National Review Online (NRO) has a problem with feminism and how it's embodied by Democratic women running for office like Sandra Fluke and Texas State Senator Wendy Davis.
NRO roving correspondent Kevin D. Williamson penned a February 6 column decrying modern feminism, which he defined as, "Feminism is the words 'I Want!' in the mouths of three or more women, provided they're the right kind of women."
According to Williamson, feminism is now a "career path," where cunning politicians can succeed by "defending the position favored more heavily by women than by men [which] becomes, through the magic of feminist rhetoric, anti-woman, even part of a 'war on women.'" In other words, a policy that appears to be anti-woman may simply be an innocuous proposal with disparate support among the genders that's become tainted by feminist rhetoric.
The author's examples of such conniving feminist politicians were California state senate candidate Sandra Fluke and Texas Gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis, popular targets in the conservative media sphere as of late. "Whatever Sandra Fluke is up to, you can be sure she's looking for somebody else to pay for it," Williamson wrote, summarizing her 2012 congressional testimony in support of contraception coverage in health plans as a petulant "'I WANT!'"
Davis, who conducted a filibuster against Texas's new abortion restrictions in June 2013, Williamson accused of "thwarting the interests of a majority of those women she is campaigning to govern," painting her as an opportunist.
Indeed, Williamson's post is full of invective, but low on the facts regarding the very events he highlights as revealing the "Feminist Mystique."
When Sandra Fluke testified before Democratic members of Congress in 2012, she simply argued that women's insurance policies -- which they already paid for -- should cover medication like contraception that is prescribed by a medical professional. To highlight the medical need for contraception coverage, Fluke told the story of a friend whose polycystic ovarian syndrome was treated with birth control pills:
FLUKE: After months of paying over $100 out of pocket, she just couldn't afford her medication anymore, and she had to stop taking it. I learned about all of this when I walked out of a test and got a message from her that, in the middle of the night in her final-exam period, she'd been in the emergency room. She'd been there all night in just terrible, excruciating pain. She wrote to me: "It was so painful I woke up thinking I'd been shot." Without her taking the birth control, a massive cyst the size of a tennis ball had grown on her ovary. She had to have surgery to remove her entire ovary as a result.
Although Fluke briefly mentioned her personal use of contraceptive medicine during the testimony, she never referenced whether it was a financial burden or not.
And rather than "thwarting the interests" of Texas women, Davis filibustered a Republican bill that ultimately devastated women's access to reproductive health care in the state. Besides closing state clinics, the new restrictions Davis opposed also ban abortions after 20 weeks, putting the life of the fetus and mother in danger if certain pregnancies are forced to go to term.
Williamson has a history of making inflammatory remarks about women's issues -- during the 2012 presidential election, he wrote that Mitt Romney was more "high-status" than President Obama because Romney has sons instead of daughters. And after former Rep. Gabby Giffords criticized Senate inaction on gun legislation, Williamson called her "childish."
Fox News' idea for a debate on whether Disney should create a plus-size princess centered around the notion that such a princess might encourage obesity.
On February 6, Fox News' Fox & Friends discussed a Change.org petition for Disney to create a plus-size Disney princess. High school student Jewel Moore, who started the petition, envisions that such a princess would be a role model for "women who struggle with confidence and need a positivie [sic] plus-size character in the media."
Fox took the story and used it to entertain the notion that a plus-size Disney princess might encourage obesity and diabetes.
Co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck asked, "Move over Cinderella. Disney under pressure to create a plus-size princess. Should they? We're going to debate that," before inviting on Emme, a plus-size supermodel, and Meme Roth, a self-described obesity expert. Roth declared that such a Disney princess would "glorify obesity." She speculated as to whether the teen petitioning Disney is obese and argued that "If you're going to do a storyline with obesity, then you need to do Princess Diabetes, Princess Cancer, Princess Fertility Problems." To Roth, the petition was "like mob mentality." When Hasselbeck asked, "Is plus-size fat?" Roth responded, "It's unhealthy. If you like cancer and diabetes, if you want fertility problems, then plus-size is beautiful."
Fox treated Roth's invective as credible. As she ranted against Emme, a proponent of the petition, an on-screen graphic wondered, "Who's right?"
Presenting Roth as an expert on body-image issues and entertaining her vitriolic remarks is merely a continuation of Fox & Friends' complicity with body-shaming.
The program has previously given a fitness model and mother who shamed other mothers about their bodies a platform to unapologetically defend her position.
