The Struggle Over VAWA


The struggle over VAWA shows how out of control the war on women is, and conservative pundits can’t help but demonstrate it. Also: Why are teen birthrates down?

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Rick Santorum thinks he gets to unceremoniously abort his campaign

Eric Holder supports VAWA

Rep. Gwen Moore speaks out for VAWA

Don Pridemore thinks women should stay with abusers

Gutfeld says NOW is irrevelant because women can shop

Cenk Uygur calling out S.E. Cupp

Phyllis Schlafly, teaching young men women are nobodies

On this episode of Reality Cast, I’ll be interviewing Laura Lindberg from the Guttmacher about new findings on the teen birthrate. The Violence Against Women Act is newly controversial and conservative pundits are failing to take the hint to lay off the anti-woman nonsense.

So, Rick Santorum terminated his candidacy without consulting the world of comedians first, and let’s face it, many of them were hurt. They felt like he owed it to them to bring his campaign to term, providing them with all the easy jokes they were entitled to. So the folks at Funny or Die took a stab at dragging it out just a little longer.

  • santorum *

Sadly, most conservatives won’t get this, because they’re not going to get past comparing an actual human being like Santorum to mere women when it comes to basic human rights.

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Now that the pointless umbrage taking over the politics of housewifery are over, it’s time for the actual war on women that’s actually taking place to recommence. This time, the battle is over something that, surprise, was previously uncontroversial: the Violence Against Women Act. Written in 1994 and usually reupped without any controversy, the act helps law enforcement and support services do a better job of preventing rape and domestic violence, and helping the victims of these crimes. And yet somehow, it’s not getting reauthorized because suddenly it’s controversial. Eric Holder expressed his frustration at this in mid-April.

  • vawa 1 *

So why is it being held up? Well, mainly because the religious right opposes it and the Republican party is currently afraid to cross them. It’s almost too much to believe that the religious right, as awful as they are, could largely feel that domestic violence and rape aren’t real problems that require real solutions, but unfortunately, that’s the conclusion I’ve drawn. In many cases, they think these acts of violence, while not so awesome, are just an extension of men’s god-given right of dominance over women. Pushing back against violence against women, they believe, undermines men’s patriarchal authority and “the family”, which is code for men’s patriarchal authority. And it does, of course. That’s why this is a feminist issue, because rape and wife-beating have been used as a tool to control and dominate women throughout history, and we would like that to stop. Not just because violence is wrong, but because male dominance is wrong. And that’s where the fight really begins.

Because Congress suddenly doesn’t have the votes to pass this, supporters of the act are getting pretty angry. Rep. Gwen Moore made a moving speech about why the act is so important.

  • vawa 2 *

She went on to describe being date raped on a bet as a young woman. But this kind of thing is falling on deaf ears, in large part because the level of rhetoric on the right dismissing violence against women as a real issue has escalated. For instance, there was this Wisconsin legislator defending his efforts to make being a single mother, wait for it, a criminal offense. Yes, he wants you to go to jail for not being married while parenting. When it was pointed out that some women have to leave marriages to save their own skins, he responded with this:

  • vawa 3 *

That’s right; he basically suggested that women endure their beatings by thinking about the good times in order to get through. He didn’t have any suggestions for women who are being threatened with murder, though I suppose as you’re being attacked by someone intent on murdering you, fantasies of a better life will get you through to the end. Honestly, I think these people don’t really want women to be beaten and murdered, though maybe they believe those are acceptable casualties in the war to keep male control over women. But mostly they just believe that it’s women’s duty to stand by men no matter what, and that women who complain about being beaten are exaggerating. There’s also a belief, taught by many fundamentalist ministers, that wife-beating is the wife’s fault for failure to submit properly. The actual evidence of the severity of domestic violence is dismissed. The problem is that these patriarchal fantasies of everything going right if women just did what they were told without complaint are now fantasies that are controlling Congress and making common sense measures like the Violence Against Women Act hard to reauthorize.

Hard, that is, but not impossible. After realizing that it was basically impossible to get away from the “war on women” interpretation if they went this far, Republicans in the Senate finally cracked late last week and allowed a vote to happen.

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insert interview

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Well, the right did make an effort. They did try to argue that the war on women they’re conducting isn’t really a war on women. There were outright disavowals, attempts to change the subject, and of course, distractions erected. None of it really worked, in part because the evidence for the war on women is so hard to ignore and also because right wing pundits can’t help themselves. The topic is “women” and no matter how many memos they get about trying to pretend they don’t have something against women, they can’t help themselves. They have to paint women as stupid, childish, and unworthy of human rights. It’s just instinctual. Like FOX’s Greg Gutfeld.

