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On this episode of Reality Cast, I’ll be talking to a researcher from Guttmacher about why teen pregnancy rates are down. A woman films her abortion and right wing media tries to discredit her with the nutty-and-slutty routine. And once again, Fox News is all upset because women might be making money of their own.
The ACLU [American Civil Liberties Union] put out a pro-choice video asking the perennial question of why a bunch of right-wing politicians should be making intimate health-care decisions for women, but unlike some prior riffs on this, they went ahead and highlighted the absurdity of the whole thing.
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Check it out, especially if you’re a fan of absurdist humor, which I absolutely am.
Due to abortion stigma, there’s not much discussion out there about what ordinary abortion actually looks like. Anti-choicers have exploited this silence to spread a bunch of myths and dishonest propaganda designed to make it seem terrible and more fraught than it is. Most abortions are done in the first trimester, before the embryo can even be classified as a “fetus,” but they talk about how it’s a “baby” and use pictures of third-trimester abortions to imply more is going on than there is. They have also recently taken to trying to imply that the procedure itself is complicated, dangerous, and painful for women, when it really is a very swift outpatient procedure or even something that can be done with medication. So, it’s understandable that Emily Letts, an abortion counselor who needed an abortion, thought that a good counterpoint was to film her abortion so you can see how not true all that is with your own eyes. I have more on this issue in an article that came out Monday morning at Rewire, so check it out [http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2014/05/12/anti-choicers-desperately-insist-see-things-clearly/].
Right now, I don’t want to talk about the gap in perceptions of abortion and realities, all of which are handled in the column. Instead I want to talk about abortion stigma. While Letts mostly is setting out to show that abortion is not nearly as bloody or dangerous as people think, part of her mission was also to fight back against stigma and silencing of women’s experiences.
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So while, as I say in the column, a lot of the right-wing response was to reassert their lies about abortion being terrible and dangerous, another tact they took was trying to shame Letts for this and to imply to their audiences that there’s something wrong with you if you aren’t ashamed of yourself for having an abortion. The right-wing media’s response to Letts was basically to try to tarnish her, knowing nothing about her but what’s in this video, with every ugly misogynist stereotype you can imagine. Of course, there’s the inevitable accusation of being an “attention whore,” since “good” women are supposed to be receding and humble. Greg Gutfeld went there:
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I can’t even with the claim that she deliberately got pregnant to get an abortion. Do conservatives think abortions are sexually pleasurable? They often talk about them that way. Abortions hurt. I highly doubt it was planned. But really, this is mostly about perpetuating the stereotype of the “attention whore,” who is always female. It’s rich coming from such a half-assed class clown wannabe like Greg Gutfeld, a man who makes a living in the entertainment industry. How dare he accuse someone else of wanting attention, like it’s a bad thing to want to be liked and admired. But, of course, if men want attention, they are just bold and assertive. If women want attention, the word “whore” gets thrown at them so fast it will make you dizzy. Did she want some positive attention for this? Probably, though I doubt that was her primary motive. Is there something wrong with wanting attention? Only if you believe women are a servant class whose job is to be seen and not heard.
Another popular way to dismiss and shame women is to call them “crazy”. And not just as a euphemism, either, but as an out and out accusation that a woman’s choices stem from mental illness instead of rational decision making.
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Their “concern” for her is clearly paper-thin, because people who were actually concerned for someone’s health wouldn’t give over time on a national television show to shaming her and sending people after her they know will abuse her. Really, it’s just about dismissing her by calling her “crazy.” The worst part here is not only are they stigmatizing women who need abortion, but they’re stigmatizing people with mental health problems by insinuating they’re incapable of making decisions and that everything they do is rooted in that mental health problem. Not so, dingbats! Because a woman is suffering depression doesn’t mean that her abortion is a bad decision for her. In fact, some women who are suffering depression choose abortion because their doctors advise them that pregnancy and childbirth can make the symptoms of depression worse. Some women may also feel it’s better not to have a baby until their mental health has stabilized. People who suffer from depression are very often in strong control of their own health care decisions. Not that these fools care about actual mental health, beyond using it as a weapon to bash people.
The fact of the matter is Letts comes across as someone who made the right decision for herself and feels happy about it. These pundits don’t think she should be able to say no to motherhood right now not because of anything specific to her, but because, and Gutfeld particularly was open about this, they think that if you got pregnant you were doing something wrong and need punishment. That’s all they need to know. They don’t know her and they have nothing of value to say about who Letts is as a person. These misogynist stereotypes are being churned out just because Letts is a woman, and this is how the right-wing media discredits women.
