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This week on Reality Cast, I’ll be talking to Therese Shechter about How to Lose Your Virginity. A new case in Maryville, Missouri, sheds more light on what we’re talking about when we talk about rape, and why are anti-choicers threatened by the Girl Scouts?
VH1 recently aired a biopic of one of the greatest girl groups of all time, TLC, who just happened to also have a sex-positive, pro-contraception, feminist bent to their lyrics that was quite inspiring to people of my generation. The biopic reflected this sensibility by showing the other two members comfort Chili after she has an abortion she feels ambivalent about.
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Left Eye Lopez then chose to start wearing condoms on her clothes during videos and other appearances, helping drive home a safe sex message to their young fans. Chili did go on to have a son. They were so awesome.
The Steubenville, Ohio rape case highlighted for the nation exactly what the typical rape looks like in the twenty-first century: Young victims, targeted by sexual predators who think they are proving their masculinity who usually use alcohol both to make their victims easier to rape and also as protection from being held accountable. After all, the focus after an alcohol-associated rape is usually on blaming the victim for getting drunk instead of blaming the rapist for raping drunk women or even plying them with alcohol to do so. With Steubenville, I felt the narrative might have edged just a little in the right direction, with more people being outraged at young men who would ply young women with alcohol and then rape them than they are at young women making the innocent and common mistake of drinking too much at a party. There’s also more focus on how communities aid and support rapists by defending them and demonizing their victims. Now there’s a new case out of Maryville, Missouri, and it may even be an uglier situation.
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Because of all the national attention, a special prosecutor has been assigned to the case to figure out what’s happening. What the Kansas City Star reported, however, does not look good. One of the accused rapists, named Matthew Barnett, has a grandfather who is politically well-connected, a former Missouri state representative. The Barnett family appears to be popular around town, whereas the family of one of the alleged victims, the Coleman family, was new to town and trying to overcome an outsider status. But what really jumps out at you is how the Coleman family says they were subject to levels of harassment that are kind of hard to even wrap your head around.
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She elaborated more in a piece at xoJane.com. Her mother lost her job. The bullying got so bad they moved. She started cutting herself and tried to commit suicide twice. Their house burned down, though it’s not proven that it’s related to the case. Now that she’s taking charge of this case, her mental health has started to improve, it seems, so that’s good. But a lot of damage can’t be undone. What makes this case stand out is, as in Steubenville, the brutality of rape is impossible to minimize or ignore. With Steubenville, it was that horrifying video kids made laughing about it and the pictures. In this case, it was how they treated the alleged victim after they were done with her.
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She was 14 at the time and the alleged rapist was 18. I say “alleged” because there hasn’t been a trial yet, but I must emphasize here that he confessed to sex with her and her blood alcohol level was .13, seven hours after she last had a drink, which is 1.6 times the legal limit. In Missouri, it’s illegal to have sex with someone too intoxicated to consent. This should have been an easy case, especially with an eyewitness at the scene confirming Daisy was too drunk to walk. But despite all this, you still have people eager to blame the victim, such as this toad Joseph DiBenedetto on Fox News.
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Remember: she was found dumped in the cold, unable to move and scratching at the door for help. She could have died. The accused admitted having sex with her, despite her state. So, we can safely eliminate the “she lied” excuse. Which he basically takes back right away.
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Yep, the “she was asking for it” excuse, which is still “she was asking for it” excuse even if you deny it. Rape apologists, a word of warning: She is lying and she was asking for it are logically incompatible excuses. To say she was asking for it is to say that it happened. You’re just saying this rape should be a freebie for the rapist because the victim did something that somehow “deserves” raping, in this case being a teenager who breaks the rules. You just don’t want to actually debate your assumption that a person can actually deserve to be raped, which also assumes that rapists are a vigilante police force dispensing justice to “bad girls” for things like, uh, sneaking out. Jesus. I can’t think of anything someone could do where rape is the appropriate punishment, but sneaking out as a teenager is definitely not on that list, nowhere near it. But sadly, this kind of nonsense, he is correct to say, often works on juries, because people have a lot internalized misogyny.
Dealing with anti-choicers is hard, but sometimes I find it harder to deal with people who still believe the lie that anti-choice activists are somehow motivated by concerns about “life” instead of controlling women. Which is why I’m glad that the Internet has really taken right-wing radio and media out of channels where it was largely only accessible to people who were already true believers and put it where everyone can see what they really think. For instance, nowadays the fact that right wingers have it out for the Girl Scouts is becoming more well-known. When speaking to the public about it, they try to make it about abortion, but as this segment Right Wing Watch got from Generations Radio shows, it’s about so much more.
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Needless to say, the claim that the Girl Scouts promote abortion or even Planned Parenthood is pure stupidity. There is not and has never been evidence of that. They aren’t against it, either. They simply aren’t an organization that weighs in on these debates. Girl Scouts does promote health for girls of all ages, which means sexual health for girls who are old enough to need that, so yes, some individual affiliates reach out to Planned Parenthood for sex education. As they should, unless you’re against health, which anti-choicers often are, at least for sexually active women. But enough of this rabbit hole of trying to disprove the allegations while also pointing out there’s nothing wrong with abortion or contraception. It’s clear that abortion and lesbianism are basically just buzz words to amplify their real concern, which is that Girl Scouts might teach female independence.
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Which to say that of course they object to lesbianism and abortion and reproductive health care, because all these things undermine their clearly stated view that God put women on earth as a servant class for men. This isn’t even an exaggeration. He stated directly there that women’s job is to be a “helpmeet” for a man, who is apparently the only person who actually counts in this world.
It is true that Girl Scouts do promote this version of “feminism,” one that has become so mainstream that outside of religious right circles it’s very rarely understood as feminism. But they are right that it is feminism at its most basic to tell girls, hey you are valuable as a human being. Your ambitions, your beliefs, your feelings actually matter. You aren’t here to be a compliant, unpaid servant for a man. Your life belongs to you. Basically, they’re arguing against self-esteem for girls. And the fact that girls and women are more than just servants for men is really threatening.
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Yes, they have overlooked the fact that simply being married doesn’t actually mean that a woman is not independent. It doesn’t mean she’s devoted herself to being a “helpmeet,” and most married women work outside the home. And yes, they have abortions and use birth control too. But that’s the point. What we’re seeing in the anti-choice movement, and the anti-Girl Scout movement and the quote-unquote men’s rights activist nonsense and various other anti-feminist movements is this basic unwillingness to accept something that should be obvious: Women can be treated like full human beings and the world won’t end. It doesn’t end when women get jobs. Or when women become leaders. Or when women see themselves as full human beings instead as accessories for men. Or when women have sex on their own terms. But conservatives clearly believe that if they keep saying the sky is falling, eventually it will.
And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, threatening the country again in order to take away women’s rights edition. Bryan Fischer, on his radio show, was full of threats.
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All of which is a fancy way of saying, either give up your human rights or you’re going to be sorry. Nice country there, be a shame if something happens to it. Look, antis. If you really don’t want a war, there’s an easy solution: Stop trying to provoke one.