On this episode of Reality Cast, Katherine Cross will explain why attacks on transgender people’s health-care access are so misguided. Anti-choicers use the term “anchor baby” to attack women for having babies and the Ashley Madison leak has some interesting lessons about the internal politics of the Christian right.
Bernie Sanders included some thoughts on women’s rights at a recent rally in New Hampshire.
- Sanders *
I am wondering if one side effect of Republicans moving to the right on this issue is that Democrats, in turn, are getting blunter about what they mean when they say they are pro-choice.
Last week, I reported on Republican politicians who are really, really upset at women not having babies. So upset, in fact, that both Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum have started to suggest that the president should just ignore the Supreme Court and ban abortion by fiat, turning himself into a dictator, rather than let all these women have the power to decline motherhood if they want. But now the narrative has shifted. Now women are being demonized by various Republican candidates because they have babies.
- anchor 1 *
Yes, that was Republican candidate Jeb Bush using, to borrow his phrasing, what is called a racial slur. “Anchor babies” is an offensive term to describe the children of undocumented immigrants who are born in the United States and, under the 14th amendment to the Constitution, granted automatic citizenship. But now Donald Trump is running around denying this, instead arguing that the children born to parents who immigrated here without all the legal documentation should not be citizens. He claims that they are quote-unquote “anchor babies”, that their mothers are having them specifically to create a legal rationale to stay here. There’s no truth to it. It’s just a conspiracy theory used to justify a racist belief that white people are somehow more American than people with Latino heritage, which is why I consider the term “anchor baby” to be a racial slur.
But it’s also a misogynist slur, because the whole point of the term is to demonize women in particular for having children. Yes, the same people who just minutes ago were denouncing women for not having babies turn around and denounce women for having babies. The common theme here is that because you are a woman, everything you do is wrong and because you are a woman, your body is public property to be controlled by a bunch of angry conservatives because reasons.
Bush is backtracking hard from the term, now that journalists are calling him out.
- anchor 2 *
Well, sort of. He still endorses this bizarre conspiracy theory but instead blames Asian immigrants for it. It’s still nonsense. Having a child who is a citizen is not actually very good prevention for deportation, as the children of thousands of families broken up because their parents got deported could tell you. Bush is in a weird position. He wants to be seen as a reasonable candidate who doesn’t truck with this misogynist, racist abuse towards Latinas. But he also wants Fox News viewers to vote for him. And Fox News loves the fact that Donald Trump will fling around terms like “anchor babies.”
- anchor 3 *
That’s Tucker Carlson loving the term “anchor babies,” even as Geraldo Rivera seemed a little more sour about it. But this whole “just telling it like it is” nonsense is being used frequently to defend this term in right wing media.
- anchor 4 *
- anchor 5 *
This is a guy, may I remind you, who loves getting weepy and sentimental about embryos. Embryos, people. But if you’re an actual born person, as long as your parents are immigrants, you barely rate as a person in his eyes. I don’t even really want to call that hypocrisy. He’s definitely consistent in his belief that whatever women are doing with their bodies, it’s probably wrong and the law should punish them for it. Don’t want a baby? Too bad, he wants to force you. Having a baby? Too bad. He wants to strip that baby of citizenship rights. It is worth remembering that Sean Hannity’s grandparents were Irish immigrants, so, by his own reckoning, his parents are “anchor babies.” But of course he doesn’t see it like that because, no matter how conservatives like to frame it, this is about race and nothing else.
Earlier this summer, some hackers threatened the company Ashley Madison, a dating website that markets itself as a site for people who are looking to commit adultery. The hackers, going under the name the Impact Team, have a garbled rationalization for their action, both accusing people who sign up for the site of immorality and accusing the company of not working hard enough to delete the profiles of people who decide they want out. So they somehow simultaneously claim to be for privacy but also want to out a bunch of adulterers. It’s very strange. Either way, the company was unable to meet the hackers’ extremely strange and contradictory demands, and so 30 plus million user profiles were released online.
It’s a shame that this is happening at all, but some of the stuff that’s come out has been interesting. For instance, I learned that Ashley Madison markets largely to conservative people. As Amanda Hess wrote in her Slate piece about this hack, “The site stands to profit off of a host of conservative social trends: Closeted gay men who are afraid to come out, religious invectives against divorce, and couples marrying young before sexually experimenting with other partners.” Liberals cheat, absolutely, but I suspect it’s because they find themselves attracted to someone specific and slide into it. The mentality of “I’m going to cheat and now it’s just a matter of finding a partner” really does feel conservative, and particularly feels like the reasoning of conservative men who have Madonna/whore syndromes and want to have a relatively chaste relationship with a wife at home but still want exciting sexual encounters.
All of which is to say that it’s therefore unsurprising whose names are being found in the data leak.
- Madison 1 *
Obviously, this story has a lot of prurient value, and I would hesitate to cover it but for the public confessions. But I think what’s more interesting here is that this entire scandal doesn’t just reveal the widespread hypocrisy about sex that is endemic to the Christian right. It actually reveals something darker and more sinister, which is they way that the quote-unquote “family values” set is, above all, about protecting and enshrining male dominance.
Women are expected to be submissive on the Christian right, but they are frequently told that in exchange for that submission, they will be protected and cherished. But this scandal shows that is an empty promise. Take, for instance, the case of Sam Rader, who is a Christian vlogger whose name came up. He and his wife Nia present themselves as this perfect Christian couple, and he even says he’s the kind of man he wants his daughter to marry. But, of course, while he was saying this, he was messaging tons of women on Ashley Madison in hopes of having an affair. You will not be surprised to find out his response.
- Madison 2 *
The whole selling point of the male headship/female submission thing is to tell women that if they submit to their husbands, their husbands will in turn be loving, responsible men who provide spiritual leadership and just generally take responsibility for their wives and families. But as we see, in reality, when men fail to take even basic responsibility to keep their promises, there’s immense pressure on women to forgive and forget immediately. Failing to take responsibility never threatens the man’s prerogative to be the leader and the authority over his wife’s life. Instead, there’s just automatic forgiveness and a return to a situation where he gets to be the boss no matter how bad he is at his job, just because he’s a man. How nice for him!
One problem is that the same Christian right that extends automatic forgiveness to male philanderers has zero forgiveness for gay people or women just being themselves, even though it doesn’t hurt anyone else. On the right, it’s day in and day out war on gay people or women who have sex in a fully ethical manner that doesn’t involve lying or breaking promises. I don’t like that this Ashley Madison leak invaded the privacy of so many people who, unlike these two, don’t hold themselves out as moral leaders. But these public confessions, I think, offer an opportunity to really consider what kind of moral system they’re pushing in the first place.
And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, all problems are women having sex edition. Dana Loesch decided that the culprit behind the recent on-air murder of two journalists in Virginia is women and their stupid health care.
- Loesch *
It’s really rich that someone who is attacking life-saving medical research as a pretext to shut off life-saving sexual health care for women would say anyone else lacks respect for life. But her insinuation that legal abortion causes crime and disregard for life is easy enough to test against statistics. The murder rate in 1972, the year before abortion was legalized nationwide, was nine murders per 100,000 people. In 2013, it was half that, at 4.5. Looks like legal abortion is teaching people to respect life. Maybe [abortion] shouldn’t be so damn hard to get.