The resentment orchestra

By Amanda Marcotte
Wednesday, June 16, 2010 14:59 EDT
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Susan Jacoby has a fun response to the idiot parade claiming that there’s such thing as a “feminism” that opposes basically all the things that feminists stand for. (Though I am considering, if this doesn’t die down soon, starting an evangelical church dedicated to believing that there is no god and Jesus was a fraud, and angrily and constantly insisting that the only reason I’m being kept out of the club is prejudice.) The only real drawback to Jacoby’s piece is she suggests that Rand Paul is an exception to the Tea Party rule—she argues that they’re mostly culture warriors but he’s a genuine libertarian. Except, of course, he’s not. “Libertarian” is an increasingly meaningless distinction, especially when you’re talking about Paul, who does think that the government should force women to keep fetuses in their uteruses even as he argues that the government should be able to force black people out of segregated lunch counters. Paul’s strict constitutionalist stance consistently stops short when it’s securing the rights of anyone who’s not a white guy, in fact. But I digress.

What is so awesome about Jacoby’s column is that she really teases out how much the surge of anti-feminist politicians is a) sexist and b) about stoking resentments in the base. Sexist, because conservative female politicians are running on what happens in and around their vaginas.

Sarah Palin, the Tea Party’s Red Queen, is the personification of the two strands in right-wing thought and politics. And Palin is the mistress of the art of claiming moral standing as a result of what she does with her reproductive system. Remember all the times she exhibited her Down syndrome son on the campaign trail in 2008? Fiorina’s repellent attempt to bolster her anti-abortion credentials by lamenting her own infertility is directly inspired by Palin’s message, “Look at me, I’m a wonderful woman because that I had a child with a mental disability. And you women who had abortions in the same circumstance are bad, bad, bad. “

And the resentment thing is what’s so fascinating.

Explaining her anti-abortion stance to the San Francisco Chronicle, Fiorina said, “I myself was not able to have children of my own, and so I know what a precious gift life is. My husband’s mother was told to abort him. She spent a year in the hospital after his birth. My husband is the joy of her life, and he is the rock of my life. So these experiences have shaped my view.” So all of those pro-choice feminist moms don’t know what a precious gift life is? Or perhaps Fiorina wouldn’t be so opposed to abortion if her husband had turned out to be a disappointment to her or his mother? There is nothing more pathetic than the spectacle of someone who probably would have been a “moderate” Republican 20 years ago trying to cozy up to the Christian right and the Tea Party by discovering strong anti-abortion convictions.

It’s telling that the Republican base eats up an argument that is fundamentally, “I can’t have children, so I want to force other women to do so whether they like it or not.” It’s kind of like those parents who force their children to take up hobbies and careers that they themselves failed at, except in this case she’s doing it to perfect strangers, with only the payoff of making them suffer instead of experiencing any positive emotions like pride.

Of course, this really shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone paying attention. The anti-choice movement is the cutting edge of right wing assholery, and their main weapon of choice has always been stoking resentments—resentment of people who are happier than you, people who have sex, people who have enough going on in their lives that it even occurs to them to take control over their fertility instead of passively acquiescing to everything that happens to them. Which is why Jacoby is right in suggesting that these asinine attempts to make distinctions between this right wing ideologue or that right wing ideologue are missing the point. They’re all playing the same song of resentment, and even if the person playing the solo right now is using the racism instrument, the anti-feminism instrument, or the theocrat instrument, the others are still playing in the background. And they’ll get their solos whenever they’re needed.

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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