Category Archives: Undead sexist cliches

Undead Sexist cliches: no woman is ever unmarked

Way back in 1993, Deborah Tannen had an essay in The New York Times about how everything a woman does is a marker, in that it says something about her. It comes from linguistics, where “the unmarked form of a word carries the meaning that goes without saying — what you think of when you’re not thinking anything special.”

Men, she says, have the option to go through life with their choices as nothing special: “Men can choose styles that are marked, but they don’t have to, and in this group none did. Unlike the women, they had the option of being unmarked.” A guy who dresses nondescript, not showing off his looks, is just a guy; a woman who dresses not showing off her looks is A Woman Not Showing Off Her Looks. It’s significant in a way it isn’t with men. It’s assumed to be a conscious choice from which we can conclude the woman is actively discouraging male interest; is a frump who doesn’t know how to show herself off; or hates men (I have heard more than one claim that women who don’t dress the way men like women to dress must be man-haters).

When men wear sensible shoes, they’re just sensible shoes; when women do it, they’re frumps or lesbians. If a woman doesn’t wear makeup, it again implies she’s a frump, not sexy, not interested in men, whereas men not wearing makeup is unremarkable. Tannen points out that while “Ms” may be unmarked in the sense of not disclosing marital status, the choice to use it says something about the woman, or is assumed to say it, just like a woman taking her husband’s last name or not or hyphenating does. Similarly it’s noteworthy that we have a woman as vice president but for many people having an unbroken string of men is unremarkable.

When some seniors at Wellesley College objected to then First Lady Barbara Bush as commencement speaker — shouldn’t they have a woman who’d accomplished more than be the wife of the president? — one alumnus claimed this was an insult to stay-at-home moms, by implying the seniors didn’t think that was good enough. It wasn’t (Bush wasn’t invited because she was a mom but because she was the president’s wife) but it’s another example of No Unmarked Woman. The seniors saying they didn’t want Bush was treated as a statement about life choices. The lack of stay-at-home dads with no professional accomplishments among commencement speakers? That’s unremarkable.

As I’ve also mentioned before, though I can’t find the link handy, similar thinking bedevils any of us writing women characters: there are people who’ll read significance into what in a male character would be unremarkable. A fantasy protagonist who defeats the unbeatable foe is unremarkable when male, a Mary Sue when female (as in some negative reviews of Uprooted). A woman who’s rational rather than emotional is being written as a man. Writing a woman who’s a kick-ass fighter dismisses women who’d rather nurture than fight. A woman who’s beautiful and heroic is over the top (Mary Sue again) and maybe fan service; a woman who’s heroic and unattractive implies you can’t be both strong and beautiful. And so on.

The late comics writer Dwayne McDuffy once observed that because black characters used to be so rare, a given character stands in for the entire black population, which is unattainable. I think some of the same is true of women characters. Every one of them is marked. Every one of them is assumed to make a statement or mean something. They can’t just be individuals.

If we ever get to the point where that’s no longer true, we’ll really have made progress.

#SFWApro. Cover by Scott McKowen, all rights to image remain with current holder.

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Undead Sexist Cliche: Only women have agency

Over at Lawyers, Guns and Money they coined a phrase, “Murc’s law,” for a commenter who observed how often people arguing politics assume “only Democrats have agency.” On the extreme left it takes the form of “Obama could totally have made the ACA single-payer insurance if he’d wanted” and ignoring the opposition. On the right it’s endless variations of how this or that person doesn’t want to vote for Trump but they just have to because the Dems are so radical/socialist/communist. They have no choice! Tellingly, no conservative making these arguments ever suggests that Republicans should nominate someone more centrist to stop Democrats supporting A-OC (or whoever). Or Sen. Ron Johnson explaining he’s forced to break his pledge to serve only two terms because Democrats are evil.

It occurred to me that a lot of discussion makes the same assumption about women. Men are helpless creatures, subject to their primal drives; it’s up to women to rein them in.

