Aggressive Women, Rape Myths, And Abortion Realities

Maud Lavin talks about pop culture portrayals of women’s aggression. MTV gets real about abortion, and Naomi Wolf gets fanciful and sexist about rape.

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Links in this episode:

Bloggingheads on Julian Assange and rape

16 and Pregnant abortion episode

16 and Loved 

List of rape myths

List of date rape myths 

Diane Moyer explains victim reactions

Using breast cancer as an ideological football

On this episode of Reality Cast, Maud Lavin will talk about pop culture’s new enthusiasm for aggressive women.  Also, MTV gets real about abortion, but Naomi Wolf gets surreal and victim-blaming about rape.

I’m going to cover this issue in more detail later in this podcast, but I was on Bloggingheads to discuss the Julian Assange rape allegations, and here’s a clip from the hour long discussion.

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The focus of the discussion was what we should mean when we call something rape, and unsurprisingly, I’m of the opinion that all non-consenting sex should be called rape. 

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MTV has had, for years now, a reality TV series called “16 & Pregnant”.  I’ve never watched it, since I’m really not big on reality TV, but I have heard feminists who do watch it criticize the show for only showing teenagers who have babies, and not those who have abortions.  Well, to their eternal credit, MTV responded by having a special episode where they followed three young women who choose abortion.  I’m not particularly upset that they only did this as a special.  There’s not much story to a pregnancy after an abortion.  Following someone who actually has a baby gives you enough material for an entire series.  I’m just glad they noted that there are other options.

They did a good job of portraying how abortion actually happens in the real world with their three teenage subjects.  First, you had a young woman who, like 60 percent of women who have abortions, already is a mother.

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Basically, her reasoning is one that’s very common amongst women who have abortions, which is she’s not doing it so much for herself but for her already-existing child.  Not that there’s anything wrong with choosing for yourself, but it’s interesting how women who have abortions are presented as selfish, when in fact they’re often only thinking about other people, particularly their children.  The whole first segment, where we follow Markai and her partner James through the decision and the procedure, is touching, particularly when he carries her up the stairs after the abortion so she can get some rest.  We see abortion as it’s rarely portrayed, as a decision that is worked over with family and friends, and where women who get it are struggling to balance all their desires and needs in life, and come to this decision.

What was really great was that the information provided was accurate and compassionate, even though the usually callous Dr. Drew was the host of the program.

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They brought two more young women in who had the choice to have abortions to discuss what they went through, and why they went with abortion.  For people who have vicious stereotypes of women who have abortions as dumb sluts, this program and the work they did in showing the women as complex individuals was probably what you’d call quite unwelcome.

They interviewed one young woman who had to deal with parental notification laws.

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One of my biggest concerns with having Dr. Drew heading this up is he’d get all judgmental about contraception.  A lot of people who are nominally pro-choice still buy into the stupid sluts stereotype and think women who have abortions are simply lackadaisical about contraception.  That’s what people are saying when they say they don’t think abortion should be used as birth control.  The reality is complicated. Some women don’t use contraception because it’s hard to get or they don’t have a supportive partner, or they may even be with an abusive partner.  But two of the panelists were making an effort towards contraception and failed because they didn’t receive proper education about how birth control actually works.  The first young woman didn’t realize you can’t be late with Depo shots.  And then you  have this.

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It’s easy to judge if you don’t look at your own life, but who among us can say we know exactly how every medication that a doctor has given us works?  Seriously, most people can’t even tell which medication is a pain killer and which is an antibiotic, so why do we expect women to just know about hormonal birth control works without extensive education?

They even touched upon the financial hardship of abortion.

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There’s so much more, but luckily you can watch it online, with a link provided in the show notes.  Exhale has partnered with MTV to show support for these women, knowing that they’re going to get a lot of grief for coming out.  You can join the campaign at 16 and loved dot com. 

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And now it’s time for a game of Spot the Rape Myths, the game show where contestants try to cram as many falsehoods and myths about rape as they can into the shortest time possible.  Today’s contestant is Naomi Wolf, supposed feminist now turned rape apologist for the Julian Assange case.  Now, by covering Wolf’s apologist behavior, let us be clear. No one is taking a stand on Assange’s innocence or guilt.  This is about spreading myths about rape and why it’s wrong.  Wolf signed up, rather unknowingly I must say, by going on Democracy Now to debate Jaclyn Friedman.  And she was, I must say, extremely competitive in the art of spreading rape myths. 

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We’re checking Naomi’s statements against a list of date rape myths put together from Smarter Sex dot org.  And already Naomi has scored a point!  From Smarter Sex, quote, “Myth: When a woman agrees to “make out” with a man, she is implying that will have intercourse with him, too.” And, “Fact: Everyone has the right to say “no” to sexual activity, regardless of what has preceded it, and to have that “no” respected.”

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This is in reference to the woman who, according to the report, had sex earlier with Assange when he did cave and wear a condom.  From Smarter Sex, quote: “Myth: It’s not rape if the man is her boyfriend or husband or if they have had sex before.” And “Fact: A woman has the right to decide what she does with her body at all times – if she does not want to have sex, it is her decision, even if she willingly had sex with the man before.” But this is a two-pointer for Naomi, because she also points out that the woman had said no multiple times before she surrendered.  The implication is that you merely saying no over and over and over until you’re exhausted isn’t good enough. “Myth: Women who don’t physically fight back haven’t been raped.” And “Fact: If a woman did not or could not consent to having sex, it is considered rape. Forcing a woman to have sex against her will, whether she physically fights back or not, is rape, plain and simple.” It is worth noting that the allegation is that he had sex with her in  her sleep, when you couldn’t even give consent, which she had, remember, allegedly withdrawn. Repeatedly.

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Nice one, Naomi. This is actually a less common rape myth, though it is one favored by right wing rape apologists especially in my experience.  From the University of Minnesota’s rape myth website, we get this.  “Myth: A person who has really been assaulted will be hysterical.” And “Fact: Survivors exhibit a spectrum of emotional responses to assault: calm, hysteria, laughter, anger, apathy, shock. Each survivor copes with the trauma of the assault in a different way.”  Tracy Clark-Flory interviewed Diane Moyer, legal director of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, and Moyer said, quote, “It may seem counterintuitive but it is not unusual for a victim to want to normalize the situation. Essentially the victim is prey to self-doubt.” End quote.

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Naomi is getting near jazz-like in her ability to riff on common rape myths now.  “Myth: Rape is only committed by strangers in dark alleys and parking lots.” And “Fact: As many as 84 percent of women are raped by someone they know, such as friends, family or an acquaintance.” Granted, she didn’t say that it had to be a stranger.  But she was basically implying that because some rapes are more lurid or violent than others, only the scariest ones are actually rape.  And that’s basically the same idea.  So point for Wolf. That makes her total a solid and remarkable five rape myths promoted in a short 3 minutes.  That’s got to be a record that only Glenn Beck could probably beat.

Let me close this episode with Jaclyn Friedman’s explanation of why these rape myths are so dangerous.

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And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, using breast cancer as a football edition.  The FDA hasn’t approved the drug Avastin for the treatment of breast cancer because it hasn’t been shown to work well enough to justify the side effects.  But on Fox and Friends, they pretended it was because of health care reform.

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This is pretty despicable, even by  right wing lying standards.  The FDA doesn’t consider cost in these decisions.  No matter what your crackpot ideology, you shouldn’t want people to be taking drugs that don’t work and make them sicker just because the drugs are for sale.