Mandatory Ultrasounds X Two and Faulty HPV Testing

Subscribe to RealityCast:

Links in this episode:

On this episode of Reality Cast, I’ll be interviewing a journalist who exposed how a popular HPV test might be giving women false negatives for the virus. Indiana considers a bill that would require not one, but two transvaginal probes for women seeking abortion. Also, what was up with Seth MacFarlane at the Oscars?

PBS recently aired a highly entertaining documentary chronicling feminist history of the past 50 years, and everyone should go watch it streaming on their website.

  • makers *

The notion that feminists are dry and boring characters is so untrue as to be comical, and so it was really fun to watch all these awesome women do their thing. Check it out.


One thing you can say about anti-choicers is that they are patient mofos. The nation will rise up against them in protest of their latest attempt to pass laws designed strictly to hurt and humiliate women as punishment for sex, but they know that if they wait it out, people’s outrage will die down and they’ll get a chance to pass those laws. That’s why, despite the national outrage over mandatory transvaginal ultrasounds, the bills keep coming. And that’s why Indiana, which recently elected an obsessive anti-choicer as governor,  was on the verge of doubling down and requiring two ultrasounds if you want to use the abortion pill. Rachel Maddow explained.

  • Indiana 1 *

There’s some phony reason involving feigned concern for women’s health involved, but here’s what I really think is going on: The abortion pill bugs anti-choicers because they think it lets women get off easy. They think that part of your punishment for having sex should be to spend as much time in the stirrups with people poking around in your vagina as possible. So if you take the pill, they’re going to try to “make up” for lost time spent in the stirrups by mandating that you have to do it by law. That, and Mike Pence has been a radical anti-choice nut for roughly forever, so if they wanted to pass a law requiring women who want abortions to wear the scarlet A, they can be sure he’d sign it.

Rachel also keyed into an enforcement issue that I suspect was built into the original bill on purpose:

  • Indiana 2 *

Getting people to come in for follow up appointments is notoriously hard, and even on this show, I’ve covered some of the problems that can happen because many women don’t go to post-abortion follow-up appointments. I suspect Indiana legislators were banking on that, figuring they could now shut down a clinic because the patients missed follow-up appointments. But also consider this: The fact that a transvaginal ultrasound would be required in the follow-up would actually discourage women from coming to their follow-up appointments. Knowing you’re getting the probe makes it that much easier to say, “Hey, it’s not worth it.” A bill like this might as well be designed to increase the rate of complications. Just one more example of trying to hurt women while pretending to “help” them.

  • Indiana 3 *

And there you have it: The claim that once a woman has sex, she forsakes all right to bodily autonomy. It’s an argument that has been used and sadly is still used in various ways to justify rape. It makes sense that anti-choicers would then carry it over to justify other forms of non-consensual vaginal penetration.

The legislators reacted to the outrage by removing, uh, one of the mandatory transvaginal ultrasounds. They still, however, are going to require that you get the pre-abortion one to guilt trip you about the abortion you’re about to get, because letting you just having an abortion in peace is just inconceivable to them.


Hollywood has a sexism problem, and the Oscars are an evening that really drives that home. Over three quarters of Oscar voters are men, and out of this most recent awards show, 30 of the winners were male and only 9 were female. These ratios would sadly only get worse if they didn’t have separate categories for female actors. These problems aren’t going to fixed overnight, but one thing that can be avoided is really doubling down on the sexism. The Golden Globes even went a step further, inviting openly feminist hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler this year, but the Oscars decided to wallow in the sexism by inviting unrepentant misogynist Seth MacFarlane to host. From the beginning, it was a disaster.

  • macfarlane 1 *

The premise of the song, of course, is that it’s really awesome that a male-dominated Hollywood has created a situation where women often feel that they have to disrobe on camera to get the best roles. But just in case the overt celebration of male dominance wasn’t driven home enough, MacFarlane had to bring rape and sexual abuse into it. Four of the women mentioned were portraying rape victims in their films, and two of the women were playing real people who were actually raped, one, Brandon Teena, a transman, who was murdered after being raped. One of the women, Scarlett Johannsen, is a victim of having a naked picture stolen and publicized against her will to humiliate her. But none of this really gave MacFarlane pause, and why should it? His song doesn’t work unless you think it’s marvelous that male-dominated Hollywood puts pressure on pretty much every actress to get naked onscreen. I don’t have a problem with onscreen nudity, don’t get me wrong. I think it’s great and don’t care if there’s non-stop nudity in everything. But that it’s mostly women having to get naked and mostly men telling them to get naked is a problem, and suggests that something other than artistic integrity is going on. Worth noting, also, that while most actresses who disrobe on camera have male directors telling them to do so, Lena Dunham, who openly controls her own work and gets naked all the time, gets tons of hate for it. Female nudity is something to sing about gleefully, right until a woman is in control of it.

The rest of the Oscars was more of the same. For instance, this joke about Django Unchained.


  • macfarlane 2 *

I remember back when more people were fans of “The Family Guy”, and I never got it. It seemed obvious to me from day one that the show’s racism and sexism weren’t ironic, but simply an expression of how MacFarlane really feels. I think hope was trumping reason in the fandom, and now that people have gotten a better view of how MacFarlane really is, they aren’t so hot on the show anymore. Definitely one thread throughout his work is that women aren’t real people, just sex robots that have been badly programmed and so malfunction a lot by having opinions, or having body types he doesn’t want to have sex with or by aging. Subsequently, he doesn’t think violence against women is a big deal, because it’s not like you’re hurting real people, right?

Here’s a joke about Jessica Chastain as the CIA agent who spend a decade tracking down Osama Bin Laden in Zero Dark Thirty:

  • macfarlane 3 *

I could keep going, but it’s really repetitious. Every joke about women was about how they’re only good for sex, and any other behavior that they perform besides being hot and having sex with you is negative. I’m not saying that jokes about people’s bodies are off-limits or that women aren’t an acceptable butt of jokes. But that’s not what was going on here. There are, of course, some people claiming that MacFarlane’s relentless misogyny is “ironic”, but all that demonstrates is that they don’t know what ironic means. But Bender, a character from “Futurama”, a cartoon far superior to “Family Guy”, can explain it.

  • macfarlane 4 *

Seth MacFarlane doesn’t hide that he literally thinks that women are just vaginas on legs and that anything they do besides sex is pointless and annoying behavior that needs to stop. Since his “jokes” are direct expressions of his actual feelings, it simply isn’t irony. And frankly, that’s not really that hard to understand.


And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, no, not being let into a meeting is not the same thing as being battered by your husband edition. Laura Ingraham complained about the President having a no-press meeting with the governors by comparing the press to battered women.

  • battered *

On top of the comparison being inappropriate even if you buy her claim, which I most certainly do not, you have the problem of the analogy being victim-blame-y. She paints abuse as something that goes on because the victims let it, when in reality abuse is a matter of the abuser taking away a victim’s ability to make choices and direct her life.