The formal start of the Clinton Global Initiative, which begins with a plenary featuring President Obama, President Clinton, President Michelle Bachelet of Chile and others, is less than an hour away. But there have already been announcements of commitments to and calls for funding for women and girls, a key theme of this year's meeting.
The formal start of the Clinton Global Initiative, which begins with a plenary featuring President Obama, President Clinton, President Michelle Bachelet of Chile and others, is less than an hour away. But there have already been announcements of commitments to and calls for funding for women and girls, a key theme of this year’s meeting.
The Novo Foundation, for example, has announced two multimillion dollar commitments to end targeted violence against women and girls in and around the Democratic Republic of Congo, where gender-based violence has reached epidemic proportions.
These commitments, notes a NoVo Foundation press release:
will each specifically fund the development of programs and resources to provide woen survivors of war the tools they need to secure a pivotal role in rebuilding their countries.
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According the NoVo’s release, the first initiative calls for a $2 million commitment to three organizations, the International Rescue Committee, V-Day, and Women for Women International. The second will support Women for Women International in programs to alleviate poverty and create sustainable livelihoods for women in Afghanistan, Bosnia, and Herzegovina, the DRC, Iraq, Kosovo, Nigeria, Rwanda and Sudan, targetting a total of 103,000 women survivors of war and working in turn to improve the livelihoods of more than half a million men, women and children.
We will update on these and other initiatives as information becomes available.
Threats of violence toward women are commonplace on the internet for the same reason that they are increasingly common at Donald Trump rallies: They are effective at perpetuating violence against women as the norm.
Bizarre and inflammatory rhetoric is nothing new for this election. In fact, the Republican presidential candidate has made an entire campaign out of it. But during a rally last Tuesday, Donald Trump sunk to a new level. He lamented that if Hillary Clinton is elected president in November, there will be no way to stop her from making judicial nominations.
He said, “By the way, and if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know.”
For a candidate marred by offensive comment after offensive comment, this language represents a new low, because, as many immediately explained, Trump appears to be making a veiled threat against Clinton, whether he had intended to or not.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) called it a “death threat” and Dan Rather, former CBS Evening News host, called it a “direct threat of violence against a political rival.” Former President Ronald Reagan’s daughter Patti Davis said it was “horrifying,” and even the author of an NRA-linked blog initially tweeted, “That was a threat of violence. As a real supporter of the #2A it’s appalling to me,” before deleting the tweet as the NRA expressed support for Trump.
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This kind of language is violent in nature on its face, but it is also gendered, following in a long line of misogynistic rhetoric this election season. Chants of “kill the bitch” and “hang the bitch” have become common at Trump rallies. These aren’t solely examples of bitter political sniping; these are overt calls for violence.
When women speak out or assert ourselves, we are challenging long-held cultural norms about women’s place and role in society. Offensively gendered language represents an attempt to maintain the status quo. We’ve seen this violent rhetoric online as well. That isn’t an accident. When individuals throw pejorative terms at those of who refuse to be silenced, they are attempting to render public spaces, online or on the campaign trail, unsafe for us.
There is no shortage of examples demonstrating how individuals who feel threatened by subtle power shifts happening in our society have pushed back against those changes. The interactions happening online, on various social media platforms, offer the most vivid examples of the ways in which people are doing their best to try to make public spaces as uncomfortable as possible for marginalized populations.
Social media offers the opportunity for those whose voices are routinely ignored to hold power in a new way. It is a slow but real shift from old, more traditional structures of privileging certain voices to a more egalitarian megaphone, of sorts.
For marginalized populations, particularly women of color and transgender women, social media can provide an opportunity to be seen and heard in ways that didn’t exist before. But it also means coming up against a wall of opposition, often represented in a mundane but omnipresent flow of hatred, abuse, and violent threats from misogynist trolls.
The internet has proven to be a hostile place for women. According to a report from the United Nations, almost three quarters of women online have been exposed to some form of cyber violence. As someone who has received threats of violence myself, I know what it feels like to have sharing your voice met with rage. There are women who experience this kind of violent rhetoric to an even greater degree than I could ever dream.
