Anti-choicers know that their official line is that they’re not in this because they have backwards views on gender or that they’re afraid of female sexuality. Sure, they do have these beliefs, but we are expected to pretend that there’s no connection between their “traditional” views on women generally and their opposition to abortion rights. People who fail to play along with these expectations and insist on pointing out connections get paid in screaming, yelling, and playing-the-victim antics from anti-choicers. Considering how much knowledge anti-choicers have that their backwards views on gender hurt their cause, you’d think they wouldn’t be messing it up and letting the cat out of the bag as often as they do lately.
Indeed, showing their true colors has been a theme of anti-choicers this campaign season, from Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” comment to Mike Huckabee’s extolling the virtues of rape as a baby delivery system to Paul Ryan minimizing rape by calling it a “method of conception.” But even beyond making comments indicating that they don’t really think rape is a big deal—it’s not like raping uterus vessels is the same as violating people, right?—it just seems generally like anti-choicers are getting weary of play-acting like this is about “life.” The urge to say what they actually mean, to shame women for being sexual and for being independent, is just becoming too great. Decades of pretending has worn thin. Now the seams are showing, and the misogynist comments are coming out.
The most prominent example is, of course, the viciousness towards the 99 percent of women who will use contraception at some point in their lives and who, as a result of the birth control benefit under health reform will now gain access to affordable contraceptive care. Most of the hatred was dumped on Sandra Fluke, who appears to most of us to be a normal law student, but who represents everything the anti-choice movement hates: A woman who unapologetically wants equality with men and who is unafraid to advocate for reproductive autonomy as a tool to get it. Hardly a week goes by anymore that some right wing pundit on the radio or Fox News doesn’t take a swipe at Fluke, implying that she’s some kind of emasculating, sex-crazed monster for no other reason than she’s a woman with ambition who thinks that it’s one’s basic human right to prevent unwanted pregnancy.
Now that anti-choicers have shown their hand, they just can’t stop doing it more and more. Erin Gloria Ryan, covered the RNC and attended an anti-choice women’s meeting. The expected nonsense was trotted out: Lies claiming that women are so stupid/lazy they wait until 8 months to have an abortion, war-mongerers who want to cut off health care access pretending they care about “life,” misrepresentations of 19th century feminist beliefs. But beyond that, the pretense that gender politics have nothing to do with this appears to have been dropped:
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There was also a pervasive and revisited insistance during the proceedings that even though the women who were speaking were high-ranking government officials who have worked their asses off, they’re still proper ladies because they’re doing stuff like rushing home after work to take care of the kids, a factoid [Marjorie Dannenfelser of the Susan B. Anthony List] made sure to share about Sen. Kelly Ayotte. Later in the program, she obliquely pointed out that women there still relied on their husbands for leadership. “I know the women who are the head of the organizations here, we love our husbands for their counsel and love all the time.” Oh, good. I was worried I was about to listen to speeches from women who think for themselves. Carry on!
They have Thoughts about pro-choice women, too; during an off-the-cuff moment, Dannenfelser remarked, “Unlike the other side, people in this room actually like men. Isn’t that awesome?!” and the room tittered with knowing appreciation.
Ryan asks how it is that pro-choice women need abortion rights if we hate men so much, but really, this sort of thing is typical right-wing projection. Plenty of men hate women and still have sex with them. Plenty of conservative women resent men—see Ann Romney’s speech at the RNC—but they simply believe it’s impossible to ask men to treat women with fairness. For conservatives, the notion that the sexes are so different they must always be at odds is a given. They’re simply projecting their own failures of imagination onto feminists, which is typical enough in right-wing land.
But what is interesting about this comment is the implication: In order to prove that one likes men, one must be willing to get pregnant and have a baby at any point in time. To refuse to do so is a rejection of men as a class. Even if your particular man agrees with you that now is not a good time for baby-making, in order to prove that you like him, his sperm’s desire to make a baby must be honored above not just your desires but also his. A very strange belief indeed!
But it shows what all this is about, in the end: Hostility to abortion rights and contraception access is about gender anxiety. It’s about this strange fear that unless women are forced into a subservient, dependent position to men, women will not want anything to do with men. Anti-choicers are reacting to a paranoid belief that if women are totally free to choose our own paths, we won’t choose to have men on our journeys. It’s yet further proof that misogyny has an element of man-hating to it, because the misogynist believes that men are not capable of being true friends and partners to women, that men can only enter into relationships with women that have an element of coercion and control. It’s funny, really, to see someone who thinks so little of men preen about how she “likes” them. From the feminist point of view, truly liking men means giving them enough credit to believe that men can be in relationships without forced childbirth being the glue that binds them to women.