Women's History Month Edition: Misogyny at CPAC and Death Penalty for Women Who Get Abortions
Record Levels of Despair for Teen Girls, "Scandoval" Breaks Internet, Carole King Saves the Day, and More
Who’s a Feminist?
A college teacher friend of mine used to begin his critical thinking class by writing this on the white board: “Are you a feminist?” After a show of hands, he divided the class into those who’d said yes and those who’d said no. Then he asked the question they should have all asked before raising their hands: “What is the definition of feminist?”
Turned out, many who had proclaimed they were not feminists struggled with a definition. The answers ranged from, “women who want more rights than men” to “women who don’t want to be mothers” to “I can’t be a feminist because I’m a man.” Then he gave them the Merriam-Webster dictionary definition: “Belief in and advocacy of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes expressed especially through organized activity on behalf of women's rights and interests.”
Discussion followed, not about whether or not women were oppressed, but about why they had chosen their side, including why some thought you had to be a woman to be a feminist. Some men were uncomfortable being labeled by a word that was related to the word “feminine.” The question was then rephrased: “Based on this definition, who is a feminist?” Most of the non-feminist side walked over to the feminist side. Then they began discussing the issues.
The lesson: not only is the word “feminism” tainted with factual inaccuracies, but it is burdened with social insecurities created by a culture desperate to ensure men’s favored status. This sends a mixed message that men are strong protective figures who guard society’s rights but are fragile when it comes to sharing those rights. That some men and women both reacted negatively to the word “feminism” without knowing what it meant tells us that the propaganda efforts to contaminate the word have been effective.
The question is: how is that possible?
Is it the primitive reality that most men are physically larger and more powerful than women and that—if they chose—they could impose their will by force. “If they chose” is the implied threat, even if never employed. In the second season of True Detective, cop Ani (Rachel McAdams) explains why, after being molested when she was young, she trained herself to become so proficient with a knife: “the fundamental difference between the sexes is that one of them can kill the other with their bare hands.”
The numbers don’t add up. Women have been 51.1% of the U.S. population since 2013. They make up 50.7% of our college-educated labor force, and that percentage is increasing annually. So, the question is, how can a minority of the country suppress the rights of a majority?
The first way you do it is by claiming their rights aren’t being suppressed (the same way you claim there’s no systemic racism). This only works if you ignore facts, statistics, experts, and even observation. I’m not going to present all the evidence here because it’s too overwhelming. Pay differences, health care differences, glass ceilings—it’s all out there. Perhaps the most damning evidence is how quickly red states jumped on the opportunity to pass laws taking away a woman’s right to make choices about her own body. If such a law was passed restricting men’s right to choose what to do with their bodies… well, we already know that would never happen.
The second way you marginalize a majority group is by enlisting numbers from that group to suppress themselves and their peers. You convince them that they are better off wearing the harness because at least then they’ll have a direction and a purpose, even if that direction and purpose is determined by someone else holding the reins. Of course, you frame it in much more enticing terms: queen, princess, goddess, etc. You glamorize it with fancy clothes, shoes, and jewelry. You offer validation—but at what price?
In 1991, Susan Faludi’s Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women presented convincing evidence that there was a media-driven backlash against women because of the social and political gains they had made. She argued that the strategy was “blaming the victim” by implying the feminist movement caused the problems facing women. Here we are, 32 years later, and we see another resurgence of the same strategies, the same backlash.
I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,
When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,
When he beats his bars and would be free;
It is not a carol of joy or glee,
But a prayer that he sends from his heart's deep core,
But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings –
I know why the caged bird sings
What we must come to understand is that the cage imprisons us all, including the cagers. We are locked together in the irrational world in which fear is our bars. No one is free unless everyone is free. It’s that simple. It is up to all of us to bring about this universal freedom so that everyone gets the opportunity to thrive. What they do with that opportunity is up to them.
Politics: What Conservatives Think of Women
SUMMARY: “Transphobic political commentator Michael Knowles delivered a hate-filled speech at the State University of New York at Buffalo Thursday evening despite ongoing protests leading up to the controversial event and even the school’s president condemning ‘dehumanizing rhetoric.’
“The Young Americans for Freedom, a student organization devoted to conservative ideas, hosted Knowles on campus, where the political pundit was supposed to give a speech on ‘How Feminism Destroys Women (And Everything Else).’ However, he rambled on for about 10 minutes about the so-called ‘confusion’ of transgender people, his dissent on gay marriage, and ridiculed a slew of publications’ recent reports—including The Daily Beast—for slamming his transphobic views.
“‘Feminism has made everybody miserable, especially women,’ he said with a smirk.
“Knowles, 32, claimed that feminist teachings could make another woman miserably enlightened as she stirred ‘from the slumber of her oppressive serenity.’
“…‘I think women understood the world a lot better before feminism,’ he said. ‘I think women were obviously much happier before feminism. I think women understood the relationship between men and women and their own nature much better before feminism.’
“…The thespian-turned-political pundit then talked in circles about whether or not women having the right to vote was a good or bad thing.”
MY TAKE: Now we know why the word “feminism” has such a bad reputation—because conservatives have been shaming it for decades. The men do it because they fear the competition that challenges their power in jobs, politics, and the home. Women do it because they fear being forced outside a traditional comfort zone endorsed by friends and family. The Big Lie here is that women who would prefer to stay home and raise a family will be shunned and ridiculed for not also pursuing a career. The truth is that feminists only want women to have the opportunity to choose whatever path they want, whether it’s staying home, pursuing a career, or both. They want to help and support women in doing what they choose. For that to happen, though, equal opportunities must exist.
From Knowles’ speech, we can see that this is not the conservative agenda. Of course, not all conservatives are this shallow, misinformed, inaccurate, or illogical, but enough of them embrace this misogyny to keep passing laws restricting women’s rights.
For example, Missouri's House of Representatives started their new session by tightening its dress code — but only for female lawmakers. Reported NPR: “Republican state Rep. Ann Kelley proposed an amendment that would require women to wear jackets — defined as both blazers and knit blazers — because ‘it is essential to always maintain a formal and professional atmosphere.’” It passed.
The concern here isn’t the sad, sexist, trembling teen-boy drivel that Knowles spouts, it’s that he is emboldened to say this publicly because there is a welcoming audience. He said this at CPAC to fire up people for the coming elections, when they will vote for candidates to restrict voting, decimate education, and take away women’s rights.
RELATED: Matt Gaetz’s New Staffer Identifies as a ‘Raging Misogynist’ (The Daily Beast)
SUMMARY: The newly hired congressional counsel for Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), election denier Andrew Kloster, describes himself as a “raging misogynist” and is intent on proving it through his social media. Kloster also “currently faces a charge for assault that causes bodily injury against a family member, according to court records in Collin County, Texas. The class A misdemeanor carries a maximum sentence of a year in jail and a $4,000 fine, as long as the defendant has no previous domestic violence charges.”
His tweets are too numerous to reprint here (read them in the article), but here’s a representative selection:
“On Jan. 16, 2021—10 days after the attack on the U.S. Capitol and four days before Donald Trump left office—he posted, ‘Keep calm and respect the patriarchy.’”
In response to a woman who tweeted that women don’t need lip injections: “You know what I need? I need a woman who looks like she got punched.”
“I’m 100% women respecter precisely because I’m a raging misogynist. I’m so kind you’ll want to kill yourself and die, which is the goal.”
He bemoaned the end of Nancy Pelosi’s tenure as House Speaker—specifically the loss of “prime time Nancy juggz.”
“(1) slaves did everything (2) white ppl didn’t free the slaves. Conclusion: slavery was voluntary.”
“Slaves built america. Therefore,,, Slaves owe us reparations.”
MY TAKE: It was just a couple weeks ago that Matt Gaetz invited accused murderer Corey Beekman to lead the Pledge of Allegiance before the year’s first Judiciary Committee hearing. Beekman was also accused of shooting his girlfriend Katlin Buck while her two young children were in the house. Buck refused to testify. Then Gaetz tried to attack intelligence experts with a propaganda report from China, which he didn’t realize it was. Now, he’s hired Kloster. Remind me again who Gaetz represents, because it sure isn’t women.