On this episode of Reality Cast, I’ll be talking to Rewire’s legal analyst about the right to lie case in Ohio. The House of Representatives wastes time attacking abortion again, and online harassment starts to get the mainstream media attention it deserves.
Rebecca Watson decided to tackle the issue of biblical submission in her latest video blog.
- submission *
She goes on to talk about how this discussion always gets caught up in women angrily saying they choose their choice and that puts it beyond criticism. Which she rightly points out would mean they should, by their own measure, accept, say, men ceding control of their lives to their wives. And they don’t, so there you go. Watch the whole thing at the link!
Because the House of Representatives has decided in recent years that the only meaningful work for Congress is to attack access to abortion specifically and access to health care generally, it was definitely not a surprise that the House spent much of January on HR 7, a bill banning federal money being spent on abortion. “But wait,” the attentive, feminist listener of this show is saying to herself, “Isn’t the government already banned from spending federal money on abortion?” Why yes, listener, the government is, under something called the Hyde Amendment, which already bans federal money from being spent on abortion in most cases. But that amendment has to be reupped every year, and even though it’s sadly in no danger of not getting reupped, that gave House Republicans an opportunity to indulge their twin obsessions of punishing women for having sex and denying low-income people access to health care. Certainly more fun for them than passing meaningful legislation intended to improve people’s lives in this country.
So it was a massive waste of taxpayer money passing a bill that will go nowhere for no other purpose than the House of Representatives seems to think their job description is posturing about how much they hate abortion. But there was one silver lining, which is the inevitable number of moments where the ignorance and mean-spiritedness of the abortion opponents in Congress was on full display. Such as Rep. Tim Walberg of Wisconsin, who arrogantly explained both that he is the expert about what God wants and how his interpretation of what God wants needs to be written into law, First Amendment be damned.
- abortion 1 *
Cutting it off there because he just keeps going on and on and on and it’s really boring. Anyway, you get the gist of it. Not only does he think that his particular interpretation of a single verse in the Old Testament should be imposed on the country, despite our supposed freedom of religion, he also seems to think that the words of kings should trump the democratic process. Is abortion a conduit for conservatives to impose their anti-democracy desires on the public? It appears to be, in part.
But at least the Bible-thumping has the advantage of being straightforward. Rep. Bob Goodlatte from Virginia thought that it was wise to propose forcing low-income women to give birth as a jobs program.
- abortion 2 *
This is a foolish thing to say generally, but is doubly foolish at a time of high unemployment, which definitely disproves Goodlatte’s theory that the number of jobs available automatically adjusts to encompass the number of people who need work. His comment also goes back to a weird tendency on the part of anti-choicers to argue about abortion as if having it legal and affordable means that human beings quit reproducing. If that was true, you’d think we would have noticed by now. It’s really quite amazing to me how frequently conservatives will talk about childbirth and marriage as things people don’t choose on their own and so have to be coerced, usually economically but sometimes legally, into doing it. I get that conservatives are hostile to science, but it’s a hypothesis that has been thoroughly tested and debunked. It’s so weird.
Then there was just the astounding lack of basic human decency on display. Rep. Steve King was so excited to characterize women who have abortions as stupid sluts that he actually had this exchange with Susan Wood, who was testifying against the bill by saying that abortions often cost more than a woman’s rent.
- abortion 3 *
Rep. Steve King is no doubt a wealthy man who pays a lot for housing and so thinks it’s just hilarious to imagine that women are getting multiple abortions a month, which is not even physically possible, because he thinks of them as stupid sluts. But the reality is that even a first term abortion can cost $500 or $600, which is often what women, especially low-income women, have to pay in rent. This isn’t even a matter of speculation. As any abortion fund can easily explain to you, women in need of abortion are often facing down the fear that paying for it will leave them homeless, and they often do things like pawn valuable items to get the abortion. It’s really quite terrible. But forget the real world! Steve King is bitter that women have sex without his permission and they will be punished!
