Jan 102011

Was woman hating a factor in the shooting of Congresswoman Giffords?  There I’ve said it, because as a feminist it is a question I need to ask and no, don’t start with the mansplaining that I don’t understand the bigger picture or that there are larger issues because the uncomfortable truth is that violence is usually perpetrated against women for different reasons than it is perpetrated against men and the frame in which it is subsequently processed and analyzed is often quite different as well. Woman-hatred is at pandemic levels in this world and that context cannot be ignored.

There are definite reasons to think that indeed there is a misogynist aspect to understanding the Giffords shooting. We know that Loughner had approached Giffords before, in 2007,

Mr. Loughner said he asked the lawmaker, “How do you know words mean anything?” recalled Mr. Montanaro. He said Mr. Loughner was “aggravated” when Ms. Giffords, after pausing for a couple of seconds, “responded to him in Spanish and moved on with the meeting.”

So had he been stalking her since then?  It’s possible. There are also reports that Loughner verbally attacked a fellow student with anti-abortion vitriol and Giffords is pro-choice, so that may have something to do with it.

Amanda Marcotte puts it this way,

Gender is an issue with this specific shooting.  Just as you can’t claim that shooting a congressperson and a judge at a political event is a non-political event, you can’t really just pretend there aren’t gender implications to a young man shooting one of the sadly too few women in Congress.

Marcotte goes on to explain why indeed Gifford’s response to Loughner in 2007 may have a bearing in understanding what happened on Saturday, that it might be interpreted as an extreme way of manplaining his anger with her refusal to be badgered by him.  Her essay is a crucial must read, particularly for her truly cogent explanation of mansplaining and why it is so problematic and damaging.

Jessica Valenti also points out that ‘manning up’ plays an important part in American political rhetoric and the impact of that also needs to be considered.

Gloria Feldt adds this,

We can’t depend on the current leadership of the hypermasculinized political culture that  Jessica Valenti, Feministing executive editor, describes in The Guardian. Our idealization of violent masculinity she says spills over into the political discourse, and is emulated by right-wing women like Sarah Palin, whose electoral target map placed Giffords in her gunsight.

Is it appropriate to frame this incident in terms of hyper-masculine violence? Was there an element of woman-hatred in this incident? It will be awhile until we know enough to fully answer those questions.  The point we need to hold firm on however is that these possible frames be fully examined as an integral part of the analysis and investigation of this horrific crime.


Addenda:  This description from the Wall Street Journal lends a great deal of credence to the likelihood that he was stalking her and that while shooting a Congresswoman is a political act, this particular shooting was probably also motivated by a deep misogyny directed specifically at Giffords:

Accused gunman Jared Lee Loughner appeared to have been long obsessed with U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

A safe at Mr. Loughner’s home contained a form letter from Ms. Giffords’ office thanking him for attending a 2007 “Congress on your Corner” event in Tucson. The safe also held an envelope with handwritten notes, including the name of Ms. Giffords, as well as “I planned ahead,” “My assassination,” and what appeared to be Mr. Loughner’s signature, according to an FBI affidavit.

 January 10, 2011  Posted by on January 10, 2011 1 Response »
Jan 102011

Kudos to KPFA’s Women’s Magazine for pointing out that,

On Project Censored’s Top 25 list for 2010, not one story has to do with women and gender issues. But that doesn’t mean there was so much coverage of women’s issues; rather, the stories related to women are so censored that even the watchdogs didn’t notice them.

The program then goes on to devote space to important stories about women in 2010, well worth the listen:

Womens Magazine – January 3, 2011 at 1:00pm

Click to listen (or download)

But as Howard University Professor Carolyn M. Byerly points out, what this really illustrates is why, “structural analysis as to who owns and controls these media, and who makes communication policy,” is so badly needed.

Byerly’s research, to be published in the forthcoming Howard Journal of Communication, February 2011, has found that only 6% of radio and television stations are owned by women, in television the number is less than 5%.   Only .01% are owned by non-white women. Only 1% of top management in radio are women and a similarly small number of women serve on boards of directors.  With numbers like that, we shouldn’t be surprised when Byerly reports that, “women’s concerns are either missing or under-reported”.

