Feminist Friday: Pushing the envelope on boxing you in

This Week in I Can’t Believe We Have This Category Every Damned Week

For crying out loud, Republican men, shut the hell up about rape. Just. Shut it.

That’s right: We had to set the Days Without a GOP Rape Mention Board back to zero again this week. More than once.

On Wednesday, Congressional candidate John Koster (R – WA) said that “the rape thing” doesn’t justify having an abortion. That phrasing is a true sign of someone who’s doing some deep thinking about an issue as something that affects real, living people and not just as an abstract argument, don’t you think? That’s a guy who’s digging in and really trying to understand. And, as others have pointed out before me, this makes Koster yet another mainstream political candidate who thinks that cracking down on rape victims should be our main priority here. I hope all the records of our politics are rotted and rusted away after the Great Global Warming Flood. I can’t stand the thought of what RatRoach civilization will think of us.

Meanwhile, Missouri Senate candidate and dumbassery superachiever Todd “Legitimate Rape” Akin released a new campaign ad that features a rape victim who supports him, which apparently is meant to be a “so there.” The woman says she became pregnant as a result of the attack, which of course was something that Akin claimed was nearly impossible in a “legitimate” rape. Which means that if nothing else, Akin’s new ad proves that Akin is a dolt who knows nothing about the female reproductive system. So at least that’s cleared up.

We also learned this week that in addition to Akin’s attempt to narrow the definition of rape, he also once tried to narrow the definition of child abuse. Can this guy pick a crusade, or what? It’s oddly comforting to know that, should an invasion happen, we have a politician on hand who will be totally willing to look at things from the point of view of the Orcs.

Lest you think that Akin is still a pariah in the GOP, Steve Benen of the MaddowBlog points out that Akin seems to be getting some late campaign funding from somewhere, and several arrows are pointing to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which of course had pledged to cut off Akin’s funding after he made his belief in sentient uteruses with magic powers into a policy point. So much for that brief moment of having principles of basic decency, NRSC. Thanks for playing.

I shouldn’t be getting so angry and disgusted with this, though – Newt Gingrich, internationally known as a friend to women everywhere, told us not to. He just doesn’t think it’s right for ladies to get so het up over a little thing like Republicans saying monstrous things about something that directly affects us and our loved ones. In fact, he thinks we should just get over it.

For those of you, who can’t watch videos online, Newt says:

“Every candidate I know, every decent American I know condemns rape, OK, so why can’t people like [Obama 2012 deputy campaign manager] Stephanie Cutter get over it?”

Well, Newt, I can’t presume speak for another woman (See how that works?), but I’ll tell you why I can’t get over it.

For one thing, Newt, every candidate you know does not really condemn rape. Not when they’re referring to it as just another method of conception, and not when they’re trying to slice rape up into “legitimate” rape and “forcible” rape and then the other categories that by implication they don’t think we need to treat quite so much like rape anymore. That is explicitly not condemning some kinds of rape. And while you may not be able to call that agenda pro-rape or pro-rapist, it certainly does reinforce and perpetuate the rape culture.

So no, Newt, it’s not just an adorably maladroit way of phrasing things that should be brushed off. It’s an ongoing trivialization of a heinous crime by men who are trying to legislatively disempower the survivors. I’m sorry if it offends your delicate sensibilities when some women stay pissed off about that.

At first, it seems baffling that the creeps who keep saying these things haven’t tallied up the political damages and at least learned to stop spewing that kind of bilge in front of cameras. The American people have made it clear that they don’t care for these blasé off-the-cuff mansplaining pronouncements about sexual assault. So this can’t be a learning curve problem anymore. The GOP’s political candidates just can’t be that stupid. (OK, maybe Todd Akin can be that stupid, but they can’t all be.)

But I don’t think mere oafishness is what’s going on. I don’t believe this is about deeply-held (moronic) convictions anymore, or even about pandering to the rabid far-right base. I think this is about entitlement, and about a deliberate agenda of pushing the limits of what’s acceptable. These guys are playing a game: I can get away with saying this awful thing in public, and I am going to try to make saying it normal.

Remember during the 2008 election when far-right pundits and politicians started trying out racist dog whistle language? Nothing they could really get nailed on, just a hint here and an implication there.

