Saturday, June 28, 2008

"Why Do They Hate Us?"

Last night, I was reading Curve Magazine (Vol.18,#6, July/August, 2008). In it was an article by noted Lesbian activist and writer, Victoria A. Brownworth, "Why Do They Hate Us? How the Media treats Hillary is indicative of how the world sees women: as second class citizens." The title pretty much says it all. And what she wrote included startling facts, which I will list below. They are not for the faint of heart, let me warn you right now. As is my wont, I felt compelled to write the Editors:

I just finished reading Ms. Brownworth's piece, "Why Do They Hate Us." It moved me to tears. As one who has followed this election campaign VERY closely, I have been horrified, and furious, at the treatment of an attorney who worked for poor women and children, a Former First Lady of Arkansas, a Former First Lady of the United States, and a TWO TERM Sitting US Senator by the Mainstram Media, Senator Barack Obama, and the DNC. It is simply staggering how accepted sexism, even misogyny, is in this country. It is mind boggling that Main Stream Media can make demeaning, disparaging remarks about a US Senator because she is a WOMAN. I am a lifelong (50 yr old), straight party ticket Democratic voter, or I should say I was, until the treatment of Senator Clinton, and ALL women, by the DNC elite and Senator Obama. I have now left the party to which I have dedicated myself, my money, and my vote. (I might add, my decision was reinforced when the RBC/DNC decided to take actual votes cast for one candidate, Clinton, and give them to a candidate who was not even on the ballot, in addition to the sexism, even misogyny, in which the above three have participated this year.)

And I am saddened. As one who actively worked for women's equality for over 32 years, it is incredibly discouraging and disheartening to see how quickly people - men AND women - revert to blatant sexism, almost with GLEE. They act as if they have been holding back these comments and feelings, but are now free to let loose with their derogatory comments. There is not a DOUBT in my mind that if these same comments were expressed in a racist manner, they would - RIGHTLY - be decried far and wide. Yet, since they were *only* about a woman, well, haha," weren't they funny, and we all know they are true anyway, right? Nudge, nudge, wink wink," it was just fine. Sigh.

And now, the more qualified candidate (IMHO), the one who has been a STALWART supporter of women, children, the LGBT community, and numerous other groups as diverse as veterans and Native Americans, has been subjugated to the less qualified, far less experienced, male candidate. It seems we have not moved very far at all...

Thank you, Ms. Brownworth, for writing what many of us have experienced, and for pointing out the cruel facts of what it means to be a woman in this country, in this world. We have much, much work to do...

The Rev. Amy

And juxtapose this to Obama's recent remarks about how Senator Clinton was "brutalized," equating the treatment his wife got during this campaign season to the treatment Senator Clinton has endured. No apology, no acknowledgement of his, and others, horrific treatment of her during this campaign. Just deflection, and "look over there." I'm sorry, but from where I sit, Michelle Obama has been treated pretty fairly by the MSM. The grief she has gotten has been more a DIRECT response to what she has SAID, not that she is an African American woman. There is a world of difference between the two.

And now seeing these articles and photographs of Senator Clinton and Senator Obama together, him with his hand on her back, just makes me cringe. Frankly, it makes me almost physically ill. See, I have done a lot of work in the Domestic Violence movement. And I have seen this cycle before: the man abuses, attacks, and lashes out at the woman. The woman makes excuses for, and accepts blame from, the man for his attacks. Not unlike Senator Clinton saying now that they are friends, respect each other, and support each other. I know what respect looks and feels like - Senator Obama has shown NONE for Senator Clinton. Senator McCain has, but Obama? No. Seeing these photos of her with him now reminds me of battered women wearing sunglasses to hide the bruises, and saying, "Oh, he didn't really mean it. It was my fault, really, I shouldn't have made him mad. He really does love me, in his own way, really! Don't be mad at him!" Not only did Obama make sexist remarks about Senator Clinton, INCLUDING at the fundraiser the other night, but he reaped the benefit of the sexist and misogynistic remarks made by others, the veiled death threats (talking to YOU, Keith), the threats of violence, the degradation, not on her record, or on her speeches, but because she was a woman. As Ms. Brownworth wrote,
Clinton was the focal point for American misogyny, writ long and large. She was tough enough to take it and not cry foul, but why do women and girls have to take it? Why are we called bitches and cunts if we speak the truth about our lives? We are treated as less-than-human in a myriad of ways in our society. We are victims of violence, discrimination, and hate, and that diminishes us daily as human beings.
(Vol. 18, #6, p 34)

