Equality, rape culture, and the war on women

I’ve been think about the rights of women a LOT lately. There are so many examples of what’s wrong – and to be sure a couple that are right – that it’s overwhelmed me. (And it’s taken at least a couple weeks to write this piece.)

In New York State, “The Women’s Equality Agenda will safeguard women’s health, extend protections against sexual harassment in the workplace, help to achieve pay equity, and increase protections against discrimination in employment, housing, credit and lending.” Sounds wonderful, of course. The big hangup for some is over abortion rights, a huge issue.

But I think the conversation about whether there is a “war on women” had been framed too much on abortion and birth control – sometimes reframed by the talking heads, to be sure.

Though there does seem to be a sexual component in all of this. In his review about Fiona Apple’s song Criminal, MDS writes: “Let’s just admit something up front right now: as a society, we are all pretty much terrified of girls and young women having sex. Terrified. Been that way since the beginning of time, I guess. Which is why for a while there we bottled up virginity in exchange for land before the wedding ceremony. Chastity belts and dowries are mostly archaic things that no society really trades in anymore, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t figured out new ways of badly dealing with girls and young women and their sex-having. We slut-shame. A lot.”

You’ll find a gender issues in comics and other entertainment, including the suggestion that the woman of a married couple in the comic business got where she was because of him, when she in fact had several credits before they even dated. Someone complains about the lack of female protagonists in video games is savaged on Twitter.

So, is there a “war on women” when women at war are being raped? Recently, and I’m quoting Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) here: “The Senate Armed Services Committee held its first full hearing on sexual assault in the military in a decade. Of the twenty witnesses, only two were there as victim advocates. The other 18 were representing the top ranks of the military and uniformly opposed our efforts to reform the military justice system.”

Meanwhile, Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) suggested that the “hormone level created by nature” was to blame for rapes in the military and that all pregnant servicewomen should be investigated to make sure their condition was the result of consensual sex.

Former baseball star Jose Canseco’s defense of a rape allegation against him is that he doesn’t HAVE to rape to get a women to bed, showing his sheer ignorance. Then he makes his situation worse by going on Twitter and attacks his accuser by name.

What caught my attention more recently was comedian Patton Oswalt’s reversal about rape as a source of humor. “I was secure in thinking my point of view was right. That ‘rape culture’ was an illusion, that the examples of comedians telling ‘rape jokes’ in which the victim was the punchline were exceptions that proved the rule. I’ve never wanted to rape anyone. No one I know has ever expressed a desire to rape anyone. My viewpoint must be right. Right?” It’s long (addresses two other topics) and rambling, but makes an interesting point.

A report on working moms came out. It showed that 40% of the households have moms that are either sole breadwinners or making more than their husbands; BTW, that latter category would include MY household. The men at FOX News were so histrionic: “Society dissolv[ing] around us,” said Lou Dobbs. A sign of “something going terribly wrong in American society,” said Juan Williams. Erick Erickson chimed in and said having moms as breadwinners was against “biology” and said people who defend moms are “anti-science.”

Happily, they got slammed by their female colleagues on FOX, including Megan Kelly. This particular article also disses some of the MSNBC women for not calling to task the men on their network, notably Chris Matthews, over the stupid, hateful things THEY have said. Don”t know if it’s Rachel Maddow’s job to do so, but I agree that Matthews, for one, has made vile, sexist comments, especially about Hillary Clinton.

I haven’t even scratched the surface:, e.g., Texas governor Rick Perry recently vetoed an equal pay bill. Instead, I’ll hang on my great hope from the words of Jean Luc Picard himself, Patrick Stewart, which you should just watch. He speaks, among other things, about the role men must play in curbing violence against women.

9 thoughts on “Equality, rape culture, and the war on women”

  1. Something IS terribly wrong in American society if 50 percent of the breadwinners aren’t women — by definition, there’s inequality. Equal pay for equal work means 50 percent of the women should be the breadwinners in their household. Los Estados Unidos still has a long way to go in matters of equality; that’s blatantly obvious to anyone who cares about equality at all.

    Like you, Roger, I’m the junior breadwinner in my marriage. It wasn’t so a decade ago, but times have changed. I’ve been at my current job for under two years’ my wife’s been at hers for nearly 20. If I was making more than her, it would be a little odd, no?


  2. Just want to point out to ADD that what’s driving the 40% breadwinners trend isn’t a rise in women’s wages, it’s that 35% of babies are now born to single women. I.e. “guys are abandoning their responsibilities being baby daddies instead of daddies.” So women are struggling to raise families alone.

    Just saying.


  3. The other night one of my neighbors made the comment, “Senator Gillibrand is going in the wrong direction. She shouldn’t be defending the right of women to fight and die in wars unmolested by rapists, she should be working to curb the wars that require women to serve as cannon fodder.” My neighbor has a good point there, but I wonder if it’s even possible for her oppose the corporate elite like that.


  4. With the caveat that explaining is NOT excusing, I am reading a book by Steven Pinker on evolutionary psychology, “The Blank Slate,” and he notes that biologically the male of most species, including us, has a different reproductive strategy than females. It amounts to “spread your seed as widely as possible, by any means necessary.” This does not mean that all men are potential rapists, but is why civilized indoctrination and legal penalties are vital to suppress such urges. I suspect that in a military culture, which is a culture of aggression after all, it is going to be even more difficult to suppress such breakthroughs, and is why it needs to be dealt with more consistently and firmly.


  5. 1) thanks for the link to my Fiona Apple post

    2) as i mentioned in the post, i think that an overwhelming majority of guys when they are in high school and college are exceptionally fragile when it comes to women and sex. some of them, apparently, retain that fragility when the become adults and it seems to fit the pathology of many male politicians. (as for Canseco, while his comment is 100% asinine, it does speak to a pro or former pro athlete’s POV in that women are typically seen as either commodities or threats. Dave Zirin over at THE NATION has written much better things than i could ever hope to produce about this very thing; i.e.-a lot of athletes are given women during college tours and this thoroughly clouds their thinking on women in general. follow him @EdgeOfSports on twitter if you don’t already, as you will not be disappointed.)


  6. On Father’s Sunday, which was two days ago here in Holland, lots of newspapers dedicated articles to the role of daddy in the family. The Dutch fathers were too caring, too much involved in keeping house, too much engaged in looking after the children, and because of this: kind but boring. Well, I was always happy that my husband and I could share work in the house and looking after the children. Why can’t we accept each other as just fellow humans with the same rights and needs. We are now complaining about the situation in our western society, but women in Africa and Asia are treated really badly. Gang rape happens often and even worse is the fact that the victims are children. In case of rape the victims are to blame according to the police and if the women and girls file a complaint against the offenders, the victims get whipped.. I am a woman and don’t understand why women are looked upon with disdain and treated as if they are not able to do anything more than having sex with and having babies. I travel a lot and
    only once was pushed aside by an Asian man, who wanted to be helped first. I had been waiting for hours in a queu to check in. The man just walked in and thought he could jump the queu. Fortunately he was told to go and join the the end of the group of waiting people.


  7. Great post Roger. This would have also been good for W although your Water post was also a good and important one. The comments are closed on your W – ABC Wed. Water post which is why I’m commenting here.


  8. Great post. I think the shifts in this argument have been interesting because it seems a bit of a surprise at how unequal things are on a number of fronts. I hate the expression “war on women” and just wish the focus would shift to men and in particular boys or parents because that is where the problem starts. What it means to be a boy, disparaging insults against boys usually referencing girls or feminine qualities and a general sense that boys are off the hook when it comes to responsibilities of caring for others are where we should look.


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