And then when they didn’t get jumped on right away, when people didn’t call them on their crap and draw firm limits on what is socially acceptable among decent people or what one can utter on television without getting firmly smacked down, they started saying things a little more often and a little more openly, until now people treat making utterly wrongheaded bigoted remarks like it’s an ordinary – and thus somehow legitimate – thing for Republicans to do. And so Mitt Romney can get away with answering a question about gun violence with a coded response about single mothers and Sarah Palin is defended for saying things that are flat-out racist. (And, no, if you were a candidate for one of our highest national offices, “I was too much of a clueless dingbat to know that that incredibly racist thing was racist” is not an acceptable excuse.)

And as the casual racism trend became increasingly neato in the GOP, you may have noticed one or two Republicans over the past couple of years pushing the envelope on what you can get away with saying about The Gays.

(Here’s the thing: I know plenty of conservatives who loathe racism and sexism and anti-LGBT prejudice. Where the hell are you when it’s time to police your own? If you brush it off, ignore it, or excuse it, you just helped normalize it. And you don’t get to bitch when people refer to Republicans as a bunch of hate-filled white guys.)

When they have been called on saying something bigoted, almost always by people outside the party, these GOP trendsetters have invariably fallen into victim mode, howling that their freedom of speech is being trampled. Because apparently “freedom of speech” means getting to say whatever you want with no criticism ever, lalala no take-backs and everyone has to pretend you’re a wonderful, loving person who simply has deep convictions. Even if you just told a room full of schoolchildren that they would be better off with jailed parents than gay parents. Even if you automatically equate being on welfare with being black.

Well, guess what’s next on the agenda? I don’t think these are just bonehead political gaffes, and I don’t think these are simply powerful pro-life convictions at work. These guys are asserting their right to treat women as baby vessels and rape as no big thing, or at least as an abstract thing that doesn’t really affect people. (Because in their minds, “people” are men.) And every time one gets away with it, it emboldens another one to either do the same or move the line just a little farther back.

So, yes, I’m going to hang on to my inability to just get over it.

Or maybe I’m wrong. Maybe Newt Gingrich, lauded everywhere for his Zen calm and equilibrium, is simply trying to help us gals go with the flow. He seems very interested in women’s health issues; maybe he has concerns about our blood pressure. I’m sure that affects fertility.

So in the spirit of us all being so very helpful to each other, ladies, I encourage you to (politely) tweet Newt your carefully considered advice from on high about his sexual health with the hashtag #GetOverIt. Prostate issues? Pharmaceuticals? Whether or not he should be allowed to use birth control during a hypothetical extramarital affair? I’m sure he’ll be delighted with your input.

And if he isn’t delighted, well, I know where he can find some very good advice on what he should do.

Back in the world of sanity and facts and, you know, actually caring about people, Soraya Chemaly gave us 50 Actual Facts about Rape in the Huffington Post and Thomas Friedman suggested taking back the term “pro-life.” Both are well worth reading.

This Week in Thinky

If you’ll recall, last month the East Aurora school district in Illinois passed and then took back protections for its transgender students. Looks like this month there will be a new committee tackling the issue. WBEZ has a deeper look at the controversy.

(Thanks to Bisera for both alerting me to and sending me updates on this story. Send me things if you have news.)

Feministing found this piece on how much the war on women affects black women.

And Slate pointed the way toward this video essay on the Bond Girl as a feminist icon. No, really.

This Week in Women in Charge

Money management guru Mellody Hobson is taking over as the chair of DreamWorks Animation. Hat tip for the link to the continually awesome site The Mary Sue, which also alerted us to the fact that 17-year-old Rochelle Ballantyne is about to become the world’s first black female chess master. Way to be queen of the castle, Rochelle.

The University of Alabama named Judy L. Bonner its first woman president.

And studio head Bonnie Ross and executive producer Kiki Wolfkill of 343 Industries have had enough of jerk players. Sexist slurs and other discriminatory comments and behavior will earn players a lifetime ban from Halo 4 and the XBox Live network. Hey, ladies, could you also run politics? (Thanks to Mandy for the tip.)

This Week in Awesome

Are you in a same-sex marriage? Think about filing a protective tax refund claim in case the 1984-named Defense of Marriage Act gets overturned.

This dad wins Halloween. It’s important for a good feminist dad to start his daughter’s kickassery early in life.

And io9 pointed the way to this fantastic Star Trek T-shirt. Nichelle Nichols liked it too.

Have a great weekend. Get out there and boldly go.

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