Fighting Rape Culture, and the Rise of Anti-Choice Extremism

On this episode of Reality Cast, author Kate Harding will explain why rape culture is a real thing, Republican candidates get even more extremist with anti-choice rhetoric, and conservatives try to argue that Planned Parenthood is somehow preying on women.

Related Links

70 instances of Fox News sexism

Huckabee defends his belief that the president can be a dictator

Santorum endorses dictator powers for the president

Asking for It: The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture—and What We Can Do About It  

Planned Parenthood investigations turn up no evidence of wrongdoing

Penny Nance accuses Planned Parenthood of coerced abortion

Debunking Ben Carson

What is with sandwiches?


On this episode of Reality Cast, author Kate Harding will explain why rape culture is a real thing, Republican candidates get even more extremist with anti-choice rhetoric, and conservatives try to argue that Planned Parenthood is somehow “preying on women.”

Media Matters decided to mark the 95th anniversary of women’s suffrage by compiling a video of 70 of the worst displays of sexism on Fox News. A sample.

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Link in show notes to the whole video!


If the only access you had to American culture was listening to Republican politicians talk, you’d think that women having sex is some brand-new thing that is causing the collapse of civilization and needs to be stopped right now before all this sex-having kills us all. I despair to think of who this argumentation appeals to, but apparently the candidates think the answer is, “Republican primary voters.” Because things are getting way out of control. Like way out of control.

Take Mike Huckabee, for instance. He was at a town hall where someone asked about his plan to declare that fertilized eggs were people whose rights supersede women’s rights, and how that would work, considering that the Supreme Court disagrees and believes women have more rights to their bodies than embryos could.

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By “every person”, to be clear, he is not including women. His supposedly constitutional argument rests on simply reversing, by fiat, Supreme Court findings that show that women are people and embryos are not. He’s trying to frame this as simply “having a debate.” But no one is stopping anyone from having a debate over whether or not embryos have more rights than women. That debate goes on all the time. What he is saying, even if he uses evasive language, is that he would use the power of the President to void out the Supreme Court’s power and simply declare, by fiat, that embryos are now people and women are, by virtue of this decision, not people.

I realize some people aren’t aware that declaring embryos to be people means, by necessity, declaring that women are not people. But it does, for a very simple reason: People do not have the right to use another person’s body against their will. I cannot, for instance, force another person to donate a kidney. So for Huckabee’s plan to work, it’s not enough to declare embryos are people. It requires declaring women are non-people, so they lose that basic right to decline to have another person use their body against their will. That brings up a bunch of other legal questions, since most rights come from the personhood he would strip from women, but for right now, it’s important to note that he’s using abortion as cover to declare the president has dictator powers and therefore can simply void out any Supreme Court decision he doesn’t like.

Sadly, he’s not the only one anymore. Rick Santorum has also taken to arguing that the president should simply ignore any Supreme Court decisions he disagrees with.

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The decisions that he’s thinking of, and I know this because he brought them up in the debate and does so all the time, are Roe v. Wade and now Obergefell v. Hodges, the decision legalizing same-sex marriage. Santorum likes to name-drop Dred Scott, which is a pro-slavery decision from the 19th century, in justifying this argument. But that’s not actually the correct historical analogue. This argument that leaders can simply ignore court rulings they don’t like is actually an argument that was developed in the 1960s, in response to the civil rights movement. Specifically, Gov. George Wallace of Alabama declared that he could, by fiat, reject any federal court ruling requiring schools to admit Black students. JFK had to call the National Guard on him to force him to stand down.

Now you might be thinking, “Sure Amanda, these arguments are alarming and have a whiff of fascism to them, but who cares what these two clowns think? I mean, they’re not really running for president, so much as getting media attention they can parlay into speaking gigs and running advertisement-heavy emails lists.” But the problem is that they are creating this competitive environment over who can say the most outrageous, far-right things about reproductive rights. This is the most anti-choice group of candidates we’ve ever seen, and this level of competition is one reason why.




