Commentary Media

‘Abortion Tourism’ and Married Sex: Conservatives Get Mad at Anything Women Do

Amanda Marcotte

A writer at the Daily Caller is mad that women who can't access abortion locally might get the "vacation" of sitting on a bus to get outpatient surgery. Bill O'Reilly is mad that Beyoncé enjoys married sex. It seems like anything you do these days is making the right mad, if you're female.

“Abortion tourism” or “abortion vacations”: This is the latest (non-)thing that the Daily Caller is trying to get its hard right audience all riled up about, in an article sneering at Lenzi Sheible, a pro-choice activist who started Fund Texas Women, a group dedicated to helping Texans who need to travel to get abortions under the draconian new state laws that have closed all the rural abortion clinics in the state. The Daily Caller piece, written by Eric Owens—a supposed “education editor” who would better be understood as the “stoking resentment and fear editor”—is a marvel of right-wing resentment-stoking and hysteria, trying to make it seem as if there’s some kind of scary abortion conspiracy going on, when in fact it’s just an attempt to get women access to necessary health care, which their own government is trying to take away from them.

The piece also showed that conservatives are losing their ability to keep their story straight when it comes to attacks on reproductive rights. Owens complains that a travel fund is an attempt to “skirt a new state law.” But that would mean that the law is meant to create an undue burden on abortion access, which is illegal under Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Is Owens inadvertently admitting that the law has nothing to do with health and safety, as its crafters maintain, and is in fact just an attempt to make abortion harder for low-income women in rural areas to access?

Even more amazingly, Owens didn’t even try to hide that he was stoking resentment of women over the mere possibility that they could experience a moment of pleasure. Owens goes out of his way to make it seem like the women who are being served by Fund Texas Women are having a great time living in the lap of luxury; he whines that trips to access a legal medical procedure are “abortion vacations” and that Fund Texas Women “pays for airfare, bus tickets, hotel accommodations and various other expenses.” The reader is clearly meant to throw a fit—these women “get” to have fun “vacations” for free just because they had sex! Never mind that these trips are actually quite stressful. Never mind that getting outpatient surgery is no one’s idea of a good time. Never mind that sitting on a Greyhound bus for hours as you drive across Texas, which is what these women have to do, is a downright hellish experience.

Oh yeah, and never mind that if conservatives hate the idea of women taking time off work and seeing another city while they get their abortion, the best way to prevent these trips is to stop passing laws that shut down safe abortion clinics.

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What’s interesting about the article—as with the inadvertent admission that the Texas law is unconstitutional—is that it’s another example of right-wing media losing its ability to keep track of its narrative. The official position of anti-choicers is that they are in the fight because of “life,” not because they resent and hate the idea that a woman might have experienced—gasp!—sexual pleasure without being punished for it. But Owens shows how much resentment is built into the core of the anti-choice agenda. Forget resenting women because they might have had sexual fun. Owens is, and he assumes his readers must be, deeply resentful of the idea that young women might feel even the fleeting pleasure of being able to sit in a hotel room for a night after a long bus ride. Any pleasure, no matter how small or imaginary, is cause for resentment.

Similarly, a recent Bill O’Reilly segment showed how the real issue that’s working up conservatives is the possibility that someone, somewhere—especially someone young or female—might be having fun. When Def Jam founder Russell Simmons came onto O’Reilly’s show recently, O’Reilly decided to make Simmons answer for the song and video “Partition” by Beyoncé. (Simmons had nothing to do with the song or video, as far as I can tell, but O’Reilly seems to think everyone involved in hip-hop and R&B is keeping tabs on everyone else at all times, I guess.) O’Reilly complained that the song “glorifies having sex in the back of a limousine,” which it does, of course. But why is that wrong? O’Reilly tried to justify himself by whining, “Why would she do it when she knows the devastation that unwanted pregnancies … and fractured families—why would Beyoncé do that?”

Sex in limousines, as opposed to sex in other places, does not increase the risk of unwanted pregnancy or fractured families. Presumably, the concern for O’Reilly is that girls might hear this song and get the idea that sex is fun; for him, that belief—one that persisted long before Beyoncé and will persist long after she’s gone—is the problem. But here’s what made this whinefest truly special: Beyoncé has blatantly framed the song as an ode to married sex. Her husband is cast in the video, and the framing device is one of them sitting at breakfast, like any other boring old married couple. The point of the song is to highlight the erotic joys of married life. Far from being a threat to the idea of family stability, the song portrays, evocatively, an important part of holding a marriage together, by continuing to have erotic adventures so that you don’t fall into a rut and start resenting each other.

In light of this, it’s hard not to conclude that what angers O’Reilly is the fear that women—even married mothers—are experiencing sexual pleasure without apologizing for it. He’s so hostile to the idea of female sexual pleasure that he assumes it must be destabilizing and destructive, even in the context (marriage) that conservatives claim to believe is the only legitimate place for sexual exploration. I’ve long thought that was just a ruse, an excuse to police and punish sexual pleasure in all forms, but O’Reilly’s meltdown over a woman doing a song about the joys of married sex just proves it.

Why is it so hard lately for conservatives to keep a tight lid on their hostility to female pleasure, sexual and otherwise? It’s hard to say. I argued a few months ago that it is in part because anti-choicers think they’re winning on the abortion front and so have decided to start pressing their luck. But these two examples show that it might also be that right-wing media has dropped the pretense of trying to persuade, and is now in the business of keeping the already aggrieved in a constant state of anger and resentment, particularly toward women.

Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: Trump Insists It Was He Who ‘Broke the Glass Ceiling’ for Women in Construction

Ally Boguhn

Though Trump’s statement came the same day the Associated Press first reported Clinton—whose 2008 concession speech referenced the glass ceiling—would be the Democratic Party’s presumptive nominee, the news had not broken at the time of Trump’s comments.

This week on the campaign trail, Donald Trump insisted he was the one who had broken the “glass ceiling” for women—in the construction industry. 

Clinton Takes Democratic Nomination—and Endorsements From Key Democrats 

Clinton received endorsements and support from President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) on Thursday after Clinton’s Tuesday primary victories solidified her place as the party’s presumptive nominee.

“For more than a year now, across thousands of miles and all 50 states, tens of millions of Americans have made their voices heard,” Obama said in a video posted to Clinton’s Facebook page. “Today I just want to add mine.”

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“I’m with her,” continued Obama, who had previously remained neutral in the 2016 Democratic primary race. “I am fired up, and I cannot wait to get out there to campaign for Hillary.”

Biden threw his support behind Clinton that same day while speaking at the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy’s 2016 national convention in Washington. According to CNN, Biden said that “God willing, in my view, [the next U.S. president] will be Secretary Clinton.”

During an interview Thursday night with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, Warren, an influential voice among the party, also embraced Clinton. “I am ready to get in this fight and work my heart out for Hillary Clinton to become the next president of the United States,” said Warren, adding that she was determined “to make sure that Donald Trump never gets anyplace close to the White House.”

Clinton’s string of endorsements come just days after news broke that the former secretary of state had secured enough delegates to become the party’s presumptive nominee.

Though Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) remains in the race for the Democratic nomination, he signaled he will be willing to work with Clinton in order to unite the party.

“I look forward to meeting with her in the near future to see how we can work together to defeat Donald Trump and to create a government which represents all of us, and not just the 1 percent,” Sanders told reporters Thursday during a press conference outside of the White House.

Trump Says He “Broke the Glass Ceiling on Behalf of Women” in Construction

Trump took credit for breaking “the glass ceiling” in construction for women during an interview on Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor Monday evening.

“Number one, I have great respect for women. I was the one that really broke the glass ceiling on behalf of women, more than anybody in the construction industry,” Trump told host Bill O’Reilly when questioned about how he would appeal to women voters during the general election. “My relationship, I think, is going to end up being very good with women.”

