Purity Balls, Feminism for Guys, and Terroristic Threats

Michael Kaufman tells us how to teach guys about feminism. Operation Rescue builds an overtly threatening website targeting abortion providers, and Anderson Cooper covers purity balls.

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Gabby Giffords steps down

Rachel Maddow on the new intimidation tactic from Operation Rescue


Clips from Anderson Cooper’s show on purity balls

Roughly the most offensive rant you’ll hear, this week at least

On this episode of Reality Cast, I’ll be interviewing Michael Kaufman about what guys can learn about feminism. Operation Rescue creates a boldly threatening website against abortion providers, and Anderson Cooper does a show on purity balls.

Sad but not surprising news: Gabrielle Giffords is stepping down from the House of Representatives.

  • giffords *

We had an opportunity as a country to talk about the problem of politicized violence after her shooting, and it was destroyed by epic levels of defensive whining on the right. My next segment will show why shutting up was a bad idea. But for now, I want to wish Rep. Giffords all the best in her recovery.


Operation Rescue’s people like to get all huffy and take offense when you point out that their organization is somewhere on the continuum of racketeering and terrorism, since their main goal is to intimidate abortion providers. After all, having extremist anti-choice protesters picket your clinic rapidly raises the chances of violence against the clinic or, in many sad cases, against people who work there, as we learned with the death of Dr. George Tiller in 2009 or the recent clinic arson in Florida. Because of this, Operation Rescue playing innocent doesn’t fly. They know very well what they’re doing when they target clinics and doctors, siccing unstable people on them. Rachel Maddow explained how, in the pre-internet days, posters were created with detailed information about doctors and distributed.

* terrorism 1 *

And now in the digital age, they’ve managed to take the intimidation strategy to a whole new level.

  • terrorism 2 *

She reports that the Feminist Majority Foundation has already claimed to federal law enforcement. Threats like this have been found, in the past, to be violations of the FACE Act, which was passed to prevent anti-choice terrorism. I am particularly incensed that they have pictures of people in cuffs standing in for abortion providers they don’t have pictures of. That implies to the many unstable people who are invested in this that abortion is somehow not quite legal, and that killing a doctor would be a form of vigilante justice. In fact, it’s just plain terrorism.

If you balk at the word “terrorism”, let me read the FBI definition for you. “Domestic terrorism is the unlawful use, or threatened use, of force or violence by a group or individual based and operating entirely within the United States or Puerto Rico without foreign direction committed against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof in furtherance of political or social objectives.” The detailing of names, addresses, and identifying features after repeated violence constitutes a threat, in my opinion, and in the opinion of any reasonable person. The intent here is to intimidate a civilian population in furtherance of the political goal of preventing safe, legal abortion.

The Young Turks had a great segment where they spelled this out for anyone who still isn’t seeing how this is terrorism.

  • terrorism 3 *

Part of the problem is that Operation Rescue members don’t “look” like what Americans are trained to think of when it comes to terrorists. They’re mostly white, they’re all Christian, they’re fond of fanny packs. But what we think a terrorist “looks” like should be expanded to fit who terrorists actually are.

  • terrorism 4 *

Cenk is right that Muslim terrorism is a genuine problem. But it’s one that’s kept in check because the government takes it seriously. Often, too seriously: breaking human rights law, etc. No one is asking they do that. What we’re asking for is current law to be enforced. The FACE Act currently forbids threats of violence to interfere with reproductive health services, which I think we can all see this is. The maximum penalty should be $10,000 or 6 months in prison. I would like to see the people behind this face the proper charges and receive the appropriate punishments.


insert interview


If you want to be thoroughly weirded out, I find no better way to accomplish your bewildering goal than to delve into the world of “purity balls”. These are father/daughter events where there’s a lot of dressing girls in white and talk of fathers, well, basically owning their daughters. And that ownership, which is portrayed by the advocates of purity balls as some kind of love, is confirmed by girls pledging their virginity to their fathers. No, not to take, though it’s an understandable subtext to this. The fathers merely own their virginity for purposes of giving it away to the man they deem worthy of taking ownership of their daughters by marrying them. Fathers are to virginity like car salesmen are to new cars. They own the cars and preserve them for someone else to use. When they transfer ownership, the new owner actually gets to use the car, which is exciting for them but reduces the value of it as soon as they drive it off the lot. It’s an easy to understand transaction. Of course, in this case, the object being transferred is  an actual human being, but let’s face it, Christian conservatives don’t really think of women as full human beings in the way they think men are.

