Abortion Stories, and the Equal Pay Debate

Related Links

Renee Bracey Sherman’s abortion storytelling video

Colon abortions!

Patricia Arquette speech

Stacey Dash is in a snit

Fox News explains that women are just inferior

Greg Gutfeld spews nonsense


On this episode of Reality Cast, Renee Bracey Sherman will be on to talk about her abortion storytelling advocacy. Why is everyone at Fox News so hostile to equal pay? Also, Girls somehow manages to pull a really great abortion storyline out of its hat.

Renee will be on in a bit to talk about her abortion video at Fusion, but here’s a small clip to get you started.

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You can check out the video in show links. After you hear Renee’s interview here on this podcast!


So Patricia Arquette won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Boyhood. She used her speech time to make a demand for women’s equality.

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The speech was a little garbled, but this was the Oscars and she was clearly nervous and so that’s understandable. It was really nice seeing such an important sentiment aired at such an important occasion, however. Unfortunately, she took the shine out of the moment later with comments that suggested that people of color and gay people had been neglecting to fight for women’s rights, a strange and demonstrably untrue statement. Andrea Grimes and Imani Gandy at Rewire have taken that on, however, so I am not going to reinvent the wheel here.

I want to use this space to talk about the aftermath. The comments in the speech itself were hardly some great rabble-rousing radical speech about smashing the patriarchy or whatever phrase gets so many conservatives dudes to clench up. She was simply noting something that is a fact, that women continue to make less money than men in 2015, and that she thinks equality would be better. But such is the hostility to even basic women’s rights amongst conservatives these days that you would have thought she called for the immediate castration of all men. Stacey Dash, who we last quoted on the show suggesting that naughty girls get themselves raped, was in a full-on snit over this.

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Actual students of history would point out that being granted some rights does not mean being granted all of them and it’s totally possible, for instance, to have the right to own property and say, not the right to vote, which was true for decades for women. More to the point, students of history would point out that simply passing a law declaring equal rights doesn’t actually magic them into being. Certainly, the law she’s speaking about, which is the Civil Rights Act, banned job discrimination against people based on race, as well, but there are reams of social science that shows that white people have a strong advantage in hiring over Black people, even if they are less qualified than Black applicants. The laws need to be enforced. Sometimes new laws that address structural inequities need to be written. There is much to be done besides formally declaring discrimination illegal and washing your hands of it.

Here’s the thing: Women do make less money than men. There are only two ways to explain this. You can either believe that women continue to suffer from sexist discrimination or you can believe women are worth less. It’s clear that the folks at Fox News are wed to the women-are-worth-less explanation, but, as is typical with conservatives, they are afraid to state those views out loud in clear terms, instead chasing down a bunch of garbled ways to say it. Eric Bolling got the closest to just coming right out and saying it.

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Ah yes, the men are bolder and just know how to live while women are timid creatures who shiver in our homes nonsense. Believe me, if any man had to endure the amount of sexual harassment or the fear of assault that women endure just leaving their houses, this whole claim that men are braver than women would evaporate in a puff of smoke. It’s just another way to push the men-are-smarter-stronger-better narrative while implying women are naturally meant for the home. But the reason that women make so-called ”cautious” decisions more isn’t because they’re cowards but because when you go into the workforce with people already predisposed to believe you are less intelligent and weak, you know that even the slightest screw-up in your career could be total ruin. Men are allowed to screw up. Men don’t take more risks. Their risks are just less risky. But that’s not even really the cause of the wage gap. The entrepreneur gap is small, as most of us draw a salary instead of run a business, including the men on Fox who probably think they’re somehow entrepreneurs when they get that Fox paycheck. It’s discrimination, both in the workplace and in the home. But Greg Gutfeld wanted to deny that.

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Actually, single childless women in urban areas earn slightly more, not much, than their male counterparts. But that single men still make more in rural areas proves the point: It’s discrimination. That’s why women do better in more liberal areas. You know, with less discrimination. Also, it’s worth noting that, despite their complaints about comparing apples to oranges, that’s exactly what Gutfeld is doing here. Women in these areas have more college degrees. If you have to earn a college degree to make as much as a man with a high school degree, that’s not equality. But most irritating is this is just another variation on the women-are-simply-inferior argument. The implication is that women do this to themselves by getting married and having children. But the fact that getting married and having children actually results in a boost to men’s income while it means a decline in women’s is pure, unadulterated sexism. How is that not discrimination if two groups of people are being treated completely different for doing exactly the same thing? I swear to god, women should just start refusing to have children until men agree to stop making this argument. If you’re going to claim it’s all personal choice, you can’t complain if women start exercising it.




The show Girls on HBO started off on a rocky foot in its first few seasons, but this last season really shows an assurance in both narrative and just plain humor that was sometimes missing in earlier seasons. Sadly, the show still doesn’t have the racial diversity that it’s been long criticized for not displaying, which is a shame because it’s become bolder in its story-telling in many other ways. The recent episode that had an abortion storyline in it is a perfect example. In the first season, there was a character that was on her way to get an abortion, but the show chickened out and did that thing where she has a miscarriage and therefore is spared from having to actually take control of her own reproductive choices. But on this most recent episode, not only did a character named Mimi-Rose, played by the hilarious Gillian Jacobs of Community fame, have an abortion, but the storyline was actually used to pointedly satirize how abortion stigma is all tied up ideas about male dominance and entitlement. It all starts when her boyfriend, named Adam, asks her to go running with him.

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That’s him tossing stuff, showing that he’s being a big baby over this. But man, I really appreciated how this story is already upending all these narrative conventions about abortion. She doesn’t feel bad about it. She is perfectly matter of fact about it. But more importantly, the show is giving the big, fat finger to the widespread and often unquestioned assumption that the guy who got you pregnant is owed something by you. She didn’t tell him because she was clearly afraid of a negative, controlling reaction. Maybe because she suspects he’s that way or maybe just because she, as a woman, knows that a lot of men feel some sense of ownership over your body just because they had sex with you. Either way, his ugly reaction justifies her decision not to tell him beforehand. Which leads me to the final part of this entire storyline that was just so fantastic: Mimi-Rose quietly but insistently maintains through the show that she deserves to have a good abortion experience. She rejects utterly the widespread narrative that other people, be it boyfriends or relatives or, by implication, anti-choice activists, have a right to make you feel guilt or shame or that the price you pay for your abortion should be that getting it sucks.

Adam, it turns out, is well-acquainted with the popular narrative of abortion that says it’s supposed to be some big goddamn deal full of tears and hand-wringing and state-of-the-relationship talk and other drama.

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This is hardly the first time the show has used the character of Adam to really interrogate some of the unquestioned and sexism assumptions and attitudes a lot of men who probably think of themselves as “liberal” have. Particularly when we’re talking about their relationships with their girlfriends. He’s had storylines where he was domineering to various girlfriends, including one where he didn’t exactly rape his girlfriend, but he used her desire to please him as a way to extract all sorts of sexual behaviors she clearly hated from her. But he’s also been shown to be something of a conquering hero, racing to comfort another girlfriend in her time of need, like the end of some romantic comedy. The show has been called out for that, repeatedly, by people who say that the characterization is inconsistent and how can he be such a controlling jerk sometimes and a chivalrous hero at others. But I always thought it was suggesting those are often two sides of the same coin: Sexist men see themselves as benevolent and protective of the little ladies, but if those little ladies defy their authority, suddenly the ugly side comes out.

Lest you think I’m giving the show too much credit, they underline this point for you when he threatens to walk out on Mimi-Rose over this.

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There’s a lot of hand-wringing rhetoric about “life” vs. “rights” in the public abortion debate, but this show cut right through that and showed what is really behind the hostility to legal abortion. It does come down to this: this deep fear that women may not need men anymore. And if we don’t need them, they can’t control us. As she says, I do think that love is purer if it’s fully consensual. But you can see a lot of the insecurity and fear that drives this desire to control and oppress. Which doesn’t excuse itthe character Adam has been showing for many seasons now as a guy who is right on the verge of becoming an out and out abuser. But maybe he will consider another way.


And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, anti-choicers show how much they really know about women’s bodies edition. Idaho state Rep. Vito Barbieri has styled himself an expert on gynecological care, arguing that while he believes most telemedicine doctors perform is safe, he wants to ban telemedicine abortions because, in his esteemed medical opinion, they are too dangerous to be done at home. E.R. Dr. Julie Madsen testified that this is not true and that medical abortions are super safe. Self-styled expert on what is and isn’t safe medical care, Rep. Barbieri then had this exchange with her.

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Despite being exposed as someone who confuses the anus and the vagina, Barbieri still decided he knows more than the doctors and researchers about this and voted to ban telemedicine abortions anyway. It’s unclear if he thinks we should also ban bowel movements, you know, so that someone doesn’t accidentally poop out their baby.

2015 Court Outlook, and ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ in Context

Related Links

MSNBC interview with Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Fifty Shades of Grey

Domestic violence counselors speak out against Fifty Shades of Grey

Troy Newman lies and lies about low-income women and abortion


On this episode of Reality Cast, Ian Millhiser will be on to talk about how the Obama administration is quietly wining court battles in favor of contraception. Ruth Bader Ginsburg has some important things to say about abortion rights and there’s nothing new about Fifty Shades of Grey.

Sad news. Lesley Gore died last week of lung cancer at age 68. She sang one of the great feminist anthems before second wave feminism was even really a thing, back in 1963.

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Though she never really hid it, Gore came out publicly as a lesbian in 2005. She’s survived by her partner of 33 years.


MSNBC’s Irin Carmon interviewed Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg recently, and clips appeared on the Rachel Maddow Show. The entire interview, which is available in show links, is up at the MSNBC website. Ginsburg is an interesting person, as listeners are no doubt fully aware, because she had a long history prior to her career as a judge being a crusading lawyer for feminist causes. These days, she sits on a conservative court that’s hostile to women’s rights and so she is known primarily for her scathing dissents of their attempts to roll back the clock. Irin is writing a biography of Ginsburg, and so she was really able to focus on this long history and some of the big picture questions. The interview quickly turned to the subject of abortion rights and the question of exactly how much danger the current court presents to Roe v. Wade. Ginsburg’s outlook is bleak, but sadly likely quite accurate.

