Elizabeth Taylor’s Not-So-Secret Feminism


Elizabeth Taylor was an AIDS activist, but her movies were pretty feminist as well. The general election gets ladified, and conservatives try to start a sex selective abortion-in-America hoax.

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Say what?

Romney’s strategy to win over female voters: Call them fickle

Dismissing the importance of women’s rights as an issue

Bill O’Reilly touting the latest Lila Rose hoax

Limbaugh gets slippery slope hysterical

Sex selective abortion is not a problem in the U.S.

The Young Turks go off on “moron” Lila Rose

Cliff Stearns admits he wants women who have abortions to go to jail 

On this episode of Reality Cast, I’ll look at the question of Elizabeth Taylor’s secret feminism. Women’s rights enter into the general election campaign in a big way, and sex selective abortion in the U.S. is a hoax.

This next clip, I just don’t even know what to say. Miss Ohio was asked if there are any positive role models for women in movies or TV during the Miss USA pageant, and this is what she said.

  • pretty woman *

For those who haven’t seen it, Pretty Woman is actually about a prostitute who is rescued by a rich man, who mainly seems to be attracted to her because she’s passive and he can mold her to be exactly how he likes. He dresses her, teachers her how to act, and basically she doesn’t make a serious decision for herself the whole time.

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There’s been a bit of a lull on the campaign excitement front since Santorum and Gingrich dropped out of the Republican primary, leaving Mitt Romney as the actual nominee. That’s especially the case when it comes to reproductive rights and other feminist issues, where most of the attention is, with good reason, aimed at Congress and the courts. That’s where the action is right now. But Eric Fehrnstrom, a senior campaign advisor to Mitt Romney, may have accidentally kicked off the general election campaign battle over women’s rights in the way the political press loves best, with a gaffe. When asked about women’s issues on ABC, Fehrnstrom said this:

  • election 1 *

It was weird in that he didn’t even try to make “pro-life” a strength. His comment made it sound like he believes that the public is opposed to Romney’s views on social issues, but he thinks they’ll suck it up and elect someone they dislike anyway. Not the most confident approach, I have to say. He’s not wrong that the majority of the country rejects Romney’s views on abortion and gay rights, but you usually expect a little more bluster from campaign spokespeople. Anyway, the reason that this is a gaffe is that he characterized a whole sea of issues as “shiny objects”, which is a way of saying that they’re irrelevant issues that are only distracting to people who are like dumb animals or small children and easily distracted by glitter. And the implication is that anyone who takes these issues seriously is an idiot. Luckily, they had a quote from David Plouffe that listed exactly the issues that Fehrnstrom was dismissing as irrelevant, meaningless issues.

  • election 2 *

Woof, that’s a long list of issues that aren’t important! Consider that 1 in 3 women will have an abortion in her lifetime, and basically all women use contraception. Honestly, it’s like saying the voters aren’t interested in whether or not a candidate is hostile to indoor plumbing. The only reason Fehrnstrom could be so dismissive is that our culture is still so sexist that issues that affect pretty much all women can still be considered boutique, irrelevant issues.

Of course, the major flaw in the whole “it doesn’t really matter” argument is that if it actually didn’t matter, Romney would be pro-choice and pro-gay rights. Indifference leads to support for legalization. If you don’t really think it matters either way, why on earth would you try to exert control over other people’s choices? I don’t care, for instance, if my neighbors prefer chocolate ice cream over vanilla. Because of this, I don’t support laws trying to govern that choice. If I did try to legislate ice cream choice, you’d have to conclude that I do, in fact, think it matters.

Not that I think the more official strategies the Romney campaign is coming up with to try to appeal to female voters are any better.

  • election 3 *

So, in other words, here’s the message: Ladies, we all know that because you’re ladies, you’re dim and emotional and fickle. You go after the guys who are bad for you because you love “shiny objects”. But it’s time to settle down with the boring old guy who gives you a curfew because he knows that you’re not smart enough to make your own decisions. Judith Gray thinks this strategy is clever. I think insulting voters you’re trying to win over by painting them as air-headed bimbos isn’t clever at all. I suspect it’s going to backfire. 

