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On this episode of Reality Cast, I’ll be interviewing Melissa Silverstein about her new book on female directors. Anti-choice extremists make a bid to wrest control away from Virginia’s Republican Party, and an abstinence-only propagandist is exposed by a high school student with a smart phone in Tennessee.
One bit of good news from the Supreme Court.
- Indiana *
The money in question does not go to abortion, but in fact largely goes to preventing abortion by allowing women to access gynecological services and specifically contraception that helps prevent unwanted pregnancy.
Virginia is a politically moderate state. I know it’s hard to believe it after all the crazy anti-choice legislation they’ve been up to lately, but Virginia reliably swings between the two parties. Indeed, because so much national attention has been paid to the hardline conservatives who’ve gotten power lately, it was reasonable to assume that Virginia’s Republican voters would be interested in running someone for governor more moderate and less obsessed with controlling woman and gays than they’ve had for the past couple of years. Because of that, Ken Cuccinelli, the current attorney general who has single-handedly gotten an enormous amount of national attention because of his attacks on women and gays, decided that he couldn’t win in a traditional primary for the gubnetorial nomination. So he decided he didn’t have to. Rachel Maddow reports.
- Virginia 1 *
Why was Cuccinelli afraid of facing up to a traditional primary in Virginia? I can’t read his mind, but I suspect it has a lot to do with his known track record of hostility to gays and to women’s reproductive rights. Even though the current governor of Virginia, Bob McDonnell, drew unwanted national attention when Virginia Republicans tried to pass a law requiring women seeking abortion to undergo an extra, unnecessary transvaginal ultrasound to go with a condescending lecture. McDonnell was nicknamed Governor Ultrasound because of this, but it didn’t stop Ken Cuccinelli from working tirelessly with the state board of health to pass a bunch of unnecessary regulations that are likely to close every clinic in the state but one. In fact, there’s a lot of sex-related opinions Cuccinelli has that caused him to only want the hardest right of the right to be able to vote in the primary.
- Virginia 2 *
It was a clever plan, or it seemed that way, until Cuccinelli found that the same system meant other extremists could get nominated, extremists who are less careful about how they state their extreme opinions in public. That’s how E.W. Jackson, a fundamentalist minister who has previously failed to get elected to public office, managed to secure the nomination for lieutenant governor, even though he has a tendency to say things like this:
- Virginia 3 *
I have to remind everyone that this claim is just a way of saying that black women and the men who support them are worse for black people, of which women are half, than the KKK. Why? Because black women, and women of all races, go to Planned Parenthood for contraception and occasionally for abortion if they need it. Attacking the organization is just a way to attack the idea of women controlling their own fertility. Thus, Jackson is saying that black women who want to limit and space their births, often so they can take better care of the children they do have, are worse than the Klan.
Jackson doesn’t care much for gay people either.
- Virginia 4 *
It’s worth noting that the main reason that Jackson is a problem for Cuccinelli is that he has an intemperate tongue. Cuccinelli’s public statements have indicated that he completely agrees with everything Jackson says, but he says so more elliptically, to make it harder to contest the public image of a moderate he’s trying to project in order to win the race for Virginia’s governor’s seat.
Let’s hear it for high school kids fighting back against school officials that insist on forcing them listen to presentations from religious fundamentalists on how the 95% of Americans who have premarital sex are dirty, disease-ridden pariahs that aren’t fit to show their face in public. The latest kid to fight back is a student at Hillsboro High School in Tennessee. The student was pushed into an abstinence-only presentation for freshmen and sophomores at the school by anti-choice activist Joi Wasill and Beth Cox. This anonymous student decided to record the presentation, to expose how many lies were being fed to students to scare them about sex. Those who follow abstinence-until-marriage programs will probably be familiar with some of the tactics.
- Tennessee 1 *
This tactic of comparing sex to being used as a spitbucket is pretty common in abstinence-only bullying sessions, which always makes me wonder if these people really are so unfamiliar with showers, much less the way that the vagina actually, you know, cleans itself. This demonstration is clearly meant to get the kids to think of the vagina as, well, public outhouse, as if every sexual encounter is just more semen thrown onto the pile until the woman is a big bag of different kinds of semen. The only purpose of this is to paint people, especially receptive partners in sex, as if they’re dirty people.
And let’s be clear, it was no mistake that the symbolism of the spitting-in-a-cup thing evokes women’s genitalia. She was very certain that it’s women that are “ruined” by having sex, not men.
- Tennessee 2 *
There’s no evidence for this claim that women can only attach themselves to one person ever in their lives. Hormones don’t work by burning out your receptors the first time you emit a certain hormone, or else the first time you ovulated, you’d never be able to ovulate again because your hormone receptors would be unable to read future hormonal signals to ovulate. It’s true that oxytocin emits after orgasm, but that’s true for men and women and it doesn’t mean that you’re permanently bound to the person you have sex with forevermore. It’s clear this is a myth that is not only intended to make women feel bad for having sex, but also to scare women into staying in bad relationships by telling them they’ll never be able to love anyone else ever again.
Unsurprisingly, Wasill used this opportunity of a captive audience to dump a bunch of anti-abortion propaganda, by insisting that it’s fact and not religious dogma that “life” begins at conception.
- Tennessee 3 *
That’s simply put, a lie. These mysterious “textbooks” she’s referring to are not actual biology books or science books, but may be religious right propaganda of the sort schools are not supposed to be using taxpayer funds to distribute. Biologists are clear: There is no set point where “life” begins. Life is a continuous process. Sperm are alive. Eggs are alive. Life is one big, unbroken chain that goes back to when the first one-celled life form began in the primordial ooze. Nor does the “unique human DNA” thing change that. Each sperm cell has unique human DNA, but it’s not killing for a man to ejaculate and kill millions of them at once. This is simply religious propaganda pretending to be science.
Unfortunately, while there is a lot of outrage about this program in Tennessee, because of the influx of anti-choice politicians making legislation over the past few decades, there’s no law in Tennessee requiring schools to provide factual information during sex quote-unquote “education” programs. But hopefully this embarrassment will help change that.
And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, we never took you for being a fan of contraception edition. Virginia GOP party treasurer Bob Fitzsimmonds was interviewed recently and he was clear where he stood on the concept of contraception.
- fitzsimmonds *
No one is handing out emergency contraception to 12-year-olds, nor are there any plans to start these imaginary programs to mass distribute Plan B in junior high schools. We want anyone who needs it of any age to be able to buy it. So far, I have yet to have a conservative explain to me why someone who is too young for a pill to be taken after sex has already happened is plenty old enough to be a mother.