Asymmetry

Monday, March 5th, 2012 · 25 Comments »

We’ve all seen extreme woman-bashing before, but there’s something really weird about this current episode. Something asymmetrical, if you will, in terms of the target vs. the firepower being unloaded.

In the 90s, the misogyny unleashed on Hillary Clinton was truly revolting. Janet Reno and Madeleine Albright were also endlessly ridiculed and attacked; it was a bad decade for women. None of that was remotely forgivable or excusable. But those women were very powerful people: the First Lady, the Attorney General, the Secretary of State.

In 2008, both Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton were attacked in extremely vile, sexist terms. None of that was remotely forgivable or excusable, either. But those women were prominent figures running for the highest offices in the land.

Sandra Fluke is just a student who testified on the importance of including birth control pills in prescription healthcare plans. And this is what we get. Some of the craziest, most ferocious shit I’ve ever seen, and it’s for a student who testified on healthcare coverage.

Anybody have a theory?

Personally, I think the GOP is committing suicide in public, though only for the 2012 season. I think that, having run through all the Not Mitts in the TV studio, they’re finally facing the fact that they’re going to lose this year and it’s just going to be a big waste of time even going forward. So, like the protagonist in any bad melodrama or Ibsen play, they’re ending it all with a revolver in the study. Or at least, their collective unconscious is doing that.

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25 Responses to “Asymmetry”

  1. quixote says:

    I don’t know what the real stats are on porn watching. It’s on the order of 40% of men. Not 2%, not 90%, maybe even 60%, but in any case at least a quite sizable minority. Some proportion of women also watch it. Porn at this point is pretty much wall-to-wall degradation and/or torture. (RageAgainstTheManchine cites the researchers who braved brain-pollution so we don’t have to.)

    I don’t think you can have significant numbers of people exposing themselves to that level of toxicity without it coloring their outlook. All sorts of actions are coming up everywhere that are only possible if women aren’t human. Not only legislation, but even just the concept of what constitutes humor. ( eg. Sarah Palin hung in effigy = joke. Obama hung in effigy = unthinkable or national emergency.)

    And it’s everywhere. All at once. It’s a real sea change in the general perception of women. It’s fairly obvious if you remember the “time before.” So whatever is causing it has to be something equally pervasive and powerful enough to have that effect and yet be largely unarticulated. Porn is the only factor I can think of that seems to fit.

    If that’s true, it’s far from just a GOP problem. Nor is it going to get better soon, since “free speech” is way more important than hate speech against subhumans.

  2. Violet Socks says:

    Oh, I definitely remember the time before. And I agree with you on how things have changed.

    So, looking at it that way, then what we have is a situation where men (and some women) are primed to engage in an orgy of hate speech as soon as the team signal is given. That last point is key, I think. The signal has to be given that “it’s now okay to attack this woman.” Recall how the guys on “our” side—many of the same ones who are now denouncing Rush for misogyny—went batshit on Sarah Palin in 2008 as soon as they got the all clear.

    That would mean that we can expect more and more of these attacks on asymmetrical targets (as well as other targets). Just as long as the team signal is given.

  3. Alice Molloy says:

    It all makes me wonder what women connected to the Republican Party are thinking.

  4. Violet Socks says:

    Alice, normally I would probably respond with something about false consciousness or a reference to Dworkin. But here’s something better: actual quotes. Last night I followed a couple of links from Memeorandum, tracking the wild wingnut frenzy, and found a remarkable comment thread at Conservatives4Palin. I don’t want to link to them, but the name of the post is “Breitbart: The Vetting of Barack Obama Begins.”

    So one commenter named Reynolds88 says:

    There is quite a buzz happening since Andrew passed. I can feel it. Its like the noise of a thousand million bees humming. Writers are writing some of their best articles.
    People are saying what they haven’t said before. There is something happening.

    Andrew Breitbart helped train and encourage the Army of Davids that has been mentioned. Its great to be an American. #BreitbartIsHere

    Ooookay. Andrew Breitbart as religious figure. Or maybe as a thousand million bees. Whatever.

    The next commenter, named m_Teresa, says:

    I swear to God he is! He is with us every step we take. I have been able to articulate thoughts with a passion I’ve never felt before. I cried all day the day he died. No more tears. There is too much work to do.

    I have become emboldened with a strength I’ve never had before. I’m no longer afraid to voice my opinions to ANYONE. And a voice in my head simply said: “WE have to get in their FACES!!!” Andrew is alive & communicating with us on some level (or I’m going insane!) #BreitbartIsHere for sure :)

    Rush needs our help right now ~ as he’s being targeted. We need him as well. He’s a great communicator of knowledge & wisdom.

    So:

    1) Andrew Breitbart is Jesus.
    2) Rush Limbaugh is a great communicator of knowledge and wisdom.

    What this tells me is that Information Silo Nirvana has been reached, and everybody’s now just happily babbling in their own little delusional cults.