It is unclear why Fox presented Roth as qualified to speak on the plus-size Disney princess issue -- she does not appear to have degrees in the nutrition or medical field, but instead is known for body-shaming through her National Action Against Obesity website and personal blog which carries the tag-line "MeMe Roth: Reporting From FATOPOLIS." She has compared obese people to sex criminals and advocated for nutrition plans that sound a lot like anorexia.
It is important to note that obesity is not the equivalent of plus-size. PLUS Model magazine reports that plus-size models are on average between the sizes of 6-14.
Right-wing media figures jumped at reports that Sandra Fluke is running for political office in California with sexist attacks and falsehoods about her advocacy for the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) birth control mandate.
From the February 2 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends Sunday:
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From the January 31 edition of Fox News' On the Record with Greta Van Susteren:
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The Baltimore Sun's conservative blog Red Maryland published a misguided defense of Texas' draconian anti-choice legislation, attacking Texas State Sen. Wendy Davis in the process.
The January 30 op-ed authored by Red Maryland's Brian Griffiths used recent comments from Maryland Democratic Governor Martin O'Malley about protecting of "the dignity of every Marylander" to not only defend harmful anti-choice laws passed in Texas earlier this year, but to also attack Davis' filibuster of the legislation last June:
In Texas, State Sen. Wendy Davis was made a national hero for unsuccessfully filibustering against greater regulations on abortions. While such standards don't meet the goal of eliminating abortions, these amendments to Texas law protected the rights of the unborn and ensured that women were not subject to unsanitary and unsafe medical conditions. Far from being extreme, the changes included prohibiting the killing an unborn child after 20 weeks, recognizing the concept of fetal pain, requiring abortion clinics to meet minimum surgical medical standards and requiring medical oversight for the use of abortion-causing drugs.
Ms. Davis' filibuster and vehement opposition, while completely unpopular in her home state, made her such a national hero that facts about her political resume were conveniently discarded. But what about Wendy Davis' opposition to this bill was heroic?
But the legislation in Texas doesn't protect women from "unsanitary and unsafe medical conditions." Rather, it seeks to accomplish what Griffiths calls the "goal of eliminating abortions." Texas' laws have made it increasingly more difficult for pregnant women to seek reproductive services with doctors at 34 of the state's women's health clinics failing to win admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles (as mandated by the law), forcing "at least 12 abortion clinics to stop providing abortions and other clinics to scale back their services," though three have since reopened. However, as the Dallas News explained, in 2011, not a single woman died of abortion-related causes in the state, but 116 died of pregnancy-related complications.
The media has extensively reported on the Republican National Committee's decision to boycott MSNBC following an offensive tweet for which the network subsequently apologized. But they've spent far less attention on the fact that the RNC denounced MSNBC while on Fox News -- a network that has frequently aired offensive and derogatory comments.
Two dozen women leaders and organizations have signed a letter to the six network and cable news heads expressing their concern for the lack of gender diversity on Sunday morning political talk shows.
A Media Matters report found that in 2013, men made up more than 70 percent of the guests on ABC's This Week, CBS' Face the Nation, Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday, NBC's Meet the Press, and CNN's State of the Union. Only MSNBC's Up and Melissa Harris-Perry reached near parity, with women making up 44 percent of total guests. Women also represented an even smaller percentage of solo interview guests, being featured less than 15 percent of the time. The top ten recipients of Sunday show solo interviews were all men. Media Matters also found that gender diversity has not improved on the broadcast political talk shows in the past five years.
The heads of 24 organizations which advocate for women and women's representation in media wrote to the Presidents and Chairs of the broadcast and cable networks, expressing "deep concern" for the lack of diversity and urging them to take action to ensure the morning political talk shows "more accurately reflect the demographics of our diverse nation":
With male guests vastly outnumbering female guests on Sunday morning broadcasts, women lose out in shaping the national discourse, and your viewers miss important points of view.
There are qualified women to speak on issues affecting all Americans, including national security, economic growth, climate change, education and many others. But when it comes to reproductive health, equal pay, and other subjects disproportionately affecting women, it becomes increasingly imperative that Sunday political talk shows reflect our democracy. This is particularly important since these shows frequently set the tone for how these topics are covered later in the week.
The full letter can be read below.
White guests greatly outnumbered all other guests on the broadcast and CNN Sunday morning talk shows in 2013. Melissa Harris-Perry continued to be the most ethnically diverse program.
Want to know if women's representation in media is improving? Here's one indication it's not: the percentage of female guests on the Sunday morning broadcast political talk shows is the same as it was five years ago.
