2012

21 March 2012: Attacks on women are cowardly

Attacks on women are cowardly

Name-calling is a personal assault designed to intimidate, humiliate, and debase in order to make the target/victim powerless.

It’s about shaming

It’s often correlated to sex.

When an insult contains a sexual inference, it’s psychological rape.

In the broad culture, the worse thing one guy can call another is a “pansy,” which makes him feminine, less than a man. That taunt operates on the premise, though, that being a woman is inferior to being a man.

Traditional western culture with what are often called the three Great Religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—is patriarchal and thus ingrained with that thinking. Because of that, women have for eons have had to fight back to assert their equality.

In the end, what patriarchal men fear most is a powerful woman, one who is not reticent to stand up to them. It’s the reason Mary Magdalene was labeled a prostitute.

From Islamic mullahs and ayatollahs who insist on their women wearing burqas to Orthodox Jews and traditional Catholics and Fundamentalists Christians who expect wives to submit to the authority of their husbands, religious conservatives espouse that worldview. When one understands that one’s political, social perspective is correlated to his/her religious beliefs, or lack thereof, it’s not hard to see the role misogyny has played in both religion and politics over the millennia.

A confluence of events should have every woman that does not believe she is inferior to her male counterparts up in arms. Rush Limbaugh’s assault on Sandra Fluke came on the heels of the latest go-around of state-sponsored rape: Virginia’s recently enacted law that requires women who are opting for a constitutionally protected medical procedure to submit—I emphasize that verb—to a variation of rape at the hands of a man with a wand.

New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd recently wrote “American women have suddenly realized that their emancipation in the 21st century is not as secure as they assumed.”

As Dowd states in context of related political events, it’s nothing more than “another attempt by Republican men to wrestle—emphasis mine—back into chastity belts.”

Not only should all women be alarmed, so too should men not of that bent, that is, those who are secure in their masculinity. As Dowd notes, there has been “a chilling cascade of efforts in Congress and a succession of states to turn women into chattel, to shame them about sex and curb their reproductive rights.”

It looks as if Arizona is joining in on the assault, moving a bill through its legislature that would compel women to reveal their private medical needs in order to be reimbursed for costs they spend on medication. The bewildering aspect of all this is the complicit role of women willing to subjugate themselves to essentially all-male tribunals.

It would be comforting to believe that the assault on Sandra Fluke by Limbaugh would be seen in hindsight some decades down the road the low point for demagoguery, mean-spiritedness, and the demeaning others to gain and exert power over them. It’s not likely.

Numerous others have pointed out that Limbaugh is far from alone. Even on the left blowhards and name-callers thrive. Of late, comedian Bill Maher has come under renewed fire for calling Sarah Palin a despicable name. Yes, some might apologize, such as MSNBC host Ed Schultz did for his vile attack on talk-show host Laura Ingraham, but, nevertheless, the damage is done.

Maher attempts to defend and separate his words from those of Limbaugh by insisting Palin is a public figure and as such is a prime target for which the First Amendment was specifically designed: “for citizens to insult politicians.”

Indeed, attacking politicians is a time-honored tradition, but the words used to attack, as Maher ironically points out, need to be seen in context. In his defense, Maher means it being political speech; but by the fact Maher automatically chose to attack Palin through her gender and not, say, her intellectual acumen, it shows he’s as culpable as Limbaugh and every other male chauvinist who resort to sexual innuendo to tear a woman down.

This recent spate of attacks on women, one hopes, will serve as a catalyst for women of all religious and political stripes to come together and fight back. The issue is not about religious liberty; it’s about the dignity of women as equals to men.

The Spartan women in Aristophanes’ play Lysistrata withhold their sex from their men until they agree to find peace with Athens who they’ve been at war with for 20 years.

It’s just a thought. There is, after all, more than one way to make a bull a steer.

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