For example, there’s the argument that men can’t help raping women, so it’s entirely women’s responsibility to avoid getting raped.

If young men aren’t achieving anything it’s women’s fault for having sex with them before marriage.

If boys become juvenile delinquents or homosexuals, it’s all the fault of the mother.

When men go on killing sprees, women make them do it.

Men can’t become grown-ups if they don’t settle down and get married, so if women don’t marry and have kids, men won’t grow up. As Echidne says, this works out much better for men — in the 1950s family so many of these arguments invoke, the mother had a shit-ton more work. Dad could put in his 9-to-5, come home and relax. Mom had to make him dinner, wash the dishes, put the kids to bed. “Honey do” tasks (as they used to be called) for the man of the house were lighter and a lot less frequent.

You can see some of that in the sitcoms so many right-wingers complain about. You know, the ones that show Mom has her shit together while dad is either a goof-off or a boob. Right-wingers love to blame this on feminism; a worldview where men get to slack off, duck their responsibilities and clown around knowing Mom will fix everything feels much more like a male fantasy. As the shutters Hathor Legacy blog put it, the message is not that men are idiots, it’s that”it’s okay to be a massive screw-up, because a woman will come along to fix it for you or take the blame.”

Likewise, when you have Republicans attracting men by playing on anxieties about not being manly enough, someone will complain that feminists (or at the link, liberals in general) are not offering men a better alternative. If men are feeling insecure about their manhood — and a lot of men do — and the right insists the solution is machismo and reasserting male dominance — then the left has to come up with a better narrative, one that reassures men.

As a political tactic, this makes a certain sense. But I can’t help thinking the left and feminists offer guys pretty much what the author at the link says they need, the freedom “to become sissies, scrawny historians or even women.” I suspect a lot of the guys listening to the right don’t want to hear this, they want to hear that they’re entitled to dominate women, to be the head of their household.

Saying they can break out of male stereotypes won’t be enough. Like the religious conservatives Kristin Kobes Du Mez writes about, they’re rejecting the alternatives; I think the right-wing Catholic young men profiled recently by The New Republic are in the same boat. If someone wants to make the case that feminists/liberals should launch a massive pitch, I want to hear what the winning strategy is, and how it works without compromising on equality. Otherwise, it’s just more hand-wringing about how liberals could totally win over the right wing if they’d just do … something unspecified.

Gender equality is justice. If men don’t like it, I don’t think that’s feminism’s fault.

Cover by Kemp Ward, all rights remain with current holders.

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Virgins don’t want sex, at least if they’re women (and other links)

At least according to some dude caught up in this We Hunted the Mammoth linkpost: God made women to serve men and bear children so they feel sexual urges when married because that bonds them to their husband. No, it appears the idiot was serious. And apparently doesn’t think the same applies to men. I’m not surprised.

If, as expected, the Supreme Court kills Roe, the U.S. will be worse for women than it was before 1973. But the Texas right wing has a solution — women should just say no to sex. There’s no suggestion that women could just use birth control because that would require being okay with single women having sex. And Texas would sooner women get pregnant from ignorance than actually let them have sex without consequences.

A young woman fights to end child marriage in Nigeria.

Women are more likely to die or suffer injury in car crashes because crash-test dummies are almost all male.

A Texas church fights for abortion rights.

Slacktivist looks at the end of the Daughters of Sarah evangelical women’s magazine.

Country singer Jason Isbell uses his shows to promote black women artists.

Jesse Kelly is an ex-military right-wing hack who poses as a real tough guy. He’s actually scared shitless that if our military makes an effort to be open to all genders and orientations, our enemies will attack (I suspect a few decades back he might have said the same thing about desegregating the races). And keeping with his history fetishizing violence and machismo, he wants our military to be filled with bloodlust. You’d think someone who’d actually served would understand about rules of war and such, but it’s in keeping with the masculine insecurities chronicled in Jesus and John Wayne.

It’s a never-ending battle: right-wing purity culture reborn.

