The Bitchdowne Curricula
That one finds, in the infant days of the 21st century — indeed, if certain overzealous interpreters of the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar are to be credited, the very end of human civilization! — a widespread resistance to well-established facts about human behavior continues to surprise. The world probably isn’t coming to an end, but if it does, the final expression on more than a few faces will be a wince at the thought that, here in the most highly developed nation in human history, many people still live according to a mindset that hasn’t changed much since the 14th century.
The subjugation of women, for example — physical, social, and intellectual — has literally been with us since the beginning of civilization, if we define that word as the widespread introduction of those two brutal blows to the gender, sedentism and agriculture. The reason for it is equally indisputable; since the first caste of bosses was formed, they found it necessary to restrict the freedom of those who served them. The question “Why should I do what you tell me to do?” is the oldest and most problematic one for members of the ruling class. The justifications for the oppression of women (or any other minority, even when it is, in fact, a majority) have varied through the ages, as has its implementation, but the cause of this dreary effect has always been the same: women must serve (first by childbirth, then by drudgesome agricultural tasks, then by less taxing but just as cheerless domestic chores, and — in the final stages of the pre-feminist society — the more degrading forms of capitalist labor), so women must be kept down.
Reactionaries and conservatives — I will try to stick to these terms even though I am specifically discussing Republicans in America, because this ignominy knows neither party nor country — like to date the latter-day decline of the human race to the 1960s. This period of social upheaval — brought about, apparently, by Saul Alinsky, the Grateful Dead, and the sudden widespread availability of hallucinogens — is what they believe gave birth to such nightmarish bugaboos as civil rights, sass-mouth, the appearance of uncloseted homosexuals, and worst of all, feminism. On this, as with almost everything else, they are wrong, due to their well-documented allergy to history and economics. It was not the social chaos of the ’60s that led to the expansion of freedom which they believe has turned our world into a noisy parade of disobedience; it was, instead, the development of widespread industrialization and technological development — and its concomitant decline in the need for traditional divisions of society and organizations of labor — that led to a recognition that the time was right for freedom to be expanded. Feminism did not change society for the worse; society changed and made way for feminism.
This was already recognized by anyone who had the sense to look into it as early as it began to occur; at this late date, with feminism as an idea being centuries old and women’s rights as a going concern dating back well over fifty years, acting as if it is an ugly new idea that can be extinguished, let alone resisted, has to be thought of as willful ignorance. The notion that women, like men, should be allowed some degree of agency over their bodies, their time, and the direction of their lives is so established in almost every country on Earth that it is bewildering to hear it coming from Americans in the year 2012 — and doubly so when it comes from a body of conservatives who have of late passionately, if unconvincingly, attempted to define their primary motivation as the protection of freedom.
This style of conservative politics, the still-unnamed development of a sweaty, messy, decades-long coupling of right-libertarian economic absolutists and time-displaced religious activists, has managed through a combination of luck and money to dominate the public conversation since in early 1980s and show no signs of flagging. They wrestle the body politic into submission in the most curious of ways, and are as oblivious in their losses as they are eliminationist in their victories. Right now, for example, they have managed to turn an attempt to unseat an unpopular president during a massive economic downturn into one of the most comical electoral clusterfucks in recent memory; the leading candidate, a bland plutocrat of the sort that have won elections for the Republican Party for a century, is felt by these mutants to be so ideologically impure that they seem willing to scuttle the entire election by backing a pair of comically inept throwbacks rather than settle for the one guy who might actually win the election.
And so it is that today — at a time when it might be the understatement of the millenium to say that we have more important things to worry about — we find the conservatives deciding that the defining issue of the 2012 election should be birth control. The idea that a man should not have to have a baby every time he fornicates is as settled as the island of Manhattan, and even women have largely been allowed to escape the notion that sex=child for the last 40 years or so. But conservatives just hate it. The notion that sex is strictly for childbearing within heterosexual marriage — and that everyone should both desire and be bound to that mind-bogglingly restrictive conception of human sexuality — is one of their favorites despite its utter removal from the way most human beings experience reality, right up there with the idea that you can keep teenagers from having sex by simply telling them not to, the idea that everyone in a capitalist system will behave both ethically and rationally provided that no one attempts to ensure that they do so, and the idea that the effect humans have on the environment doesn’t matter as long as you don’t believe it’s happening.