The point Byerly makes is an important one–while we need to continue to call out the exclusion of women from the media, it is important to realize that this will continue unless we address the issue of women’s exclusion from ownership and positions of power in media production.

I’d also add that while we work on that, we need to be supportive of women-generated media that does exist. The Women’s Institute for Freedom of the Press has an excellent compendium of women’s media.  This is an excellent resource for finding out about the wonderful media work being done by women.  Women Action and The Media also has an excellent wiki page with more information about the exclusion of women in the media.

 January 10, 2011  Posted by on January 10, 2011 Comments Off on Understanding Why Women Are Excluded From Media
Jan 072011

We’re barely a week into the new year and already we can report that misogyny is alive and well in 2011. Here is a quick and undoubtedly incomplete roundup of the first week’s action:

  • And then Justice Scalia chimes in and opines that women in this country are not protected by the 14th Amendment, which refers to ‘persons’.   File that in the What are We–Chopped Liver? department.
  • Not to be outdone, Creep Veep Joe Biden tells little girls not to date until they’re 30. No Joe, it wasn’t funny.  Or cute.
  • Tosh 2.0 tells us that rape is entertaining. Ha ha, do you see us laughing? See comment to Creepy Joe above.
  • Daniel Ellsberg says Julian Assange isn’t a rapist because Assange told him that he wasn’t. Because the white guy of the moment should always be believed and we needed a good reminder that liberal and liberated are two different words.

Sigh, looks like a big ixnay on hanging up the old keyboard and retiring in 2011.

 January 7, 2011  Posted by on January 7, 2011 1 Response »
Jan 062011

I have no idea if Julian Assange is a rapist.  What I do know is that being a left-wing hero doesn’t make you innocent of those charges.  That point seems to be lost on a number of people who should know better.  I’m looking at you Bianca Jagger.  And you Naomi Wolf.  Keith Olbermann and Michael Moore, you too.  And now Daniel Ellsberg, who tweeted this yesterday,

Hello?  Mr. Ellsberg? Did you also listen to his accusers?  Do you think that every man who says he is innocent of rape charges that have been brought against him is innocent?  These remarks sadden me.  You are my hero but the values that you hold dear must not be at the expense of women’s human rights and safety.  You have said on Twitter that you will address the concerns of those who are calling you out for this remark.  Frankly the only response that will work is to apologize and say that your comment was ill-conceived;  when the left sounds like Justice Scalia when it comes to women’s human rights, that is unacceptable.



1.  Interesting interview with one of Assange’s accusers here.

2.  A reminder from Haiti that rapists often get a free pass, often on a grand and very tragic scale.

3.  The Nation’s Greg Mitchell wants to know why I called him out on Twitter for retweeting Ellsberg’s tweet about the rape charges.  Because Ellsberg’s words carry a great deal of weight and shouldn’t just be given a no comment pass.  Mitchell comments on all sorts of things regularly, this would have been a good time to comment.

 January 6, 2011  Posted by on January 6, 2011 3 Responses »
Jan 022011

Okay, okay, I know–holiday season over, moving on.  But remember that ad that ran on television before Christmas with two shoppers and one holds up something and says that it is just like the one the other person asked for and the second person sadly says that it isn’t?  That is an apt analogy for Michael Moore’s self-serving apology to Sady Doyle a few days before Christmas for not responding to her sooner regarding the #MooreandMe campaign that she began to call out his grossly inappropriate remarks to Keith Olbermann regarding the Assange rape charges (see here for a lot more about that).

A week after Countdown host Keith Olbermann and guest Michael Moore sparked a Twitter protest over their dismissive treatment of rape allegations against Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, Moore made an appearance on The Rachel Maddow Show in which he failed to address the protest directly, but made their imprint obvious in his transformed rhetoric on rape accusations. In a crowning irony, the man whose zeal for transparency-God Julian Assange started this protest finally made direct acknowledgement of it…in a private Twitter message to #MooreAndMe creator Sady Doyle.