And now, for the facts I mentioned above. These are not pleasant. Stop reading here if you do not want to be disturbed. Okay. Here I go, from Ms. Brownworth's article:
Vaginal destruction:
For over a decade, war has raged in the eastern province of Congo. Gangs of militia have preyed on women and girls and made rape and vaginal destruction major tools of that war. Vaginal destruction - an act so violent a woman can never again have vaginal sex or bear a child - was defined as a war crime in April...In Congo, women have been raped so brutally and by so many men at one time that some have been eviscerated. Eviscerated by rape. That is how much they hate us. (p 34)

Honor killings:
What has never made the news is that nearly all of the murders of women in Palestinian territory have nothing to do with the political situation there: They are the result of honor killings...Honor killings are a leading cause of death among women in the Middle East. Since the U.S. occupation of Iraq, the number of honor killings has risen exponentially because the once secular nation is now an Islamic theocracy. (pp34-35)

Lest you think all of this violence is only in other countries, here are some U.S. statistics:
One in six women will be raped in her lifetime. One in four has survived child sexual abuse or an incestuous relationship with a male relative. One in three has been the victim of domestic violence. Over 1.2 million women are forcibly raped by an ex-husband or ex-boyfriend each year. The leading cause of death among pregnant women is murder by a spouse or boyfriend. Four out of every five female murder victims in the United States were killed by men they knew: a spouse or boyfriend, a male relative, a co-worker...This means millions of American men - men we know, men we may love or have loved - hate us enough to rape, main, or kill us. Millions. It's a difficult reality to face: Women and girls are so hated that our lives and bodies mean nothing to these men.
Brownworth continues,
Perhaps that reality and the inchoate knowledge of it is why it was easy for people to refer to Clinton with the vilest of hate speech and feel no remorse and receive no recrimination from either the general populace or the media... (p34)

Wow, Speaker Pelosi - it seems that SOMEONE wasn't too busy to document all of the sexism and misogyny, even if YOU were too busy to do so...(Ref: Pelosi's interview with Greta Van Susteren this past week on "On the Record with Greta Van Susteren.)

As I said above, Obama did not even have to say despicable comments himself - having others do so as his surrogates was sufficient. That is the whole thing with domestic violence - the THREAT of it is sufficient to keep many women in line. Their partners may not engage in violence themselves (and psychological and emotional battery still counts as domestic violence, by the way. Some would argue, convincingly, I think, that they are worse as they are more insidious, and stay with the woman much, much longer than physical abuse), as other men engaging in this behavior is enough for the fear to be present in most, if not all, women.

More from Brownworth:
It doesn't matter if we are siting U.S. Senators or sitting at home taking care of our children or sitting by a stream getting water right before we are gang-raped. It doesn't matter if we are in the United States or Congo or Gaza or Iraq. The one common denominator for women, the thing that unites us, is that we are all hated equally for our gender.

"To some men - even the men who loved us before they raped us or beat us or murdered us - we are all cunts. For ourselves - and for the women and girls of Congo, Gaza, Iraq, and every other nation where women are being eviscerated in body and spirit - we must stand up and speak out against the global terrorism of women and girls. (p35)

And so, as much as I admire and respect Senator Clinton, I cannot, and will not, participate in this Party-, this Country's- sanctioned cycle of violence. Please stop asking me, us, to do so. I deserve better. YOU deserve better. We all deserve better than to keep feeding into this cycle. I, for one, will not.


LindaA1 said...

Thanks for the great post! Too little is being said about the institutionalized sexism in our society.

I believe many of these folks who look dumbfounded when you point out sexism - it's about as normal as morning sun up and evening sun down.

Have you ever wondered how it is that you can put your key in your door lock or car ignition so easily - practically without looking? After all, it's a little point of a key that has to find its way to a tiny matching opening.

To me, that level of unconsciousness and ease of use illustrates how ingrained sexism is in the minds of people in this so-called free country.

The abhorrent treatment of women in the Democratic primary - and the accompanying jaw drops of mainstream Americans when we yell we're mad about "something" - may be a blessing in disguise.