I don’t blame you if you’ve dropped out of following this Planned Parenthood video nonsense. It’s been clear for a while that all the videos that have been released are lies and that any future videos they release are probably just going to be bigger lies. If they had some smoking gun, they would have released it already, instead of completely blowing all credibility first. In addition, the HHS has completed their investigation of Planned Parenthood and found no wrongdoing. Four states have already wrapped investigations, showing no wrongdoing . Future ones will no doubt find the same. It’s like those 1980s-era accusations of Satanic conspiracies at day cares. Just because some nutty folks say it’s happening doesn’t mean it’s true.

But Fox News keeps yammering on about how your local nursery school worships Satan, I mean, that Planned Parenthood is selling fetal parts. And now with an added wrinkle: arguing that Planned Parenthood is forcing women to have abortions in order to get their hands on that fetal tissue. Which Penny Nance of Concerned Women for America said on Fox News.

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I don’t know why she didn’t just accuse them of eating fetuses and, hell, worshipping Satan. I mean, if you’re going to lie so outrageously, just go for broke. Say they practice witchcraft while you’re at it. Have some fun with it. There is, needless to say, no evidence of this aiding and abetting sex traffickers line, or the claim that they profit off fetal tissue. And you can imagine, then, that they are not actually forcing women to have abortions.

What’s going on here is that anti-choicers can’t admit that women actually choose abortion. Instead, they prefer to believe that women, by nature, only want sex to make babies. And if they’re getting an abortion, it’s because their natural desire to only have babies is being thwarted. The idea that a woman has sex for pleasure and that a pregnancy could be an unwanted result from it is not something they’ll admit. So you get this elaborate claim that Planned Parenthood is somehow forcing women to get abortions. In the real world, of course, not only do women know what they’re doing going in, but research shows that years later, 95 percent of them say it was the right decision. But when has reality ever shaped how right-wingers view the world?

Ben Carson was also pushing this notion that abortion is something that is somehow forced on unwitting women, this time arguing that women of color are somehow being “targeted” for it.

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This is just the same argument, except with a gross twist that is designed to appeal to racists. He brings up Margaret Sanger in hopes of going down the rabbit hole of debunking various quotes attributed to her that float around out there, but that’s just a bunch of smoke and mirrors to distract from the larger point he’s making, which is to argue that Planned Parenthood is trying to trick Black women into having fewer babies than they supposedly want. It’s the same argument that Penny Nance was making, but with a racial twist that paints women of color as particularly incapable of making decisions for themselves.

If you take a step back, the claim is utterly absurd on a couple of levels. For one, it suggests that providing quality, affordable health care is somehow “targeting” people. Which is nuts, because quality, affordable health care is one of those things people inherently want. But it’s also just straight-up false that there’s any attempt to quote-unquote “target” anyone, as ABC reporter Martha Raddatz explained to Carson.

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Yeah, “maps.” Sure, you’ve seen “maps.”

Look, it’s not about a legitimate concern that Planned Parenthood builds in Black-majority neighborhoods. This is trying to stop Black-majority neighborhoods from having the same access to Planned Parenthood’s quality health care that people in white-majority neighborhoods get. What makes Planned Parenthood great is that they can specialize. That means that if you need birth control and a well-woman check, you can get it in one visit. It also means shorter wait times than at a community health center. You also get the well-known benefits of seeing people who specialize over people who provide general care. General care doctors and nurses are great, don’t get me wrong. But there’s a reason that we have people who specialize in gynecology. Killing off Planned Parenthood is about depriving women of the benefits of specialization. The fact that Black women’s access is under special attack is because of racism, not an attempt to fight it. The fact that Carson himself is Black shouldn’t matter. He’s trying to appeal to voters who don’t like women’s health care access and especially don’t like Black women getting it. Everything else is just noise.


And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, what is with Fox News and sandwiches edition? I recently played a clip of the hosts of Outnumbered saying the divorce rate is so high because women aren’t making men enough post-sex sandwiches. Andrea Tantaros circled back to this weird idea that acting like your husband’s servant is just “kindness” and then Rachel Campos-Duffy popped in.

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Setting aside the fact that “make me a sandwich” is a common phrase to insult women, that is not what this is about. No one is against partners treating each other with kindness. What is a problem is when a relationship is about him sitting on his butt while you wait on him hand and foot. Research shows that women already do more housework and cooking than men, so telling them to do even more is not about kindness, but the opposite: about making women do all the work so that men don’t have to do any of it.