McCain’s blunt demonstration of base misogyny

By Amanda Marcotte
Thursday, October 16, 2008 18:29 EDT
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Update: John McCain also repeated a lie about the “born alive” bills in Illinois. RH Reality Check has compiled information about why the anti-choicers perpetuating the “infanticide” slur are wrong, usually deliberately so.

I’ll be honest—after the debate, I was worried that it was closer to a draw than it really was. I knew Obama won, but the expectations on McCain were lowered so much that it was clear that the pundits weren’t going to ding him for looking like he was about to blow up the whole debate, his evident fury that he still has to talk to Obama, his rambling, his bizarre attacks, and his pity parade for people who make 5.6 times the national median salary. We didn’t watch much of the post-debate wrap-up, because we left to go to a party, but I felt that McCain would probably pull a draw or a win merely by not throttling Obama, and especially because he made a few empty gestures towards admitting Obama’s existence. McCain has been down so long, I just feared the mainstream media types would throw him a bone, no matter how disingenuous. Once again, I was overly pessimistic.

Other bloggers will no doubt be dissecting other parts of the debate, but what impressed me was how McCain demonstrated overt misogyny. It was sort of weird of Obama to bring up the Lily Ledbetter situation when he was asked about abortion, but I think he realized that the abortion question was going to be the only one that touched on “women’s issues”, and thus his only chance to make a case for feminist causes and provoke McCain into openly insulting women, and in that sense, Obama succeeded magnificently. First was McCain dismissing legislation that requires women to be paid fairly as a giveaway to trial lawyers. He’s not wrong that discrimination does provoke lawsuits, but the solution is for employers not to discriminate, not for women and racial minorities to sit down and shut up, which was McCain’s implied solution. And how come trial lawyers are the bad guys because they make money, like Joe the Plumber? (Don’t answer that—I know it’s because they give to the Democrats.) But what was, in this household at least, the most jaw-dropping moment was when McCain accused women of using health care as an excuse to get out of their due punishment for raw sluttitude. There’s no other way to interpret his comment about health exceptions—he openly accused women who get later term abortions of lying about their health problems to get out of pregnancy. Searing contempt for women dripped off that statement, and it was a nice little reminder that the purported concern that anti-choicers have for women is a weak ruse indeed. The stereotypes of women that feed his statement—that they’re inherently deceitful, that they are prone to sexual misbehavior (and the use of deceit to cover it up) and so they have to be firmly controlled, that they’re so stupid and inconstant that they’d actually diddle around for 5 months before they get around to an abortion—were a neat little reminder of what anti-choicers really think about women.

The reality, of course, is much different. Few doctors perform late term abortions, and they’re watched like hawks by the anti-choicers. George Tiller of Kansas is constantly dragged into court by anti-choicers accusing him of what McCain was saying, which is using health as an “excuse” to let someone escape the lord’s punishment for being a sexual woman. Unsurprisingly, they never get him for anything. His clinic is known for the extensive counseling they do, because people that have to come to them are often traumatized by the series of events that led them to Kansas. But honestly, no matter how much you point out that wanted pregnancies go wrong all the time and have to be terminated for the mother’s health, I don’t think anti-choicers care. They’re working off Biblical misogyny, specifically the belief that sorrow in childbirth is a woman’s punishment for sin, and if god’s plan for you is to be really, really sorrowful because you’re disabled, dead, or have delivered a baby that’s dead or is dying a horrible death, then that’s just part of his plan.

Here’s an example of someone McCain is accusing of lying.

More from Tiffany Campbell here. I also have an interview with her coming up a week from Monday on the podcast, and she will explain how the accusation that she’s a liar is a common thing coming from anti-choicers. It’s despicable to accuse women who’ve gone through these personal tragedies of lying. And make no mistake, this is pure misogyny that leans hard on the stereotype of women’s inherent deceitfulness, and is related to other debunked myths, such as the myth that women “cry” rape (at least more than people “cry” other crimes—the rate of false reports is about the same for various crimes) or any area where women are considered far more prone to lying than men.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
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