Targeted, misogynist abuse of women online that appears to exist for no other reason than to scare women into silence and run them offline has been with us from the first moment a woman identified herself as female on a BBS board. In the past year or so, the attention paid to the issue has grown dramatically, and in the past month, the discussion went big time mainstream when Amanda Hess published a moving and evocative account of her own and other women’s ordeals with online harassment, and how scary and time-consuming it can really be. Her piece was widely covered by the mainstream media, and Melissa Harris-Perry invited Hess and others onto her show to discuss why Internet harassment is not something that can be easily brushed off.
- harassment 1 *
Indeed, one of the reasons that Hess’ piece was so roundly praised was she put to bed permanently the inevitable response women get when we endure harassment, which is to blame the victim and say all she needs to make it go away is to shut her computer off. That was unfair back in the days when the Internet was still a novelty of sorts, because it assumed that it was A-OK for a space to be misogynist and deeply unfair as long as it wasn’t considered mandatory to be there. But now that argument is moot, as Harris-Perry explains, because our supposed virtual lives are, in fact, our “real” lives. As Hess explained in her article, being able to go online is a critical part of her job as a writer. Not only is it unfair to say that the victim needs to end the harassment by giving up on her ability to go online, but it’s also unrealistic. It’s like telling a woman she has to give up her telephone because of prank calls. And yet, you still hear the claim that harassment is the fault of the victim’s for daring to be female in a space instead of the fault of the harasser’s for trying to run her off , as was explained by Jim Sterling in his video podcast about gaming. He talks about a gamer named Zoe Quinn who was the target of a relentless harassment campaign because she dared to publicize a game she developed while being female, and she was subject to abuse and harassment and even having her phone number published.
- harassment 2 *
The “just ignore them or you deserve it” crowd also pointedly ignores another aspect of this, which is if the target does squelch the urge to go to forums and other areas where angry sexists are trashing her, then the angry sexists will start seeking her out wherever they can get to her. I don’t have the time to peruse the forums where misogynists whine about my existence all day and they know it, so they seek me out on Twitter or email me or show up in my comment threads and, when banned, create new usernames or even use elaborate IP masking software. It’s hard to ignore someone who is determined to get in your face. That’s why, for instance, anti-choicers want to ban buffer zones around abortion clinics. They don’t want to just be able to make themselves available for women to talk to, but instead want to chase them down and force an interaction.
Jill Filipovic explained how it’s getting increasingly ridiculous to burden victims of online harassment with the expectation that they leave the Internet if they don’t want to be harassed.
- harassment 3 *
Here’s another angle that I think is worth considering. Not only are our virtual worlds becoming increasingly quote-unquote “real,” but I don’t really see online harassment as different than offline harassment. Cat-calling, abortion clinic harassment, sexual harassment, all that stuff is aimed at the same purpose: Using harassment as a weapon to try to punish and control women for living their own lives. Trying to bracket it off as somehow not important because of where it occurs is just an exercise in trying to ignore what harassment is and what it’s for. Instead of telling victims not to take it seriously, I think it’s time to reshift the question to the harassers. Why do they take the presence of women as such a serious threat that they spend hours upon hours tracking women online in order to harass them and run them off the Internet? The harassers clearly think getting rid of women is deeply important, so it should follow that there’s good reason that women insisting on staying is also deeply important. They wouldn’t try to keep us out if there wasn’t something important there for us to have, you know.
And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, Fox goes full bore transphobic edition. Fox was covering a recent case in Massachusetts where the court found, correctly, that transgender people should have access to gender reassignment surgery if they, in consultation with their doctors, deem it necessary. In a generally repulsive segment where the woman in question was misgendered and generally treated like garbage already, Tucker Carlson took it to a new level.
- tucker *
He then went on to lecture about “science,” something he doesn’t understand or he would know two things: 1) Actually, a lot of people are born with what appears to be female genitalia upon birth and are considered girls only to grow up and find they have XY chromosomes but their body developed to be female-appearing anyway. Most of them end up identified as female, so there are cases where DNA does not determine gender assignment upon birth. 2) The medical community has long studied the issue and discovered that trans people’s experiences are plenty real, and this is all recorded in the traditional medical science way. They certainly know more than Tucker Carlson, and it was expert testimony, in fact, that led to this decision.