Though Trump’s statement came the same day the Associated Press first reported Clintonwhose 2008 concession speech referenced the glass ceilingwould be the Democratic Party’s presumptive nominee, the news had not broken at the time of Trump’s comments, according to the Washington Post.

O’Reilly went on to ask the presumptive Republican nominee about a recent Boston Globe report analyzing presidential-campaign payroll data, which revealed that just 28 percent of Trump’s staff were women and that the men on staff made “about 35 percent more” than women.

Trump denied the allegations, instead claiming it was Clinton who truly failed to offer pay equality, though he later suggested “there are reasons” men on his campaign would be paid more than women such as “different jobs.”

“If you look at my company and what I pay women versus men, in many cases I pay women more money than I pay for men, and frankly, now I’ll probably get a lawsuit from my men that work for me,” Trump added.

The Globe’s analysis, however, also looked at data for the Clinton campaign and found that men and women were paid roughly the same:

The women working for Clinton — who account for 53 percent of her total staff—took home an average of $3,710. The men made slightly more, at $3,760. Clinton’s staffers, men and women, made less than the women who work for Trump.

On Clinton’s campaign, the highest-paid employee was a woman, Jennifer Palmieri, the campaign’s director of communications. And of the 15 highest-paid employees, eight were men and seven were women.

Trump has voiced some support for gender pay equality in the past, telling the hosts of MSNBC’s Morning Joe in August 2015 that “if they do the same job, they should get the same pay,” but adding that “it’s very hard to say what is the same job.” When questioned about the topic by an attendee of a rally in November, Trump reportedly said that a woman would “make the same [as a man] if you do as good a job.”

Conservatives have previously alleged that a gender pay disparity existed in Clinton’s senate office, evidencing their claim with a report from conservative news site the Free Beacon. According to FactCheck.org, Clinton’s campaign doesn’t deny that the data used for that study was accurate but argues the analysis used “incomplete, and therefore inaccurate set of numbers.”

When the fact-checking site analyzed the annual salary data provided by the Democrat’s campaign, which included some staff members not included in the Free Beacon’s study because they did not work the full year, it found that “median salaries for men and women in Clinton’s office were virtually identical” and that “Clinton hired roughly twice as many women as men.” The site took “no position” on whether the methodology used by the campaign was superior to that used by the conservative news site.

What Else We’re Reading

ThinkProgress’ Evan Popp explained that “while Clinton’s declared victory was historic and diversity within government positions has improved, experts say much more is needed before the U.S. government is truly representative of the people.”

Some Republicans are jumping ship after Trump commented on the “Mexican heritage” of the judge presiding over his Trump University case.

When asked about the possibility of another woman joining her ticket as potential vice president, Clinton told CNN’s Anderson Cooper, “I’m looking at the most qualified people, and that includes women, of course, because I want to be sure that whoever I pick could be president immediately if something were to happen—that’s the most important qualification.” 

Though 70 percent of women view Trump unfavorably, Politico’s Daniel Lippman and Ben Schreckinger profiled some of the women who do support the presumptive Republican nominee.

“Libertarians are stepping up to the big time when it comes to fundraising from political action committees,” according to the Sunlight Foundation. Though big money typically doesn’t flow to the party during presidential elections, Gary Johnson’s presence in the race this year could change that.

Delete your account”: Clinton and Trump squared off on Twitter on Thursday.

California’s open primary system allows the top two Senate candidatesno matter the party they belong toto run in the state’s general election, and this time, two Democrats will face off.

Culture & Conversation Media

‘The 1970s’: A Quirky, Scattershot Look Back at Feminism Four Decades Ago

Eleanor J. Bader

The collection captures the giddiness of the decade and the unbridled enthusiasm for creating new ways of being and doing.

