Dispatch #49 January 18th 2019
Day 803 Post-Ascendency of White Supremacy & Misogyny
Day 728 Post-Installation of White-Supremacist-Misogynist-Pussy-Grabbing-Self-Aggrandizing-Demagogic-Bully-Illegitimate-PeeeOTUS & his White-Nationalist-Fascistic-Christian-Supremacist-Quislings
We see a new term emerging around the unspoken Misogyny that shapes US electoral politics – “likeability.” While rightly (and righteously) greeted with criticism by social and mainstream media, these criticisms foundered on parsing the application of likeability to women candidates. I propose a simpler approach: The Vagina Question. If you have one, then you are fucked figuratively and often literally. You understand that your presence in the public space reserved for men is dangerous — consider yourself forewarned.
OUCH! you might be thinking, isn’t that way too harsh?! To quote Joan Rivers, who knew a lot about battling misogyny, “OH GROW UP!”
In her recent column in The Nation titled “The End of Likability Politics,” Katha Pollitt offers a disdainful assessment of likability with a lighter touch:
Because what is likability if not a deference to men—with a self-deprecating smile? A likable woman doesn’t talk too loud or too much. She doesn’t take up too much space, isn’t too sexy or too dowdy, and gracefully eludes confrontation. In short, she doesn’t demand anything that men would rather keep for themselves, be it political power or sexual autonomy or the right to be safe after having a couple of drinks. A likable woman doesn’t challenge women, either, by reminding them of the compromises they’ve made and the edges they’ve trimmed off their personalities. Women dancing, women cursing, women running for president, women not apologizing—what is the world coming to? After carefully managing their appearance and behavior for so long, left, liberal, and even not-so-liberal women are full of piss and vinegar and rage. They give no fucks because they have no fucks left to give. “Himpathy”—philosopher Kate Manne’s marvelous coinage to describe the tendency of both sexes to feel sorry for awful men—is no longer the automatic response. www.thenation.com/article/aoc-tlaib-warren-womens-march/
Pollitt’s tone recalls this exasperated comment by Jeannette Rankin first woman elected to Congress in 1916 as Montana’s representative:
The individual woman is required . . . a thousand times a day to choose either to accept her appointed role and thereby rescue her good disposition out of the wreckage of her self-respect, or else follow an independent line of behavior and rescue her self-respect out of the wreckage of her good disposition.
Tragically, the ascendency of fierce, and perhaps out-raging, women in Congress comes at a deliberately developed time of great danger for women’s rights. The New York Times just published a gut-wrenching series reporting on how a substantial majority of states are treating a fetus as a person, and a woman as less of one. Read on and be very out-raged:
You might be surprised to learn that in the United States a woman coping with the heartbreak of losing her pregnancy might also find herself facing jail time. Say she got in a car accident in New York or gave birth to a stillborn in Indiana: In such cases, women have been charged with manslaughter.
In fact, a fetus need not die for the state to charge a pregnant woman with a crime. Women who fell down the stairs, who ate a poppy seed bagel and failed a drug test or who took legal drugs during pregnancy — drugs prescribed by their doctors — all have been accused of endangering their children.
Such cases are rare. There have been several hundred of them since the Supreme Court issued its decision ratifying abortion rights in Roe v. Wade, in 1973. But they illuminate a deep shift in American society, away from a centuries-long tradition in Western law and toward the embrace of a relatively new concept: that a fetus in the womb has the same rights as a fully formed person.
This idea has now worked its way into federal and state regulations and the thinking of police officers and prosecutors. As it has done so, it’s begun not only to extend rights to clusters of cells that have not yet developed into viable human beings, but also to erode the existing rights of a particular class of people — women. Women who are pregnant have found themselves stripped of the right to consent to surgery, the right to receive treatment for a medical condition and even something as basic as the freedom to hold a baby in the moments after birth.
How the idea of fetal rights gained currency is a story of social reaction — to the Roe decision and, more broadly, to a perceived new permissiveness in the 1970s — combined with a determined, sophisticated campaign by the anti-abortion movement to affirm the notion of fetal personhood in law and to degrade Roe’s protections.