The problem for conservatives is that nobody likes this particular idea. Women, even ones who openly vilify the concept, love birth control because it means they can engage in the universally-enjoyed practice of sexual intercourse without the not so widely embraced consequence of having a baby. Men, of course, love birth control for exactly the same reason. Even in the most established strongholds of Catholicism (with the possible exception of Africa, which white people seem determined to reduce to a continent-sized charnel ground if it’s the last thing they do), birth control and other forms of sexual liberation have gotten themselves a toehold they’re not likely to relinquish. If gay marriage is allowed in Mexico City (and it is), and contraception is widely available in Ireland (and it is), what chance have these people of rolling back the clock in America?
And so it is that Rush Limbaugh, who, despite his self-definition as a rarefied form of entertainer/performance artist is and has always been the spokesperson for this curious band of moralistic libertarians, came to call a perfectly decent law school student a slut in front of the entire nation. The Pied Piper of Petulance has taken some heat for his comments, even from a handful of the softer sort of conservative, and a surprisingly widespread pressure campaign against his advertisers has led some to suggest that he may have finally crossed a Rubicon of asininity from which it will be impossible to return. This ignores the fact that not only has Rush proven absolutely unkillable in the past — serial fabrication, extramarital whoring, and bullying his domestic staff into enabling his pill addiction have done nothing to tarnish him — and that the vast majority of his fans and followers agree with him, with many even going as far to criticize him for offering even the flaccid apology he mustered when things got a little too heavy.
The curious thing about this approach isn’t its weird persistence into an era when it has become ludicrous. As noted, the existence of certain types of elitist societies — even ones whose time has long past — is not merely eased by, but is absolutely dependent upon, the subjugation of women. And, as they say in in the Navy, there’s always some son of a bitch who doesn’t get the word. So “bitch, down!” remains the clarion call for everyone who thinks that the decline of western civilization began with the First Amendment and culminated with the publication of Le Deuxième Sexe. What’s so funny about it — what’s so fucking funny — is that these people wrap up their slut-shaming and gut-punching in the fancy hatbox of happiness and the festive ribbon of freedom. If women pretend that they think birth control is an important part of their overall health and well-being, well, it’s certainly not because contraception is real medicine, like hair loss creams and boner pills, and it’s definitely not because they should be able to decide whether or not they have a baby every time they have sex (a freedom only available to men). It’s because, after all, they are dirty, dirty whores, and requiring an insurance plan to offer contraception as part of its coverage is not only, somehow, an affront to religious freedom (as if religious organizations, just like everyone else, do not routinely have to follow all sorts of legislation that may not coincide with their morals), but also a green light by our liberal overlords for women to slut it up all over town.
If there were any doubt about the sincerity of this hambone attempt to further the cause of gender oppression under the guise of freedom and contentment, it can easily be dispelled by reading this not atypical eructation from the flirtini-stained teeth and tongue of Pamela Geller. It makes all the usual assertions — as always, unaccompanied by any questioning of women other than the one who made them — that women were all happier before those nasty ol’ feminist bull-daggers came along and ruined the game for everybody. (It’s especially bizarre coming from women, of course. Crazy Pammy condemns Fluke as a “full-fledged activist” — I know she is, but what are you? — and speaks fondly of a time when she surely would have been publicly shamed for being a loudmouthed, half-educated, drunken termagant, regardless of how much her line of noisy horseshit flattered the bosses.) The killer yap comes in the very beginning of the piece, before Pam starts fawningly quoting herself. After accusing Sandra Fluke of being a “pig” who lowers herself to “meat status” and teaches children to “debase themselves”, she reveals her own counter-construct of the role of women:
I explain it to young girls this way. Go into any Wal-Mart or Target. There are hundreds of black handbags for sale in bins, hung on display walls, all cheap or moderately priced, and they can’t give them away.
Now go into Hermes. There is one black, gorgeous, impossible to get, crocodile Birkin bag. There are waiting lists for this bag. No one can get that bag. It costs a fortune and still everyone wants that bag.
Be that bag.
There you have it, ladies: rather than be a “pig” who revels in your status as “meat” by suggesting that you be allowed to speak in favor of controlling your own reproductive choices, better than you imagine yourselves as a Hermès bag: ludicrously overpriced, existing solely as a means of conspicuously flaunting your wealth and power, and most of all, beautifully, perfectly, eternally inanimate. A pig, for all its filth and foulness, is at least a living thing that might behave in unexpected or even — gasp! — self-interested ways; it is thus unthinkable for students of the Bitchdowne School to respect a woman who fits such a definition. Instead, ladies, see yourself as something motionless, brainless, pretty and pricey, with no more volition than a stone. Be that bag.