’m beginning to regret all time I’ve even bothered to spend with the intra-left criticisms of SlutWalk, at least most of them.  If you take a step back and look at the big picture, what’s going to be remembered about all this is that it actually worked to aggressively promote the idea that rape is wrong, even if the victim is blatantly sexualized.  And in fact that there’s nothing wrong whatsoever with a woman wanting to be sexy, wanting attention, wanting to have fun.  That’s why I get so wound up about it when people say, “I’m not blaming the victim, but”….  It’s not just that they’re victim-blaming, but they also embrace so readily the idea that women’s freedoms and women’s pleasures should be restricted by rapists.  It’s that they give rapists this power.  When you say, “I’m not blaming the victim, but”, you’re basically telling women that our response to oppression should be to lower our heads, cover our bodies, restrict our movements, and accept lower class status. 

And you’re claiming that men can’t help themselves if they expect this of women.  Which Hugo Schwyzer spoke elegantly against at SlutWalk in LA. 

  • slut 3 *

All this excitement is making me really look forward to the New York one in August.  Hopefully I’ll have some good news to report after that.  Especially since anger in this city is only building in response to the acquittal of two NYPD police officers for rape, even as the jury members themselves claim to believe that the rape occurred.

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And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, what does that even mean edition?  Charles Krauthammer on Fox News, discussing the Obama administration’s decision to fight Indiana’s illegal attempt to defund Planned Parenthoood, said this.

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I haven’t ever really figured out what antis mean with the term “pro-abortion”.  The term implies that pro-choicers are trying to raise the abortion rate.  But in this particularly case especially, the Obama administration is actively working to keep the abortion rate lower.  If Indiana yanks women’s birth control from them, there will be more abortion.  So how is trying to stop that “pro-abortion”?  That’s like saying the people trying to install stoplights are pro-accident. 


Follow Amanda Marcotte on twitter: @amandamarcotte