In defense of the sanctimonious women's studies set || First feminist blog on the internet

If the Supreme Court upholds Texas abortion bounties, expect hilarity to ensue.

I keep trying to write about Texas and the future of Roe v. Wade, and I keep needing to rewrite my thoughts because of all the twists, turns and drama in the news cycle – not just in the Supreme Court but across the Divided States of America.

For example, you may have heard this morning that in Virginia, anti-choice candidate Glenn Youngkin won the election to be the state’s next governor. Mr. Youngkin boasts many unremarkable characteristics as a Republican male, including not just a striking resemblance to Brett Kavanaugh, but also a desire to ban library books that just so happen to feature black, minority or LGBT characters, or really any book that might help with illuminating the experiences of anyone who doesn’t look like him.

However, Mr. Youngkin did demonstrate one remarkable characteristic as an otherwise generic Republican: He barely spoke about his position that women should be stripped of their constitutional right to abortion. Way back in June, when Mr. Youngkin was speaking at far-right fundraisers, audience members asked of him why he wasn’t talking abortion. He openly said the quiet part out loud: “I’m gonna be real honest with you, the short answer is… I can’t. [It] won’t win my independent votes that I have to get.” Bro, imagine having positions so toxic that you can’t even campaign on them openly.

But that was actually pretty smart, because it just so happens that the great majority of Americans would prefer that constitutional rights such as Roe v. Wade not be overturned. And when we say a vast majority, we mean 70 to 80 per cent, according to a poll taken just one week after Texas passed its S.B. 8 abortion ban. For comparison, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is the most popular celebrity in the world, with an approval rating of 83 per cent. That’s right, Roe is as popular as The Rock.

I presume it’s because most Americans actually think women are people and deserve rights, though I understand controversy still exists around this radical left-wing feminist view. I say this because despite the popularity of women’s rights and the Republican claim that they’re the party of “LAW AND ORDER!!!”, other states seem intent on following Texas’s unconstitutional behaviour. Florida and Ohio have proposed copycat abortion bans, although Ohio is at least trying to be original by being even more extreme. Whereas Texas’s S.B. 8 supposedly bans abortions after six weeks, coincidentally before women know they’re pregnant, Ohio is proposing to ban all abortion, period. South Dakota’s governor claims she’ll eventually introduce a similar proposal, and based on the composition of state legislatures, we expect 14 states will introduce S.B. 8-style abortion bans.

Now S.B. 8 is before the Supreme Court, where the justices are debating whether the Constitution still applies to women. Today is 3 November, and we’re looking at a Court where the previous President lost by 3 million votes, yet was able to appoint 3 of his own justices, or one-third of the Court. Coincidentally, one-third of all the male justices have a history of allegations around sexual assault and abuse. And one of those justices, Clarence Thomas, has now served for 30 years and is the longest-serving justice on the entire Court. It makes you wonder what Anita Hill thinks about that. And it makes me wonder what American women think of a Court full of far-right sexual predators debating the rights women should have.

Plenty of pundits have pointed out how clever Texas’s abortion ban, S.B. 8, is. Everyone’s heard of outsourcing, right? We always hear about how outsourcing is annoying, how it hurts American families, how it results in bad service and generally makes American customers more irritated than a Karen who sees Black Americans being Black in public (or Black at Starbucks).

Well, Texas looked at all that and decided outsourcing was a good idea anyway. The way that S.B. 8 works is that its authors know that a traditional abortion ban, enforced by state officials, would be too blatantly illegal, similar to Mark Zuckerberg claiming he has a right to profit from hate speech. To avoid being instantly blocked by courts, Texas designed S.B. 8 so rather than officials enforcing the ban, enforcement is outsourced to private citizens, who can earn $10,000 for suing Texans that they suspect of involvement with abortion, even if the person suing doesn’t live in Texas.