Slacktivist again, pondering why some conservatives believe God’s curse in Genesis requires childbirth without drugs but doesn’t require men to labor by the sweat of their brow: “The simplest explanation is that this is simply crude dishonesty in service of cruel misogyny.

It will shock you — okay, maybe not — that the Supreme Court has more concern for the speech rights of right-to-life “clinics” than doctors.

Dr. Rebecca Gomperts is helping women in repressive nations obtain abortions. That now includes the US.

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Reaching across the abortion aisle

In an LGM comments thread about the imminent end of Roe rights, someone made the point that liberals have been asked since the 1990s to reach across the aisle. Respect that the right-to-life side is driven by sincere religious beliefs. Show we get it. Maybe compromise and allow a certain amount of restrictions, so that abortion is “safe, legal and rare” in Bill Clinton’s phrase. That way we can preserve the right to abortion and probably turn all those forced-birthers into committed Democratic voters!

Nobody ever suggests that the forced birth side should compromise and say, guarantee the right to abortion for rape victims as proof that they’re not anti-women. It’s always pro-choice who have to reach across the aisle (much like Democratic leaders are supposed to prove their independence by striking a conservative pose — nobody suggests Republican leaders should stand up to their voters by supporting gay rights or women’s equality).

And yes, the forced-birth side is indeed anti-woman. For all the claims that abortion is the American Holocaust, they aren’t willing to stop it by, say, making it easier for women to work and care for kids or making it easier to obtain birth control — that’s irresponsible! Better they take a stand against premarital sex that has no effect on abortion rates.

Nor do they give a crap about miscarriage, even though that means half of all children die in the womb (no, I don’t think they’re children, but going by right-wing logic …). They will, however, happily use miscarriages as an excuse to punish women.

Part of Mississippi’s argument is that with all the progress made in women’s rights, not being able to abort won’t hurt their careers or future plans. The evidence says otherwise. Amy Coney Barrett suggests that killing abortion is no big deal because it’s legal to give up your baby right after birth. But that won’t help with the costs of ob/gyn care, the emotional trauma of rape or incest or the health risks to some women of carrying to term. Let’s not forget, some Republicans believe that even if a fetus is dead or guaranteed to be born dead, women shouldn’t be allowed to abort. The right to give up the baby won’t help. Nor will it help if a court forces a woman to take bed rest or otherwise strips her of her rights.

The ever useless excresence Megan McArdle argues outlawing abortion is only an issue for elitists who worry about planning their career: the simple, working-class woman has has higher values than the option to have sex without pregnancy. And McArdle has a point — it’s not like an hourly wage worker would have money problems if they were off work for a couple of months due to an unplanned pregnancy. Of course, McArgleBargle claims poor people are all poor because of bad lifestyle decisions — a conclusion she argued showed her respect for the working class.

Justice Sotamayor has vented freely, asking “will this institution survive the stench that this creates in the public perception that the Constitution and its reading are just political acts?” Of course, it is — Republicans have been working toward a court decision against abortion for decades. Through the rancid luck of 2016 and various other factors, they can now do it. Nevertheless, Reason magazine — nominally libertarian, conservative in lots of ways — thinks the real problem is Sotamayor’s uncivil language.

But she has the right to be uncivil: Barrett, Gorsuch and Kavanaugh all lied about their views on abortion when they were confirmed. This was always the right-wing’s dream. If there was ever a chance for compromise (I doubt it) it vanished long ago. Unfortunately too many Democratic politicians waited too long to realize it.

I’ll close with a reminder that anti-abortion as a major right-wing issue is younger than the Happy Meal.

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It is fortunate that I do not have Wolverine’s claws

For it is a certainty people would provoke me slice and dice them. Particularly if I had his healing factor so I couldn’t be stopped.

The ass-hat who provoked this was Seventh-Day Adventist pastor Burnett Robinson who said in a recent sermon that ““In this matter of submission, I want you to know upfront ladies, that once you get married, you are no longer your own. You are your husband’s.” By which he means it’s moral to rape your wife.

No, no, it’s not.