Political ambition has also played a powerful role. Out of concern for individual freedom, the Republican Party once treated abortion as a private matter. When Ronald Reagan was governor of California, he signed one of the most liberal abortion laws in the land, in 1967. As late as 1972, a Gallup poll found that 68 percent of Republicans thought that the decision to have an abortion should be made solely by a woman and her doctor.
But after Roe, a handful of Republican strategists recognized in abortion an explosively emotional issue that could motivate evangelical voters and divide Democrats. The creation of the legal scaffolding for the idea that the fetus is a person has been the steady work of the anti-abortion movement, at the national level and in every state. Today, at least 38 states and the federal government have so-called fetal homicide laws, which treat the fetus as a potential crime victim separate and apart from the woman who carries it.
The movement has pressed for dozens of other measures to at least implicitly affirm the idea that a fetus is a person, such as laws to issue birth certificates for stillborn fetuses or deny pregnant women the freedom to make end-of-life decisions for themselves. Some of these laws are also intended to create a basis for challenging and eventually overturning Roe.
In the hands of zealous prosecutors, cautious doctors and litigious attorneys, these laws are creating a system of social control that polices pregnancy, as the editorials in this series show. Because of the newly fortified conservative majority on the Supreme Court, such laws are likely to multiply — and the control to become more pervasive — whether or not Roe is overturned. www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/12/28/opinion/pregnancy-women-pro-life-abortion.html
The eight-part series is damning and reads like the worst version of The Handmaiden’s Tale with the viciousness of Misogyny toxically twisted by White Supremacy. Yeah you guessed it: the dangers posed by black women having children provides a key tool in the dehumanization of pregnant women, i.e., she becomes only the vessel for another more important life. Crimes include:
Fetal assault Depraved heart murder Delivery of a controlled substance Chemical endangerment of a fetus Manslaughter Second-degree murder Feticide Child abuse Reckless injury to a child Concealing a birth Concealing a death Abuse of a corpse Neglect of a minor Attempted procurement of a miscarriage Reckless homicide.
The US War on Women represents weaponized Misogyny; aggressive armament began in the mid-1960’s and escalated in the 1980’s. Patriarchal backlash that smeared and sneered feminists as man-hating lesbians and trumpeted women leaning in could have it all disdained women’s rights as identity politics. Poor women and disproportionately poor women of color suffered unheard and unseen.
In April 2012, People for the American Way released The War on Women with this introduction:
In February 2012 the state of Texas decided to cut off reproductive and preventative health services to 130,000 low-income women. The staggering move caps what has been an escalating war on women’s health in state legislatures and in the U.S. Capitol since Tea Party-backed Republican majorities took control of the U.S. House and the majority of statehouses and took a determined minority in the U.S. Senate. While anti-woman rhetoric has been a mainstay of right-wing politics for decades, in the past two years that rhetoric has been turned into a record number of laws – and hurt a record number of women.
One year ago, People For the American Way issued a report on the unprecedented barrage of antichoice bills being unleashed by newly empowered state legislatures. In the year since, perhaps sensing that their window of opportunity might be drawing to a close, far-right national and state lawmakers, in coordination with Religious Right activists, have expanded their attacks. They are targeting not just abortion rights, but also access to birth control and preventative care, as well as contemporary views of women’s roles in the workplace, the family and the halls of power. www.pfaw.org/report/the-war-on-women/
A November 7, 2018 New York Times article titled “With Republican Gains in Senate, Social Conservatives Tighten Their Grip” reported that:
Republican victories in crucial Senate and governors’ races this week have tightened social conservatives’ grip across American government, strengthening the party’s power as it seeks to limit abortion rights and push harder to the right on a number of divisive cultural issues.
Even as Democrats captured the House and promised to act as a check on President Trump and Republican policy priorities, conservatives were breathing a deep sigh of relief on Wednesday after strengthening their majority in the Senate.
From the South to Appalachia to the Great Plains, high turnout among evangelical Christians translated into wins for social and religious conservatives as well as anti-abortion ballot measures, demonstrating the potency of a different kind of culture war issue in the midterm elections — one that had nothing to do with immigration or caravans or the politics of grievance and revenge that President Trump campaigned on so aggressively.