Readers looking for a comprehensive history of the feminist social movements that existed four decades ago will not find it in The 1970s, a quirky, scattershot collection of 31 academic essays, poems, memoir fragments, fiction, and artwork published as the fall/winter edition of WSQ, formerly known as Women’s Studies Quarterly. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Like all anthologies, individual readers will likely find some contributions in The 1970s, edited by Shelly Eversley and Michelle Habell-Pallán, more alluring than others. Nonetheless, they will also walk away with a new or renewed respect for the foremothers of modern feminism, including the first Black woman elected to U.S. Congress, 1972 presidential candidate Shirley Chisholm; the Our Bodies, Ourselves collective; and those who organized festivals and conferences in order to strategize and socialize with other women and political thinkers.

The collection captures the giddiness of the decade and the unbridled enthusiasm for creating new ways of being and doing. As someone who came of age in the 1970s, I was reminded not only of the excesses of the period, but of the deeply felt thrill of creating spaces centered on women. The fact that many newly minted feminists, like me, truly believed that a social revolution was imminent sounds naïve today—and maybe even ridiculous—at the time it seemed not just possible but probable.

The 1970s captures this spirit, but as a non-linear collection does so in fits and starts. Instead, the anthology is divided into five thematic sections: Powerful Sisterhoods; Sex, Representation, and the Uses of the Erotic; New Sounds, New Sights; Form and Content: Popular Platforms; and Classics Revisited: The Equal Rights Amendment. Nearly every entry was written specifically for the collection, a fact that makes the anthology a modern-day look backward, full of both concrete information and the wisdom of hindsight.

In “Sex and the Me Decade: Sex and Dating Advice Literature of the 1970s,” Smith College Lecturer Anna E. Ward zeroes in on the changing ethos about sex, marriage, and gender that emerged thanks to the previous decade’s counterculture. The shifts, she writes, were initially apparent in the marital advice manuals that began circulating in the early 1960s and that directly acknowledged women as sexual beings. The impetus for this change was the public admission that unmarried people fooled around—a revelation credited to Helen Gurley Brown’s taboo-breaking 1962 bestseller, Sex and the Single Girl. Until then, Ward explains, all sex guides had been written by men and were exclusively addressed to husbands and their physicians.

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As the 1970s took hold, female sexual desire was finally noted and “how-to” texts were published by both mainstream print shops and newly forming feminist presses with the explicit aim of increasing female satisfaction. Feminists took the idea of female sexual agency even further, Ward writes: demanding that sex itself be seen as a political act. After all, they argued, wasn’t sexuality impacted by the gender inequities and the power imbalances that existed within many heterosexual families? If women were considered inferior to men and naturally subservient, how could this not impact one’s sex life?

So what to do?

During the 1970s, Ward explains, the primacy of the vaginal orgasm became fodder for debate, and women began to contest the many fallacies they’d been taught. Consciousness Raising [CR] groups, as they were called, formed, and, among other things, helped women understand their bodies, including the clitoris as a pleasure site. Not surprisingly, as women opened up about their sex lives, the discussion grew to include how they had been miseducated and mistreated by men. Indeed, as anger and frustration bubbled over, so did organizing. According to Ward, “Women and Their Bodies, published in 1970 and later renamed Our Bodies, Ourselves, grew out of CR sessions. In addition to the anatomy and physiology section that discussed women’s reproductive and sexual anatomy, the text devotes an entire section to sexuality. As was common at many feminist CR sessions, the text encourages women to examine their bodies, particularly their genitalia.”

A host of books, by women for women, soon emerged: Free and Female: The Sex Life of the Contemporary Woman, Woman’s Orgasm: A Guide to Sexual Satisfaction, and Sex for Women Who Want to Have Fun and Loving Relationships with Equals among them.

An even bigger shift involved the expansion of intended audience. Ward reports that ‘70s sex manuals recognized the sexualities of LGBTQ and people with disabilities, and touched upon previously ignored topics including the impact of illness, pregnancy, menopause, and aging on sexual behavior. The ways sexual abuse impacted body image and performance were also explored.