Anderson Cooper did a show on purity balls, and it was full of shudderingly creepy stuff. What was amusing was how the defenders of purity balls kept insisting that “purity” is about more than virginity, even though literally all they talk about during this purity ball nonsense is how a father’s success as a father is measured by whether or not he provides his son-in-law with a virgin bride.

  • purity 1 *

I love how he thinks that using the word “commitment” a lot changes anything. It’s a commitment…..to virginity. The support system is there to make sure you keep your virginity. You can bandy the word “choice” around all you want, but the fact remains is that girls who don’t have fathers deeply interested in controlling them don’t choose purity balls. He actually paints a picture of all the men of a family gathering around the young virgin and making it clear that her virginity is of critical importance to them, and that they personally feel like they own and control her sexuality. I’m a little unclear how the word “choice” has any value when all the men in your family are surrounding you with a bit of comply-or-else energy.

But one strategy that abstinence weirdoes employ to deflect criticism is by getting the girls themselves to get all misty about the whole thing. They think this is killer stuff, though of course, they get the buy-in of little girls and young teenagers through nefarious means.

  • purity 2 *

It’s really upsetting to me that these men are telling their daughters that their relationship to future husbands should be identical to that of your relationship to your father, especially the one you had when you were a little girl. You know, when your dad could send you to your room for misbehaving and tell you to eat your veggies? So yes, this is about more than virginity. It’s about teaching young women that because they are women, they will never be full adults. Instead, they will be overgrown children that their husbands get to have sex with. Gross.

It’s easy to see why the girls buy into this stuff, of course. I was a virgin at 15, too, and sex seemed distant and scary.  It’s not uncommon. But what’s messed up is telling young people that how they feel about anything, be it sex or their love of boy bands, is how they’re going to feel for the rest of their lives, and then creating a massive guilt trip if they actually, gasp, start to mature. I mean, they even  wear poofy white wedding dresses—and let’s face it, they’re play-marrying their fathers, which is so gross. And these dresses are straight out of the catalog of what little girls think princesses wear, and very different from the sleek and sexier dresses that most actual grown-up brides wear.

Luckily, Jessica Valenti was on dropping some wisdom.

  • purity 3 *

And this:

  • purity 4 *

It’s clear that we’re working with different versions of the phrase “good people” here. Jessica and I see women’s goodness like men’s: Are you an honest person? A hard worker? Kind to others? Takes care of responsibilities? But the Christian right sees a woman not so much as a person, but an object for sale. They imagine women like little kids imagine toys, as somehow more valuable because it’s still in the original wrapping. The internal life of women is of no consequence to them, just their value as objects to be owned and controlled.


And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, that word does not mean what you think it does. Anti-choicers continue their mission of demeaning Jews and others who died in the Holocaust by suggesting their lives were equivalent of mindless embryos the size of quarters. This time, it’s Andrew Napolitano of Fox News.

  • Napolitano *

Actually, he is right that someone’s humanity is at stake here, but it’s not the embryos and very occasionally fetuses that are killed during abortion. The people whose humanity is at stake are women’s. That’s why anti-choicers resist preventing cancer in women and providing abortion-preventing contraception at affordable prices. I’ve pointed this out before, but it’s worth repeating. On the question of abortion, the Nazis actually sided with the American right. They tightened restrictions on abortion, and like the American right, they were deeply concerned that white Christian women weren’t having enough children. Also worth noting that slave owners were big time supporters of forced pregnancy, and openly treated slave women like breeding animals.