The midterm elections brought with them the immense satisfaction of watching the “war on women” narrative utterly fall apart: among the slate of GOP candidates elected this past Tuesday were Nikki Haley, an Indian woman (that’s Indian of Southern Asia, not “Indian” of North America); Mia Love, a black Mormon woman; Tim Scott, a black man from South Carolina; Elise Stefanik, the youngest woman ever elected to Congress; and my absolute favorite, Saira Blair, the youngest person elected to any legislature in the United States. For a while now we’ve been dealing with the sneering dismissal that the Republican Party is the party of “old white men.” Oops.
It’s not that we want to engage in the demographic bean-counting for which progressives are famous: we elect people based upon their perceived competency, not their sex or their race or their age. It is satisfying, however, to see so many braindead liberal talking points so resoundingly squashed in one day. Now they’re scrambling to make sense of how they could have been so devastatingly wrong about Republicans—and for sheer mendacity on this topic, there is no greater pundit that Jessica Valenti, who took to her keyboard to announce that
2014 was an election of firsts for Republican women. But it wasn’t a ‘win’ for women at all.
Oh, good to know. Actually, it’s kind of funny to hear this from Valenti after she wrote, a couple of years ago,
Republicans only bother to acknowledge women when they’re reasserting our status as second-class citizens.
Er, well, not quite—they also appear to “acknowledge women” when they are electing a lot of them to powerful and visible positions of public office. Yet that doesn’t matter to Valenti; having been proven embarrassingly wrong, she’s now taken the grownup route of stamping her feet and yelling that women haven’t “won” anything. Why haven’t they? I want to take a moment to analyze her latest screed in some depth, because it is highly informative if you’re interested in the manic fixations of modern feminism.
Under normal circumstances, a triumphant woman standing behind a podium giving a political victory speech would thrill me to the core. After all, what feminist worth her salt doesn’t like to see a woman win an election?
Me, when the winner is a Republican – because your gender doesn’t make you pro-woman, your actions do. And the Republican party is not just anti-“women’s issues”; it is anti-woman.
Ah, so we see the real issue here: Jessica Valenti is more devoted to partisan hackery than she is to gender equality; she’s been reduced to whining that Republicans are “anti-woman” even after Republicans elected a bunch of women to Federal and state positions of authority. Conservatives apparently hate women so much that they’re willing to cast their ballots for them by wide margins (Nikki Haley won out over her white male opponent by fourteen percentage points); the anti-woman party has taken the novel anti-woman approach of sending a bunch of women to Congress.
Whenever they are even moderately confused or defensive, modern feminists tend to retreat to the sound bite that “feminism is about equality between the sexes;” the implication is that to criticize feminism is to criticize “equality between the sexes.” Valenti’s outrage over the excellent Republican midterm results belies that notion: feminists are not interested in sexual equality but in ideological conformity. It is not enough to be a successful woman; you must be a successful woman who thinks the same thoughts and harbors the same convictions as Jessica Valenti. One could certainly appreciate the gains women might make in politics even if they don’t agree with the women politically, but that is not enough for feminists of Valenti’s bent: if you’re a woman, and you don’t agree with modern left-liberal feminism, you are not merely doing politics wrong, you are doing woman wrong:
In a way, female Republicans almost bother me more than their male counterparts. I can almost understand why a bunch of rich, religiously conservative white men wouldn’t care about the reality of women’s day-to-day lives – they’ve never had to. But throwing other women under the bus? For what? Lower taxes? Three minutes on Fox News in the 3pm hour? It makes me wonder what is wrong with you.
“It makes me wonder what is wrong with you.” If you are a conservative woman, Jessica Valenti—and indeed much of modern feminism—thinks there is something “wrong with you;” it is not merely that you are of a different political persuasion, but that you are deficient in and of yourself. So sheltered and so cloistered from conservative thought is Jessica Valenti, she cannot even imagine why a woman would ever disagree with her. It is obvious that this passes beyond simple political difference. I know plenty of people, after all, who vote for liberal politicians, and I believe these people are making poor choices in regards to their personal and financial best interests—but I do not think there is something “wrong with them,” and I would never be so condescending as to suggest it. As well as being absolutely clueless about how other human beings might think, Valenti is also in the dark about actual policies that Republicans promote:
We can expect exactly more of the kind of poorly-shrouded sexism we’ve come to expect from Republicans in the lead-up to the 2016 election, the same condescension to women, and the same bafflegab about how they’re just trying to make our lives easier by restricting our options. But given that we’re going to have to listen to all that nonsense for a while, what I’d really like is for every elected woman Republican to explain to a room full of non-rich, non-white women why restricting abortion rights is a good use of our government’s time and energy, to tell them why their birth control isn’t a real medical need, and to discuss how women don’t really need equal pay or a fair wage because they need “real” choices.
These are the strident demands of a person who has run completely out of ideas and is just totally clueless about what to say next. The recently-elected Republican women have been outspoken about these political views: Nikki Haley has explained why she is pro-life, for one, and Joni Ernst has publicly defended her anti-abortion stance. It’s probably safe to assume that every female Republican candidate has voiced her opinion on the matter, and though Valenti wants them to “explain” why they harbor pro-life views, it’s not hard to figure out why these women feel this way: they think “restricting abortion right is a good use of our government’s time and energy” because they think abortion is bad enough to be outlawed. This isn’t hard to figure out.
As well, I don’t believe any of these Republican women have advanced the idea that birth control “isn’t a real medical need;” Elise Stefanik, for one, wants to see birth control available over the counter. The term “fair wage,” meanwhile, is an entirely normative statement; and while I guess it would be good to know where the candidates stand on “equal pay” issues, it’s also worth pointing out that the whole “equal pay” thing is effectively a myth. Jessica Valenti, in other words, is demanding that Republican women talk about (a) things they’ve already talked about, (b) policy positions they’ve already clarified, (c) subjective value judgments, and (d) total political fabrications. Let us know how that works out for you, Jessica.
To be honest, I don’t have a whole lot of hope for the newest crop of Republicans. I think we’ve seen this before—the heady mix of election victories and new faces and big promises—and I doubt these politicians will be able to effect much change. Call me cynical; I, for one, hope I’m wrong. Whatever may come, I think the principle victory of these midterms has been the utter chaos the elections wreaked on progressive political thought: frightened, unsure of what to do next, confused and dumbfounded, liberals like Jessica Valenti are left to making awful caricatures of themselves, flailing for meaning as one of the principle planks of their worldview is revealed as an embarrassing mistake. It’s enough to make you wonder: what is wrong with them?