Yeah, you can make jokes all day about how Texas conservatives are so obsessed with government intruding in their lives that they hired private citizens to intrude for them. However, that’s low-hanging fruit. After all, this is the same Texas that wants to force schools to teach “both sides” of the Holocaust, to avoid being too critical of white supremacy.

Let’s examine the implications of a Texas victory in the Supreme Court. Suppose the U.S. Supreme Court upholds S.B. 8. Some of the implications are more obvious, like Roe becoming effectively meaningless, red states passing identical bans, and abortion increasing in blue states as abortion refugees travel there for their procedures. But what are the less obvious implications for Americans outside the 25 per cent of women who have abortions by age 45?

Let’s start with the pro-life party’s favourite American right of all: Guns for killing. If the Supreme Court upholds the legality of bounty hunters against abortion, then the result would be a legal framework for… bounty hunters against gun owners. Under that framework, a state could pass a law where you can sue someone suspected of owning a gun or helping a neighbour to own a gun, and if you win, you get $10,000, plus your legal fees. After all, the state isn’t technically banning gun ownership. The state is just hiring citizens to intimidate gun owners, that’s all.

This isn’t a pure hypothetical. The justices explicitly asked the Texas Solicitor if he could think of any reason states couldn’t enact similar laws against guns if S.B. 8 were upheld, and he was forced to admit yeah, it was possible. The justices even pointed out that by his logic, states could pass laws allowing bounty hunters against free speech or religion too. Imagine a “democratic” nation where people can sue people for saying something negative about our national treasure, Dwayne Johnson, or a country where people can sue people they suspect of promoting Rastafarianism.

These may sound like silly examples, but with the track record of the GOP, we can expect that a victory for S.B. 8 would encourage, say, Missouri to legalise bounty hunters to sue people suspected of criticising Rush Limbaugh, the Nazi sympathiser who defended white supremacists in Charlottesville but is considered such a hero to Missouri lawmakers that they have a statue of him in the capitol. We could also expect to see states legalising bounty hunters against Americans suspected of being Muslim, though I suppose I should stop giving ideas to Trump if he runs in 2024.

For these reasons, one would expect an impartial Supreme Court to rule against blatant undermining of the Constitution and overturn S.B. 8. However, we know the Supreme Court isn’t impartial, so none can accurately predict how the justices will rule on this case. We know from the 2014 Hobby Lobby case that the Supreme Court allows laws that legalise discrimination against women and LGBT people. Thanks to Google, I’m old enough to remember 1966’s Newman v. Piggie Park Enterprises, where a South Carolina restaurant claimed it had a religious right to discriminate against Black customers. The courts told South Carolina to bugger off then. Today’s Supreme Court refuses to extend the same protection to women or LGBT Americans, thanks to “sincerely held religious beliefs”.

Where does that leave Americans who can’t count on the Constitution or the courts to reliably protect them anymore? We have no magic bullets in our arsenal, only one mainstay: The right to vote. Anybody who cares about constitutional rights already knows why voting matters, and thanks to Google, I’m able to recall some choice words to remind you of what voting meant to past generations

“Give us the ballot and we will no longer have to worry the federal government about our basic rights.

“Give us the ballot and we will fill our legislative halls with men of good will.

“Give us the ballot and we will place judges on the benches… who will do justly and love mercy.”

Kavanaugh for SCOTUS: So how fucked are we?

Justice Anthony Kennedy has announced his retirement, and Trump has nominated Brett Kavanaugh to take his place on the Supreme Court. This isn’t a small deal — despite being personally right-leaning, Kennedy has tended to be the moderate swing vote for some of the more contentious cases that have come before the court. (Abortion rights, same-sex marriage, and affirmative action have all had his signature on them.) In replacing him with Kavanaugh, Trump nails down a solid conservative majority to enshrine his agenda into law and gives us our first-ever Supreme Court Justice Brett. So what does that mean for us?