Perhaps the issue is finally on the table in a big way. Women who are too young or too busy or too unaware have come face-to-face with the centuries-old feminist elephant in the room. It has cost them this time in a flashy celebrity historical way that cannot be easily ignored.

TV pundits and political surrogates seem clueless about the fuss. It's because our candidate lost? Like it was a football game?

They WON'T believe the visceral, gut-wrenching reaction they're seeing and hearing from women. At first I thought it was because they were gaming us, trying to fake us out, trying to get us over it and back into the fold.

Now I'm beginning to believe that sexism is so embedded in the fabric of this culture that average - or clueless - men and some woman are genuinely taken aback by the outcry.

Well, from a feminist leader in the early seventies, may I rejoice in saying IT'S ABOUT TIME SEXISM GOT UP IN EVERYBODY'S FACE BIG TIME!

On another similar note:

I get sick and tired of hearing what a violent society WE are. We are not violent, MEN ARE.

When are we going to name the mean and hateful behavior of so many men in our society what it is?

Women account for less than 20% of ALL ARRESTS made in this country.

Since the 1960s, female arrests have been less than 15 percent for homicide and aggravated assault and less than 10 percent burglary and robbery.

Females are more likely to commit the less serious crimes of larceny, fraud, forgery and embezzlement like shoplifting, bad checks, welfare and credit fraud. These are crimes which relate to traditional female consumer and domestic roles.

In other words, women commit crimes mostly out of need even when they do it at all.

We are not a violent country. THIS IS A COUNTRY OF VIOLENT MEN.

Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy said...

Lindaa1 -

Thank you for your thoughtful, comprehensive response. I really appreciate the time you took to write.

And I agree with you BIG time. Is it really possible that these men (and some women, e.g., Andrea Mitchell or Nancy Pelosi) DON'T see the sexism, or is it that they are just playing dumb? Seriously - it seems as if once a few of the commentators were not held accountable for their sexism, the flood gates just OPENED. Remember how MAD a lot of MEN got when David Shuster was held accountable for calling Chelsea a whore and her mother a pimp?? There was OUTRAGE that HE was being held accountable for his sexist remarks, not that he MADE them!! How DARE we women (and some men) find fault with his denigration of these two women!?! What the hell is the matter with US??? And that is exactly how they paint it - WE'RE the ones with the problem, not them.

And seriously, I just cannot buy into this whole, "oh, he didn't mean it, he'll be nice this time, Promise!" crapola with Obama. Bullshit. He has shown who he really is, and it isn't pretty - certainly isn't hope and changey!!

Oh, absolutely RIGHT abt women prisoners. I worked with male and female prisoners up in Boston (and the state system in MA, as well). Approx. 90% of women who were incarcerated had been abused as children or as adults, most of their crimes were related to self-medicating, and others, like bad check writing, were because they were forced to do so by their batterers, or partners (and often to feed their kids wen they had no money as the result of the men in their lives TAKING it for drugs/alcohol). VERY few of the women in the state system were there for violent crimes. And the correlation between their abuse histories and drugs/alcohol were crustal clear.

Thanks for bringing that up! And thanks for coming by - I really appreciate your comments!

PJ said...

Thanks for your article pointing out the sexism and misogyny towards Senator Clinton during the primary.... and toward all women... that we live with every day.

Unfortunately, Obama's using JayZ's song "I've got Problems but a Bitch Ain't One" during his campaign and of course, the "Bro's before Ho's" t-shirts didn't help our cause.

When he gave Hillary the finger, then brushed his shoulders as if he was brushing her off his suit during a speech, it was incredibly disrespectful, especially when you compare it to the song that tells men to do that to women.

Our current lifestyle is infused with sexism and ageism (which no one addresses at all), and, I contend that it is actually more insidious than racism at this point.

Thanks for your good work. I'll put you on my blogroll.

Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy said...

PJ -

Thanks so much - I really appreciate both your comments, and adding me to your blogroll!

Absolutely, ageism is another major issue in this country. No doubt abt it. And sexism is very insidious - the levels at which is tolerated, and in some cases, ENCOURAGED, is staggering. There were a few years there - back in the '70's and '80's, that it looked like we might just be making a move. Then the backlash began...

Other countries have definitely seen what is going on here, and are shocked at the way Clinton was treated. Uh, yeah...

Thanks again!