Lizz Winstead, Dan Savage, and the Red State Cases


Lizz Winstead talks about her new memoir, and being a feminist. A couple of court cases to watch, and Dan Savage has a new TV show.

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Obama making contraception jokes

Texas judge sides with Planned Parenthood

Rally for Planned Parenthood

What’s next for Oklahoma personhood?

Limbaugh’s weird conspiracy theories

On this episode of Reality Cast, Daily Show and Air America founder Lizz Winstead will be on to talk about her new essay collection, and feminism. A couple of court cases in red states are worth watching, and the new show “Savage U” exposes the continuing problem of slut-shaming on campus.

You know the war on women has gone big time when it’s a joke at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner.

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The whole thing demonstrates one good thing to come out of the whole war on women. It’s caused pro-choice politicians, including the President, to make a lot of speeches about the importance of contraception. In the past, a lot of political figures were uncomfortable with the topic, but now discourse about it flows easily.

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Most of the press attention lately on the reproductive rights front has been on the legislatures, for good reason. That’s where most of the attacks on women are coming from, after all. But it’s just as, if not more, important to watch the courts. It’s plenty easy to get legislators on board with stripping human rights away, I’m afraid, but the whole point of the courts is to protect them. Some times they even bother to do that job, though sadly not as often as they should. With that in mind, a couple of stories, one positive and one that’s a mixed bag. First the mixed bag, from Texas.

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This should have been straightforward good news, except that the Fifth Circuit court, which is notoriously wingnutty, immediately stayed the decision. I’m not really expecting good things to come out of this. Conservatives who are supporting Texas blocking federal funding from Planned Parenthood claim that it’s about abortion, but in fact, that’s not what it’s about at all. The federal funds in question don’t go to abortion, but are for contraception. There’s no reason to rehash all the evidence for the contention that the anti-choice movement hates contraception right alongside abortion here. Just let’s be clear that this is an attack on low income women’s right to use contraception.

Texas is one of those states that had huge rallies in support of women’s rights in response to these attacks on contraception access.

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But as this community’s Planned Parenthood program demonstrates, this has nothing to do with abortion, but is just a larger attack on the very concept that women have a right to be healthy even if they’re sexually active.

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They don’t even offer abortion in their clinics. Under the program, they don’t even counsel women on abortion. Flinging the word “abortion” around is just a ruse to attack contraception. Let’s be very clear about this. Unfortunately, I fear the Fifth Circuit is so radically anti-woman that they’re going to uphold the Texas law, no matter how much it violates federal law. But we’ll see.

In Oklahoma, the news is more straightforwardly good news.

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It’s important to remember that personhood is not just a challenge to abortion laws, but would also ban common treatments for infertility, be used to prosecute pregnant women for child abuse for everything from drinking to not taking prenatal vitamins, and could be used to criminalize miscarriage. It could mean that women of reproductive age couldn’t receive treatment for cancer, surgery, or any other kind of treatment that might affect a fertilized egg, which would kill a lot of women. Proponents also hope it can be used to ban female-controlled hormonal contraception, even though there’s no evidence that such contraception has an effect on fertilized eggs. Personhood proponents are all bluster. Even with the Supreme Court as conservative as it is now, this bill just seems too radical for them. I just don’t think there’s a majority of justices who hate women so much they want to classify all of them of reproductive age as potentially pregnant and therefore unable to get basic medical treatment.

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insert interview

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For sexual health and education geeks, if you’re not watching Dan Savage’s new program on MTV, well, what’s wrong with you? It’s really great stuff. The producers did a great job of trying to make it more than the Dan Show, though that would probably be fun as well. Instead, they really go out of their way to take a snapshot of the sex culture on various college campuses around the country, find out where they differ and where they’re the same. It’s actually pretty fascinating, right down to the different standard-issue fashions the kids wear and the willingness of kids to admit on camera in broad daylight that they’re sexually active.

Unfortunately, one thing seems to be constant across various campuses. Even as gay people become more accepted and passing out condoms in bars becomes the norm, there’s still this myth out there that women can be “sluts”. I don’t mean that it’s a myth that women can have a lot of partners. Some do! But the myth is that this is a bad thing, and that it’s uniquely a bad thing for women. Or, to be more specific, a lot of men still have this belief that they should be out there having as much sex as they want and still be considered awesome, but that women who do the same thing are unlovable and undesirable.

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Which makes him, by his own standards, a slut. And therefore by his own standards, no one should want to marry him or date him, but instead just use him for sex since he has no value. Except I guarantee that he doesn’t see it that way, because he’s a guy, and he’s operating with an extreme double standard. I will say that while this whole thing made me uncomfortable because neither Dan nor his producer pointed out the hypocrisy and unfairness right away, I am glad they went ahead and put that word “slut” out there. It’s a meaningless word. As Dan jokes later in the episode, it’s just someone who has had more sex than you. Or a woman you want to put down as worthless, regardless of her actual sexual choices.

This attitude that there’s girls you sleep with and then girls you marry damages women, but it also damages guys, as this fellow Dan talks to accidentally demonstrates. This guy is sad because a woman he was dating dumped him unceremoniously without explanation. And then he offers this:

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This is where I felt I had a disagreement with Dan. He basically treats this guy as if he just likes to take it slow, which is all good and fine if that’s what it is. But the guy doesn’t just like to take it slow. He specifically said only with women he actually likes. So he’s dividing women into two categories: Ones you can use for sexual gratification because you don’t like them very much, and ones you do like and so you don’t want to screw it up by seeing them as sexual beings. Since Dan rants endlessly on his podcast about the Madonna/whore syndrome, I found this oversight on his part to be a little strange. I think this young man would be happier in the long run if he stopped engaging in this dichotomy.

All that said, the show got better over time when it came to Dan challenging these sexist, backwards attitudes about female sexuality.

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Considering some of the backwards attitudes being offered by students, both male and female, on this question, this was probably a mind-blowing answer. I’m a little startled that basic issues of fairness would be so hard for this young generation to wrap their minds around. I don’t know why. Mostly I’ve just seen a lot of data showing that these kids have more egalitarian values than the generations before. But when it comes to applying those values to gender, there’s still a struggle. Dan also addressed this on another issue of fear of female sexuality.

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So check it out! It’s a great show.

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And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, it’s all one big issue edition. Liberals have a tendency to silo our issues, not seeing the connections between, say, immigrant rights and reproductive rights. But we shouldn’t, because our opposition tends to see it as one big issue.

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Of course, there’s no real evidence for his contention. Additionally, I get the impression that Limbaugh thinks that abortion is the primary form of birth control in this country. In fact, about 1 in 3 women will have an abortion in her lifetime, but about 99 percent will use contraception. 

Follow Amanda Marcotte on twitter: @amandamarcotte