Straight People, Contraception Coverage, and Campaign Craziness


Hanne Blank explains how heterosexuality has only existed for a little over a century. The attacks on contraception intensify, and the campaign season gets an noticeable surge of sexist blather.

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Sexual harassment lessons!

Fox News trotting out the “anti-Catholic” smear

Gingrich working the “religious liberty” angle

“The abortion industry” is code for all women’s reproductive health care at this point

Santorum longs for the day of the back alley abortion

Honest rape?

Super Bowl sexism

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, I have an interview with author Hanne Blank about how heterosexuality may not be as firm a concept as you think it is. Also, conservatives and some supposedly liberal dudes are trying to make hay out of the HHS policies requiring non-church employers to cover contraception, and the anti-woman tone of the campaign season gets nastier.

There’s a new web series called “Fridays at Galweather”, and they had a really funny episode dealing with sexual harassment.

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The manager comes up with a clever solution to teach these guys a lesson, and then there’s a nice twist at the end. Check it out!

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After the HHS decided to classify contraception as preventive medicine, requiring insurance companies to cover it without a co-pay starting in 2013, Catholic organizations began to pressure the administration to create a giant loophole for Catholic-run organizations that serve and hire from the general public, such as universities and hospitals. Which is to say imagine you’re a nurse working for a Catholic hospital, perhaps because it’s the only hospital in town. You’re not Catholic, or if you are, like most Catholics you disagree with the church’s teachings on contraception. What the petitioners wanted was the ability to deny you your full benefits by refusing to cover your contraception.

Unsurprisingly, the Obama administration denied them the right to discriminate against their employees in this fashion, refusing them benefits in order to force compliance with religious dogma the employees do not agree with. Just as unsurprisingly, conservatives are claiming that not allowing employers to discriminate against employees is discrimination against employers. And right wing media and politicians picked up the baton, making this whole thing a centerpiece in demagoguing against the administration and heath care regulations. The claim is that Obama’s support for health care for all women, even Catholics and those who work for Catholic hospitals, makes him “anti-Catholic”.

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Which is actually the same argument that was used against the Civil Rights Act of 1965. The claim then, and some pro-racism folks still use it, was that individual business owners have a right to discriminate against black customers, and if black customers wanted a sandwich or whatever, they should just go somewhere else. I’m not going to use my time here to reopen this argument, except to point out that it’s settled law now. Catholic hospitals and universities shouldn’t be able to force their religious beliefs on their clients and employees by withholding basic benefits. The “go somewhere else” nonsense particularly doesn’t make sense in communities where the only health care employers are Catholic-owned.

What was particularly galling about this segment was that the word “abortion” was used instead of “contraception” throughout. I guess that’s just what Fox does now. As I’ve said before, it seems the end goal here is to label anything related to female sexuality as “abortion”. Doug Giles was on, and he basically claimed that abortion pills and contraception are the same thing.

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In case there was any confusion, this clip was run by a picture of birth control pills. Birth control pills are not abortion pills. They work by suppressing ovulation. The only thing birth control pills abort is ovulation. Maybe Giles things ovulation is a “baby”, which means that every time you have your period, that means he believes you killed a baby. They’re rapidly cruising towards calling tampons a crime scene, that’s how much they hate female sexuality. In reality, the Catholic Church opposes all forms of contraception and teach that sex is for procreation only. Though it’s always been a little hazy if that means you’re supposed to stop screwing at menopause. Their embrace of Viagra suggests not, which inclines me to think that this dogma isn’t rooted in much beyond just fear of female sexuality.

Newt Gingrich was working the “anti-Catholic” angle hard in his speech after he lost the Florida primary.

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This is a brand-new definition of “religious liberty”, the right to use people’s need for employment against them in order to force them to live by your religious rules. This is a development worth watching, because it probably won’t end here. Imagine employers forcing their employees to go to church on Sundays in order to keep their jobs, for instance. And if you protest, you’re somehow violating their religious liberty. That’s what we’re working with, here.

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insert interview

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Anyone who thinks women’s rights and women’s basic human dignity are second tier political issues really needs to pay attention to this year’s election. Of course, the rash of legislation trying to control women’s bodies in 2011 should have made that clear, but a lot of people are deliberately slow on the uptake when it comes to getting how central women’s rights are to the battles between left and right. But it’s become such a campaign issue during both the Republican primary and the warm-up to the general that it’s unavoidable. Not just because, as noted in the prior segment, that Obama’s opponents are trying to turn the fact that his administration is making doctor-prescribed contraception free into some kind of attack on Obama.

But for Republicans, it’s just as much about trying to outdo each other in the anti-choice Olympics. This is particularly true of those challenging Romney; they each appear to hope that they can get a larger chunk of the anti-Romney vote by running to the right. And showing off your right wing credentials is as easy as getting more extreme in your attacks on women’s rights. Like Rick Santorum did when he actually praised abortion bans for creating shadowy black markets that often killed women seeking abortions.