It’s true that Paul’s letter to the Ephesians says wives should submit to their husbands. But a)it does not therefore follow that she must do anything her husband asks. Even misogynist Southern Baptist preacher John Piper thinks there are limits; unfortunately his dealbreakers are if the husband wants to engage group sex (or roleplaying or bondage, even consensually), not if he’s abusing her. That she has to submit to “for a season” or for one night of physical abuse. Then she can turn to the church and ask for help. Not, apparently civil authorities.

Keep in mind that (as Beth Moore has discussed), Ephesians also sets rules for husbands, who are required to love and cherish their wives. Rape is not loving. Abuse is not loving. Yet for men such as Piper and Robinson, demanding husbands do what’s right isn’t half as important as ensuring the wife never challenge patriarchal authority.

When people such as this present themselves as moral voices, my contempt is limitless.

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Shouldn’t women’s roles have improved by 1996?

Rewatching The Thing From Another World (1951) as I worked on the Monsters chapter of Alien Visitors gave me fresh appreciation for Margaret Sheridan as Nikki, the female lead opposite Kenneth Tobey’s Hendry. It’s not that she plays a role in fighting the Thing, but there’s no question she could do it if she had to.

Producer Howard Hawks liked stories about tough guys, and Hendry and his crew are plenty tough.  It’s not emphasized, just taken as a given that they’re willing to go up against this alien menace and fight to the last man to save the world. Scotty, the reporter (Douglas Spencer) establishes his bona fides easily: when Hendry says he should be away from the front lines, Scotty replies he shouldn’t have been at El Alamein or Okinawa during WW II, but he was there. ’nuff said.

The thing is, Hawks liked his women tough too. Contrary to the poster, Nikki never screams, never faints, never needs more protection than anyone else. She never stays behind when they’re going up against the Thing. We learn that on her last date with Hendry she drunk him under the table, a measure of toughness back in those days.

Fast-forward to 1988’s Predator. We have one woman in the cast (Elpidia Carrillo) and her role is a headscratcher. She’s working with a Russian special-forces team fomenting unrest in the region. We never learn what he role is: interpreter? Guide? Marxist guerilla? It comes off as if she’s there solely to provide exposition and avoid criticism the film’s a 100 percent sausage fest.

While Dutch (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and his crew are tough, there’s more self-consciousness about it. One of the team (Jesse Ventura) carries a massive gun way too big to lug for jungle fighting; there’s the early scene where we watch Carl Weathers and Ah-nuld arm-wrestle with an emphasis on their muscles.

And then there’s Independence Day (1996) where as I’ve mentioned before, there’s a lot more worry that the male characters aren’t man enough. Jeff Goldblum lost his wife because he wasn’t ambitious enough for her; as a president, war hero Whitmore (Bill Pullman) is dismissed as a wimp because he compromises and negotiates. Both, of course, prove they’re Real Men.

The flip side of that is that the women have to be Real Woman, which is to say letting the men have all the glory. As the first lady, Mary McDonnell dies because she didn’t listen to her husband; Margaret Colin’s role as Goldblum’s ex is to see how awesome her husband really was; Viveca J. Fox gets to be a little heroic because she’s protecting her son, plus she’s doing what her boyfriend Will Smith told her to, in contrast to McDonnell.

It’s really annoying that Sheridan’s tougher and probably more capable than any of these later films. It should be the other way around, shouldn’t it? Similarly, the female lead in I Married a Monster (1997) doesn’t get to do more than in 1958’s I Married a Monster From Outer Space. All she can do is warn the town doctor and have him do the fighting. The 1995 Village of the Damned is marginally better than the classic 1960s film, but not much (I discussed this about a year ago).

Not that it’s startling news Hollywood is sexist, but it’s still annoying.

#SFWApro. All rights to images remain with current holders.

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Josh Hawley is so very, very alpha male!