In Iowa, voters re-elected a governor who signed a bill this year that sought to ban abortion after a fetal heartbeat could be detected — a move intended to provoke a legal challenge to Roe at the Supreme Court. (A federal court later put the law on hold.) The newly elected Republican governors in Florida and Ohio are opponents of abortion rights and defeated candidates who supported protecting Roe.
In West Virginia and Alabama, voters approved ballot initiatives that would essentially ban abortion, and one that even gives rights to a fetus, in the event that a new constitutional challenge to Roe succeeds at the Supreme Court — an outcome that activists on both sides of the debate believe is possible since the confirmation of Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh tilted the court decidedly to the right. www.nytimes.com/2018/11/07/us/politics/conservatives-senate-judges-abortion.html
In her November 11 2018 article in Marketwatch titled “Both sides of abortion debate are calling midterm elections a victory” Kari Paul notes that in addition to West Virginia and Alabama:
Four other states in the U.S. — Louisiana, Mississippi, North Dakota, and South Dakota — have similar so-called trigger laws that automatically ban the procedure in the state if Roe v. Wade is overturned. The Alabama amendment will also prevent state funding from being used for abortion-related health costs, even in the case of rape or when the life of the pregnant woman in question is in danger. West Virginia passed a similar constitutional amendment that said “nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of abortion.” The amendment is expected to clear the way for ending Medicaid funding of abortions in the state. West Virginia and Alabama are currently two of 17 states in the U.S. that allow Medicaid funds to pay for abortions. In 2017, West Virginia’s Medicaid program paid $326,103 for 1,560 medically necessary abortions for low-income women, according to the Associated Press.
The most common reason women seek abortions is being unable to financially support a child, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health research think tank based in Washington, D.C. Women who are unable to obtain abortions are four times more likely to end up in poverty. www.marketwatch.com/story/heres-what-the-midterm-elections-mean-for-abortion-laws-2018-11-07?mod=hp_minor_pos19
The War on Women wields many weapons to oppress women that vary by class and color; this dynamic moderates whether and how women can survive Misogyny and Patriarchal rules of engagement. Poor women remain trapped in poverty, go to prison, see their children die or taken away, live with violence and abuse; more privileged women must battle other constraints not so obviously deadly to the soul.
Patricia Wald, a path-breaking federal judge who became chief of what is considered nation’s second-highest court, recently died at 90. Wald was the first woman to serve on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, widely considered the most important bench in the country after the U.S. Supreme Court. As a young lawyer, she won cases that broadened protections for society’s most vulnerable, including indigent women and children with special needs. In retirement, she was a member of the United Nations tribunal for war crimes and genocide in the former Yugoslavia. She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013.
Shortly before she graduated from Yale Law School in 1951, Patricia Wald secured a job interview with a white-shoe firm in Manhattan. The hiring partner was impressed with her credentials — she was one of two women on the law review — but lamented her timing. “It’s really a shame,” she recalled the man saying. “If only you could have been here last week.” A woman had been hired then, she was told, and it would be a long time before the firm considered bringing another on board. www.washingtonpost.com/local/obituaries/patricia-wald-pathbreaking-federal-judge-who-became-chief-of-dc-circuit-dies-at-90/2019/01/12/6ab03904-1688-11e9-803c-4ef28312c8b9_story.html
20 years into the 21st Century, Reproductive Justice and human rights are de facto denied to millions of poor women in America. The War on Women seeks to make this denial de jure for all women. This is not a dystopian science fiction TV show – this is NOW.
Let’s raise up encouragement from Andrea Dworkin, about whom Gloria Steinam said “In every century, there are a handful of writers who help the human race to evolve. Andrea is one of them.” Dworkin lived as a courageous and wounded woman warrior who demanded that the War on Women be named and shamed, and battled dehumanizing violent oppression of women throughout her life. She insisted that:
“A political resistance goes on day and night, under cover and over ground, where people can see it and where people can’t. It is passed from generation to generation. It is taught. It is encouraged. It is celebrated. It is smart. It is savvy. It is committed. And someday it will win. It will win.” https://real-feminist-history.com/2016/12/29/andrea-dworkin/
Resistance = Out-Raging Women Warriors Acting Vocally and Visibly in Defiance to Dismantle Misogyny and White Supremacy