On incivility: “I work for a lying, bigoted aspiring dictator” isn’t a protected class

Recently, White House mouthpiece Sarah Sanders was asked to leave the Red Hen Restaurant in Lexington, Virginia, after committing the unforgivable offense of being White House mouthpiece Sarah Sanders. (Did I make that sound sarcastic? Because I meant it sincerely. What Sanders does is unforgivably offensive.) Since Sanders’s Twitter whine (from her official White House Twitter account), of course, much of the conversation has been focused on the topic of manners and civility. And yes, we still have the responsibility to be civil, we have to rise above it all, and yes, that’s true, but seriously, a person can only go high for so long and honestly just fuck it.

How to help with Texas — and what doesn’t help

Watching Hurricane (now Tropical Storm) Harvey ravage the western Gulf Coast, with no apparent intention of leaving before the entire region is under water, and feeling helpless? Reasonable. When what people need is to be literally boatlifted from their flooded homes, it’s hard to sit hundreds of miles away and feel like there’s nothing you can do to make anything better. But you can! There are things you can do to help.

Because We Need It: Waiting for Uptown to funk her up

Our world is a disaster, and it’s easy to get the feeling that everything is bad and nothing will ever be okay. But that’s not entirely the case, and I know that because here’s an adorable girl in a car seat, listening to “Uptown Funk” and patiently waiting for the beat to drop.

Trans Day of Remembrance

Today is the Trans Day of Remembrance.

I don’t have much to say, but I thought we should acknowledge the ongoing persecution and murder of trans people, particularly trans women of color.

And, being in the US, I want to acknowledge how dangerous the Trump regime will be to trans people, particularly trans people of color. I didn’t hold with contributing money to the NC GOP when their office was destroyed; that’s sad for them, but they do terrible things, and I won’t support that.

Protections for trans people can and no doubt will suffer huge blows under Trump and Pence. In 2010, as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton implemented a policy making it much easier than previously for trans people to obtain passports with their correct gender listed. Previously, a person had to have undergone gender reassignment surgery to make this happen; since 2010, a person needs to have a note from a doctor affirming that they have undergone “clinical treatment for gender transition.” Obviously this is not ideal and still sets up doctors, not accessible to everybody for various reasons, insurance coverage being prime, as gatekeepers, but it is significantly better than what came before. With Pence setting domestic policy, that rule is obviously at risk.

The Republican desire to destroy ACA will also hit trans people, making it more difficult if not downright impossible for many to get access to the medical care. Currently, the ACA bans anti-trans discrimination in health care. That seems unlikely to make the cut under Trump and Pence. And if ACA is repealed altogether, that could leave any number of trans people (I can’t find stats on this) out in the cold, particularly because trans people face such severe discrimination in the workplace that they are more likely to work in industries that do not provide health insurance benefits.

The GOP platform supports electrocuting gay and trans kids to make them straight and cis. It also supports state amendments preventing trans people from using the correct bathrooms. And of course, the rise in hate crimes is not going to exempt trans people.

So on this TDoR, I say we mourn the dead and remember how terrifying what lies ahead is. Mourn the dead, fight like hell for the living, I guess.

Spillover #33

It’s been a while since our 32nd #spillover thread, and as the #USAelection2016 threads are accumulating some intemperance in the comments generally is increasing, so it’s time for a 33rd #spillover thread to help keep people focused on the specific topics being discussed. Some reminders:

1. #spillover is part of our comment moderation system for keeping other threads on-topic by providing a separate constructive space for side-discussions.
2. Commenters are encouraged to respect the topic of each post and cheerfully volunteer to take off-topic side-discussions into #spillover.

Spillover #32

Our 32nd #spillover thread is long overdue. Some reminders:

1. #spillover is part of our comment moderation system for keeping other threads on-topic by providing a separate constructive space for side-discussions.
2. Commenters are encouraged to respect the topic of each post and cheerfully volunteer to take off-topic side-discussions into #spillover.