At a recent conservative conference, Sen. Josh Hawley declared that liberals have evil plans for those of us with a Y-chromosome: ” the deconstruction of America begins with and depends on the deconstruction of American men … The Left want to define traditional masculinity as toxic. They want to define the traditional masculine virtues—things like courage, and independence, and assertiveness—as a danger to society.”

Does Hawley provide any examples? Of course not. Nor do I recall anyone saying that courage, independence and assertiveness are bad things. I assume this is the usual religious conservative bilge defining aggression and male dominance as assertiveness and courage. Of course he also works in anti-vax material — vaccine mandates are an attack on American men! And these attacks are making men retreat into videogames.

Lord, even though I don’t game, I find “men play too many videogames!” an incredibly stupid critique. It’s not just a male activity or a young person’s activity — lots of people, including people with professional careers, play games. It’s just a convenient shorthand for laziness, like “watching too much TV” when I was a kid (the Literary Dissection Tray has more).

Plus, of course the usual bogeymen such as critical race theory, feminism and quoting college professors and obscure 20th century liberals as PROOF of Joe Biden’s agenda! Nevertheless right-wing pundit Josh Hammer hails his fellow Josh’s speech as very alpha. As LGM says at the link, if you have to tell people something or someone is alpha, it ain’t alpha.

Meanwhile, accused sexual assailant Madison Cawthorn complains that “the left” wants to make America “sexless, genderless and Godless.” Sexless? Oh, right, I keep forgetting that while we’re libertines whose sexual revolution made predators like Harvey Weinstein possible (because nobody ever raped or harassed people before Free Love!), we’re also anti-sex prudes — after all, we criticized Cawthorn about sexual harassment, didn’t we?

Like so many right-wingers, Hawley is also worried we’re not breeding enough. Right-wingers are obsessed with that shit, like Tom Cotton declaring non-parents are not qualified to be teachers. My default assumption is that the real issue is women controlling their fertility instead of staying home and becoming mothers. Because it always is.

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Undead Sexist Cliches: Arm candy

There’s an annoying undead sexist cliche (though not one of the big ones I run into everywhere) that no matter what a woman accomplishes with her life, it’s real significance is how it affects her value in the marriage market/sexual marketplace.

That was the point of the Forbes story some 30 years back or so that coined the concept “trophy wife.” While the term eventually came to mean the young, hot, probably airheaded wife of an older dude, that wasn’t the typeo f woman the article focused on. They were college educated professionals, often with their own careers and businesses, but they were just as determined to make their marriage work as their profession.

A later article (in Ms., I think, but I can’t swear to it), said the wives hadn’t been told  Forbes’ trophy-wife slant. Instead the interviewer gave them the impression it was about high-powered executives’ second marriages. Several of the women were PO’d at learning the finished piece implied they’d accomplished was only important because it made them better arm candy for their spouse.

Or consider screenwriter David Goyer’s take on Marvel’s She-Hulk. The character was nothing but a marketing ploy when she debuted in 1980, a way to cash in on the Hulk TV show’s success. But John Byrne, Steve Gerber and Dan Slott all did interesting things with the character in a couple of later revival series. She’s strong, heroic, a lawyer and often a lot of fun (like the story where she battle’s Dr. Doom’s fifth cousin, Bob Doom, DDS).

According to Goyer her success isn’t because she’s an interesting character, or that female readers might like a super-strong woman hero but because she’s a sex fantasy for nerds. Nerds read comics to imagine being as powerful as Superman or the Hulk; the She-Hulk fantasy is being so strong and powerful you’re man enough to bang She-Hulk. She’s a trophy hookup.

Which ignores that She-Hulk has slept with a number of guys and “powerful enough to dominate her” isn’t something she looks for. But it’s an idea that I’ve seen elsewhere, a tough woman who’s desirable because she won’t be with a guy unless he’s more of a man than she is (I’ve heard at least one woman say that IRL, though not directed at me).

Marvel’s Red Sonja, for example, started out as simply a free-spirited mercenary. Then Marvel (I’m not sure who the writer was) saddled her with a rape backstory and a curse: she can never have sex with a man who isn’t stronger than she is. Which makes her a trophy of sorts again — it takes a hell of a man to tame a woman like that!

