You Don’t React Like This to a Simple Question Without Being an Outrageous Misogynist

By Amanda Marcotte
Thursday, October 18, 2012 9:38 EDT
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The most reliable way, it appears, to cause conservatives to completely lose their minds is for an attractive woman under the age of 40 to speak words in a public forum that suggest she’s been exposed to the idea that women might have value outside of cleaning up after men, being sexual release objects for men, and producing male heirs. We saw it with Sandra Fluke, who was castigated for acknowledging that women use contraception, when apparently the right believes women should pretend the only times we have sex are to produce children, and that no amount of money is too much to spend to continue this illusion. Now—surprise!—Katherine Fenton, the young woman who asked an exceedingly middle-of-the-road question about equal pay, is getting the Whore of Babylon treatment.

You know, even though both candidates actually appeared to agree with the general idea that women should be paid fairly for their work. Indeed, the Republican Party, as far as I know, has never actually claimed outright that women should be paid less as a matter of principle. The only official point of disagreement is how fair pay should be accomplished, with Republicans claiming that appealing to the generosity of employers is the only legitimate way. That’s the official line, though as we have learned, in reality it seems conservatives just hate equal pay and “small government” is a ruse to keep women reaching financial equality with men.

After all, the reaction to Fenton doesn’t make sense unless you accept that this is all about believing women should be paid less, instead of believing that’s just an unhappy side effect of living your (let’s face it) arbitrary principles. The reaction from conservatives on Twitter demonstrates this.

Believing women deserve equal pay for equal work makes one a “feminazi” now! That means that Romney is a “feminazi”, since his entire answer was grounded in the assumption that women should move up the ladder and take on the kinds of jobs that will help get us to pay equality. He just claimed that it was important that it be an all-volunteer effort and no legislation should be involved.

Greg Gutfeld reacted, as usual, be acting like the very presence of vocal cords in female bodies threatens his manhood. Why don’t we just get those things removed at birth?

Afterwards, the inevitable creeper impulse kicked in, and Fenton’s Twitter feed was thoroughly combed over, with frequent breaks for hate masturbation. Free Beacon especially collected a bunch of “evidence” that Fenton’s question was invalid. These are the reasons that a woman’s concerns about pay equality are invalid:

  1. She herself displays sexist attitudes that conservatives otherwise applaud as good common sense, in this case believing women are congenitally incapable of understanding sports.
  2. She had consumed alcoholic beverages that don’t even pretend to be about anything but getting drunk.
  3. She uses the word “vagina”. Women who deserve to be paid fairly for their work are obligated to pretend they don’t have one.
  4. She makes double entendres. Women who deserve to be paid fairly for their work should simply refuse to believe that sex exists.
  5. She apparently has heard of a rap album that is actually older than she is.
  6. She knows the names of specific sex acts!
  7. Did we mention that she’s almost surely not a virgin?!
What’s missing, of course, is any actual argument for why it’s wrong for women to believe that pay equality matters. Instead, the entire thing—like the freakout over Sandra Fluke—is an expose of the conservative male id. What we find upon looking closely is that these men think that women are out there living our lives and having fun without them AT them, and due to our outrageous bitchery of having fun (clearly!) for no other reason than to spite them, we should be stripped of our rights. The impulse here is no different than that of the guys who run hate pages dedicated to being angry at young women for  looking sexy in Facebook pages. The overwhelming anger here that women are the ones who have the legal ownership over female bodies is truly stunning to behold.
With that in mind, it’s worth noting that almost no Republicans voted for the Lilly Ledbetter Act, even though it actually doesn’t violate their belief in “small government” in any way. It simply clarified existing law that allows women to sue for pay discrimination. It’s worth pointing out that the ideology of “small government” usually allows for legal redress. Indeed, most libertarians argue that we don’t need regulatory agencies because people can sue if their rights are violated. The anti-discrimination law supposedly comports perfectly with this mentality, as it makes pay inequality a matter for the courts and individual actors, instead of shifting the burden to a regulatory agency.
In other words, both the Supreme Court and Republicans who voted against the Act violated their stated principles about how government should handle these kinds of injustices. They prioritized legalizing discrimination against women over their belief that the courts are the proper mode of redress for injustice. Between that and the completely bananas reaction to a young woman—one who actually has succumbed to their anti-feminist propaganda as they hope women would—who asked a simple and supposedly non-controversial reaction, I’m forced to conclude that “small government” is a fig leaf, and the real principle is the belief that women should be paid less. You don’t flip shit on a woman who asks an open-ended question about fair pay unless you object to the very idea of fair pay itself.
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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