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anti-sexist election update

Romney Ryan 2012

(photo: DonkeyHotey/flickr)

(also at Voices on the Square and at Orange)

More than a month ago I wrote about the Cherry-Pick Mitt Romney Movement, the attempt to doll up attacks on Mitt Romney as some sort of liberation movement. The election-year babblefest has clearly changed since then: the Republican political class has, en masse, stood up and demanded that it be cherry-picked. The obsession with the election year run-up behavior of Mitt Romney and the Republicans, so prominent on these pages, is still a diversion, but it has metastasized, and gotten worse for the fact that it’s now about a topic of critical importance to society: sexism.

Eli’s piece in FDL is still the best summary I’ve seen so far of outrageous Republican political class verbal behavior in the election run-up. Here’s what eli says:

So far, I’ve counted three ways in which Republicans act as rape apologists:

1) De-legitimizing rape: In essence, Republicans believe that, come on, not all rapes are really rapes.

This gets into the idea of “fake rape,” as if violence against women could be acceptable if it didn’t result in babies and give anti-choice activists a case of the cognitive dissonance about “abortion in case of rape.”

2) Minimizing the impact: This is similar to the first, but is more about the aftermath. Essentially, Republicans are claiming that rape victims rarely get pregnant.

The implication with this argument is that the important impact of rape (for the Republican political class) is that it produces a pregnancy, and so those other messy aspects of rape (like lifelong trauma) are unimportant.

3) Accentuating the positive: This is the most perverse of all. You have Mike Huckabee going on about all the wonderful people who are the children of rape, and Missouri Republican Sharon Barnes saying, “if God has chosen to bless this person with a life, you don’t kill it.”

The implication here is that the Republican political class views rape as actually being good, and so (for them) denying abortions to rape victims is okay.

To attain a clearer picture of what they are trying to justify, let’s take a look at an important statistic:

Here’s the math. According to the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Crime Victimization Survey –there is an average of 207,754 victims (age 12 or older) of rape and sexual assault each year.

Dear Republican political class: this is not a trivial problem, and how sure are you that this statistic actually counts the vast majority of incidences of rape which aren’t reported? Public statements of ignorance fuel our consciousness-raising.

Now, it’s a little hard to satirize a movement aimed at cherry-picking one of the culprits if a much bigger culprit stands up and demands that it be singled out as the target of public ire by saying monstrous things. It’s as if prominent members of the Republican political class decided that the “lesser of two evils” pretext was losing credibility as an excuse for Democrat rank-and-file capitulation, and so they decided to say ever more evil things to keep the game in play.

Moreover, eli’s citations of prominent Republican anti-choice talk reveals the sexism basic to the anti-choice agenda. Rape does not save lives, but it is apparently valued by the Republican political class because it deprives women of control over their bodies. That’s what the Republican political class really wants — “saving a life” is something the political class knows nothing about, since it spends half of your tax dollar on warmongering.

The primary debate issue about legal abortion is one of whether or not the state can dubiously attempt to force women to carry fetuses to term (with instruments of violence later to be named) despite the fact that abortion is fourteen times safer than pregnancy. Realistic defenses of a return to the era of coathanger abortions cannot seriously rest on the “pro-life” pretext. “Anti-abortion” can thus be pried apart from “pro-life.”

I would like to suggest, here, that the primary defense against anti-choice politicians is the anti-sexist affinity group. Partisan organizing is not the proper starting point here. If the Democratic Party were serious about defending the country from Republican political-class sexism, it would have gone into election with a much more robust economy than the one currently on display. Everyone knows that the economy is the most important topic in an election-year runup — if the Democratic Party political class were serious about winning the election, it would have done something far more serious than what it’s done so far about the employment crisis. We can’t predicate something as important as sexist policy upon partisan organizing, though it would certainly be apropos for an anti-sexist affinity group to oppose sexist candidates.

I might add that when half the polity refuses to belong to a political party, movements against sexism cannot begin with partisanship.

Moreover, my parody of the “cherry pick Mitt Romney movement” stands. Partisan propaganda doesn’t stand for liberation — the Republican political class’s nasty rhetoric serves as cover for the actual nastiness that the political class as a whole will be serving up after the election, and to focus obsessively upon that rhetoric is to miss the big picture. If they really wanted to go after Mitt Romney, partisans of the “cherry pick Mitt Romney movement” could (for instance), obtain a legal conviction against Paul Ryan for insider trading.

or a legal conviction against Mitt Romney for capital fee conversion.

or maybe for tax evasion.

Sure, let’s remove Romney and Ryan as possible objects of political debate — I’m all for that, and good solid prison terms for both of them would accomplish that goal handily. But I don’t think that’s the point. Rather, the main effect of cherry-picking attacks on Mitt Romney is to provide political cover for his “opponents” while the two-party contract to own the debates continues to be enforced. Romney’s a bad bad boy — but this hardly matters when so many people are voting for him as an economic protest against Obama, and when Obama shares economic goals with Ryan.

Moreover, the fooferaw over Presidential elections excludes those who are in the “safe states.” The main action is constituted by this: hundreds of millions of dollars will be spent on ads in ten or twelve states, and the rest of the country will get to sit and watch as the race is decided there. And even then the whole race may be decided through “abnormalities” (see 2000, 2004).

Anti-sexism, access to safe abortions, and rape prevention are much too important as causes to be fought within the election run-up circus. The core issue, sexism, goes all the way down to women’s right to speak for themselves, a right still (as the Republican political class shows) denied by sexists. Anti-sexist affinity group organizing is more essential than ever, then, especially in an election-year runup.

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Ph.D., Communication, The Ohio State University, 1998
M.A., English, Sonoma State University, 1992
B.A., Literature, University of California, Santa Cruz, 1984