Cross-posted by request.
Talking about the events surrounding Sandra Fluke’s experiences on Capitol Hill and Rush Limbaugh’s subsequent disparaging comments and complete mangling of the issues is difficult, indeed. It seems that the original issues–women’s reproductive health and the segregation of it, as well as religious liberty–have been all but forgotten as familiar tribes have lined up along their well-trod trenches. The arguments now are about which side is waging more war against the women of the other side. At least we’re getting close to some truth-telling, finally, but I doubt it will do any good. Feminism, progress for women, women’s rights, whatever name you call it by, is now just another set of boxing gloves with which to beat up the other side. Each side is unshakable, unwilling to accept the critiques of their own side while perfectly willing to hurl critiques at the other side, displaying what might in other words be called hypocrisy.
The problem with this is that there can be no consensus, even as both sides seem to be agreeing that calling women sexually charged names and digging into their personal lives to find discrediting information that is wholly unrelated to the issue(s) at hand is a terrible, sexist thing to do, that it’s meant to be intimidating. Meanwhile, the discussion has been happening at the most publicized levels by a group of largely male reporters and commentators, some of whom are themselves guilty of similar disparaging comments and acts. When you look at news aggregator sites like Memeorandum over the last several days, it’s not the articles the women are writing that are populating the top half of the page. And this line of stories has dominated for going on five days now. With the all around intractability of the political classes and their respective bases, can any good come from continuing to rehash it?
I don’t know. There may be something to be said for repeatability, something Cynthia Ruccia has been writing about lately. Maybe if both sides keep screaming at each other, if the likes of Rush Limbaugh keep calling women sluts while the likes of Jerry Brown keeps calling women whores, and we keep being forced into conversations about it, something will change. I’m a bit skeptical, if only because I know how insidious and manipulative the discourse over women’s rights and progress has been for decades. I have been an advocate of the emerging feminism on the right, largely because I believe the battle for women’s progress will necessarily involve women from all walks of life, and because I think that many conservative women model feminist ideals very well, balancing family and jobs, and political duties and activism, and that’s practical and valuable. I also think it has expanded the dialogue about what feminism should mean, specifically to include economic and national security issues, and that strengthens feminism. We can’t keep complaining forever that we are treated with respect to our biology if we continue to frame our progress solely on the basis of biology. But I don’t want a conservative brand of feminism to mirror what’s happened with the close-minded thinking and abusive/coercive verbal style of so many feminists and their orgs on the left (see Malkin’s article for a run-down of examples). And that is, quite frankly, what appears to be happening.
A slew of recent articles by conservative women or those who are sympathetic to conservative women have pointed out the gross hypocrisy of the outrage from a left that created and marketed products like “Bros before Hoes” and “Sarah Palin is a C*nt” t-shirts in 2008, as well as specific and recent examples of controversial comments made by some of the premier cultural contributors on the left, including old stand-bys like Bill Maher, Keith Olbermann, and Chris Matthews, as well as the acknowledged leadership of left-feminism such as Gloria Steinem, Patricia Ireland, and Naomi Wolf. And this is all good and well and worth pointing out, but where is the compassion? Why does only Malkin’s article start out with an acknowledgement that what Limbaugh said was wrong, which she promptly takes back by calling Fluke a “femme-a-gogue.” The points would be better made if the articles started out with the argument that, yes, it’s sexist to use verbiage and rhetoric like Rush Limbaugh did, and that’s WHY these examples should resonate with the folks on the left who do care about progress for women. And the lack of denunciation leaves one with a sick feeling that this may be a defense of Rush, instead of an indictment of our commonly accepted sexist discourse.
The left has not been any better. (more…)
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