Women, Power, And A Hot Midterm Election Season

Gloria Feldt comes on to talk about women and power. The midterm election season gets ugly. And a healthy baby is born from a 20-year-old embryo—what are the implications?

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Links in this episode:

Gloria Feldt’s website

Vag Magazine

Anti-Reid ad

Fact Check checks this child molester claim

Jim DeMint claims non-virgin women and gay men shouldn’t teach

Bull semen?


The IVF inventor when the Nobel Prize

On this episode of Reality Cast, I’ll be interviewing Gloria Feldt about her new book on women and power.  Also, the midterm season gets really ugly, and a fertility doctor successfully implants a 20-year-old embryo.

Some women of the Upright Citizens Brigade have put together a comedy show about a start-up feminist magazine, with lots of in jokes about certain aspects of a kind of urban hipster feminism.  I enjoyed the trailer. 

  • vag *

I can’t say that I like anchors, but I nonetheless felt like I kind of had to laugh at myself with this, since I am a feminist fan of vintage skirts.


In case you haven’t noticed, it’s midterm election season, and more than that, it’s one of the most aggressive, strange ones at least in my lifetime.  Any time Saturday Night Live thinks a Senate candidate from a tiny state like Delaware deserves to be mocked repeatedly on their show, you know that this isn’t a normal election season.  It’s gotten strange, and it’s gotten ugly.  And once things take an ugly turn, you know what’s going to happen next is that sexual health and sexual rights are going to become weapons in the political fights.  And that’s exactly what’s happened in this election.

To begin with, you have the out of control Nevada Senate race between incumbent Harry Reid and challenger Sharron Angle.    Reid is the Senate majority leader, so Republicans are particularly interested in booting him out the door, but they have a major problem, which is that the Republican base managed to pick Angle over the front-runner Sue Lowden in the primaries.  Lowden had embarrassed herself with some tone deaf arguments against health care reform, but Angle is even more to the right in a swing state like Nevada.  Reid took advantage, running ads highlighting Angle’s hard line stance against legal abortion that includes banning it even in cases of rape or incest. The Angle campaign hit back with this:

  • election 1 *

According to Fact Check dot org, this is simply a false claim.  In reality, Reid tabled an amendment that health care opponents in the Senate introduced for the pure purpose of being a nuisance amendment.  According to Fact Check, “There’s nothing in the legislation that supports, requires or even mentions such prescriptions.”  Convicted sex offenders will be allowed to buy health care, but I think it’s safe to say that since it’s what’s in your head that makes you a rapist and not what’s in your penis, whether or not they get a plan that covers it is irrelevant.

One sign that things have taken a turn for the worse is that many socially conservative politicians are getting bolder about anti-woman and anti-gay talk. In 2004, Senator Jim DeMint actually apologized when he said that gay men and unmarried women who aren’t virgins shouldn’t be allowed to teach school.  But now he’s apparently taking that apology back.

  • election 2 *

What was most interesting was that he seemed just fine with non-virgin unmarried straight men teaching.  As I noted in my column at Rewire, the Tea Party movement was initially all about billing itself as libertarian, but now things are heating up and it’s becoming undeniable that they’re just as much about extreme social conservatism.  Perhaps even more than movement conservatism was before. 

Take, for instance, Carl Paladino, the Republican candidate for New York state governor.  He gained some measure of infamy during the primaries when he was exposed for sending out mass forwards that contained racist jokes and pornographic imagery, including a picture of a woman being sexually penetrated by a horse. Despite his enthusiasm for this kind of imagery, Paladino wasn’t shy about castigating consenting adults who happen to be gay. 

  • election 3 *

Obviously, the claim that being gay is simply an “option” that people choose, instead of who they are is wrong.  As is the claim that you’re somehow standing up for marriage and families when you deny gay people the right to get married and form families.  But what I find interesting is Carl Paladino claims that we pander to pornographers and perverts.  What does he mean by pandering?  Since he has distributed pornography of the most vile sort but got a nomination to major office anyway, is he the one being pandered to and coddled?  I think he must be thinking of pornographers that aren’t him, but simply everyone else who has done exactly what he did, which is distribute pornography.

But of all the sexually charged potshots taken this election, I think this one might be the weirdest.

  • election 4 *

That was a candidate for Maine governor named Paul LePage, and not only was it weird that he’s winding people up about big government attacking bovine manly essence, he’s basically wrong about what he said.  In fact, Maine exempts bull semen from its sales tax.  And in all 50 states, there are no restrictions on the millions of years long tradition of male animals of all species, including ours, simply giving their semen away for free.


insert interview


Well, this story certainly got my attention, I have to say.

  • embryo 1 *

You heard right: a 20-year-old embryo.  The story is actually a pretty simple one, but for one small detail.  Couples who go through in vitro fertilization often have a lot of embryos made so that they can perform multiple attempts, and sometimes the woman has a baby before they exhaust all the embryos.  Excess embryos can be thrown away or kept in storage, if the couple doesn’t mind the possibility of a child out there that’s genetically theirs but  actually someone else’s child. Or they can be donated for stem cell research, as long as your government doesn’t cater to a bunch of anti-choice fanatics. A woman of 42 whose infertility issues stemmed from a reduction in available eggs in her ovaries came in to this fertility clinic.  They decided to implant one of the donated embryos, and for various reasons, the best match happened to be one that was created in 1990. And now the woman has a healthy baby boy.

How is this possible, you might ask.  Luckily, the doctor who did it has answers.

  • embryo 2 *

Apparently, they can be stored indefinitely.  My first thought, unsurprisingly, went to how the anti-choicers out here are going to react to this.  Since they believe that life begins at conception, and this kid was conceived in 1990, does that mean he’s 20 now?  Does he get to vote?  Will he get to drink next year?  When he’s in kindergarten, will he be old enough to rent a car?  I honestly think half the reason anti-choicers hate IVF is that it brings up questions like this that destabilize their worldview, and so they’d just rather ban it and forget about it. 

Of course, since this is ye old mainstream media, they have to go straight for sensationalism. 

  • embryo 3 *

I highly doubt this will happen.  Even the more mundane use of this, which would be to allow women to store embryos for years while they decide if they want to have a baby, is still not going to be how most people do it.  What’s interesting about this, in many ways, is how interesting it’s actually not. IVF has become quite common, almost routine at this point.  About 1% of babies born in the U.S. now were conceived using IVF.  It used to be a last resort kind of move, but it’s gotten to the point where doctors are much quicker to prescribe it, because they’re just that much better at it.  And of course, IVF was recently  celebrated by the Nobel Prize committee. 

  • embryo 4 *

This is a decision that, unsurprisingly, has really teed off anti-choicers.  The Vatican has condemned IVF, and in general there’s a lot of conservatives who are hateful enough to begrudge infertile couples their chance to become parents through this technology.  But they know the tide of history is turning against them, which is why anti-choicers choose to attack IVF through the channel of attacking stem cell research.  They rarely take IVF on directly.


And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, it’s not homophobia if you don’t get caught edition.  Jonah Goldberg had this to say about Carl Paladino’s ugly, anti-gay remarks that he made before a Jewish group.

  • Goldberg *

Have we really gotten to the point where pundits just laugh at the idea that bigotry’s only a problem if you commit acts of it in public?