I’m usually taken aback, but not too shocked, when men make verbal attacks on women in the public forum. Patriarchy and abuse are sicknesses that are deeply embedded in our political system and our social fabric.
Maybe because of my maleness, or because I’ve become so desensitized to seeing this abuse, it did not shock me too much when I heard Ed Schultz verbally abuse Laura Ingraham. Nor did it shock me when I heard that Rush Limbaugh called Georgetown University student Sandra Fluke a “slut” for taking a stand on insurance coverage for contraception.
However, what does shock me is when I see women launching the same kind of abuse onto other women. Ultraconservative pundit Pamela Gellar has unleashed such an attack on Sandra Fluke. She dropped a question on why Ed Schultz didn’t suffer the same backlash as Limbaugh did, which is a red herring (Schultz got dealt a more appropriate punishment while Limbaugh is getting out of this relatively unscathed – this issue aside, though…) The major sting to Gellar’s lashing was this:
A 30-year-old poses as a 23-year-old, chooses a Catholic University to attend at $65,000 per year, and cannot afford ALL the birth control pills she needs… so she wants the US taxpayers to pay for her rampant sexual activity. By all accounts she is banging it five times a day. She sounds more like a prostitute to me. She must have an gyno bill to choke a horse (pun intended). Calling this whore a slut was a softball.
This kind of woman-to-woman attack isn’t new in our political landscape, though the last time it’s been this vitriolic is when Ayn Rand was publishing – which it’s interesting to note that Gellar has a lot of Randian iconography on her blog.
However, I’d bet the mainstreaming of woman-to-woman bashing had its genesis with Phyllis Schlafly and the Eagle Forum. Schlafly is a hardcore traditionalist who was partially responsible for the defeat of the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s, and firmly believed that women’s primary roles were to be wives and homemakers even though she is a career woman herself. Along the lines of Limbaugh and Gellar’s quips, Schlafly also denied that there could be anything like marital rape:
I think that when you get married you have consented to sex. That’s what marriage is all about, I don’t know if maybe these girls missed sex ed. That doesn’t mean the husband can beat you up, we have plenty of laws against assault and battery. If there is any violence or mistreatment, that can be dealt with by criminal prosecution by divorce or in various ways. When it gets down to calling it rape though, it isn’t rape, it’s a he said-she said where it’s just too easy to lie about it.
This isn’t an outlier comment from Schlafly, but it is part and parcel for the founder and president of the 80,000 member Eagle Forum.
This sort of cognitive dissonance is seen across other issues: working class voters electing politicians that will bid against economic working class interests; women who crusade against women’s rights, etc. The former example, there is almost always a social concern attached to the poor and middle class voting against their interests, and it’s pretty well documented.
However, I’m not sure where anti-women’s rights women, slut shaming and the normalization of woman-to-woman abuse come from other than to say men-in-power orchestrate it, but that’s the easy way out and a tad sexist itself. I’ll be on the look-out for any discussions regarding it. They could be separate issues (crusading against rights vs. being abusive), but I’d be surprised if they were.
If anyone out there has any links to discussions, studies, or could offer up your own insight, I’d appreciate it.