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No one knows this better than anti-choicers. That’s why their strategies are all geared at targeting clinics on a geographic basis and passing laws requiring waiting periods and other obstacles that take, above all other things, money to overcome. It’s about making abortion access a luxury available only to those women who can afford to drop everything for a week to travel to get an abortion. So say, the goal is that for a woman in Dallas to be able to get an abortion, she should be able to have the money to fly to New York and stay there for a few days to get that done: Hotel, airfare, ability to take off work. Anti-choicers are not there yet, but they’re way closer to that goal, forcing women across the red states to have to travel hours for an abortion. It’s basically “abortion for me but not for thee” as a legislative strategy. And it works as a political strategy, too, because so much of the media thinks that as long as Roe v. Wade isn’t overturned, abortion access is safe. But Ginsburg explained that it’s more complex than that.

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And that’s really why the current anti-abortion legislation in Texas is so devastating. As Ginsburg says, the Supreme Court is unlikely to just overturn Roe v. Wade. But Justice John Roberts is a master at writing opinions that gut liberal decisions of the past without overturning them outright. For instance, he was able to gut Brown v. the Board of Education without overturning it by forcing schools that had voluntary desegregation programs to stop those programs. Perversely, he pulled the “colorblind” argument to justify his decision that upholds segregated school districts. So yeah, he’s an evil genius. And I suspect what will happen is that he will find that while there’s a technical right to an abortion, he’ll argue that as long as it’s legal somewhere in the U.S. it’s okay for states to use bogus regulations to restrict legal abortion out of existence.

Ginsburg had a really great analogy to illustrate how bad it could get.

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This really gives you a good idea, I think, of what the end game here is, a situation like the past, where the only people who could get divorced were people who could drop everything and spend six weeks in Nevada to get one. To be clear, I think the people who engage in this kind of classist thinking aren’t necessarily cackling villains, though a few are. I think it’s just mindless prejudice. They think that they are perfectly capable of making a responsible decision about abortion, but believe that lower-income people are reckless and irresponsible and need to be controlled for their own good. You see that same mentality when you see conservatives push for marriage courses for low-income women or propose the just-get-married solution for single women living in poverty. They just assume that because you’re not rich, you’re not very bright and need some paternalistic wealthy figure telling you what to do. Of course, that mentality is super wrong and there’s scores of social science research debunking the idea that wealthy people are inherently better choice-makers than the rest of us, but the problem is that the people wed to this mentality don’t care to look at that kind of research.

All this is very sad, but there was a light joke about women’s rights in the interview, with Irin asked Justice Ginsburg to play a game where she asked for one-word responses to certain references. And got this.

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Yes, it was wrong. I’m so glad she’s not afraid to say it.




If you have turned on your TV or the radio or flipped on the internet in the past month, you may have learned the shocking news that women have sexual fantasies. In fact, so much so that Hollywood has decided they make a lot of money off of them.

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For those who have been living under a rock, Fifty Shades of Grey is softcore, R-rated erotic movie aimed at primarily female audiences. It’s based on books that were based on Twilight fan fiction. The story is about a young college girl who is a virgin being seduced by an abusive older man who is a billionaire, and who stalks her, controls her, and forces sexual acts on her without her consent, all while she is secretly loving it on the inside. The movie downplays some of the worst aspects, but the basic idea is still there: Christian Grey is an abusive man who plays head games and engages in controlling behavior and stalking, but because she is submissive and loving, she turns him into the gentle, kind lover of her dreams. But there’s a lot of sexy BDSM along the way.

This movie is creating a lot of anger out there from a lot of corners. The Christian right, of course, objects to it because they believe women aren’t supposed to like sex, much less indulge sexual fantasies. BDSM enthusiasts also object, saying the book portrays BDSM practices incorrectly and unsafely, particularly by not showing that it’s supposed to be fully consensual. And feminists are angry because the movie romanticizes domestic violence.

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Look, let’s be real here. It’s absolutely true that one reason a lot of women get caught up in abusive relationships is that we are told, over and over again, that controlling and possessive behavior means a man just really loves you. And we are also fed the myth that abusive men are just broken souls who can be healed through the power of a woman’s love. Abusers themselves use the clichés to control their victims. For example, an abuser may hit a woman and then start crying and saying that he doesn’t mean it, but he’s just a sad soul who needs a woman’s tender, loving care. Many domestic violence victims report feeling like they had to comfort their abusers after an incident. Some are even made to feel they have to have sex with their abusers to make him feel better about what he did. It’s all messed up and it’s a dynamic that definitely is romanticized in Fifty Shades of Grey. However, I will point out that this is hardly the first time we’ve been told the story of the woman who heals abusive, controlling man through submissive love.

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Those were clips from, in order, Beauty and the Beast, My Fair Lady, The Taming of the Shrew, Twilight, and Pretty Woman. While there are some minor variations on the theme, the story is basically the same one, over and over: A powerful, often cruel and abusive man, takes control of the life of a woman much less powerful than he is, hiding her away from the world and remaking her into what he wants her to be. The woman fights at first, but eventually submits to his controlling ways, and her submission earns her “true love” and turns her beastly partner into a tender, loving mate.

That’s why I’m a bit troubled by all the attention Fifty Shades of Grey is getting. The only thing it does different than these other stories is it makes sex more central to the plot and involves kinky behavior. So yes, it’s good to criticize this book and movie for romanticizing abusive relationship patterns. But it would be better to do so while firmly rooting those criticisms in this historical pattern this story fits into, to show that the issues isn’t sex, but the long-standing and deplorable tradition of stories that tell women that you can turn an abuser into a pussycat with your love.


And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, proving Ruth Bader Ginsburg right edition. As noted in the first segment, Justice Ginsburg called out the war on legal abortion specifically as a class war, a way to make abortion and control over your own body a privilege of wealth instead of a human right. Troy Newman of Operation Rescue made some comments on American Family Radio that seem determined to prove her right. This is going to be quoted at length, because it really just captures so perfectly the misogyny, racism, classism, and hostility to facts that fuels the anti-choice movement.

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How many ways is this wrong? You have him claiming Medicaid covers abortion, which it does not, by federal law. You have him claiming Obamacare has something to do with this, which it doesn’t. You have him claiming that the only expense associated with having a baby is the cost of a bottle of vitamins and a sonogram. You have him invoking “Obama phones,” which is this right wing myth that Obama bought off low-income voters with free cell phoneswhich is also not true. But beyond the lies, one shining truth comes through: Newman and his anti-choice comrades clearly hate poor women and want to punish and control them. That truth came across loud and clear.

Street Harassment in Mexico City, and MRAs Take On ‘Frozen’

Related Links

Stop Telling Women to Smile

“Beautiful” products coming from rape

Are we really having this conversation in 2015?

Catherine Hanaway blames abortion and “other things” for child rape

Fox News thinks letting women have 29 percent of roles in movies is too many

What’s that about forced again?


On this episode of Reality Cast, I’ll cover a street art protest against sexual harassment, the return of the Republican rape philosophers, and ask the question: Is the movie Frozen oppressing men?

During the interview section of this podcast, I’ll dig more into the “Stop Telling Women to Smile” project, but as a teaser, here’s a clip from one of the videos posted at Fusion covering the art project.

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Check the site out in show links!


During the 2012 election, starting with Todd Akin’s comment about “legitimate rape,” there was a spate of Republican politicians making unfortunate comments about rape, eventually earning them, via the writer James Wolcott, the nickname “rape philosophizers.” Since then, there’s been some efforts on the right to get conservatives to realize when it comes to the subject of rape, discretion is the better part of valor. Or, that when it comes to women, better to stay silent and let people assume you have no empathy rather than to open your mouth and remove all doubt. But conservatives just can’t help themselves. And so here is the latest round-up of rape philosophers, to show that this problem is not going away.

West Virginia is considering a law that would ban abortions after 20 weeks, allowing all sorts of rape philosophizing to commence.

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It appears that Brian Kurcaba’s opinion is that while the rape-based delivery system is distasteful, women should be swooning with gratitude at the rare and precious opportunity to get their hands on some actual sperm to make a baby with. As you can imagine, this comment caused some people who do not think rape victims should be subject to idiotic sentimentality about how “beautiful” it would be to force childbirth on them, and so Kurcaba offered an apology. Except it wasn’t much of an apology, saying, “I apologize to anyone who took my comments about the sanctity of human life to mean anything other than that all children are precious regardless of circumstances.” Which is that he continues to maintain that forcible impregnation is a beautiful gift, and is just sorry that you rape victims aren’t more grateful for this precious opportunity.

More rape philosophizing was on hand in Utah, as the legislature considered shoring up its rape laws to clarify that yes, it is rape to force sex on an unconscious person because, being unconscious, they can’t consent. You may be wondering how that wasn’t already the law, but state representative Brian Greene had other questions.

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So let’s say you’re married to a lady and your wife decides to stop having sex with you. Sure, you could ask her what the problem is and perhaps seek marital counseling, but ew, I hear you get girl cooties if you actually do something like think about your wife’s feelings. So instead, wait until she’s asleep and then just take her unaware! That’s the solution, right? Until all these killjoys ruined it all by pointing out that just because you marry someone doesn’t mean she’s actually your property and no, you don’t just get to rape her when you feel like it because you can’t be bothered to have a conversation with your wife. Eventually, Greene realized his pity for the marital rapist routine was not winning him any fans and he switched positions on this, but it’s just mind-boggling that this continues to be a problem in 2015.

Not all the rape philosophers of late are men, however. Catherine Hanaway, who wants to be the governor of Missouri, recently gave a long speech where she basically blamed feminism and birth control for the sexual abuse of children.

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I’m cutting away because she goes on a rant saying that women lose jobs and educational opportunities because of “sexual permissiveness”, an argument that would require you to believe that more women held jobs and got college degrees in the Victorian era than now, a self-evidently silly argument. But then she goes on to make this about child sex abuse, and things get really weird.

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And she goes on at length, but you get the idea: She is arguing that abortion and quote-unquote “other things”, which clearly means contraception, leads to raping children. Because if you let women have sex for pleasure, then there’s no way you can ever have any rule governing sexual activity ever. Notice what is not mentioned in this rant? The idea of consent. Women are adults who can consent to sex, something you’d think people who are always on about freedom would understand. Children are not. This is an important difference, and a much clearer one than trying to rules-lawyer whether or not sex is okay depending on what medications you take or whether or not you’ve been married. But ultimately, that’s what all rape philosophizing really comes back to: Undermining the centrality of consent when discussing human sexuality. Rape philosophers want right and wrong to be about anything but consent. Which makes sense. We are talking about people who want to force you to give birth without your consent, so they have a strong reason to want to undermine the concept of consent in the public imagination.




Multiple times on this podcast, I’ve shared my theory that traditional conservatism has been absorbing and regurgitating more and more “men’s rights” ideas. The argument driving the “men’s rights” movement is this notion that our society isn’t actually sexist but, in fact, is somehow anti-male. Basically, it’s less a movement and more a long-form attempt to play “gotcha” with feminists by trying to invert every feminist argument against sexism and spinning it like men are the real victims of gender-based oppression. Now, it’s absolutely true that sexism negatively affects men in ways that need to be talked about, but one of the things that makes “men’s rights” discourse so pernicious is they have no real interest in talking about those realities, because then they would have to admit the solution is feminism, and, at their heart, they are about upholding a sexist status quo and fighting feminism. So, for instance, it’s true that women tend to have custody after divorce more than men. But the reason for this is that women, due to sexism, tend to be primary caregivers more than men and so most couples come to a mutual agreement after divorce to keep it that way. If you want to change this, what you need is more feminism, encouraging couples to split child-care duties more. But “men’s rights” guys don’t want that. They want to change the law so that men can get custody without having to be primary caregiversso they can, in other words, have it both ways.

Anyway, another attempt by “men’s rights” morons to play “gotcha” with feminists is to claim that it’s men, not women, who are victims of gender stereotypes in Hollywood. It’s an argument based in the worst kind of bad faith, but that doesn’t stop it from being trotted out on Fox News, by host Steve Doocy and guest Penny Nance from Concerned Women for America.

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This is an unsubtle game of “gotcha” with feminists. Feminists frequently point out how Hollywood stereotypes and marginalizes women. So they’re trying to suggest that nuh-uh, it’s actually men who are stereotyped and marginalized, an argument that they make by huffing and puffing about how some male characters are villains and some are funny and etc., etc. But feminists never actually said we object to any portrayal of a woman besides showing women as humorless heroes, as they clearly are arguing all men should be shown here. Quite the contrary, feminists argue that the problem is that women don’t get to play a variety of characters. The problem isn’t having female characters with flaws, it’s that female characters, when they exist, often don’t get to have personalities at all. The male characters in this movie are not anti-male stereotypes or flat characters, but pretty well-written with a lot of diversity in terms of personality. Which is what feminists want for female characters as well. Which they actually get in Frozen, but I’ll return to that in a second. Because what Penny Nance says next is such a blatant lie that it really is stunning.

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Basically, they’re counting on the audience having not seen Frozen, which is a weird thing to count on, considering the movie made like a billion dollars. Because if you have seen it, you know that the male hero, Kristoff, is not treated as a superfluous bumbler who is only good for a paycheck. He’s a competent and funny and charming man who is loved by all and helps out a lot. Indeed, the notion that men are held out as nothing but paycheck generators is particularly weird because this movie is about a queen and a princess who are, you know, wealthy women. In fact, part of the plot is fending off men who are using them for their money. The lesson of the story is you should love a man for his own sake, not just because he’s some kind of symbol to you. So basically, the opposite of what they say they see on screen. But we all know the real objection to Frozen has nothing to do with actual concerns about men being, uh, oppressed and stereotyped. The real concern here is that Frozen allows women to be something other than superfluous set decoration. Doocy edges closely to saying the quiet part out loud.

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So the concern is there are not enough movies with male heroes. Got it. Chris Hayes had an interesting response to that.

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The only conclusion I can draw is that Penny Nance and Steve Doocy believe that 29 percent of speaking roles going to women is too many speaking roles. I wonder what would be the acceptable level of speaking roles for women? Ten percent? Five percent? Or should women never speak at all?


And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, anti-vaccination hysteria merges completely with anti-abortion hysteria edition. Fox News guest Jonathan Hoenig graced us by bringing these two anti-science, anti-rationality forces together in one meltdown rant.

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Of course, the actual, non-fantasy problem is not forced abortion, but forced childbirth, which is already going on in various states as safe abortion clinics are being shut down by conservative forces in an attempt to force women to give birth against their will. And unlike mandatory vaccination, which is both good for the public and good for individuals, forced childbirth is linked to poorer health outcomes for women and children and it escalates unnecessary costs on taxpayers. The only value to forced childbirth is that it satisfies the sadistic need of conservatives to see women punished for having sex.

Anti-Sexist Super Bowl Ads, and Anti-Vaccination Drama

Related Links


Super Bowl domestic violence ad

Laura Ingraham mad at anti-sexist ad

No, let’s not sweep it under the rug

President Obama says vaccinate your kids

Chris Christie plays footsie with anti-vaxxers

Rand Paul makes a play for the anti-vaccination crowd

Just wow


On this episode of Reality Cast, Rebecca Traister will dig into how much of a disaster our maternity leave policies are in this country. The Super Bowl airs some anti-sexist ads and some people get really mad and is anti-vaccination going to be the next anti-abortion movement?

Lily Tomlin is in a movie called Grandma that shows a woman helping her granddaughter get an abortion. The movie seems awesome. Here’s a clip of the grandmother trying to get half the abortion money out of the jerk that impregnated her granddaughter.

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Watch the interview with Aisha Harris in show links, because both Tomlin and the director have interesting things to say about how abortion should be in movies, as it’s such a common part of life.


Five years ago, there was kind of an amazing online revolt against the disgustingly sexist ads that ran during the Super Bowl, which may have been one of the first real examples of how social media can change a conversation overnight. The sexism in the ads during the Super Bowl has been declining every year since then, showing that it did have a major impact. This year, things changed even more as the NFL has a P.R. crisis, caused by Ray Rice and the cover-up of his domestic violence. So giving the appearance of fighting sexism became a priority and there were two ads run during the Super Bowl that did just that. One was an ad about domestic violence, based around a 9-1-1 call, a real one, from a woman who pretended to be calling for pizza so she could summon help without alerting her abuser.

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And Always, the maxi pad company, had a pro-feminist ad called “Like A Girl” to reclaim the phrase “throw like a girl” as an empowering one. They show a bunch of people, adult men and women and young boys, acting out what “throwing” and “fighting like a girl” looks like, and they all do this little act of being fey, clumsy, and inept. Then they ask young girls, and they run and fight like, well, normal, because they haven’t yet absorbed the idea that women are inferior.

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Neither of these ads should have been really remarkable, because in theory, we all agree that girls shouldn’t hate themselves and men shouldn’t beat women. Right? Right?! And yet, you will not be surprised to find out that a lot of people threw an absolute fit over this, because despite the official agreement that sexism is bad, the reason sexism persists is, well, a lot of people really do think women should be treated like inferiors. The Always ad caused a bunch of babies to whine that there should be a “like a boy” hashtag on Twitter, because, let’s be real, they think women should be shunted to the background and everything should be about boys and men. Laura Ingraham had a fit over the whole thing, and basically proved the argument.

  • Super Bowl 3 *

Yes, I would say lack of empathy is Ingraham’s problem. But of course, her flailing proves the point: She agrees that “like a girl” means inferior and thinks that the way around that is not to fight back against the misogyny of that but simply declare she’s an exception to the rule and basically an honorary man. It’s sad that these little girls have more maturity than her in this regard. But then she continues to make the ad’s point for them by wailing about how the only people who really deserve care and attention are boys and men.

  • Super Bowl 4 *

Yes, she literally argued that boys need a boost to stay ahead of girls, that they are entitled to have more sports programs and investment. As for the grades thing, it’s telling that boys can get lower grades and do less well in school and still end up getting better, higher-paying jobs when they graduate. That’s because being male means you get a leg up, and Ingraham is openly angry that the boost isn’t even bigger.

But the ugly reactions to the domestic violence ad may have been even worse, because Jesus Christ, can’t we at least just agree that wife-beating is a terrible thing that needs to end? Apparently not, as there were many voices calling for sweeping this problem under the rug, such as ESPN’s Herm Edwards.

  • Super Bowl 5 *

I realize he may have meant well, but refusing to talk about domestic violence in football until after the football season is over is functionally refusing to talk about it at all. No one is paying attention to football news is the off-season. Honestly, I think feminists have tried the whole thing of politely waiting until it was somehow less unpleasant to bring these subjects up and what we’ve found is no one ever wants to talk about sexism. There’s always a reason not to talk about it. So yes, I think it’s good to bring it up during the Super Bowl. Hell, at least there’s an audience listening.




Anti-vaccination sentiment has been a growing problem in our country, as largely privileged, wealthy families continue to opt out of vaccination for their children, usually citing vague concerns that have been repeatedly and aggressively discredited by science. I suspect it’s largely because it’s not really about serious concerns that vaccines are dangerous so much as opting out has become a status symbol, a way for wealthy parents to distinguish themselves from the vaccinating masses. It’s also helped usher in the return of diseases that had been all but eradicated from the United States. The issue has gained particular prominence in the last month when a number of people were exposed at Disneyland, causing the disease to spread relatively rapidly, with over 100 people infected. Doctors believe that refusal to vaccinate is a major factor in this incident, and so President Obama went on TV to ask people to cut it out and just vaccinate their kids already.

  • vaccine 1 *

Anti-vaccination sentiment is kind of an interesting beast in the U.S. It’s so clearly a reactionary movement, both in that it’s an attempt by elite people to create difference between themselves and everyone else and because of the weird obsession with “purity” that drives it. But at the same time, it’s actually understood vaguely in the public imagination as a “liberal” thing, because it tends to be concentrated in wealthy urban enclaves that usually vote for Democrats. There’s evidence that just because they live in liberal enclaves doesn’t mean that anti-vaxxers themselves are liberal, but by and large there’s been some separation between anti-vaxxers and other reactionary movements that view modern health care as “impure.” The most obvious ones being, of course, anti-choicers, who also rely heavily on arguments about how contraception and abortion are unnecessary and against nature and all other manner of nonsense. Because of this, it seems somewhat obvious that the “natural” home of anti-vaccination sentiment is not the left, but the right, and already the bridges have been built by right-wing hysteria over the HPV vaccination in particular, which conservatives frequently reject because they believe that there’s something wrong with acknowledging the fact that your daughter is unlikely to remain a lifelong virgin.

Well, conservative politicians, always ready with a knee-jerk nuh-uh response to anything that President Obama says, hurried along the process of anti-vaccination becoming wholly a conservative thing. Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey kicked it off.

  • vaccine 2 *

While he didn’t denounce vaccination or anything, he’s clearly playing footsie with anti-vaxxers, particularly by suggesting that we give equal weight to parents spouting nonsense and to scientists offering facts. And his nonsense about how the parent aspect matters more than the politician aspect? Uh, no. This is a matter of public health and having smart opinions on public health as a politician matters way more than what you do at home. But that’s part of the problem facing conservatives on this issue. Conservatives have always been wary of the idea of the public good, but with the rise of the religious right and Ayn Rand’s writings, being radically opposed to the idea of ever doing anything for the good of the community has become de riguer for many conservative politicians. Now, I hate to even bring this up, because it implies that vaccination is somehow a sacrifice for the public good, when it is not. It’s a pure win-win behavior: You lose nothing by getting it, you get protection against disease, and you contribute to herd immunity. There is literally no downside, so much so that anti-vaxxers have to make up downsides to scare people. But so hostile are some people to believing themselves members of a herd that they will actively come up with reasons to shirk any behavior that contributes to the common good, even if it comes at literally no cost to themselves. Which is what conservative politicians, particularly of a more libertarian bent, are facing. No surprise then that Rand Paul was even more aggressive on this front.

  • vaccine 3 *

Paul is actually a doctor so his pandering to anti-vaxxers with these lies is particularly outrageous since he almost surely knows that what he just said is absolutely false. Sure, he never said directly that the vaccines caused it, so we can’t say he lied, technically, but he implied that vaccines cause mental damage, which means he’s either a liar or he was a very bad doctor who doesn’t understand basic evidence and medicine. I suspect it’s more the former, and Paul is basically making a play for the anti-vaccination crowd here. It makes sense, as a lot of them are clearly hostile to the idea that they should ever do anything for the herd, much less contribute to the herd’s immunity, and he correctly sees that misanthropic snobbery as a perfect fit for his libertarian-heavy Republicanism. The problem with all this, besides the lying and the pandering, is that by making anti-vaccination a political thing, you are encouraging more people to pick it up. If this continues, I worry we’re going to see people in red states, which currently have high vaccination rates, start rejecting vaccines to stick it to those nanny state liberals. We’re already seen how politicizing reproductive health care has served to destroy access. I worry what will happen if the same happens to vaccination.


And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, really ugly victim-blaming edition. I have no idea why Stacey Dash of Fox News thought that it wise to portray rape as what you have coming if you dare, no joke, leave your house.

  • Dash *

She came up with some garbled it’s-just-a-joke apology later, but I think her meaning was super clear and not a joke at all. Both in that it’s “naughty” for women to behave in ways that are fine for men, which is to say by leaving your house and even gasp, consuming alcohol in the presence of the opposite sex. And in seeing rape as the natural penalty for said naughtiness, which is on the level of saying someone deserves to get a beating for watching an R-rated movie.

House Republicans Just Can’t Help Themselves

Related Links

Response to “The Apology” video


Melissa Harris-Perry on the abortion bill debacle

“Definitional problem” is not actually a real problem

Kristan Hawkins

What the polls actually say

“Republican females”

“Losing My Lege”


On this episode of Reality Cast, Andrea Grimes will be on to discuss her new column for Rewire. Republicans yank a bill banning abortions at 20 weeks at the last minute, and I’ll look into the reaction.

There was this weird video that went viral a couple of weeks ago of men “apologizing” for letting women get abortions. Funny or Die responded with their own video of women apologizing.

  • video *

The lack of self-awareness that goes into multiple men apologizing for abortions they didn’t actually get is darkly funny on its own, but they did a good job building on it.


So the anniversary of Roe v. Wade did not go how anti-choicers expected. There’s kind of a dull, predictable rhythm to how conservatives, uh, celebrate the legalization of abortion, which gave the movement to turn American into a Christian theocracy an issue to kickstart its cause. People amasss on D.C., Republican politicians turn out to give routine speeches, organizers wax nostalgic about how great it was in the imaginary halcyon days when women didn’t have sex, and the Republicans bring a go-nowhere bill trying to ban abortion in some way to the floor. This year, it was supposed to be a ban on 20 week abortions that Obama was surely going to veto. This was a big effing deal. They poll-tested this thing and everything, finding that you can trick Americans into thinking women get abortions after 20 weeks because they were too busy getting their nails done to bother sooner, when of course the truth is most women who get abortions that late have medical issues or had financial problems that prevented them from getting abortions sooner. This was supposed to be an easy win: Grand-standing about life while actually implying that women are just dumb lazy sluts who need to be taught a lesson. And then, at the last minute, it got yanked out from under Republicans.

  • abortion 1 *

Let’s be clear. The Republican women that stopped this thing are not suddenly growing a heart and thinking that maybe they’re being too hard on women who are facing fetal abnormalities or who just came home at 4 months pregnant to find their husbands have run off with the babysitter. The issue here was rape and the totally legitimate concern that some female Republicans have with their male colleagues tendency to wallow in the whole “legitimate rape” thing, where they imply that most rapes shouldn’t count as “real” rapes.

  • abortion 2 *

This entire thing is truly amazing. Let’s be honest here: Ellmers [R-NC] isn’t some kind of champion for women. As Harris-Perry points out, Ellmers furiously denounced regulations requiring that health insurance cover maternity care. She’s a classic anti-choice conservative, in that she wants to force you to have a baby and then she wants to deny you health insurance, family leave, social assistance, or anything else you might need to have that baby. She, like her colleagues, clearly sees forced childbirth and subsequent suffering and starvation as the price you should have to pay for daring to have sex. This is obvious. But she also knows that Republicans at least have to pretend that none of this is about misogyny. And you know what makes it hard to deny that you’re a misogynist? Obsessing over the myth that women are constantly lying about rape for the lulz. Or telling women that it wasn’t really rape when he held you down and forced you because of your skirt or because you were drinking or because you weren’t sitting in a convent knitting or whatever. Or, in this case, claiming your rape doesn’t count because you were too afraid to bring it to the police. All of this just makes you sound like the misogynist you clearly are, and Ellmers was right to gently suggest to her male colleagues that they just let this one go. It wasn’t about loving women, but mostly about managing optics.

And that this is all about misogyny has been definitively demonstrated, and not just because male Republicans were so unwilling to listen to a woman, even when she’s trying to help them, that they ended up proving every lingering suspicion that they’re running a clown car rather than a congressional caucus up there. It’s also because they weren’t willing to budge on this paranoid belief about lying women. It was that important to male Republicans to enshrine the belief that women are a bunch of lying sluts into law, that they basically shot themselves in the foot over this. But sure, let’s hear about how this has something to do with “life” and not just a deep-set hatred of women and desire to control their bodies.

But even this debacle will not cause male Republicans to let this one go and concede that all rape is rape. While speaking at a Family Research Council event, Lindsey Graham [R-SC] spoke about this bill’s derail and, well, yeah, they [Republicans] can’t help themselves.

  • abortion 3 *

What’s amazing is there is a simple away around this so-called “definitional problem” with rape. Just admit that all forced sex is rape. Stop trying to say that some rapes aren’t real rapes or legitimate rapes. Stop implying that there are occasions when it’s okay to force a woman to have sex. All they need to do is let go of this obsession with finding a way to make exceptions that allow some rapes to somehow not be rape. That they can’t let this one go speaks volumes.




So how are anti-choice activists and hardline conservatives reacting to the news that some female Republicans would like slightly fewer rape victims to be forced to give birth than anti-choicers would?

  • anti 1 *

Let me remind you that Rep. Ellmers was trying to save conservatives from themselves, trying to keep them from having to explain to journalists why they think it’s a good idea to force a 14-year-old rape victim who didn’t know she was pregnant to have her rapist’s baby. She knew the answer too frequently veers toward insinuating that rape victims are dirty lying sluts and was just trying to shut that down. But we’re dealing with extreme misogyny here, and extreme misogynists, in my long experience, do not know how to moderate themselves, even to accomplish basic political goals, such as punishing women for consensual sex with unwanted childbirth. No, they will not be stopped until they can also punish women for non-consensual sex. And so the response from the hardline anti-choicers has been pretty ugly. Jill Stanek, who seems to live not on oxygen but on judging other women, and Kristan Hawkins of Students for Life decided to protest at Ellmers office. Ellmers had justified her decision in part by citing evidence that shows one reason millennials don’t like Republicans is because of the obsession with so-called “social issues.” Hawkins claimed that this was all wrong and attacking abortion rights is totally how to get the kids these days. Her argument, needless to say, is unconvincing.

  • anti 2 *

The poll she appears to be talking about was commissioned by a super-conservative group called the Knights of Columbus, and no it does not say the majority of millennials would ban abortion. They asked questions like, “Do you think the abortion rate is higher than it should be?” and assumed that a yes answer meant that you were anti-choice, when it could actually mean that you think people should have more access to contraception. But better polls that ask more specific questions about what laws people would actually support shows that Hawkins is simply wrong wrong wrong. Public Religion Research Institute polling data shows that 60 percent of millennials think abortion should be legal in most or all cases. That’s the issue here. It’s easy to get people to agree that something is “immoral” on a phone poll even if they don’t actually think it is. We live in a culture where a lot of behaviors are characterized as “bad” or “immoral,” but if you really question people about it, they don’t really think of it as bad or immoral so much as a little naughty. Like pot-smoking, drinking, eating chocolate, sleeping in instead of going out jogging, cursing, that sort of thing. They also respond that way to sex, but when it comes down to the actual policy questions, people do not think of having sex as immoral in the sense that they think you should be punished for it. The anti-choice polls are about trying to imply that people who say something is a little naughty are arguing that it’s evil and should be banned, and that is not what people are saying at all.

  • anti 3 *

Yeah, no, this bill wasn’t about courage. Nothing is less courageous than pushing for a bill that you know the president is going to veto. This bill was about having it both ways: Giving the appearance of supporting an abortion ban with the full knowledge that you’ll never have to live with the results of your supposed principles. Hawkins is also blowing smoke with this notion that the same millennials who turned out in record numbers for Obama are somehow going to be wowed by a movement whose not-particularly-well-hidden goal is trying to force young people in particular to accept that the price of having sex is getting married at a very young age to someone you aren’t particularly sure is the right one for you and having a slew of kids so that you have a glorious middle age of wondering how your life passed you by. Sure, that’s a strong message, but not really appealing to young voters.

Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas was also incensed by all this.

  • anti 4 *

You get the feeling that the “wrong message” Gohmert was afraid of sending was the message that the GOP allows women to have any power at all. What is it about men who insist on using the word “females” instead of “women,” by the way? It’s just so obvious that there’s a dehumanizing going on, a tendency to see women as somehow more animal than men. It’s objectifying, is what it is, which is no surprise when we’re talking about a man who clearly has never even considered for a moment that women are people and that forcing them to bear children for rapists would make them suffer.


And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, professional victim edition. Erick Erickson is one of those conservative pundits who claims to oppose abortion because of “life,” but he’s so incredibly sexist that it’s clear that he actually has other motivations. We got another reminder when he was on Rush Limbaugh’s show recently.

  • Erickson *

You know, it’s funny, I frequently run into conservatives online who rant about how my women’s studies degree ruined me and made me a quote “professional victim.” There’s a lot of nonsense in that line, but I always find it funny because I got my degree in English literature. But obviously, the right gets a lot of mileage out of claiming both that women’s studies is brainwashing and that people with more traditional degrees reject feminism as silly stuff. But it’s really just a lot of wishful thinking on their part and studying women’s role in society is clearly a good use of your time, as we are half the frigging population.

March for Life Antics, and Anti-Choice Opposition to Better Family Leave Policies

Related Links

Daily Show takes on fetus lawyers

Archbishop Cupich

Completely ineffectual strike called

“Christian sharia”

President Obama pushes for family and sick leave

Fox News confusing work benefits with “giveaways” again

Tony Perkins is desperate


On this episode of Reality Cast, Jeff Teague of Planned Parenthood will explain the fallout from Tennessee’s new abortion law. Roe’s anniversary brings out goofy anti-choicers again, and Obama exposes conservative hypocrisy on the family values question.

If you haven’t seen this awesome Daily Show segment where Jessica Williams interviews an Alabama lawyer who represents fetuses in court, well, drop what you’re doing and watch it. And yes, we mean represents fetuses. In Alabama, it’s legal for judges to basically put teenagers who want abortion on trial and they often assign lawyers to represent the fetus in what amounts to a bunch of adults performing character assassination on teenagers in order to punish them for sex.

  • fetus *

Jessica Williams should have a weeklong show where she plays with all the implications of the anti-choice tendency to talk as if fetuses are conscious, choice-making beings who deserve more respect than actual living, breathing women.


Last week was the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, which means, of course, a frenzy of activity for the anti-choice movement, including the annual March for Life” in D.C. It’s all very interesting, because anti-choice activists spend much of the year concocting B.S. secular arguments in favor of restricting abortion, claiming that it’s because of “life” or to protect women or whatever nonsense they’re peddling this week. But this time of year, when they are out there motivating the troops, serves as a necessary reminder that the anti-choice movement is actually a religious cult devoted to pushing prudery and rigid gender roles and using the law to punish anyone who defies them. Which isn’t to say that they give up the feigned concern for women, of course, because it’s the only weapon they have to fight back against accusations of misogyny. But I never stop being fascinated by how much this supposed concern for women rests heavily on sexist tropes about how women are stupid or childish and can’t be trusted to make our own decisions. Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich spoke at a Chicago “March for Life event and what is interesting about his speech is he literally assumes an embryo—which doesn’t even have a brain, mind youhas more autonomy than a woman.

  • march 1 *

See what I mean? He imagines an embryo having a mind and agency. It wants things. It struggles. It’s somehow a conscious being making conscious choices. But women get no such assumption. He assumes that a woman who chooses abortion is not making a conscious choice. She is being compelled, because he categorically refuses to believe that women are capable of knowing their own minds or making their own choices. Not just about abortion, either, but his last statement made it clear that anyone who uses contraception to avoid giving birth or even just to space births must be doing it not because they want to and they know their own mind. No, they are broken people who cannot be trusted to make their own choices. Only the embryo is assumed to have agency here. Only an embryo, and certainly not a grown woman, has desires that deserve respect.

Father Stephen Imbarrato of Project Defending Life, the group that tried and failed to ban abortion in Albuquerque, New Mexico, has a video out suggesting that it’s not enough to annoy people with creepy fetus pictures and God-bothering. Now he is calling for a strike to end what he calls, repeatedly, “pre-born child killing”, probably because the word “abortion” reminds you that women are involved and they prefer you to think of us as mindless baby ovens.

  • march 2 *

I imagine that this strike will be about as effective as their efforts to pass a municipal ban on abortion were, which is to say not at all. In fact, I’d be astonished if anyone noticed. I’ll be even more astonished if someone actually goes on strike, as opposed to just, you know, taking the day off from work to go wave fetus signs at people. Of course, the anti-choice movement already draws heavily on high school students and retired people because they need people who are bored, have lots of time on their hands, and are quick to judge, and naïve teenagers and older people who watch too much Fox News are their best bet. So that makes it even harder to imagine this so-called strike will be noticed by anyone.

Sadly, despite the fact that all these dramatics are silly, sexist, and theocratic in nature, Republicans on the Hill are crawling all over each other to pander to the anti-choice crew. Huffington Post Live discussed how Congress has introduced five new anti-abortion bills.

  • march 3 *

Exactly. The March for Life is an annual reminder that what we’re dealing with is a bunch of priests, church ladies, and God botherers who want to impose their ridiculous religious standards on your sex life and your medical care, and are willing to tell lies and engage in absolutely over-the-top theatrics to do it.




Because of Roe’s anniversary, you’re hearing a bunch of malarkey from conservatives about how they want to support pregnant women in having babies. Malarkey not just because they assume, as I showed in the last segment, that the only reason women abort is because they’re afraid, when in fact a lot of women plain do not want to have a baby now. But also malarkey because when it comes to the brass tacks of what it would actually take to make it easier for women to choose to give birth, they meet conservative resistance every step of the way. That much was made clear this month, when President Obama rolled out a plan to push for better parental and sick leave so that people and women in particular can choose to have children if they want to without fearing for losing pay they need to get by.

  • family 1 *

Right now, American workers are entitled to up to 12 weeks a year of unpaid family or medical leave, but for most workers who live paycheck to paycheck, that right might not exist at all because they can’t really take it. You’d think that the same people who are always on about how women should be having more babies and how they want to support women to have babies would be rushing to join Obama to push through legislation guaranteeing this. After all, one of the number one reasons women give for getting an abortion is that they can’t afford it. It’s not just about affording medical bills, either. It’s often about time, being able to take it off to give birth or to tend to sick children. If you don’t have that kind of time, deciding against having a baby is something you’re more likely to do. But the people who are passing all these abortion bills and who claim to be doing so for women , what do they do when given the opportunity to actually make it easier on mothers? Well, let’s check into Fox News and see how they responded to this opportunity to put their money where their anti-choice mouths are.

  • family 2 *

Nope, the second the discussion gets away from justifying forcing women to give birth, suddenly all that concern for mother’s needs goes right out the window. Pregnant women are now painted as gold-diggers and welfare queens who think they should be paid for their work. How dare they! First they want benefits for working and next you’ll be telling me they want a paycheck. Where’s all that flowery conservative language about how moms in need should get support so they don’t choose abortion? It’s like it’s just opportunistic pandering that they never had the slightest intention of actually acting upon.

Anyway, congressional Republicans are expected, after they pass a bunch of bills trying to force you to give birth against your will, to reject Obama’s plan to make it easier to care for all those babies they will force you to have. And the pundits at Fox are mad because wah, Obama is making Republicans look bad for this bit of hypocrisy.

  • family 3 *

Gotta love the indignation there. You get the impression that Stuart Varney thinks Obama is obliged to make the Republicans look good to the voters, even if that means going out of his way to conceal their hypocritical views on so-called family values. That’s not how politics work, dude. Getting mad at a politician for being political is like getting mad at a cat for being furry. But here’s the thing. Obama isn’t making the Republicans look bad. Republicans make themselves look bad. They go on and on about motherhood and babies in order to justify abortion restrictions, but the second they actually have an opportunity to help mothers raise all those babies, they flip out and start accusing women of being money-grubbing brats. Because they want to be paid for their jobs, mind you. We’re not even talking about welfare here, though someone who is actually “pro-life” should support that, too. We’re talking about people who want to be paid a fair wage and benefits for working. But apparently you not only should be forced to have kids against your will, you should be willing to work without getting paid for it too. And then they get fussy when their opponents suggest there’s some misogyny in play here.


And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, desperate flailing edition. Same-sex marriage is gaining in poll approval by the minute. So homobigot Tony Perkins is throwing a Hail Mary in trying to scare people into opposing it.

  • Perkins *

Needless to say, this is a strawman. If same-sex marriage proponents were actually trying to get rid of the government’s right to define marriage, they would petition for the end of marriage licenses for everyone. They simply want to expand the definition of who can get married, just as civil rights leaders did when they pushed to legalize interracial marriage. The definition of marriage changes all the time, now allowing for women to be equal partners instead of treated like property or allowing people to get divorced. That’s why many people are cautiously optimistic that the Supreme Court will do the right thing and strike down bans on gay marriage.

HB 2 Is Back in Court, and Conservatives Are Criticizing Female Pop Stars Again

Related Links

Jeff Bennion is an ex-gay activist

Appeals court hears arguments over Texas law

Legal arguments in Texas

Nicki Minaj on her abortion

Say what, Mike Huckabee?

Troy Newman’s self-delusions


On this episode of Reality Cast, I’ll be talking with Vicki Saporta from the National Abortion Federation about the new slew of federal bills intended to restrict abortion. Texas’ abortion law is back in court again, and feminist-friendly pop stars anger conservatives.

Last week, I did a segment on that show My Husband’s Not Gay, and since then there’s been a lot of criticism of the show for selling a false message about how anti-gay religious beliefs aren’t as harmful as they really are. And TLC is acting really strange about it, as MSNBC reported.

  • Gay *

TLC refuses to say why they’re vetoing Jeff Bennion from public appearances to promote the show. So I’m going to speculate wildly here and point out that while Jeff is portrayed as an ordinary Joe just trying to muddle with what he calls “same-sex attraction” while being married to a woman, Media Matters discovered that he is actually a prominent “ex-gay” activist. As I pointed out on the show last week, the “ex-gay” movement is losing steam rapidly and this whole thing about admitting you are attracted to men but being married to a woman anyway is a shiny new tactic to try to keep the whole thing alive. Bennion, in other words, has what Media Matters called “a real professional incentive to use his new, national platform” in order to lure people back into trying to un-gay themselves. Thus TLC’s embarrassed unwillingness to let him do more press.


The Texas abortion law is back in court again, with the Fifth Circuit Court hearing arguments about a law requiring clinics to meet ambulatory surgical center standards. These standards, which treat abortion clinics like hospitals, are not necessary for most abortions, which are quick outpatient procedures that are safer than colonscopies. Indeed, these standards are so ridiculous that they’re applied to places that only dispense the abortion pill, which means that they want you to have a full surgical suite for the privilege of swallowing a pill and going home to have what amounts to a very heavy period. It’s like requiring you to go to the hospital if you have a bout of constipation, in terms of making any kind of medical sense. It’s clear as a bell that the only purpose of these laws is to shut down safe abortion clinics and drive women onto the black market to punish them for being sexual, but NPR allowed a lying anti-choicer to spout her lies about it anyway.

  • Texas 1 *

Ah yes, invoking a man who was in flagrant violation of the existing laws in order to justify new laws. Does this B.S. convince anyone? I doubt it. It’s so clearly dishonest. But let’s be clear. Gosnell was breaking the laws that apply to all doctors, not just abortion providers, and the problem was that no one bothered to check up on his clinic because he served low-income women and women of color. In fact, one reason he had so many patients was that good, clean clinics were being run out of business by anti-choicers like this lady, who think you deserve to go to a rat-infested hellhole for an abortion because they think you’re a bad person who deserves to suffer. So that’s what they do: Shut down good clinics so all that is left is the people running illegal ones, like Gosnell. It’s rich of her to hand-wring about Gosnell when her entire plan is to make sure that’s what women seeking abortion have to turn to. Passing more regulations to shut down Kermit Gosnell is like banning coffee in response to finding out that you have a cocaine dealer on your street. Cocaine is already illegal. Banning coffee won’t make it more illegal.

The new Gov. Greg Abbott was, if anything, even more nonsensical in his blatherings about this.

  • Texas 2 *

So on one hand, he admits that the law is about making abortion hard to get and trying to keep women from getting abortions. But then he defends it by saying it’s not that big a deal because you can still get your abortion. On what planet does it make sense to defend a law by saying, oh yeah, we spend millions of dollars to defend this law but that’s okay, because it doesn’t work anyway? But honestly I do think I know what this little two-step is about. Greg Abbott is reassuring conservative voters that they will still be able to get abortions and this is only about taking access away from poor women who can’t afford to travel. The New Mexico thing is just a coded way of saying that. Unfortunately, the Fifth Circuit Court has indicated in the past that they think that it’s perfectly fine to pass laws that are about taking abortion access away from poor women while leaving it in place for middle class and wealthy women.

Carrie Feibel of Houston Public Media went onto NPR to talk about some of the legal issues. She talked about how it all comes down to how far you have to drive.

  • Texas 3 *

Basically, what it comes down to is whether or not the Fifth Circuit Court thinks a burden is undue if it primarily affects poor women. The last time this law went before the court, it was clear the judges felt that a law that allows the well-off to get abortions but prevents poor women from getting abortions isn’t an undue burden. It’s really despicable, how much this comes down to treating working class women like they are second class citizens. The whole point of this law is to set the practical price of an abortion out of reach for low-income women while making it accessible to everyone else. Unfortunately, it’s a strategy that seems to be working.




I gotta say, it continues to be fascinating watching how female pop stars these days are becoming more aggressively feminist and giving conservatives heartburn by doing so. I wrote about this at Rewire, but in case you missed it, Nicki Minaj has a new album out and she briefly references a pregnancy she aborted in high school.

  • Pop 1 *

Rolling Stone asked her about this in an interview and she’s pretty straightforward about it.

  • Pop 2 *

A lot of the focus in the headlines about this has been on the fact that she says the experience “haunted” her, but I thought I’d quote that longer part for context. Much needed context, because, of course, anti-choicers are busy hustling and exploiting her story. Perennial jerk and anti-choice activist Alveda King snootily did an interview where she claimed that Nicki Minaj will eventually regret her abortion and start being anti-choice because, as anyone who listens to this podcast will know, anti-choicers have zero compunction about saying obviously false things all the time. Talking out of their ass is so easy for them that I think they forgot how to talk out of their mouths. Personally, I think Minaj was perfectly clear about how she feels and there is no need to second guess her here.

Beyoncé has been giving conservatives indigestion for years now, both in her enthusiastic support for President Obama and now because she’s come out strongly as a feminist. Mike Huckabee, who is a mean-spirited bully who pretends to be jovial, decided to go on the attack against her recently because she, gasp, has done some records suggesting she enjoys sex. Jinx, the vlogger at the Complex read an excerpt from Huckabee’s new book and I warn you, it is one of the most asinine and prejudiced things that I’ve heard from a supposed presidential candidate in a long time.

  • Pop 3 *

Jinx’s take on this is worth hearing.

  • Pop 4 *

Racist, sexist, prudish, the whole thing. Really quite amazing. But I also want to flag how condescending it is. Huckabee acts like he’s complimenting Beyoncé by saying she can sing and dance, but really it’s a backhanded compliment, because he’s doing it in service of implying that’s all she can do. He’s denying that she is an artist with a vision and treating her like she’s a wedding singer he hired and so he can tell her what to do. The notion that Beyoncé is just a puppet being pulled by her husband is so ridiculous that it’s actually a bit hard to take as an insult. It’s like it never even occurred to Huckabee that women have thoughts and wills of their own, much less a desire to create art and express themselves artistically. And yes, expressing thoughts about sex is a legitimate form of artistic expression. No, he just thinks she’s a pretty little dancing and singing bird who is being controlled by a man because he can’t imagine women can think for themselves. And this man thinks he’s got the moral and intellectual authority to tell us what to do? He can’t even accept a reality that’s staring him right in the face, which is that women are autonomous creatures with minds of our own.


And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, I do believe they are deluding themselves edition. Troy Newman of Operation Rescue has a vision, a very self-deluded vision.

  • CPCs *

Sure, there are tons of them. That’s because they sit mostly empty, trying to lure women inside by pretending to be abortion clinics. They can afford to have a bazillion of them because they don’t do anything and therefore don’t cost anything. It’s not like women get pregnant and just do whatever the people in the first place they wander into say. CPCs know that women actually want abortions, which is why they pretend to be abortion clinics, which they wouldn’t have to do if they were actually as popular as Newman pretends. The other thing is this: This is not about offering alternatives, but the illusion of offering alternatives. The second abortion is banned in a state, mark my words, all the CPCs will close up shop and go home. That’s because they were there to trick people into thinking anti-choicers offer service, but they do not. They will only pretend to care as long as it takes to take away your rights, at what point they will immediately drop the façade.

The Christian Right’s New Anti-Gay Strategy, and Contraception Myths

Related Links

How the media misinforms on contraception

My Husband Is Not Gay

Pastor is attracted to men, but refuses to live as a gay man

Susan Patton can’t even handle admitting the realities of child molestation

Rush Limbaugh, rape denialist

Dumbest gotcha ever

Greatest “pro-life” argument ever


On this episode of Reality Cast, a researcher from Media Matters will discuss conservative myths about contraception. The Christian right tries a strange new tactic to replace pray-away-the-gay, and rape denialism continues to get its hooks into conservative pundits.

I’ll be discussing this further during the interview, but here’s a sample from the Media Matters video summarizing the right’s war on contraception.

  • contraception *

In reality, as was clearly stated in the Supreme Court decision, this was about contraception, not abortion. The Court found that with contraceptionand only contraception—suddenly your boss has a right to let his religious belief dictate whether or not you got coverage. It had nothing to do with abortion, or anything but contraception. Listen to the interview and then check out the video in show links!


For many years, conservative Christians, trying to square their claim to love everyone with their hostility to gay rights, backed something called gay conversion therapy, which claimed that you can somehow “fix” gay people to make them straight. Since then, the psychological establishment has come out hard against gay conversion therapy, decrying it not only as useless but counterproductive, because it can lower self-esteem, which is the opposite of what real therapy is supposed to do. And now even major pray the gay away organizations are admitting that they were wrong and you can’t quote-unquote “fix” gay people, because sexual orientation is not a disease but, you know, an orientation.

But sadly, none of this means that the Christian right is about to give up on the fantasy that every man, no matter how little sexual interest her has in women, should be married to one and making babies. And yes, I said men, because while lesbians do get their share of denunciation from the pulpit, the lion’s share of panic over homosexuality is aimed squarely at men who have sex with other men. The new trend, therefore, is not to tell gay men that they can be “cured” of homosexuality. The new trend is for gay men to accept that they may want to have sex with men, but to marry women anyway and try to live the straight lifestyle. Naturally, TLC has a new show about this, focusing on the Mormons that first came up with the idea of wanting sex with men but marrying women out of duty. It’s called My Husband’s Not Gay. Even though the point is that he is, but is choosing not to act on it.

  • TLC 1 *

The fact that this is a solution pushed mostly or exclusively for gay men is telling. It’s hard to imagine many straight men being convinced that they should take one for the team by marrying someone who openly tells you all the time they’d rather be sleeping with someone else, but are sucking it up and touching you as a duty to God. Demanding that women take on gay men as charity case husbands is just one more way conservative churches tell women they’re worth less. I worry that some of them feel like they should be grateful that anyone wants to marry them, which is one of the many ways women are taught to have low self-esteem. Of course, homophobic conservatives also think gay men are worth less, so much so that they’re arguing that it’s better to pretend you’re straight than to be who you really are.

NPR interviewed Allan Edwards, a Presbyterian pastor who is doing the same thing, even though, from what I can tell, the gay-but-dutifully-married-to-a-woman thing started with the Mormons. He and his wife Leeanne, who is expecting a baby, tell a similar story you often hear of the Mormon couples, of a marriage where there’s friendship but not much hope for passion.

  • TLC 2 *

You see these narratives a lot. And that’s what makes this a bit hard, because you do believe that there’s affection and friendship there. But here’s the thing: Most of us can have friendships, even close ones, with people we’re not sexually attracted to while also having the opportunity to pursue sexual relationships with people we’re actually attracted to. This supposed solution of marrying straight women to gay men just means that two people instead of one person is being denied that. But the way that Allan and Leeanne Edwards rationalize that away is distressing.

  • TLC 3 *

Sorry, but it’s just not the same. There’s a huge difference between not getting everything you want and never getting anything you want. Yes, being monogamous means you occasionally meet people you think are hot and setting that aside for your partner. But most of us are willing to make that deal because we enjoy sex with our partners. So it’s like skipping a snack now so you can have dessert later. But what these two are selling is closer to skipping a snack now so you can eat a piece of cardboard later. This entire gay-but-married thing is an attempt by the Christian right to get around past accusations that they want to stifle people or put them in the closet by saying, no, we are open and not hiding anything. But the stifling is still going on. Worse, this method requires sacrificing a satisfying sex life not just for one, but two people for every gay person they guilt trip out of the quote-unquote “gay lifestyle.”




The anti-feminist panic attack on the right appears to be continuing without a hiccup into the new year. The feminist argument about sex and sexual assault is finally penetrating into the public consciousness, and it has conservatives in a panic. The feminist argument about sexual assault is that it’s not because women choose sex or because men are lustful beasts who can’t be stopped when provoked, but it’s an act of dominance over women. And that women have every right to have as much sex as they want with as many men as they want without getting raped. While conservatives aren’t pro-rape or anything silly like that, I would say that a lot of them are deeply attached to the idea that women somehow bring rape on themselves by being sexual. Or that it’s not really rape if you’re a sexual woman. Basically, conservatives want to keep arguing that the problem isn’t rape but women having sex, and they are in a full-blown panic that this line might actually be less persuasive than it used to be.

Susan Patton, the so-called Princeton Mom, got her start telling women to try to get married in college but now has really blossomed into a full-blown rape apologist who appears only to be brought onto TV anymore to basically imply that you have it coming if you have sex with men willingly. Or, in this case, she was brought onto Fox News to denounce teaching kindergartners basic sexual assault prevention. After denying outright, with no evidence, that sexual assault is as common as the stats say it is, Patton denied that there’s any value to specifically teaching kids how to be aware of sexual predators, because god forbid, that’s a kind of sex ed.

  • rape 1 *

This was too extreme even for some of the folks at Fox News. After all, we’re talking about here is telling 5-year-olds to report it to a teacher or parent if an adult or older kid wants to touch them in an inappropriate way. And no, this isn’t just “manners” and sexual assault isn’t a matter of not having good manners. On the contrary, a lot of sexual predators know how to exploit your good manners against you. They know that having good manners often means being unwilling to talk back to adults or being afraid to say no bluntly instead of softly or being afraid of being a tattletale. That’s what these classes are for, to tell kids there are some situations where it’s okay to forget your manners and to scream or tattle or tell someone to leave them alone. But such is the unwillingness to accept the realities of sexual assault that Patton would rather have kids be put in danger because they don’t have the proper education than admit that there’s a problem.

Rush Limbaugh, also a reliable purveyor of the angry conservative id, just went into straight denial mode recently on his show.

  • rape 2 *

This is pure projection. No feminist has ever said all moaning is pain or fear. Limbaugh is the only person here saying that all moaning is the same thing, that it’s all consent. That is, of course, a blatant lie. All of us know that what is called a “moan” can sometimes mean pleasure but also can mean fear or pain. Most of the time, we can tell the difference, which is why feminists are rightfully skeptical when an accused rapist claims that a woman’s moans of pain or fear or confusion sounded like pleasure to him. Yeah right, buddy. But hey, even if you were legitimately confused, that’s no excuse. If you can’t tell, then it’s time to stop and ask. But, in order to defend accused rapists, Limbaugh has backed himself into pretending that all moans mean pleasure 100 percent of the time. Which means that, if someone kicks him in the knee and he moans in pain, we have to assume he wanted it, I guess. Since all moans are moans of pleasure.

Of course, outright denial is just one method. Another, more insidious and subtle method, is to try to water down feminist ideas so that they are basically meaningless. For instance, a lot of feminists call it “slut-shaming” when you say that women deserve bad things to happen to them, including sexual assault, if they have sex willingly. This is threatening to many people on the right who think they should be able to try to control women’s sexual behavior through shame and fear. But Kennedy Montgomery of Fox News tried the dumbest attempt at a gotcha ever when it came to the term “slut-shaming.” There’s a proposed law that would require publicly traded companies to share how much more their CEOs make than the basic employees at companies, a bit of useful transparency for unions and investors to have. But Montgomery was against it and tried to steal feminism to denounce it.

  • rape 3 *

Nope. Telling a CEO of a publicly traded company he has to be transparent with the people who give him money or labor in exchange for making millions of dollars is not the same thing as telling a woman that she brought rape on herself by having sex. Just not even close. Being able to have sex without being raped or abused is a right. Being able to make millions of dollars without any accountability to people who actually give you the money and labor so that you can be so rich is not a right. Big difference. Huge.


And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, God won’t let us kill people because we kill embryos instead edition. How’s this for a “pro-life” argument? Televangelist Jim Baker says we’re bad at war now because we legalized abortion.

  • Baker *

There’s so much wrong with that argument that there’s no need to debunk it, but I do want to highlight that it’s considered legitimate, in so-called pro-life circles, to claim that God punishes us for abortion by making us less efficient at killing actual living, breathing people.

What Is Ahead for Reproductive Rights in 2015?

Related Links

George Will is “Misinformer of the Year”

Rick Brattin defends his dumb bill

Appeals court strikes down North Carolina abortion law

Both sides claim advantage to storytelling

Abortion study shows storytelling improves empathy

Larry Pratt’s casual misogyny


On this episode of Reality Cast, I’ll be speaking with a representative from Guttmacher about how the anti-choice movement is super selective about when they claim abortion is contraception. I’ll also look forward to the next year in reproductive rights and wonder, sadly, if NPR is back to false equivalence nonsense regarding abortion.

Media Matters named George Will the Misinformer of the Year for 2014, in part because of his B.S. regarding rape. Eric Boehlert spoke about it on MSNBC.

  • George Will *

This is especially frustrating when you realize that one reason women are afraid to speak out about rape is that they fear being socially ostracized. Really, he couldn’t be more wrong if he tried.


Happy New Year!

If you read my end-of-year column for Rewire, you’ll know I declared 2014 a terrible year for reproductive rights. In a sense, it’s a little surprising, as overall, I’d rate it a good year for feminism in the culture. More discussion of feminist issues, more positive portrayal of feminism, more celebrities declaring their feminism, that sort of thing. But when it comes to the courts and legislatures, things are not looking good at all. On the contrary, it’s where angry men and not a few anti-feminist women are trying to take away all the gains women have made, mostly by trying to force us to have babies when it’s a bad time for us. Unfortunately, their efforts have been successful in many cases, particularly with Hobby Lobby winning the ability to deny women their right to contraception coverage through their health care plans and Texas successfully defending its draconian anti-abortion law in the Fifth Circuit court.

But that was 2014. What is ahead for 2015? I fear the answer is likely more of the same attacks on reproductive rights, with some anti-choice politicians getting so excited that they overloaded the bill pre-filing window with a bunch of anti-choice legislation. The most notorious was a bill filed in, where else, Missouri, by Rep. Rick Brattin, who was interviewed by a local TV station about it.

  • states 1 *

You heard that right: The law would allow a man to legally have ownership over your body, in order to force you to bear a child for him, just because he had sex with you. This is an idea that floats around in anti-feminist circles all the time, though I do think it was best expressed by an obnoxiously offensive Miller Lite ad from a few years back.

  • states 2 *

Considering that no one has actually ever carried a glass bottle by sticking their thumb in the top of it, the whole thing was clearly a strained attempt at forcing the “you poke it, you own it” double entendre. But this bill, and people who generally argue that men should have veto power over women’s abortions, are evidence that this idea persists despite the clear misogyny. And I mean, clear, as was evidenced by Brattin’s response to being asked how on earth he justifies handing a woman’s body over to a man as if it were property.

  • states 3 *

It’s not a woman’s body. He says it so easily it becomes clear that he has never even considered that women are people, much less people who deserve autonomy. They are simply baby ovens, full stop. He’s baffled at the idea that a woman’s opinion about how to use her body should even register, much less become the deciding factor in all this. The irony is that Brattin defended his bill by claiming, falsely, that the law requires women to sign off on their husbands’ vasectomies. It doesn’t, but goes to show that when it’s his body, the idea of someone else having veto power repulses him. But women? Eh, it’s not their body. It belongs to, uh, the child. By which he means the man who declared ownership over you by having sex with you.

The good news is that his bill is probably not going to go anywhere, because anti-choice forces are trying to hide their misogyny, which is literally impossible with poke-it-own-it bills. But other bills that treat women like we’re stupid children who can’t be trusted with basic health care decisions are still getting passed. And it’s those laws that have already passed that I’m worried about, even though some of them are getting shot down in court.

  • states 4  *

And that’s just it. Most courts are striking down these kinds of laws, correctly seeing them both as violations of the constitution and as violations of previous rulings that held that abortion access is a human right. But not the Fifth Circuit Court, which would probably allow it if a state required you to kill your own mother before you were allowed to get an abortion. And these conflicts mean the Supreme Court pretty much has to weigh in at some point. Not just on ultrasound laws, but on even more draconian regulations that require clinics to be shut down for not meeting medically unnecessary pseudo-health standards. And I don’t know that I trust the Supreme Court to do the right thing here.




Man, NPR had a story on recently that really managed to embody some of the worst media failures when it comes to dealing with the abortion issue. They’ve been doing better about this lately, actually using logic and evidence instead of simply presenting “both sides” of the equation and pretending they’re equivalent. But for some reason that baffles me beyond belief, they did a segment on abortion storytelling where they allowed both sides to claim that abortion stories work in their favor, and then presented it as if it were a mystery over which side is right. Here’s part of the segment where they talk to pro-choicers who are pushing abortion storytelling as a form of activism.

  • abortion 1 *

So that’s side number one, arguing that one of the reasons that abortion has become so stigmatized is because it’s so hidden, allowing anti-choicers to distract people with their lies. Even before we start to talk about evidence, this is clearly a straightforward argument that has a lot to recommend it, including the fact that one of the reasons that abortion got legalized in the first place is that women had abortion speak-outs that replaced ugly stereotypes with lived truths. But instead of pointing that out or asking if, say, there are any studies to help guide our understanding of this, [NPR] instead let an anti-choicer just claim that all these abortion stories are actually helping his side.

  • abortion 2 *

This is a good point to pop in and say that the actual quality of the stories on offer is wildly divergent between pro- and anti-choice sites. Believe me, I’ve read tons of both. With pro-choicers, you have women from a variety of backgrounds, and they can usually explain in lucid terms what the abortion did and did not accomplish for them. With anti-choicers, it’s pretty much all women who are deeply religious and have been encouraged by family and by their pastors to blame everything that’s wrong in their lives on the abortion. With pro-choicers, in other words, you have women that are largely speaking from their own heart on their own terms, whereas with the anti-choice sites, most of the time you are reading stories of women who are echoing what they’ve been told about the evils of abortion. I almost wish the difference weren’t so stark, but there you have it. More to the point, there’s a real difference in tone. Pro-choice abortion stories tend to be aimed broadly at the public, hoping to gain understanding and empathy. Anti-choice stories are really geared more towards the legislatures and courts, giving them cover for abortion restrictions, and it’s much less about trying to actually convince anyone. In a sense, they’re not even particularly comparable. But despite this, they are treated as comparable on NPR.

  • abortion 3 *

Actually, it’s very clear. This story implies there are an equal number of stories between women who regret and women who are glad they have abortions, which is simply false, because women who are glad they had abortion vastly outnumber women who regret them. NPR should have noted that, and did not, creating the sense of false equivalence. More importantly, they even admit that storytelling about race and LGBT issues improves empathy, so why on earth would it be a toss-up when it comes to abortion? That makes no sense. But, and this is most important, there is research, however preliminary. A study that was released a full week before this shows this! Quoting from ThinkProgress: “According to a team of researchers led by UCLA doctoral candidate Michael LaCour, when abortion opponents have an in-person conversation with a woman who’s chosen to end a pregnancy, they’re more likely to shift their view about whether the procedure should be legal.”

Look, I think it’s great to do a piece that shows how both pro- and anti-choice folks say that abortion storytelling breaks in their favor. But if you’re going to do that, don’t shrug and pretend there’s no way to weigh their claims against each other. You should point out that research, statistics, and common sense shows that the pro-choice side has the advantage here. After all, why would anti-choicers spend so many years stigmatizing and shaming women over abortion if not to shut them up about it?


And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, steel overcompensation edition. One of the most fascinating and frankly telling aspects of gun fanaticism is how deeply misogynist it is. Larry Pratt of Gun Owners of America was bragging recently about how he upset Rep. Carolyn Maloney, who is clearly awful in his eyes because she’s female and from Brooklyn.

  • Pratt *

He’s lying, by the way. He claims she got upset because of his inarticulate wankery he tries to pass off as constitutional analysis, but she actually got upset because one of his members threatened her and he was supportive of it. You can read about it in the show links. But it’s just telling that he tries to write her off with the dismissive sexist stereotype of the “crazy lady.” Maloney is the one here who accurately assesses the reality of this country, where there are 11,000 gun homicides a year.

Cosby Defenders, DIY Fertility, and Overt Conservative Sexism

Related Links

MSNBC discussion of ethical journalism

Camille Cosby defends Bill Cosby

Evin Cosby defends Bill Cosby

Joe Scarborough defends Bill Cosby

Eric Bolling happy to assert men are superior to women

Pete Hegseth tries to argue Clinton has no other qualifications but being female

Limbaugh’s worried about “chickified” colleges

Pat Robertson has a theory


On this episode of Reality Cast, journalist Allison Yarrow will tell us all about this interesting new DIY fertility movement. The Bill Cosby situation gets uglier every week, and conservative media is ramping up the hostility towards women working and getting educated.

The discovery of discrepancies in the UVA rape story has caused all sorts of grief in the media, but luckily, MSNBC’s Irin Carmon brought a panel of feminist journalists together in order to show how to do feminist journalism responsibly. I like Buzzfeed’s Katie Baker’s discussion of the tensions here.

  • Journalism

It’s frustrating that there’s a huge double standard, where accusations of rape are interrogated so hard whereas you can accuse someone of lying without any real fear of being subject to the same interrogation. But Rolling Stone did screw up and the extent of this screw-up has become clear in recent days. Hopefully some important lessons will be learned.

This Bill Cosby rape situation shows no signs of abating, which is both really uncomfortable but probably necessary. After all, if a man who is so rich, powerful, and clearly domineering and entitled as Bill Cosby can’t just make these accusations go away, as he has clearly done in the past, then maybe there’s actual reason to hope that things are changing for the better for rape victims who speak out. But of course a lot of people, for a lot of reasons, do not want this change and want to keep the balance of power right where it’s at, where rape victims are afraid to speak out and rapists can do their thing without worrying too much about derailing their lives or going to jail. And those people are going to push back and try to preserve the status quo. This is entirely predictable, but it’s also really depressing. Particularly when the person doing the pushing back is a woman.

  • Rape 1

Sadly, it’s not just his wife, either. Cosby’s daughter has joined in as well.

  • Rape 2

This is upsetting, but shouldn’t be surprising. A lot of men who do terrible things to women turn around and present a sunny, happy face to others. Men who abuse their wives will often be the nicest, most charming men to outsiders. And some rapists are princes at home. Often this behavior is a deliberate manipulation, done precisely because the abusive man knows that, if his behavior is exposed, people in his life will have trouble squaring the man they know with the accusations, and will likely choose their own personal experience over even huge amounts of damning evidence. If Camille and Evin Cosby have been manipulated in this way, it’s sad but not even remotely surprising.

In fact, I’d say that if it weren’t for everything being so terrible, the entire process of watching people deny and minimize credible rape accusations is a rather fascinating display of some of the theories of social psychology. Psychologists have long known that people will go to extraordinary lengths to excuse what they want to believe, coming up with incredibly laughable and even surreal excuses. That’s how things like denying global warming happen. Or, when dealing with anti-choicers, their insistence that women will suffer and regret abortions is rooted not in fact, but what they wish were true. And it’s clear that a lot of people wish it were true that rape accusations are a result of women being crazy liars than the likelier possibility, which is that the rapes actually happened. Witness Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, or what I like to call the dumbest show on MSNBC.

  • Rape 3

This is the little dance that rape apologists do. If you don’t go to the police, they tell you should be quiet unless you are willing to go to the police. If you do go to the police, they scream and moan about how you’re turning what they characterize as nothing but bad sex into a criminal offense or they accuse you of lying to the police. There’s not actually a way to win with these folks except by coddling their desire to believe that rape isn’t really a thing that happens much, if at all, and the only way you can do that is to be quiet. Which, in turn, means allowing rapists to rape, confident no one will actually try to stop them. And at every point in time, they lean heavily on misogynist stereotypes to discredit women who are alleging rape.

  • Rape 4

Whatever choice you make, besides the preferred one of suffering in silence and letting the rapist rape at will without any effort to stop him, will be met with a misogynist stereotype to hurt and discredit you. If you speak out publicly, you get hit with “attention whore”. If you go to the police, you get accused of being a “crazy bitch”. If you went on a date with him and he sprung a rape on you, you’re accused of being a “woman scorned” who is just mad because she didn’t get a phone call. Sue the guy, and you’re a “gold-digger”. And if you are intimidated by all this abuse and sit on the allegations for years, you are accused of being a coward and a liar for not coming forward sooner. The entire system is set up to discourage reporting and to scare women into silence.




So I have this pet theory that one of the reasons that we’re seeing an uptick in attacks on contraception access from the right is that it’s a panic reaction in response to the fact that women’s economic and social gains have really been coalescing in recent years. Yes, women lag behind in many ways. We still make less money than men. We are still underrepresented in positions of power. We are still treated like second class in social life, from having to do more housework to having to endure mansplaining and other slights against our intelligence all day long. We still endure gendered violence that people are more eager to excuse away than to fix. There’s a long way to go.

But, from a right wing perspective, women’s gains have been alarming. Marriage doesn’t feel as mandatory as it used to and women often spend years being single and are far less eager to marry the first guy who’ll take us. Women feel good about committing to their careers with much less worry that we’ll be stereotyped as loveless harridans. If anything, having a good career makes you more attractive to men in some circles. There’s a real possibility that a woman could be elected President. College campuses swarm with women. We aren’t equal yet, but it’s in view and the right is getting scared. That’s why the attacks on contraception, which they rightfully believe had a lot to do with all this.

As evidence for this, I present the various male panic attacks in right wing media over the idea that women might actually, gasp, have ambition and power in the world. Eric Bolling, one of the uglier sexists on Fox News, which is saying a lot, threw a major fit and just straight up asserted that women are inherently inferior to men.

  • Sexist 1

Honestly, I prefer this kind of blunt sexism to the alternative of dancing around the issue. As complex and noisy as the arguments over whether sexism exists or not can get, at the end of the day, the debate is actually quite simple. It’s an objective fact that women make less money and have less power in the world. So the only real question is how you explain that fact. And it can only be one of two explanations: Either women are inferior or they’re oppressed. If you deny they’re oppressed, by definition, you are arguing that women are inferior. But most sexists don’t want to say that out loud and so come up with all sorts of smoke and mirrors to try to say that’s not what they’re saying. So Bolling’s willingness to come right out and say it is, at least, a show of some good faith. If you must be a bigot, don’t lie about it.

Realizing that they’re in such an impossible bind of having to either admit they think women are inferior or concede that women are oppressed, however, many conservatives are instead trying to argue that women are actually the dominant class these days, putting men down. Like Pete Hegseth on Fox News.

  • Sexist 2

I dunno. I think of merely being a woman was enough to charm people into voting for you as President, then we would have had a woman as President some time in the last 238 years. Okay, being fair I realize the premise of this argument is that sexism may have been a thing in the past but now it’s somehow being overcorrected and people are so eager to show they aren’t sexist they would vote for an unqualified woman. But that’s just an elaborate version of the women-aren’t-oppressed-they’re-inferior argument. After all, the other premise of this argument is that a woman who was both Secretary of State and a Senator from one of the biggest states in the country is somehow obviously unqualified to be President. However, both those jobs are better preparation than, say, being the governor of Texas, as George W. Bush, who these folks all supported, was. His argument only makes sense if you believe that women are inherently inferior and that feminism is about stealing jobs from deserving men to give them to inferior women.

Rush Limbaugh has a less sophisticated version of this argument that women are inherently inferior and that feminism is a misguided attempt to deny women’s inherent inferiority.

  • Sexist 3

Needless to say, there’s zero evidence for his assertion. But really the whole “rapist” thing is a fig leaf for the real argument, which is that colleges are “chickified”. Which is a way of Limbaugh saying that colleges, with their insistence on gender equality, are forcing poor, helpless men to rub shoulders with inferior women and even, gasp, treat them like equals. And that men won’t stand for it. The whole thing has the whiff of a threat: Either women return to a second class status or men will stop contributing. And, of course, the folks making this argument assume men are the only people who have contributions worth making. But I think what they’re really afraid of is that if you give women a chance, we will prove that assumption wrong.

And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, Pat Robertson has some theories about reproduction edition. I liked this one, because it is particularly funny after the subject of today’s interview.

  • Robertson

Robertson thinks gays are going to die out because they don’t reproduce. My question is then where does he think current gay people come from? Pods? While plenty of gay people have kids and always had, either through hetero sex or through reproductive technologies, the fact of the matter is that most gay people have straight parents. Pat Robertson’s simplistic views of heritability could be torn up by a biologist, I’m sure, but just common sense should be enough.