Fox News has been turning up the volume on the sexism lately, and even though they’ve been getting a lot of pushback for it, they haven’t laid off one bit. On the contrary, it really seems they’ve been turning it up. It’s not just the existence of the show Outnumbered, either, which exists apparently for the sole purpose of maximizing gender stereotypes. Beyond just the usual sex negative baiting and anti-choice trolling, they’ve also started to make hay out of women who work for a living, particularly if those women have the nerve to be, gasp, successful. On Fox & Friends, the panel of pundits talked about a study that showed that the number of households where women make more than their husbands is on the rise, even though it’s still a small percentage. This is apparently something we’re supposed to be worried about. Though the first guest to talk, Kmele Foster, was unwilling to play along.
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Hell, I’d go a step further and say that whether or not you can make more money than your husband and he doesn’t throw a major fit of it is a good test of how strong your marriage is, or at least how strong he is. I have never gotten the idea that the baseline for how strong and powerful a man is just happens to be his wife. How irrational is that?! Why is her paycheck more emasculating than some other woman’s paycheck, just because she sleeps with you? Measuring yourself against your spouse like this all the time and seeing your marriage as a competition that you have to “win” is unhealthy no matter what the topic is. I mean, my cooking skills aren’t automatically better because my partner can’t cook as well. I’m still not Anthony Bourdain, you know. This whole “at least I make more money than the person I sleep with” bit is just pathetic.
The host Clayton Morris immediately dismissed this discussion of maturity and other such things as nonsense, and went straight for painting men as irrational brutes who, for some reason, need to be coddled to and pandered to in all their silliness.
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There is no, repeat no, evidence whatsoever that men have a biological need to provide for women. For one thing, all the anthropological evidence shows that our “caveman” ancestors both contributed to bringing food home, because it would be utterly stupid for women to sit on their duffs all day doing nothing while men were out hunting and gathering. Second of all, even if men had some genetically inscribed need to bring vittles home and present them to his wife, like a cat giving you a mouse does, it doesn’t follow that this would translate into wanting a bigger paycheck. That’s not how instinct works. If men had a visceral need to feed women, they’d want to do all the grocery shopping and cooking, instead of the other way around. The brutal fact of the matter is that this is a cultural thing, and it is strictly about keeping women dependent on men so they feel they have less power in their relationships.
But they managed to dredge up some woman named Kris Schoels to defend the notion that even if it is just cultural, then men’s irrationality on this still needs coddling.
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Ever notice how when women are accused of being irrational, it’s used to dismiss them and treat their opinions like they don’t matter? But if men are being irrational by say, needing a wife who makes less money than them, then that irrationality needs to be excused and coddled and they need all their fee-fees placated, even at the expense of their family’s financial wellbeing. What are women supposed to do? “Sorry, boss, I can’t accept this raise. My husband might find out and because he’s extremely competitive and irrational and controlling, we all have to let him have everything he wants, no matter how nutty.” Your boss could be forgiven if they gave you a number to a divorce lawyer along with that raise. Also, love the notion that women need to be “taken care of.” When I think of someone taking care of me, I don’t think of them putting a check in the bank. I think of them cooking and cleaning and maybe fluffing my pillows and listening to me talk about my day. You know, traditional lady stuff. Making 10 percent more money in your paycheck than I do isn’t taking care of me. If you have a hang-up about that, it’s because it’s about power and prestige, not kindness and caring.
And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, Outnumbered continues to outdo itself edition. The new Fox News show Outnumbered is about putting four female hosts with one male host, and, as you can imagine, it’s just an opportunity to generate sexist content while pushing the myth that men are so oppressed by harpy women. To that end, Tucker Carlson was on it claiming that women are stupid and don’t get it if we don’t appreciate grown women harassing underage boys, such as when a female teacher got in trouble giving a student a lapdance.
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Goodness, and if a teenage boy did feel violated and assaulted and humiliated by this, I guess he can’t actually say anything about it or men like Tucker Carlson will accuse him of not being a real man, because real men would love that. The myth that all men are sexually uncontrolled is popular because it allows men to misbehave without getting in trouble for it. But it also is used, as you can see here, to minimize sexual abuse of young men by claiming that they are in a constant state of consent because of their gender. And that is simply not the case.