According to a Media Matters analysis, male guests vastly outnumbered female ones on the Sunday broadcast political talk shows in 2013, with women making up only 25 percent of all guests on ABC's This Week, CBS' Face the Nation, Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday, and NBC's Meet the Press. Women also represented an even smaller percentage of solo interview guests, being featured less than 15 percent of the time on the same programs. In fact, the top ten recipients of Sunday show solo interviews in 2013 were all men.
This vast underrepresentation of women on political talk shows that often set the agenda is disheartening -- but the number appears even worse when looked at over time.
Female guests made up only 24 percent of guests on the Sunday morning broadcast shows back in 2008 according to Media Matters' data, an insignificant change over the past five years.
One reason for this may be that the pool of potential guests for these shows has also not gotten significantly more diverse over the past five years. The most common guests were in 2013 were journalists and pundits, a profession which is overwhelmingly male. Newsroom diversity has been stagnant for over a decade, with the percentage of women in newsrooms never exceeding 38 percent.
The second most common profession among guests in 2013 on those programs were politicians. According to the Nation Women's Political Caucus, in 2013 women made up only 18.3 percent of Congress, a (shockingly low) number which was not much of an improvement from 2008, when women were 17 percent of Congress.
The lack of diversity in newsrooms and Congress, however, does not entirely excuse the broadcast shows from consistently failing to invite women to the table. In 2013, MSNBC managed to have women make up 44 percent of guests on their Sunday morning political talk shows, with Melissa Harris-Perry (which debuted in 2012) leading in gender diversity by hosting women 47 percent of the time. Broadcast political talk shows have a lot of catching up to do to ensure women have equal participation in our national media.
Let's hope it doesn't take another five years.
Charts by Oliver Willis.
Male guests vastly outnumbered female ones on the Sunday morning broadcast and CNN political talk shows in 2013, according to a Media Matters review. MSNBC's programs gave women a significantly greater opportunity to voice their opinions.
A Media Matters review of the Sunday morning political talk shows finds that white males largely dominated the guest lists in 2013. MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry and Up with Steve Kornacki achieved greater ethnic and gender diversity than the broadcast shows or CNN's State of the Union. Overall, conservatives outnumbered progressives on the four broadcast Sunday morning shows.
From the January 29 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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From the January 29 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis' daughters have responded to right-wing smears against their mother, defending her as a loving, hardworking parent who took care of them while advancing her career.
Right-wing media, and in particular Fox News contributor Erick Erickson, have repeatedly attempted to smear Davis and suggest she is unfit for public office, in part by portraying her as an unstable and unreliable mother who abandoned her children and left her "sugar daddy" husband when she no longer needed his money.
Davis's daughters responded to these baseless, sexist attacks in open letters, published in full by Gawker. The daughters noted that their mother shared their care equally with their father, and took care of them even while she was attending Harvard Law as a full-time student (emphasis added):
My name is Dru Davis and I am Wendy Davis's daughter. I hate that I feel the need to write this, but I have been reading and hearing so many untrue things about my mom and I want to set the record straight. And sadly I feel the need to be crystal clear on the malicious and false charge of abandonment as nothing could be further from the truth. My mom has always shared equally in the care and custody of my sister and me.
Yes, she went to law school after my sister and I were born. We lived with her the first semester, but I had severe asthma and the weather there wasn't good for me. My parents made a decision for my sister and me to stay in Texas while my mom kept going to school. But that doesn't mean she wasn't there for us. She traveled back and forth all the time, missing so many classes so that she could be with us. Her friends were such a big help. Especially her third year, when she would only go to school two weeks out of the month and her friends would share class notes so she could try to keep up while she was home with us in Fort Worth.
My name is Amber Davis and I am Wendy Davis' oldest daughter. I have spent the past few days reading the ludicrous comments that people have shared on social media about my mother and our family. It is a shame that those who don't know us feel the need to comment on the details of our lives as if they've lived them. I have a hard time understanding how such hate and negativity can result from one person's false accusations.
I have recently heard the phrase "abandoned" quite often in the past week. That our mother "left us to be raised by our father" while she went on to pursue her education. Not only is this ridiculously unfair; it's completely untrue. Dru and I have always been her number one priority. Always. And every decision our parents made was with our best interests at heart. We had an amazing support system while she was at Harvard and she was constantly traveling back and forth from school to bewith us. I'm proud that my parents were able to make this arrangement work. People should be less concerned about who paid for what and pay more attention to the fact that she was accepted to Harvard law school, a dream she believed was unachievable.
Before releasing the letters, the daughters had appeared in one of their mother's campaign videos, according to the Dallas Morning News.