Feminist Friday: Tammy Duckworth is a hero; Joe Walsh is not good at debates


This Week in General Grodiness

I regret to inform you that we’ve all missed out on a great opportunity: New York State Senator Marty Golden (R), in his effort to help women find jobs, had planned to hold a “career development” class for ladies, called “Posture, Deportment, and the Feminine Presence.” We would have learned to sit, stand, and walk like a model (Senator, please: we have Tyra) and how to gracefully to ascend and descend stairs. I’m so glad he kept that second part in there; in my last feminine deportment class, we only learned how to ascend the stairs gracefully, and then you had to either just pratfall your way down or stay upstairs forever. (I elected to keep gracefully climbing stairs until I hit the roof, and then was rescued in the most ladylike way possible: Grasping onto silk ribbons carried by a thousand pink doves.)

Anyway, I’d already started whining at Karman to send me somehow, but it turns out the event has been canceled after some women suggested a better place for Golden’s feminine deportment book than balancing it on one’s head. Apparently they thought he might be an eensy bit out of touch with the needs of working women.

Tammy Duckworth is a veteran who lost the lower part of both her legs and part of the use of her right arm when her helicopter was shot down in Iraq. She served as the director of the Illinois Department of Veteran Affairs, and, after making enormous sacrifices for her country and a stint in public service helping other veterans, she is running for Congress. Her opponent, freshman congressman Joe Walsh, said over the weekend that Duckworth is not a “true hero” because – wait for it – she talks about her military service. (I am going to go out on a limb and theorize that Walsh doesn’t think it’s noble or fair to talk about anything that Walsh hasn’t done, such as, for example, feeding one’s children.)

Photo courtesy of Tammy Duckworth

So, to recap: According to Walsh, Duckworth risked her life half a world away and had parts of her body blown off for her country, but she’s not a “true hero” if she mentions it. On Tuesday, Duckworth accurately pointed out that Walsh is an “extremist loudmouth.”

And then on Independence Day Walsh lost his damn mind and decided to keep badmouthing a decorated Veteran and then did it again once everyone was back from the holiday, because why risk people forgetting that you’ve been a boorish idiot?

On the other hand, his behavior gave us this magical video clip. Once you get over the fact that Walsh, a grown man and an elected Congressional representative, sounds and acts exactly like the biggest tool from your junior year of high school explaining to administrators that setting the bleachers on fire was an awesome prank, not vandalism, and anyway he didn’t do it, watching CNN anchor Ashleigh Banfield fry Walsh to a crisp is oddly satisfying.

Did you know Banfield’s first name? You will.


Say, is Rush Limbaugh still an awful, sexist gasbag? Yes. But he says he was only joking. So he’s a horrible, cowardly sexist gasbag. Straight women: Why do you keep marrying him? Please explain.

Normally I think of Sweden as a land of soaring Abba music and cheerful, relaxed, progressive attitudes about both women’s rights and LGBT rights. But this week a judge in the Örebro District Court ruled that a man could not be charged with attempted rape because his intended victim was transgender. According to the judge, the attacker intended to rape a woman, but the victim wasn’t one. Thus, no rape could be possible. That is wrong in so many directions I’m floored. Any Swedes out there with an explanation or an update?

You may be familiar with Anita Sarkeesian, an enthusiastic gamer who wanted to do a project examining the way women are represented in the games she loves. For daring to think about and perhaps express an opinion on such a matter, the misogynist gaming community has retaliated with stunning levels of harassment. Sarkeesian has started selectively posting some of the vileness she’s been subjected to. Think before you click – there is some upsetting (and enraging) stuff.

This Week in Your Ladybits

Mississippi came within a whisker of being the only state in the union without an abortion clinic this week, but the law that would have forced the state’s only abortion clinic out of existence has been temporarily blocked by a federal judge, who noted that the law is entirely aimed at eliminating a legal and protected service and has not one thing to do with protecting the health and safety of women.

Laura Conaway over at the MaddowBlog has done yeoman’s work at reporting on both Mississippi and women’s health issues. If you want perspective on the case, you would be well advised to read her entry on it. And, I’ll just note for those who have only lived in your more drivable East Coast states or haven’t lived in rural areas, one functioning (for now) abortion clinic in a state that size is not hugely helpful to vast numbers of women who may need its services. 

Mississippi’s clinic is in Jackson. A woman in, for example, Aberdeen, Mississippi would have to drive – assuming she has access to a car – 167 miles to get to Jackson, a trip Google Maps estimates at just under three hours. That’s definitely a day off work, plus Mississppi’s 24-hour waiting period, plus a three-hour drive back. Not to mention food, gas, finding a place to stay, and paying for the procedure.

(Or she can drive a mere two and a half hours for the 145-mile trip to Memphis. Simple, right? And so very fair.)

And, as Wonkette points out, should a woman make it to the clinic, she’s going to be harassed and screamed at. For exercising her legal right, by people who have no idea what her individual situation might be.

North Carolina is also doing its women no favors. In a midnight vote, its legislature overrode Governor Bev Perdue’s veto and de-funded Planned Parenthood. Yes, you know lawmakers have your best interests at heart when they do things while you’re sleeping. They’re just like Santa that way.