Keeping with the seasonal theme, let’s unpackage that.  Nice that he apologized for not getting back to her sooner.  And at least he didn’t stoop as low as Olbermann who attacked his detractors while pompously declaring he was a major feminist ally.

But Moore is seriously naughty for not apologizing for what he said that she rightly called out in the first place and the  major arrogance of the notion that he needed airtime to re-state his remarks without ever acknowledging those that called him out in the first place or apologizing to them while on the air or heaven forbid, giving the microphone to Doyle instead.  But since he didn’t, here is the take-away that Doyle offers on her blog,

We fought for basic human decency for over a week. We fought, tirelessly, at great risk and expense, to make a mountain move. The mountain moved, like, three inches to the left. If you weren’t looking closely, you wouldn’t notice that it had moved at all. You definitely wouldn’t think to thank or acknowledge the incredibly hard work of the people who moved it. But we moved a mountain. We did the impossible. We went from just a random bunch of frustrated feminists, a random bunch of people on Twitter, to a force capable of changing the rape apologism in the narrative of one of the world’s biggest news stories.The mountain moved. The man came down from the tower. And we still live in a rape culture; we’re still not done fighting it; the narrative around Assange, in particular, is still hugely misogynist and hugely dangerous for those two women and will still encourage rape survivors not to report. We didn’t get a full apology and correction from Michael Moore; we didn’t get a full apology and correction from Keith Olbermann; neither of them have donated to the many rape crisis and anti-rape organizations to which we’ve provided links; heck, we didn’t even get credit on air. But we know what we’re capable of now. And that is immensely important.

Another point that bears emphasis–the women bringing the rape charges are not the only ones being disparaged–feminists are also being hauled out to the woodshed.  When calling his accusers honeypots didn’t get him enough traction, Julian Assange offered this analysis:

Sweden is the Saudi Arabia of feminism,” he said. “I fell into a hornets’ nest of revolutionary feminism.

I’m not even sure I understand what that means, but the blame it on the feminists mantra comes through loud and clear.  And here is another one of that genre from the World Socialist Website,

Feminist opinion—as the Assange case and the Polanski affair before it have demonstrated—has become one of the means of legitimizing the suppression of nonconformists and political dissidents, and of changing the subject from the great social issues, above all, class oppression and social inequality, to stale and self-pitying concerns.

Translation:  Feminists don’t understand the big picture and therefore are damaging and shouldn’t be taken seriously.

Rape and sexual assault are “stale and self-pitying concerns”?  In a word, well actually two, up yours.

In her Winter Solstice message, visionary pagan Starhawk wrote,

…take a good look at what you want to shed. What are the behaviors, the beliefs, the patterns that no longer serve? Let them go. Make the commitment to change.

…envision the future you want to create. What world do we want to see? How will we step up to face the huge challenges of healing our communities, our economies, our climate and our environment? What risks will we need to take? What will we need to let go of, and what will we need to embrace?

Well I for one am well and ready to let go of the patriarchal left.  Yes we should be on the same side, but we aren’t  when men like Moore and Olbermann use their positions of privilege to trivialize and dismiss violence against women as well as those of us who stand up to tell them that they are wrong and damaging. When that happens, then I am done listening.

And yes I know, this is only the latest in a long, long history of left-wing misogyny.  But for me it is a break point.  I am tired.  Bone and soul weary tired of having to address this kind of damaging spew. So in answer to Starhawk’s challenge, that is what I need to let go of. I’m not going to listen to assurances that we are really on the same side or that you care about what I care about when the evidence says otherwise.  It is a toxic waste of time and energy.

As for what I’m embracing, it is that awesome wonderful capability that Doyle writes about.  That is what sustains me and lets me believe that we absolutely can and will move beyond the absurd notion that  leftwing misogyny is acceptable collateral damage for the greater good.

 January 2, 2011  Posted by on January 2, 2011 2 Responses »