  • campaign 1 *

I found this interesting, because part of the anti-choice never be honest style of politicking is for them to pretend that banning abortion will “end” abortion. My firm belief is most of them understand that instead it will just drive abortion underground, but they can’t say that, because it basically removes the pretext of moral authority from their arguments. It makes it clear that this isn’t about protecting “life” so much as maximizing women’s pain and anguish as punishment for them being sexually active. That Santorum came right out with it is interesting, but then again, he’s always been more likely than most to be honest about how anti-choice beliefs are about fear and loathing of female sexuality. I’m not entirely sure why. It might be that he, like Ron Paul, is more interested in getting an airing for his views than winning.

Speaking of Ron Paul… Here’s a segment from a weird interview done with him.

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Like with Santorum, I have to admit I’m glad that there’s a sudden if repulsive honesty here. Anti-choicers have been growing increasingly hostile to rape exceptions, which they try to justify as being somehow more coherent with their feigned concern for embryonic life. That, of course, doesn’t make sense, since many also oppose preventing pregnancy in rape victims by dispensing emergency contraception. It makes more sense if you look at from the perspective Paul inadvertently offered here. On the right, there’s a widespread belief that women lie about being raped all the time, for the hell of it apparently. It’s believed that many to  most date rapes are women who just regretted the sex, or that women lie about rape to get those precious, precious abortions and Plan B pills. You know, even though we have a legal right to them no matter what the reason, so there’s no actual reason to lie. So Paul’s working under that umbrella, and assuming that some random doctor should play judge and jury on whether or not a woman’s trauma rises to the level of her deserving to avoid forced pregnancy. Of course, women shouldn’t have to endure forced pregnancy under any circumstances, but it’s telling that Paul thinks that women who have suffered rape should be interrogated to discover if it’s rape-y enough rape to satisfy the arbitrary standards of any random E.R. doctor.

What was weird about the whole thing was, as usual, Paul managed to let a bit of truth slip into this bout of strange fantasizing.

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A lot of people are confused about the shot of estrogen thing, but all that suggests to me is that Paul hasn’t updated his knowledge gynecology since probably the 60s.  But he has the basic biology of this right, which isn’t surprising since he was a practicing doctor. A woman who has just had intercourse isn’t pregnant. It takes days for sperm to get into the Fallopian tubes.  That’s why emergency contraception, which is what he’s talking about here, works. It suppresses ovulation, so when the sperm get up there, there’s no egg to fertilize. Claims that it’s “abortion” have no basis in biology. All that said, he’s still lying with his insinuation that women wait until they’re 7 months pregnant, change their minds, and then lie about being raped to get abortions.

It’s only February, folks. We have many more campaign months to endure a bunch of male candidates grand-standing on women’s health. Hope it’s some solace to know I’ll be here sorting and reporting so you don’t have to do it.

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And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, Fox News and casual sexism edition. This time, the Super Bowl was the opportunity for some mindless sexist blather.

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Man, everything is an opportunity for the idiots on Fox News to preen about what manly male masculine men they are, isn’t it? Here’s how I feel about it: if you’re actually a manly super dude, then you don’t need to hear the sportcasters yapping. After all, being a manly man who looooooooooves football more than life itself, you should be able to tell everything that’s going on without the announcers telling you, right?


Follow Amanda Marcotte on twitter: @amandamarcotte

  • stanchaz

    I was raised as a Catholic….or perhaps lowered. :-) Whatever. But seriously: I strongly disagree with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops statement, which denounces President Barack Obama’s attempts at compromise as “needless government intrusion in the internal governance of religious institutions”. On the contrary, the Bishops comments are themselves a needless religious intrusion upon the proper and legitimate functions of government…functions that serve to promote women’s rights, equality, and fairness for ALL. No one is coming into our Churches and trying to tell parishioners what to believe. BUT If the Bishops want to start businesses that employ millions of people of varying faiths -or no “faith” at all- THEN they must play by the rules. Just because a religious group in America claims to believe something, we cannot excuse them from obeying the law in the PUBLIC arena, based on that belief. They can legally attempt to change the law, not to deny it outright. And if they want to plunge overtly into politics from the pulpit, then they should give up their tax-exempt status. Did I miss something, or when it comes to the “sanctity of life”, is every single righteous Catholic still a card carrying conscientious objector, refusing to take up arms,  totally against the death penalty, and against contraception in all its forms? Oh well, hypocrisy is at the heart of politics, and politics masquerading as religion even more so. This country is an invigorating mixture of all the diversity that life has to offer, drawing its strength FROM that diversity. We need to work together to preserve, enrich, and strengthen this unique experiment – NOT to tear it down with poisonous, paralyzing, and un-Christian demonization of each other.