Matt Gaetz’s anti-abortion, anti-woman diatribe would make Trump proud

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., who strongly advocates being the worst person in Congress, recently shared his thoughts on women advocating access to abortion with a crowd of 5,000 young conservatives at the Turning Point USA Student Action Summit. Tampa.

“Have you seen these abortion and murder demonstrations?” Gaetz, who is investigating allegations of sex trafficking from a minor and has denied any allegations, asked the crowd. “The people are just disgusting. But why is it that the women least likely to conceive are most concerned about abortion? No one wants to fertilize you if you look like a thumb.”

Of course, Gaetz didn’t stop there.

“They’re about 5’2, 350 pounds, and they say, ‘Give me my abortion or I’ll get up and march and protest'” Gaetz continued. ‘I think March? You look like your ankles are weaker than the legal reasoning behind Roe v. Wade. A few of them have to get up and march. They have to get up and march for about an hour a day, waving those arms, getting the blood pumping, maybe mixing a salad.

Gaetz’s overarching point can be summed up as follows: women who want human rights are too fat and ugly to deserve them.

These comments are abhorrent to the point of absurdity. But what is doing The sense of Gaetz’ tirade, which was met with applause and cheers from the crowd, is how deeply unoriginal it was. He’s not the first to use overt misogyny as a right-wing rallying cry and recruiting tool, and he certainly won’t be the last.

Gaetz’s overarching point can be summed up as follows: women who want human rights are too fat and ugly to deserve them.

Clearly, people across the spectrum of body types, socioeconomic backgrounds, gender identities and political identities can, and do, become pregnant and therefore need access to abortion care. Gaetz’s comments are intended to conjure up the image of a feminist ogre to destabilize the patriarchal power structures to which men (especially the right) have access, a woman to whom the 5,000 young people in his audience, and the many others on the Internet, have access. could identify as a common enemy and resist it.

Men trying to preserve the status quo (or, in the case of abortion rights, working to undo decades of legislative and legal progress) have long invoked the alleged grotesqueness of women’s bodies to entrench their political power and strengthen their bases. During the early 20th century, as the suffragist movement gained momentum in England and the US, propaganda against women’s suffrage often pointed to the perceived unattractiveness of women seeking the right to vote. A striking 1909 postcard shows a group of women wearing bucktooth and red noses gathered at a Votes for Women rally under signs that read “Down with the man!” and “Men for old girls!” The caption? “During the suffragette meetings, you can hear some obvious things — and see them too!”

Another postcard, depicting the “origin and development of a suffragette,” is divided into four quadrants. At the age of 15, when she is “a little pet”, the girl has blond locks and is cradling a baby. At 20, her femininity is still preserved and she’s ready to seek male approval – she’s “a little coquette.” At 40, her hair has turned black, her nose is red and turned down, and her face is full of fear. Obviously, this woman is “not married yet.” When she’s 50, when she becomes “a suffragette,” she’s lost her mind, her looks, and her hair color—and she’s gotten an axe. This sequence of events has been (and is!) enticing to men who oppose progressive political movements led by women, especially since it confers so much power on the men who have rejected this “little pet.”

The women depicted in these postcards are “grotesque, implying that their ugliness and their ideology are linked,” wrote Kenneth Florey, the author of “American Woman Suffrage Postcards: A Study and Catalog.” “Normal women marry and settle into ‘traditional’ roles; the suffragette is not normal, she is a sexless being whose beliefs and appearance place her out of the general order. But she’s terrifying and dangerous at times.”

After all, who could be more threatening to the sensibilities of conservative, heterosexual, cisgender men than women who don’t exist solely as objects for their personal pleasure?

Who could be more threatening to the sensibilities of conservative, heterosexual, cisgender men than women who do not exist solely as objects for their personal pleasure?

This ideology permeates the modern conservative and alt-right movement, most clearly reflected in the way former President Donald Trump used misogynistic dog whistles (more like megaphones) to refute the dozens of sexual misconduct allegations against him. After Jessica Leeds, who claimed Trump groped her on a plane in 1980, appeared on CNN in 2016 to discuss the allegations, Trump went after her appearance. “When you looked at that horrible woman last night,” he told his supporters at a rally in Greensboro, North Carolina, “you said, ‘I don’t think so, I don’t think so.'” He then told his supporters to take the Facebook page of another accuser, Natasha Stoynoff, presumably to assess her appearance and conclude she’s just not hot enough to be violated: “Check out her Facebook page,” Trump said. “You’ll understand.”

Sexual misconduct and abuse are more about power than sexual desire. But calling these women ugly and sexually unwanted worked on two levels, allowing Trump to contest their stories while also winking at his supporters and their cultural grievances. The women became more symbols than people, barriers that stood in the way of the American vision (white, heterosexual, Christian, fundamentally unequal) that the MAGA crowd wanted to further entrench.

This is also why reducing women who ask for more than they have been given in the past — more power, more decision-making, more cultural support, more health care, more humanity — is a tactic that cuts across time periods and political contexts. Antifeminism is a simple way to bring together disparate groups of men (and the women adjacent to them) who see the world changing in ways that are uncomfortable and destabilizing. Whether you look at white nationalists or mass shooters or internet incels — and they often overlap — the constant buzz of misogyny is a predictable motivator.

As Rachel Guy writes in her academic analysis of the online “manosphere,” misogyny can form a central principle around which evil groups can coalesce, becoming the “central conspiracy theory” that “serves as a fundamental national myth, binding members against outsiders and in support of a noble common cause.”

Which brings us back to Matt Gaetz – a hacky politician who scribbles his rules from fools who have gone before him. His ideas have little value, so he reaches for what he can. And what he can reach for is misogyny, the idea that there are good women who marry men and submissively focus on domestic work and accept a society that values ​​forced birth and fundamental gender inequality and that poor women who eerily dare to want the best for themselves and the society they are part of.

Supporting abortion rights means recognizing that women and other people with wombs have a right to full humanity—that they have hopes and dreams and desires and needs separate from their ability to do the intensive, painful, expensive labor of human reproduction. . To deny these rights is to deny that humanity. And to deny humanity requires dehumanization. The magical thinking of Matt Gaetz and his ilk just makes that (red) pill easier to swallow.

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