  5. cabochon says:

    “[T]hey’re finally facing the fact that they’re going to lose this year and it’s just going to be a big waste of time even going forward. So, like the protagonist in any bad melodrama or Ibsen play, they’re ending it all with a revolver in the study. . .”

    My perception is that, now that they have presidential candidates that have removed the gloves and made it clear that that they want some form of “Christian”-run country in which women have no access to contraception and thus will be kept perpetually pregnant to the point that they can have no financial possibility of independence, the Repubs think they have finally achieved their goal and WILL WIN. They think they are bullet-proof and the ugliness is being flaunted. Finally, they can say some version of what they and their 1% overlords want.

    “It all makes me wonder what women connected to the Republican Party are thinking.”

    They are Judas goats designed to lead women into radical dependence and disenfranchisement. If they are thinking anything it’s probably either “Oops, you’re showing your hand before Gilead is firmly legislated” or “Damn, Skippy–go get the sluts.”

  6. scott says:

    Totally off-topic, but I love the “silo nirvana” crack. The writer Gillian Tett used the “silo” concept when she described how a bunch of narrow-focused financial types could cook up a bunch of complex instruments that no one fully understood and that caused our financial crisis. Like you said, everyone babbles along in his/her own narrow frame of reference without any interest in how it connects (or doesn’t) with the rest of us. The silo idea seems to explain many things about our current unravelling, and I like it a lot.

  7. SweetSue says:

    Quixote, I think you’re on to something.
    Didn’t Limbaugh suggest that if prostitutes and sluts want to be paid to have sex, they should be forced to make porn videos so he and his ilk would get something in return for their money?
    So taking responsibility for one’s sexual health and reproduction—Bad.
    Watching porn-even coerced porn- on the internet—Good!

  8. alwaysfiredup says:

    Just in case you’re interested in what real conservative feminists think of the episode, as opposed to the C4P crowd: http://www.villainouscompany.com/vcblog/archives/2012/03/only_nixon_can.html

    And Palin hasn’t been an important officeholder in several years now; doesn’t stop the outpouring of crazy against her. I like your “team signal” theory.

  9. quixote says:

    “primed to engage in an orgy of hate speech as soon as the team signal is given”

    You’re right. I hadn’t thought of that. I was nodding along, wondering what shapes the signal could take, and along came your comment quoting the Breitbart fans.

    It’s like watching a crystal grow in a supersaturated solution, but less beautiful.

    That garbage doesn’t stop at speech either. Speech is just the baby steps.

  10. quixote says:

    Sue, I’d heard about the Rush porn videos for birth control comment and couldn’t figure out at all what he was trying to say with that. Now I finally get it.

    It must be very, very, very strange for him, having to live inside his head.

  11. merciless says:

    I can’t tell for sure, but I think it all started with Santorum. The beanie boys (deliberately, according to everyone) picked the fight over contraception but were very, very careful to frame it as a “religious freedom” argument. I suspect that they, along with their partners in crime, were and are trying to overthrow Obamacare using this as a launching vehicle.

    But Santorum, who was getting a lot of press, wouldn’t shut up about birth control, sluts, and how non-procreative sex makes the baby jesus cry.

    This, along with his belief that Protestants are in league with Satan, set the stage.

    Then the Komen flap came along, and got everyones’ attention.

    Then Mr. Issa stepped on his own dick.

    THEN Rush said what he said.

    Susie Madrak has a transcript of yesterdays’ This Week, wherein Peggy Noonan desperately, fruitlessly, tries to pivot the argument back to “religious freedom.” THAT was supposed to be the argument, and she sells it as hard as she can, but if George Will ain’t buying it, then nobody will.

  12. gxm17 says:

    I don’t think they’re committing suicide, Violet. I think it’s a lot scarier than that. I think these crazy attitudes are becoming normalized. It’s been moving in that direction since terms like “feminazi” started being viewed as socially acceptable and not the hate speech it is. The attacks against Albright, Reno, Clinton, and Palin were part of the desensitization process. Going after the lone woman allowed to speak about birth control and its impact on women is, sadly, the direction our country has been headed for a very long time. It really didn’t surprise me. What has surprised me is that anyone even noticed. So I guess there’s a bright side.

    quixote, I think you’re right. I’m always shocked at the statistics that show such a significant number of men (and women) watch porn. I shouldn’t be but I am. It’s interesting to note that, presumably, Christian religions consider porn immoral but they don’t seem to spend the time, money, or energy attacking it as they do reproductive rights. I think that’s because porn and religion are much like Rush and Obama, they are patriarchy’s misogynist tag-team. One is a “liberal” oppression tool and the other is a “conservative” one. And given the level of multi-media saturation, more people’s brains are being exposed for longer periods of time to harsher levels of hate, and it’s just not going to end well.

    I apologize for being such a pessimist but I just don’t see any end in sight.

  13. BDBlue says:

    FWIW. the very politically active GOP woman I know is now threatening to vote for Obama over the Rush shit. She is fed up at the non-response from the party. So I do think they’re hurting themselves with women even if women aren’t their base.