This is one of those posts where I don’t really have a conclusion, just sort of noting patterns. So there you are.

#SFWApro. Cover by Dale Keown, all rights remain with current holder.

 

 

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Undead Sexist Cliches and Vladimir Putin

Lawyers, Guns and Money linked last week to an article from a couple of years ago discussing Russia’s use of “soft power.” This is the power of leading not through military force but shared values. The classic example being the United States using its liberal values — pro-immigration, democracy, equality — to build support in the rest of the world (yes, I’m perfectly aware how iffy these values often were in practice, even before Trump).

In Russia’s case, it’s Putin’s conservative values: anti-gay, ethno-nationalist. These have made him look cool to a number of Republicans (Franklin Graham and Pat Buchanan for instance) who’d sooner see homosexuality outlawed than tolerate a democracy that supports them (though they’re still willing to use democracy when they can: Christian bigot Rick Scarborough wants to elect right-wing Christians to school boards to choke off school support for gay kids).

Conversely, Putin’s perfectly happy to throw his supports behind like-minded politicians in America and elsewhere, which explains his successful meddling in 2016. As LGM notes, this leads to a fractured foreign policy in which Republicans won’t even give lip service to supporting democracy overseas: they’d rather cozy up to Putin or Hungary’s vicious Orban.

After reading the article, it occurred to me that another factor in Putin’s soft power is the way he presents as a virile, manly warrior. As Kristin Kobes Du Mez says in Jesus and John Wayne, the me of the religious right are obsessively afraid that they and America aren’t manly enough. They’re terrified that all that stuff Jesus said about love, compassion and forgiveness is castrating them, so they push back against it, and against women’s equality.

This leads to things like my odious state Rep. Madison Cawthorne saying parents should raise their sons to be monsters — because if they act like Real Men, that’s what the feminized secular culture will call them. Or right-wing, coup-supporting pastor Ken Peters explaining why other Christians don’t support overthrowing the government: “I think most preachers are weak and spineless and they should be leading the Girl Scouts and not being behind pulpits.”

In the same vein, right-winger Charlie Kirk claimed recently that if America tolerates drag queens, China will invade Taiwan because they’ll see us as weak and impotent. While it would be foolish to assume Kirk’s doing anything but spewing bullshit — what else to right-wing hacks do these days? — the choice of bullshit is nevertheless significant.

As Dave Futrelle points out, Trumpites love to portray him as a physical superman: “They desperately want him to be the confident, hyper-confident macho man he pretends to be. And so they are compelled to do their part in shoring up his masculinity, at least symbolically — for his sake and for their own.”

Putin presents himself as the kind of macho, dominant male they imagine Trump is and physically dominant as well. Their hearts swell for him. He’s a hard, ruthless dictator, completely unsoftened by that milk-and-water love-your-enemies bullshit in the Bible. He sneers at the West for its tolerance of  “genderless and infertile” culture trends (does he sound like a CPAC speaker or what?). So we end up with Ted Cruz freaking out because the Army spotlighted a woman soldier raised by two mothers in a recent ad. According to Cruz, our military are now “pansies” who can’t possibly fight against the virile ruthlessness of Putin’s military.

As with Kirk, I’m not sure if Cruz believes a word of what he says. Perhaps he just knows some of his voters will; perhaps he’s genuinely anxious about gender issues — after all, the woman in that ad could kick his ass. But either way, the bullshit he chooses to spout is telling. And what it tells is not good.

 

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The Federalist: older men marrying teenagers is sound family planning!

I wouldn’t say the online magazine The Federalist is the worst right-wing website out there — the competition is stiff, after all — but they are an abominable mess of misogyny and stupidity (which is why none of the links are direct, though you can get to the magazine if you click through). It’s kind of black-humored funny that the magazine declared trans rights as a war on women when they’re so committed to waging one themselves.