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insert interview

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The latest Lila Rose routine was a coordinated attack with anti-choices in Congress to pretend that the U.S. has a sex selective abortion problem. Now, even if we did, a ban would be ineffective, as has been demonstrated in countries that tried that route. But since we don’t, Rep. Trent Franks failed bill banning sex selective abortion can be safely seen as an attempt to throw doctors in jail on false pretenses. Part of the campaign was Lila Rose using misleading videos purporting to show Planned Parenthood participating in sex selective abortions. Rose offered no proof that sex selective abortion is a service Planned Parenthood advertises or offers, just that if someone comes in insisting on one, she isn’t picked up and handed over to a black market abortionist. International health organizations agree that banning sex selective abortion doesn’t work,  and that this is a cultural, not an individual problem. A cultural problem that, by the way, the United States doesn’t have.

Despite the utter lack of evidence for a problem to begin with, and despite routine demonstrations of loathing for everyone female who’s actually developed a brain stem, conservatives were all over the media preening about this. Rose dragged her lying ass on to Bill O’Reilly to smug her nonsense at everyone.

  • lila rose 1 *

It keeps blanking out for some reason, but O’Reilly claims that the employee “advised” the woman to seek out a sex selective abortion. He and Rose are both on the scale between misrepresenting and blatant lying. What in fact is happening is that a woman is asking for something that basically doesn’t happen, which I’ll get back to in a moment. Something legal, in fact. And when she asks what her legal options are, she is given them. She is not encouraged in any way. I would bet a lot of money this has never come up as a reason before, either. There’s a reason this kind of entrapment is illegal in actual criminal investigations, because a person who is entrapped is often playing along. It’s not proof they were actually intending to break the law. Explaining one’s legal options isn’t a crime. I’d say lying to people and trying to control their bodies against their wills, which is what Rose wants Planned Parenthood employees to do, is a much more serious problem.

O’Reilly and Rose are clearly trying to make it sound like sex selective abortion is a real problem here.

  • lila rose 2 *

Again, this is a blatant, inexcusable lie. This was not “advising” a woman to get an abortion. If someone stopped you on the street and asked if there’s a grocery store around the corner, you aren’t advising them to overeat. Accurate information cannot be conflated with judgment. There’s a real danger is pushing clinics to refuse to educate or talk to people based on personal judgments about their behavior. That can lean to things like refusing to treat people based on religious affiliation or refusing treatment to people because you wouldn’t have sex the way they do. Which, of course, I’m sure conservatives would also like.

Limbaugh was pushing the China line, too.

  • lila rose 3 *

He was even wanking about some slippery slope nonsense about aborting redheads and whatnot. His claim that people in China are aborting girls out of simple preference is a complete lie. China has a one-child policy and a long cultural tradition of favoring sons, because daughters are expected to marry off and care for their in-laws in old age, not their parents. If you get a son, you end up with a son and a daughter-in-law. If you get a daughter, you functionally have nothing. That’s not a simple, aesthetic preference. 

But most appalling was Limbaugh’s claim that this is, you know, happening. All we have is someone on video pretending that they want this, but no evidence so far of the “gosh golly we just like boys better” claims antis are making. In nations like China and India that have this problem, there is a discrepancy in birth ratios. The U.S., according to the CIA’s World Factbook, has exactly the gender ratio at birth that happens without any intervention. Which means there is no intervention. Indeed, 91.4% of abortions are performed before gender is knowable. What we’re seeing here is conservatives pretending a problem exists so they can apply a solution that every actual expert says wouldn’t work even if we did have a problem. It’s like passing a law requiring people to hang cupcakes on their doors to thwart the dragons.

But at least the Young Turks had a chance to go off on conservatives for making a fuss over imaginary problems while denying, you know, actual real world problems.

  • lila rose 4 *

She was angry, for good reason, because a clinic in New Orleans was burned down. That actually happened, unlike the pretend sex selective abortions. That’s basically the sum of the problem. Luckily, the nonsense legislation written to address this non-existent problem in a way that wouldn’t have worked if it was a problem was defeated in the House.

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And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, a moment of honesty edition. Chris Matthews spent over two minutes demanding that Chris Stearns explain what kind of punishment he proposed for women who get abortions, and Stearns kept pretending not to understand the question. Then he cracked.

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Listening to Stearns try not to answer the question was painful, so I spared you most of his two entire minutes of dodging. Antis know that abortion bans are unpopular, so they advocate for them with dishonesty. They try to avoid actually talking about what an abortion ban means, because if you are forced to realize that they support throwing 1 in 3 American women in jail for so-called murder, the idiocy of their point of view becomes obvious indeed.  

Follow Amanda Marcotte on twitter: @amandamarcotte