Monday, February 6

Welcome to the Culture War

There are three reasons I will willingly give up sleep: to care for a sick child, to have sex with my husband, and to watch Up with Chris Hayes. This weekend Hayes featured four (four!) women panelists to talk about Komen and birth control. Enough said. I highly recommend watching the whole show online if you are cable-free or not a morning person, but for me this moment was the money shot of this weekend's offering:

There's so much here, (I love that we are calling out "witchhunt" and "bullying" when it comes to PP) but particularly Chris Hayes's statement that "This is the Culture War."

None of us can be neutral in the culture war over Planned Parenthood.

What we are confronting here is that defending Planned Parenthood on the "nice pink" issue of breast cancer screening DOES MEAN defending Planned Parenthood on the not-so-pink issues of contraception and yes, abortion. There is a direct link between the Catholic Bishop freak out on health insurance to cover contraception and the Komen brouhaha. It's women. And it's women in a very "Wake Up White Women!" way.

We privileged white women with educations and laptops and smartphones and wide access to the twitter streams of our congressmen, can't be neutral or even silent.

We can't say "I would never have an abortion but don't want to restrict access for anyone else" and stand aside while state legislatures around the country restrict access for everyone else.

We can't wear a pink ribbon and attend Estee-Lauder sponsored Pink Events, and  say we're doing our part for women's health, while being silent about the bullying of Planned Parenthood by the Dallas denizens of Komen. The Komen brand must be taken out, primarily because they are a corporate tool for advertising as "pro-women" while blindfolding consumers to the environmental and behavioral causes of cancer. And while Komen and Virginia Slims alike would never have enough audacity to put pink ribbons on cigarettes...

...I doubt Komen's lawyers looked carefully into the not-at-all-subtle pink ribbons throughout the model's sweater and thought about spending their half-million in attorney's fees on suing big tobacco.   There might be some Phillip Morris heiress who'd love some fashion show tix.

not a photoshop
And about the Catholic Church and this whole birth control / health insurance issue. First up, Melissa Harris-Perry is right, this is a huge argument for single-payer health insurance: get the employers out of the picture. And the Catholic Church has since its inception cast a very wide net for membership, allowing for ethnic and other cultural differences under the big umbrella of Catholicism (Italian and Irish Catholics alike take the same communion).

The bishops have also made a bargain with their female parishioners -- come to church, pay your tithe (ha), and take communion, and we won't ask about your IUD. Get married in the Church and we won't ask about your premarital sex. Baptize your kids and we won't ask why you only have two and they seem "spaced" contrary to biology.

And then they let Newt Gingrich become a member.

  But as I said in 2009:

 But it's not just that Gingrich doesn't realize that people can look up what he said five years or five minutes ago on the internet tubes. Newt has become a Catholic, I believe, because old-style Catholicism buys into what he (and Republicanism) have believed all along: that you may not be perfect, but you are always forgiven, provided you profess loyalty and devotion to the ideology involved. So as long as you SAY you believe in the Holy Catholic See/Grand Old Party ideology, no matter how much you lie or how big a hypocrite you are, the indulgences will come at you fast and easy.

From Wikipedia, which in this case is a pretty accurate rendition:
An indulgence, in Roman Catholic theology, is the full or partial remission of temporal punishment due for sins which have already been forgiven. The indulgence is granted by the church after the sinner has confessed and received absolution. The belief is that indulgences draw on the storehouse of merit acquired by Jesus' sacrifice and the virtues and penances of the saints. They are granted for specific good works and prayers.
The Republican Party and the 24 hour news cycle (that apparently needs them to fill up 'fair and balanced' programming minutes) doles out indulgences all the time. That's why compulsive gambler Bill Bennett and Christian Right/Gambling benefactor Ralph Reed can appear on CNN as Republican analysts and Wolf Blitzer doesn't bat a eye. It's why Newt Gingrich himself is allowed into the green room at This Week any Sunday morning he likes, whether Paul Krugman sits next to him or not.

It's why despite his horrible record and affairs and total hypocrisy he may be the standard bearer of his party, the party of family values, in 2012.

And notice, John Edwards won't.
So apparently (and this is none of my business), you can be a birth-control using woman and also a Catholic.

You can't be a woman who wants to continue to use birth control and vote Republican.   They are after your birth control, and the days of being neutral in the culture war are over.   Katha Pollit totally gets it:
First they came for abortion, but I didn’t care because abortion was for sluts. Then they came for sex ed, but I didn’t care because the kids can learn all they need to know at home. Then they came for birth control, but… Wait a minute! Birth control? They’re coming for birth control? I need that! For nearly a decade prochoicers have been warning that abortion foes were gearing up to go after contraception, but the possibility of losing birth control was too far-out for most people to take seriously. And you know prochoicers—they’re always crying wolf. Well, wake up, sleepyheads, it’s happening.
Driftglass often says "never bet against human nature."  Human nature works first and foremost toward economic ends.  This is why women in ancient Rome limited family size with contraception, and women who can afford it have done so before and ever since, regardless of church edict.

But contrarily, this neutrality thing over women's health is exactly about human nature -- it is human nature to want to protect our daughters from the dangers and heartbreak of a bad (in any way) sexual experience.  We don't want to think about our daughters having sex, at all.   We WANT to think of them as pure as the driven snow, because they are our little girls.  I think it's Dave Barry who tells the story of how awful it is to announce to your in-laws that your wife is pregnant, because your father-in-law has to actually acknowledge that his daughter has had sex...with YOU.

So in this argument let's assume that your 23-year-old daughter is a virgin on her wedding night. Let's just assume that.  The question becomes, do you want Rick Santorum and the Council of Catholic Bishops determining for your sainted daughter and her chaste husband, the number and spacing of your totally legitimate, only conceived in wedlock, grandchildren?  Regardless of whether they have worked long enough to save for a house or even have moved out of your basement?  IS THAT OKAY WITH YOU?

Because you have to decide that, now.


There is no neutrality in this culture war any more.

And in exchange for your enlistment, WE WILL NOT MENTION that a very large part of Planned Parenthood's constituency is sexually active young women who don't want their parents to know they use birth control.

PS.  We're going along with the wedding-night virgin myth, even though it wasn't even true for Grandma.  Enjoy this no-premarital sex song from the thirties.  Because it's a lovely song, but even in 1938, Bob Hope knew it was a joke.

UPDATE:  Joan Walsh speaks to fellow Catholics.  Definitely worth a click.


  1. Beautiful, and urgent, work. Thanks!

  2. Anonymous11:47 PM

    I would have gladly responded in the affirmative to any of the points made herein, but the aggregate is so overwhelming that I'm left with nothing but... "you go, grrrl!"

  3. I'm so jealous.

    Wish I'd written this one, but it seems like way back when I really wanted to write/promote this message, no one wanted to hear it.

    So glad you're there to lead this charge today.

  4. The presumption of the GOP and Gingrich in particular is that the folks who pay enough attention to remember what Gingrich (and Romney) said 5 minutes ago are not enough of a voting block to be a problem. This is the way the GOP rolls. It enables lying as a fundamental part of the methodology.

  5. Plus, it's great to see different faces on TV "news" shows, instead of the same tired old faces (can you say McCain?). How often does Amy Goodman appear on MSM? Answer: never! Til now.

  6. Well put, Blue Gal. I want to become Catholic! I am all for indulgences. You could even say that I am pro-indulgence!

    I won't rest until we have abortions for everybody... Including the men! We could start with the House of Representatives... Speaker Boehner would be a good first choice. He always looks like he is having hormonal problems, excessive weight gain, fatigue, tension, stress, nausea... and I could swear his areolas have darkened. ;o)

    By the way: DVRs were created for awesome shows like Chris Hayes, I heartily applaud your use of Bob Hope, and I used to play "Two Sleepy People" very badly on the piano when I was a kid. (I used to mangle other tunes as well.)

  7. This is a fantastic summation of the underlying issue of Right-Wing Authoritarinism which girds up the Republicans. Conservative Totalitarians must exercise near-absolute control over sex.


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