  14. riverdaughter says:

    Have you heard their base at a debate lately?? These are not people who are going to go away quietly. They’re determined. I’m even a little concerned about what they’re going to do when we succeed at neutering Rush. It won’t be pretty.
    The Republicans know how to motivate their base. So, while I don’t think the Republicans are going to take a dive, I think they are going to make their base take one. The Republican voter scares the Republicans. So, I think this is their way of forcing the virus to mutate and mutate and mutate to the point where it can be killed, or at least held in check.
    The Republicans know that their best bet is with Romney. But they have to neutralize their base first so that Santorum is out of the picture. Once he is, they can get back to beating the deficit horse.

  15. tinfoil hattie says:

    I think gxm17 is 100% correct.

  16. quixote says:

    gxm17 “It’s interesting to note that, presumably, Christian religions consider porn immoral but they don’t seem to spend the time, money, or energy attacking it as they do reproductive rights. I think that’s because porn and religion are much like Rush and Obama, they are patriarchy’s misogynist tag-team.”

    Bullseye. Absolute, 100% bullseye.

    “Patriarchy’s misogynist tag-team.”

    I am so stealing that.

  17. propertius says:

    1) Andrew Breitbart is Jesus.

    I think Andrew Breitbart is our new Horst Wessel. I expect some enterprising wingnut consultant to come up with an appropriate song any day now.

  18. HeroesGetMade says:

    Interesting theories about the current collective fugue state. I think the asymmetry in this case is due to the issue at hand, basically bodily autonomy for women. Fluke is catching hell because she was the lone voice pushing back against teh crazey spectacle of the man panel on birth control. And why was she the lone voice? That to me, is the question; it’s like she was set up or something. We all know what Hillary Clinton would’ve said, and has said – women need to decide these things themselves. Hell, even Sarah Palin has said as much, birth control/family planning is a settled matter among most women, whether they’re left, right, married, single, Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Druid, Wiccan, or JehovahHelpUs, Obot. The only people unsettled about it are those who know their entire sorry lifestyle is due to patriarchy’s ability to keep women down.

  19. Briar says:

    Good question, but my Norwegian genes (and my literary soul) insist I point out that only Hedda Gabler ends with a revolver in the library. And it is not a bad melodrama.

  20. Violet Socks says:

    Yes, but Hedvig shoots herself in the garrett! Also, I said Ibsen or a bad melodrama. I love Ibsen.

  21. riverdaughter says:

    Speaking of Ibsen, all of the Mad Men characters are also from Ibsen plays. Don Draper is playing the role of Peer Gint. He’s going to die of lung cancer in the last season. Betty and Joan split the roles of Nora from Doll’s house and Hedda Gabler. Peggy is Solveig from Peer Gint. How much you wanna bet?

  22. Unree says:

    Agree with gxm17: it’s not about the Republican party as such. In 2008 the Overton window moved dramatically when liberal d00dz wallowed so gleefully in misogyny. Republican d00dz had to move even further, just as Republicans generally had to veer into batshitland in response to Obama’s right-of-Nixon politics.

  23. angie says:

    Remember Anita Hill? I do — she was a private person (a law professor) who testified before the Senate on the importance of keeping that idiot Clarence Thomas off the SCOTUS. I don’t see how she is that different symmetrically from Fluke. Any & all women are fair game for misogynistic attacks once placed in the line of fire — from both sides. Their positions as “public figures” or their amount of “power” is irrelevant — it is the act of having a vagina coupled with speaking up that makes them a target.

  24. Miss Clairol says:

    Agree with gxm17: it’s not about the Republican party as such. In 2008 the Overton window moved dramatically when liberal d00dz wallowed so gleefully in misogyny. Republican d00dz had to move even further, just as Republicans generally had to veer into batshitland in response to Obama’s right-of-Nixon politics.

    Exactly, and liberal doods have been as keen as conservatives to marginalize women from positions of power. It’s hard to attack powerful women when there aren’t any. The lib-con axis is becoming a victim of its own success, in a way–they require the hate object, but it’s becoming harder to find one of much prominence or significance. Making us all potential candidates for hate object.

  25. Carmonn says:

    Jill from Brilliant at Breakfast has an amazing piece explaining why Shultz and Maher and qualitatively different from Limbaugh. See, Schultz was NOT actually accusing Laura Ingraham of having tons of sex when he called her a slut. Allz he was doing was using gendered sexualized insults to demean her, but like, ideologically. She’s a slut because she changes her mind a lot, get it? But like, soooo not sexually AND he was making an amazing point. That’s something that we’re just going to have to pull our big girl pants up and deal with, even when the Limbaughs do it. It’s also a tremendously effective tactic for defeating women in politics, as if that’s a bad thing! Conversely, Rush actually WAS talking about her sex life! And as we’ve all heard a million times but never really taken onboard, “cunt” is used to refer to men in England, and thus is simply can’t be a gender based slur. C’mon!

    Anyone who can’t see the significant difference there is totes a Limbaugh apologist and stupid to boot, for real.