But at least these principled souls did a lot to stop abortion in their state, right? Well, only if you count diddly squat as “a lot.” Since there was already a law in place prohibiting the use of state funds for abortions, the legislature just made it harder for low-income women to get birth control and cancer screenings. One might think that the legislators would know such a thing. It’s almost like they’re willing to put women in harm’s way in order to score cheap political points. Actually, it’s exactly like that. And these lawmakers count on not having to see or deal with many low-income women who might call them on that.

I hereby announce The AfterEllen Ladybits Voting Challenge: Drum up a 75% or better female voter turnout in your district. I don’t have any sort of a prize lined up just yet, but getting to see your state and national representatives soil themselves with fear should be reward enough.

Oh, for heaven’s sake, isn’t there any good news about ladybits? Yes. Yes, for once, there is. A proposed personhood amendment to Ohio’s state constitution did not make it to the ballot for November, which means you are still worth more than a fertilized egg in that state.

And Salon reported on the fact that Kenya is easing its abortion restrictions, in direct response to the fact that so many women were dying from illegal procedures. Kenya has also affirmed reproductive health as a constitutional right, though nobody is quite sure how that will play out yet. Still, it’s a big step in the right direction.

This Week in Interesting

Melissa Harris-Perry took a look at Egypt’s new government and how it may affect women there. Can it be that there will be a female vice president?



If you’ve noticed that I’ve been pounding Cheerios lately, it’s because General Mills sensibly and reasonably opposes Minnesota’s proposed marriage equality ban. Last week “Minnesota for Marriage,” about 70 wingnuts who cannot stand the idea that people they have never met might be happy, protested at the company’s headquarters, where the good people of General Mills hilariously offered them refreshments.

(I like it that General Mills seems to have taken on the verve and sass of the LGBT movement. You know what else we have in common? Magically delicious.)

This week, Good As You offered us proof of something we’ve all long suspected: Bigots are really not funny. It’s like these people read about humor in satire in books and then tried to reproduce it only no one explained there’s supposed to be wit and joy in it. Anyway, we’re good as them. And way better at delightful protests.

I already had a standing rule of “if Helen Mirren is in it, I will watch it,” so I guess now I’ll have to just watch her stuff more intensely. When she accepted her lifetime achievement award from the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival this weekend, Mirren didn’t just call for more women directors – she gave them five years to get the number of films by women in the Festival up to 50%. I hope the organizers hop to. If they fail, who knows what punishments she might wreak?

The Jane Dough ran a list of Republican women Mitt Romney should think about for veep. I’m not crazy about Governor Nikki Haley, who just made a better-dead-than-bed decision about cervical cancer vaccines in her state, but Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and the others would make for some interesting picks.

The Grio ran a fascinating article on the intersection of hip-hop culture and LGBT culture.

And Vulture ran a story on the Sundance audience’s volatile reaction to the premiere of Compliance, which is either a movie about the humiliation and exploitation of women or is just a movie that seeks to humiliate and exploit women, depending on whom you ask. Bridget McManus gave us a look at the creepy trailer in yesterday’s “Afternoon Delight.”

And a friend posted a link to this essay discussing not liking “what girls like.” …And what it means when we accept other people’s definitions of what girls like and what we’re supposed to think about that. I suspect it will resonate with a lot of AfterEllen readers. What do you think?

This Week in Road-Tripping Nuns

The nuns on a bus brought their alternate budget to Washington with the slogan “Question austerity!” and The Washington Post was there. I like the cut of these nuns’ jibs. (They don’t seem to wear wimples, so I think I can say that without causing undue confusion and stress.)

Nancy Pelosi digs the nuns too.

Along the way, the nuns stopped in Harrisburg, PA. My excellent cousins Ellen and Sue road tripped in turn to meet them and were kind enough to send photos.

Photos by Susan Spear

Thus endeth the first bus trip of the nuns. But I hope it won’t be the last.

This Week in Awesome

The Mary Sue ran a feature on Sarah Robles, America’s strongest woman – and an Olympic-caliber athlete – who doesn’t look the way our culture (or Olympic sponsors) expect women to look. Check out Sarah’s co-blog, Pretty Strong, to follow her progress or just hear weightlifting chicks speak their minds.

The Mary Sue also ran an interesting review of Cinders, a visual novel that re-imagines the Cinderella story – and lets you play a heroine who isn’t quite such a doormat as the one in the fairy tale.

CNN featured Jeddah United, a stereotype-shattering women’s basketball team in Saudi Arabia.


The BBC ran a story on La Barbe, a gutsy group of French feminists who have been tearing Gallic sexism a new one with humor and facial hair. (Thanks for the tip, Bisera!)

And to end on a note of triumph, meet eighth grader Julia Bluhm, who is astonishing levels of awesome. She was tired of watching her friends compare themselves to the Photoshopped women in Seventeen and feel terrible about themselves, so she started a petition to get the magazine to include at least one unaltered photo of a woman in every issue. After her petition topped 81,000 signatures, Seventeen did her one better – they agreed to include a range of women in each issue, without Photoshopping their bodies. Way to stick up for your friends and their health, Julia, and way to listen, Seventeen. Do you think Teen Vogue will woman up and follow suit? Here’s a petition if you’d like to give them a little nudge.

Have a great weekend. Get out there and speak your mind.

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