They published an article by Georgi Boorman suggesting abortion isn’t necessary in cases of ectopic pregnancy, which is wrong. Boorman admitted as much later but seriously, that’s a very basic fact on the subject. She should never have made the mistake in the first place, no matter how devoted to the forced-birth cause she is.

Of course Amy Otto topped her with an article about that familiar undead sexist cliche, single women having sex destroys the world. It includes the phrase ““[Women] held a majority of the cards in sexual relationships and, facing a royal flush, decided to fold.” Um, nobody can beat a royal flush so folding is the only option. And contrary to Otto, women have never held all the cards in sex (click at the link for my critique).

We have Nicole Russell’s piece from 2015 gushing about how manly Paul Ryan looks with his beard, and how women need manly men to take charge of them more than they need independence. “Men who fail to embrace their masculinity are as bad as chauvinists who wield it like a weapon” No, they’re not.

The magazine’s senior editor, Mollie Hemingway, claims that women’s enthusiasm for 50 Shades of Grey proves feminism has failed and women secretly crave for men to dominate them (are we seeing a theme here?). Maybe they’d “prefer to be in a loving committed relationship with a dude than get successively better office jobs on the way to the corner office.” Strange how this hasn’t discouraged Hemingway from working her way up to the editorial suite.

From earlier this year, we have their accusation Jane Austen is getting cancelled! You will be shocked this is also a lie. More recently, we have one of their editors, Joy Pullman, writing that getting vaccinated against COVID is pagan — Christians should do without and trust God to protect them (as Pullman’s not advocating we give up all vaccines, safety belts and fire alarms, I presume she’s completely insincere and churning out propaganda for the cause).

Then there’s DC McAlister’s argument that women should make love to their husbands even when they don’t want to (which Jesus and John Wayne showed me is a common belief in the religious right — your husband’s reward for supporting you is sex whenever he wants it!).

But what got this article going was going down one of those Internet rabbit-holes and discovering a 2017 Federalist post by Baptist university professor Tully Borland, arguing that Roy Moore’s habit of (allegedly) sexually harassing teens when he was in his forties doesn’t make him a bad person (for the record, it’s far from the only problem I have with Moore). After all, if you want a large family, you need to start when the girl’s young, right? And to afford a large family, the man needs money which usually means being wealthy, right? Besides, everyone thought it was normal back then, why are we applying modern standards to the past!

No, we aren’t. As someone who was alive back in the late 1970s, I would have thought this was creepy as shit. Particularly if Roy was actively harassing the girls as they claim. I don’t think I’m alone — hell, Borland says he’d have assaulted Moore if it was his daughter (apparently other men’s daughters are fair game).

This piece actually generated some criticism outside left-wing blogs (I doubt many other people are aware of the Federalist outside the right-wing/forced birth/misogynist base) so co-founder Ben Domenech responded with a ton of cliches: isn’t it important to understand why people support Moore despite the charges? Sure, he personally thinks Moore’s a perv and didn’t agree with the article but “we publish the things we think make valuable contributions to the public debate, and represent the views of voters.”

First off, Borland wasn’t doing the equivalent of a “Trump safari,” telling us what Alabama voters think. He’s arguing that they should be voting for Moore. It’s a call for support not a deep dive. Second, even if Domenech doesn’t support Moore (it’s the Federalist. He could easily be lying) he obviously thinks “support the guy who sexual harasses teens” makes “valuable contributions to the public debate.” I don’t believe he’d say the same if I’d submitted a “why Christians should support Hilary Clinton” pitch back in 2016. I doubt he’ll ever run an article explaining why the majority of Americans favor the right to abortion unless the explanation is … Satan!

Third, according to the NYT link in the first paragraph of this post, one of the magazine’s major backers is Dick Uihlein who supported and donated to Roy Moore. So I’m not sure Domenech’s decision to run this piece was purely in the spirit of enlightening the public. But “we have to pay off the money men” doesn’t sound as cool as “free speech!”

Out of the crooked timber of The Federalist, no straight thing was ever made.

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