That said, Ward writes that almost all of these books were authored by straight, cis, white “experts,” who ignored the centrality of race, sexual preference, and class in the formation of sexual identity and the everyday choices that were—and still are—available to different populations. Still, she concludes that their work played a discernible role in expanding gender and sex norms throughout society, developments that prompted wider acceptance of difference overall.

Meanwhile, Canada-based writer-teacher Lise Weil’s “Beginning With O,” taken from her in-progress memoir, In Search of Pure Lust, addresses what coming out for the first time meant for her. The piece is a funny, tender, and sweet reflection on an all-women’s weekend she attended in 1977. Attentive to the over-the-top enthusiasms of the era—including an “elaborate vagina slide show presented by a tall, energetic woman with a pointer”—it beautifully captures the moment, and then some.

Like Weil, other writers move between the personal and political. In “Programas Sin Vergüenza (Shameless Programs): Mapping Chicanas in Community Radio in the 1970s”, Monica de la Torre, a PhD candidate at the University of Washington, writes about the Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s attempt to diversity its staffing and programming. Part of the third section of the anthology, New Sounds, New Sights, Programas Sin Vergüenza references a 1974 survey that revealed CPB to be a bastion of whiteness.

After the survey’s findings were released, the CPB attempted to bring in new voices from the Asian, Black, and Latino communities. “Chicano sound activism,” De La Torre writes, was one of the bi-products: a way to bring a diverse Chicano population into radio broadcasting. In 1979, California’s Radio KDNA became the country’s “first, full-time Spanish-language, noncommercial radio station,” De La Torre writes. Along with KBBF FM 89.1, a Santa Rosa, California station set up by farmworkers, these community-run stations helped nonprofessionals acquire the skills to create programs explicitly directed toward low-wage workers and their families.

It did not take long for women to become immersed in them, learning production and going on air to address their concerns: relationships, poverty, child-rearing, abortion and contraceptive availability, and the lack of educational and vocational opportunities open to them. “These radio programs were powerful,” De La Torre writes, “and worked to inform women and to break the silence of discussing sex, sexuality, and reproductive rights. Rather than conducting them in private spheres, Chicanas were bringing these conversations to the public airwaves, giving women the knowledge that they may not have received elsewhere.”

Sadly—frustratingly—these heady advances were not sustained; De La Torre reports that in 2014 “people of color held just over seven percent of radio licenses while women held less than seven percent of all TV and radio station licenses.”

Unfortunately, that’s not the only place where there has been backsliding. As is obvious, feminist radio programming, especially that controlled by women of color, has fallen off since its heyday in the 70s; the Equal Rights Amendment has still not passed; abortion and contraception are still not universally accepted as social benefits; and sexism, sexual violence, and misogyny are still ubiquitous.

Equally appalling, despite some progress towards egalitarian parenting, raising kids remains a largely female responsibility—and society often pushes individual mothers to concentrate on their own families rather than on the isolating structures that make their situations more difficult. Kara Van Cleaf’s “Of Woman Born to Mommy Blogged: The Journey from the Personal as Political to the Personal as Commodity,” parses contemporary motherhood by critiquing 47 “Mommy Blogs” written between 2010 and 2013. Although there are obviously exceptions, unlike Adrienne Rich’s 1976 book, Of Woman Born, Van Cleaf writes that today’s “mommy bloggers,” everyday women writing about the challenges of motherhood, “rarely connect their feelings or experiences to gendered structures of power.” Typically, she writes, “The challenges of motherhood are overwhelmingly couched as personal problems that can be overcome by readjusting one’s mind rather than, as the feminists of the 1970s asserted, by readjusting society.”

It’s a sobering insight, and it’s impossible to read the essay and not wonder how and why this happened. Indeed, the full story of how the exuberance of the 1970s was undermined by Reaganism and the New Right remains to be written. Nonetheless, as feminists and progressives of the ‘70s used to say, la lucha continua, the fight continues. So let’s go. There’s absolutely no time to waste in organizing to build a better and fairer world.