The list of women who have been inundated with threats of violence could go on for days. Women like Zerlina Maxwell, who was showered with rape threats after saying that we should teach men not to rape; Lindy West received hundreds upon hundreds of violent and threatening messages after she said that she didn’t think rape jokes were funny; Leslie Jones, star of Ghostbusters and Saturday Night Live, was driven off of Twitter after a coordinated attack of racist, sexist, and violent language against her.
And yet, rarely are such threats taken seriously by the broader community, including by those able to do something about it.
Many people remain woefully unaware of how cruel and outright scary it can be for women online, particularly women with prolific digital profiles. Some simply refuse to see it as a real issue, declaring that “It’s just the internet!” and therefore not indicative of potential physical violence. Law enforcement doesn’t even have a solution, often unwilling to take these threats seriously, as Amanda Hess found out.
This kind of response is reflected in those who are trying to defend Donald Trump after the seemingly indefensible. Despite the overwhelming criticism from many, including some renowned Republicans, we have also seen some Trump supporters try to diminish or outright erase the violent aspect of this clearly threatening rhetoric. Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) and former mayor of New York City Rudy Giuliani have both said that they assumed Trump meant get rid of her “by voting.” Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) said that it “sounds like just a joke gone bad.”
The violent nature of Donald Trump’s comments seem apparent to almost everyone who heard him. To try to dismiss it as a “joke” or insist that it is those who are offended that are wrong is itself harmful. This is textbook gaslighting, a form of psychological abuse in which a victim’s reality is eroded by telling them that what they experienced isn’t true.
But gaslighting has played a major role in Donald Trump’s campaign, with some of his supporters insisting that it is his critics who are overreacting—that it is a culture of political correctness, rather than his inflammatory and oppressive rhetoric, that is the real problem.
This is exactly what women experience online nearly every day, and we are essentially told to just suck it up, that it’s just the internet, that it’s not real. But tell that to Jessica Valenti, who received a death and rape threat against her 5-year-old daughter. Tell that to Anita Sarkeesian, who had to cancel a speech at Utah State after receiving a death threat against her and the entire school. Tell that to Brianna Wu, a game developer who had to flee her home after death threats. Tell that to Hillary Clinton, who is trying to make history as the first woman president, only to have her life threatened by citizens, campaign advisers, and now through a dog whistle spoken by the Republican presidential candidate himself.
Threats of violence toward women are commonplace on the internet for the same reason that they are increasingly common at Donald Trump’s rallies: They are effective at perpetuating violence against women as the norm.
Language matters. When that language is cruel, aggressive, or outright violent, it doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and it doesn’t come without consequences. There is a reason that it is culturally unacceptable to say certain words like “cunt” and other derogatory terms; they have a history of harm and oppression, and they are often directly tied to acts of violence. When someone tweets a woman “I hope your boyfriend beats you,” it isn’t just a trolling comment; it reflects the fact that in the United States, more women are killed by intimate partners than by any other perpetrator, that three or more women die every day from intimate partner violence. When Donald Trump not only refuses to decry calls of violence and hate speech at his rallies but in fact comes across as threatening his female opponent, it isn’t just an inflammatory gaffe; it reflects the fact that one in three women have experienced physical or sexual violence.
Threats of violence have no place in presidential campaigns, but they also have no place online, either. Until we commit ourselves to rooting out violent language against women and to making public spaces safer and more accommodating for women and all marginalized people, Trump’s comments are just par for the course.
This week on the campaign trail, a super PAC supporting Hillary Clinton released an ad attacking Donald Trump’s stance on reproductive rights, and the chair of the Republican National Committee (RNC) offered little more than a shrug when confronted with news that the party’s presumptive standard-bearer had mistreated women.
Pro-Clinton Super PAC Releases Ad Questioning Trump’s “Respect” for Women
Priorities USA Action, a super PAC supporting the Clinton campaign, this week released its first two attack ads targeting Trump, highlighting the candidate’s mistreatment of women and his comments on reproductive rights.
The ads, which have aired in four swing states, “offer scathing critiques of Mr. Trump’s comments about women that will run for the next three weeks in Ohio, Florida, Virginia and Nevada,” reports the New York Times.