  • women 1 *

Women can shop, so they don’t need any more rights. Not exactly the sort of thing you want to say if you’re trying to create the illusion that there’s no war on women, it’s probably not wise to make it clear that you think women are too dumb and shallow to deserve the rights that are, in fact, under attack. But conservative commentator Sarah Elizabeth Cupp, who shortens her name to S.E., really doubled down the argument that women are inherently dependent creatures, with the implication being that it’s appropriate to cut back on our rights. Cupp’s main job is to spout inexcusable misogyny with the hopes that her gender will protect her from accusations that it’s inexcusable. Cenk of Young Turks read parts of her piece on his show.

  • women 2 *

Oh, so brilliant. That’s the solution for every woman. You don’t need education or a job or reproductive rights or economic opportunity. Just marry a 1%-er. Just because they’re only 1% of the population doesn’t mean that the numbers don’t work out! After all, the way right wingers carry on, you’d think women are a teeny-tiny minority of people, no more than 1%, and so it should work out just great. She goes on, with Cenk doing us the favor of reading:

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In Cupp’s piece, there were only two kind of women: women dependent on husbands and women dependent on welfare. The rest of us, a group that actually includes herself, who work? We’re not part of her so-called analysis. We’re just un-women. And she declares by fiat that women on welfare are no good, and that women dependent on men are the best. Which, if you unpack her logic, means that she’s saying that motherhood is not inherently valuable, and paid work is not valuable enough to be mentioned. So basically, she’s saying that a woman’s only worth is as a wife and nothing else. Even our toilet cleaning abilities don’t matter, since rich wives hire servants. It’s all just a bunch of sexist garbage disguised as humor, but it’s part of building a larger right wing argument that women don’t need rights because they don’t have enough value in our society to deserve them, much less use them properly.

But at least one guy is beginning to realize the over the top misogyny is a really bad idea. Rachel Maddow ran down the history of Gov. Bob McDonnell, who wants very badly to be Mitt Romney’s V.P. pick.

  • women 4 *

But now he’s singing a different tune.

  • women 5 *

Well, I guess conservatives retreating from the “all women are crap” position to the “only women who want to have sex are crap” position is something. Maybe the pundits should pay closer attention and dial it down a bit.

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And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, old school edition. Here’s a clip of Phyllis Schlafly, still dressed like it’s the 70s and still going on like she’s trying to kill the Equal Rights Amendment.

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When she says that, she really means it. We stand for letting domestic violence victims leave their  husbands and putting rapists in jail, and she’s resisted us every step of the way. Equal pay for equal work? Causes her to spin out in fury. She may be right that women fear the word, but I don’t think it’s because they agree with her that men should be able to push us around and treat us like we’re subhuman. It’s because the word is misunderstood. Just like liberal.  

Follow Amanda Marcotte on twitter: @amandamarcotte

  • jruwaldt

    FYI, Amanda, the word “fiat” is pronounced FY-at. The FEE-ot pronunciation applies to an Italian car manufacturer.

  • elka

    According to a federal study, 835,000 men are physically attacked by their significant other every year (Tjaden & Thoennes, 2000).  This is almost 40% of all victims of domestic violence.  Furthermore, of the 2,000 domestic violence shelters in the United States, very few of them offer comparable services to battered men, which they gladly provide to battered women.  There is only one in the nation, which I know of, that will take them into their shelter when their lives are in imminent danger.  For those of you who are incensed that this bill wasn’t passed, you should be thinking about the men in your lives about whom you care.  Chances are that they’d be up a creek in such a situation.  Maybe the comic actor, Phil Hartman, would be alive, if V.A.W.A. cared about battered men, too.  Unfortunately, organizations aren’t mandated to provide equal services.  Sometimes, we have to direct victims to the only shelter which we are positive will accept our callers.  These people pay the same taxes as everyone else.  Why are they being denied comparable services? 

        I’ve volunteered on a national helpline, which focuses on under-served victims of domestic abuse, although it specializes in battered MEN, for eight years.  The fact is that many victims go without help, and no one cares.  Many organizations in the field of domestic violence would rather ‘pass the buck,’ and expect that someone else will tackle the problem.  Excuses, excuses.  This is a field that makes a lot of assumptions, and when I try to correct them, I am sometimes met with disbelief, even though I have a lot of experience with what I talk about. 

     

    Our helpline sometimes gets calls from as far away as Australia, because it seems that there isn’t another organization, which is dedicated to helping battered men, on the planet.  Our helpline has never received a dime from the government, namely V.A.W.A., in the twelve years of its existence.  We depend solely upon private donations of small amounts of money.  I learned that we have a few months until we must shut down.  Our tiny organization is entirely comprised of volunteers, and this includes the executive director.  We want to expand our services.  However, funding is holding us back.  Please call your senator to include battered men in this bill. 

    Tjaden, P. & Thoennes. N. (2000). Full report of the prevalence, incidence, and consequences of violence against women: Findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice.