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 it—the 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.