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In one of the ads, titled “Respect,” a clip of Trump claiming that “nobody respects women more than Donald Trump” is followed by a series of the Republican candidate’s statements on reproductive health and rights, including his promise to defund Planned Parenthood, and Trump’s suggestion that abortion patients should be “punished” if the procedure is made illegal.
The ad comes as Trump faces renewed controversy over his comments about making abortion punishable. In a New York Times Magazinearticle published Wednesday, the GOP presidential candidate attempted to spin his prior assertion, this time suggesting that he “didn’t mean punishment for women like prison. I’m saying women punish themselves.”
Trump had claimed that though his “position has not changed” on the issues, doctors providing abortion care “would be held legally responsible, not the woman.”
Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus Claims “People Just Don’t Care” That Trump Mistreats Women
Priebus, appearing on Fox News Sunday, dismissed the mistreatment of women by his party’s presumptive nominee.
“We’ve been working on this primary for over a year, Chris, and I’ve got to tell you, I think that all these stories that come out and they come out every couple weeks, people just don’t care,” Priebus claimed after host Chris Wallace questioned the GOP party leader about a recent investigation from the New York Times finding that Trump had treated women poorly in his professional and personal life.
Times reporters conducted more than 50 interviews with women who had worked with or come in contact with Trump, revealing “unwelcome romantic advances, unending commentary on the female form, a shrewd reliance on ambitious women, and unsettling workplace conduct” from Trump.
After Priebus attempted to brush off the query by questioning whether people would be surprised that Trump “had girlfriends,” Wallace pressed him to address how the party would respond to the news.
“But, forgive me, it’s not whether or not he had girlfriends, the question is whether or not he mistreated women, whether he made unwanted advances, whether he humiliated women in the workplace,” Wallace countered. “I don’t understand why you say that people don’t care about that, and are you going to look into the allegations?”
“I’m not saying people don’t care about it, I’m just saying I think the reason he’s where he is at is that he represents something much different than the traditional analysis of individual candidates,” Priebus said. “And, yes, everything bothers me, Chris, but I don’t know the truth of these things, I don’t know other than reading an article whether or not these things are true. I think it’s something that Donald Trump is going to have to answer questions in regard to. All I’m saying, though, is, is that after a year of different stories, you know, nothing applies.”
Priebus’ dismissal of Trump’s behavior toward women was a “telling response” that “speaks volumes” about the way the Republican Party treats women, as Rewire editor-in-chief Jodi Jacobson explained.
“The real problem is that it’s the GOP leadership that just doesn’t care,” Jacobson wrote. “The reality is that Trump’s ‘problematic attitude toward women’ is not an isolated problem. For the GOP leadership, it is not a problem at all, but the product of their fundamental policies and positions. The GOP has been waging war on women’s fundamental rights for nearly two decades; it’s just gotten more brash and unapologetic about the attitudes underlying the party’s policies.”
What Else We’re Reading
Ari Rabin-Havt argues in the Huffington Postthat Trump’s latest shift on his abortion punishment suggestion “is just borrowing from the playbook” of extremists like Troy Newman, who try to stigmatize abortion care.
“For survivors of abuse like me, Donald Trump’s interview with Megyn Kelly was excruciating,” Emily Crockett writes for Vox.
The Guardian’s Jessica Valenti questions how Trump’s history of mistreating women will impact voters.
Freedom Partners Action Fund, a Koch-backed group, is spending millions on the Ohio Senate race, where Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) is facing off against Democrat Ted Strickland. The Koch groups have backed GOP candidates in other key Senate races, including Nevada, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania, and have reserved $30 million in commercial time for Senate races.
With petitions involving voting restrictions potentially making their way to the Supreme Court by September, the justices could play a crucial role in helping decide the fate of the 2016 elections.
Connecticut approved a “motor-voter” system that will automatically register eligible voters visiting the Department of Motor Vehicles for driver’s licenses or state-issued ID cards. An estimated 400,000 voters will be added to the state’s rolls, according to ThinkProgress.
The Nation’s Ari Berman examines how automatic voter registration in Oregon “is revolutionizing American democracy.”