I’ve been following the increasing influence of “men’s rights” rhetoric—once relegated to the fringes—on mainstream conservatism with some interest and not a small amount of dread. The more traditional conservative argument against women’s equality has been what I’d call the “complementarian” argument, that women were put on earth by god to serve men and treat motherhood as their central life calling, and that feminism thwarts the natural order. It’s not so much about hating women as demanding we know our place, though it is worth noting that it turns to hate pretty quickly should you refuse. But “men’s rights activists” (MRAs) have a more overtly misogynist ideology to its core, painting women as a subversive force that needs to be subdued and controlled for the protection of men, which is a lot closer to how racists see black people than how sexists traditionally view women. The sense that women, particularly feminists, are out to get men pervades the MRA movement. The fights against sexual harassment and abuse are characterized not as authentic attempts to prevent violence, but as a secret war on male sexuality and fun itself. Educating people about domestic violence is seen as an attempt to steal from men through “false accusations”. Indeed, in the paranoid house of mirrors that is the MRA movement, women are forever false accusing and the government throws you in jail without trial the second a woman looks at you funny. Feminism is generally seen as an attempt to set up women, viewed as inferior people, as the power brokers in society and to oppress men, who are seen as the only meaningful contributors to society. (Thus the name of the MRA watch blog We Hunted The Mammoth.) With “pick-up artists”, women are characterized as malicious creatures who deliberately deprive worthy men of sex for the lulz. Everything women do that MRAs don’t like, be it speaking out about rape or declining to date you, is viewed as done for hateful, malicious reasons. It’s all a very adversarial view of men and women.
This does fly against the traditional religious right view of what the relationship of men and women should be, which is closer to men keeping women as beloved but decidedly inferior domestic animals. And yet…. I’m seeing a lot more MRA talking points cropping up on Fox News and in other conservative media, and of course, the full throttle rape denialist feeding frenzy of this past month on the right shows how bad this has gotten. But now we have this weird story:
A Missouri Republican is pushing a bill that would allow a man who gets a woman pregnant to stop her from having an abortion. The measure would force a woman who wants an abortion to obtain written permission from the father first—unless she was the victim of “legitimate rape.”
Rick Brattin, a state representative from outside Kansas City, filed the bill on December 3 for next year’s legislative session. The proposed measure reads, “No abortion shall be performed or induced unless and until the father of the unborn child provides written, notarized consent to the abortion.”
The bill contains exceptions for women who become pregnant as the result of rape or incest—but there are caveats.
“Just like any rape, you have to report it, and you have to prove it,” Brattin tells Mother Jones. “So you couldn’t just go and say, ‘Oh yeah, I was raped’ and get an abortion. It has to be a legitimate rape.”
I know what you are all thinking: How dumb do you have to be to be a politician from Missouri talking about “legitimate rape”? But Brattin thinks he can bamboozle us all:
Brattin adds that he is not using the term “legitimate rape” in the same way as former Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.), who famously claimed that women couldn’t get pregnant from a “legitimate rape” because “the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down.”
In other words, he was using it exactly the same way Todd Akin was, to suggest that women routinely pretend to be raped to get revenge on a man and/or to hide their supposed shame in having had sex. That he thinks he can get around that with “nuh-uh” answers the “how stupid can he be?” question, the answer being “shockingly”.
But I’m not here to talk about Brattin’s immense stupidity, a common enough quality for Republican state legislators. Or even really to argue against this bill, which is self-evidently hateful and won’t be going anywhere, anyway. The anti-choice movement is trying to convince the public they are out to protect women these days, and so publicly declaring “you poke it, you own it” is not in line with the image they’re trying to project.
No, what is interesting to me is that Brattin is spewing MRA-style talking points at every turn. There’s something amazingly un-self-aware about whining that women cry rape in order to wiggle out of having a man take over our reproductive organs and use them for his own ends without our consent. The possibility that women never owe you the right to control our bodies just doesn’t register.
But then there’s this weird, victim-of-the-matriarchy myth he pulls out to justify this: