“Billy Did It Too” is Not An Adequate Reason to Misbehave

“Billy Did It Too” is Not An Adequate Reason to Misbehave January 28, 2014

When I was in my teens, my family gave me a fancy-schmancy clock radio one Christmas. I felt so very grown-up. I studied it that afternoon, figured out how to tune it, and set it to wake me up at six in the morning. My reasoning was impeccable even to my now-self: I wanted to make sure it worked, but school was on winter break and along with it every real reason to use the gadget’s alarm function. With the intention in mind of testing the alarm, obviously six in the morning is way too early for any reasonable person to awaken, so if I set it that early, I’d be able to experience the luxury of a clock radio waking me up, then go back to sleep for another few hours and wake up at the far more civilized hour of ten or noon and not feel too jangled when I did finally get up. To both teenaged me and middle-aged me, the plan and its rationale made perfect sense.

(Joe Haupt, CC.)
(Joe Haupt, CC.)

What I didn’t realize was that, first, there was a volume control knob on this gadget that I had inadvertently set to maximum level. Second and far more importantly, there was a little switch you had to flip between “music alarm” and “air-raid siren” that I had completely missed. Also, so you kind of understand a bit better the reaction I got, my parents’ bedroom was right across a narrow hallway from my room.

Yeah, that was an awesome Boxing Day all right. I thought the world had ended, because at that point it was six in the morning and I’d clean forgotten I’d set the alarm. I don’t remember exactly what happened next; my next memory after the alarm went off was me in a tumbled heap of sheets and blankets on my messy bedroom floor, the clock radio in my hands, as I stared blankly up at my parents who were both in my doorway staring at me in complete shock.

And let me inform you: my stammered response to their inevitable “WHAT IN HOLY HELL IS GOING ON HERE?”, which was probably along the lines of “I wanted to see if my clock radio worked,” was not the desired response in the least as it did not involve someone bleeding or the world ending.

Yeah, nobody got back to sleep after that display of technical prowess.

Talk about something your parents will never, ever let you live down, not even if you live to be a hundred: waking them up with what sounded for all the world like a fire alarm in the middle of the night the day after a major holiday, which also happened to be one of the few days they got to sleep in without any hassle from the kids in the household, and apparently the cause of all that fuss and panic was an advanced case of Teenageritis.

It’s not that I can’t notice details. I can be hyper-vigilant in the way of someone who’s survived abuse. But sometimes I miss little things like volume knobs and air-raid siren switches, things that can turn out to be dreadfully important later. Dad used to call me “Flutterbudget” for a reason.

In the same exact way, Christians can miss some awfully important details.

I admit, the Jesus Republican Party’s complete inability to see these details just blows my mind. Case in point: Rand “Poodle Do” Paul’s insistence that the War on Women is actually over, and women won and Democrats lost.

Sexism is over. Rand Paul said so, so we can all just relax. Women have come so far that we should just let this whole “War on Women” thing go. And even if sexism weren’t over, Bill Clinton cheated on his wife, so obviously we should all just stop worrying about it, as he said in a recent interview:

One of the workplace laws and rules that I think are good is that bosses should not prey on young interns in their office. And I think really the media seems to have given President Clinton a pass on this. He took advantage of a girl that was 20 years old and an intern in his office. There is no excuse for that, and that is predatory behavior….. Then they (Democrats) have the gall to stand up and say, “Republicans are having a war on women.”

Yes, the gall of it all. How dare Democrats fight for women when one of them (GASP!) had an affair?!?

Remember this interview. It’s going to figure prominently in the post-mortem why Rand Paul didn’t become President articles we’ll be seeing after the nomination passes him by–or, if by some fluke he turns out to be the most compelling candidate the GOP can possibly offer, after 2016.

It’s hard to believe that this guy seriously thinks that he has some kind of a shot at the Presidency. Did he not notice the brief mention in the news about how women more or less gave Mr. Obama his seat both times and that we tend to be really into our rights? Does he not realize we can hear him? Or is this some weird shadow campaign the Republican Party is running to make women even more alienated from the GOP?

Mike Huckabee, who probably still thinks he has a shot at the Oval Office himself, chimed in, just in case American women might mistakenly think that Rand Paul is the only high-level Christian Taliban leader who has trouble with this whole “reality” thing:

“Our party stands for the recognition of the equality of women and the capacity of women,” Huckabee said. “That is not a war on them; it is a war for them. And if the Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing them a prescription each month for birth control, because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government, then so be it.”

Oh, okay, so it’s really a war for us, not against us, all this insistence on taking control of our bodies, penalizing us for wanting to have sex without the terror of unexpected pregnancies, and denying us the right to make our own basic healthcare decisions. Really they’re just thinking of us, since we’re too damned stupid to do this thinking stuff for ourselves. We’re just so dumb.

Minnesotans Unite Against the War on Women Rally
Minnesotans Unite Against the War on Women Rally (Photo credit: Fibonacci Blue). Of course, in 1912, we didn’t have machines that could forcibly keep alive a woman who’d stated categorically she didn’t want to be kept alive by machine, but I think the point here stands nonetheless.

That nightmare that the family of Marlise Munoz faced that is only just now ending, months after her husband found her unconscious in her home, that was really all for her, not some horrific, revolting, repulsive political point made with the body of a woman who was legally dead but had the great misfortune to be housing, at her death, a sacred royal fetus with more rights than even her machine-violated corpse got. Women who demand control over their bodies are really just total slutty slut sluts who can’t control themselves and want “Uncle Sugar” to take care of them by giving them free slut pills so they can screw like bunnies and not pay the price, and aren’t we lucky ducks indeed to have these big strong wonderful men around to tell us how things really are, since we’re so stupid we’re swallowing all this malarkey about our rights as if it was true when really it’s totally not in our best interests to want rights over our bodies and the right to consent over each and every invasion and use of our bodies–whether that invasion is by machines, penises, wands, scalpels, or fetuses. Our bodies are really public property, not our own like a man’s body is, which makes our bodily rights negligible and negotiable, ephemeral things that can be whipped away in a puff of smoke the moment our consent becomes a little bit inconvenient for somebody else. But make no mistake: this whipping-away of our rights is really totally for us, not against us. If only we stupid, silly women could understand this simple truth! Oh wait…

I want you folks to remember this “Uncle Sugar” moment too. It’s going to come back to haunt Mike Huckabee, though at the moment he seems to be drilling down on it (apparently he repeated the comment in his newsletter right before asking people to donate money to him for something, so he seems very proud of it). It’s his “parents standing in the doorway staring blankly at their kid as the sirens blare at top volume” moment. As more and more women ask the GOP just how many women they have in higher office, and how many women are in upper-level management positions in the party, the Republican insistence that they’re certainly not waging any sort of “war” on the fair, delicate ladies is going to fall apart pretty fast.

To the Jesus Party, the real problem is that women just don’t understand, the poor little dears with their poor little pink sin-laden ladybrainz, that this whole “war on women” is really the Democrats wanting to be all mean to them by giving them control over their bodies and the tools necessary to avoid unwanted and unexpected pregnancies–which would hugely lower abortion rates and save untold families from poverty (as discovered in the now-famous “Turnaway Study”), but lowering abortion rates, staving off poverty, and increasing personal liberty are not really the goals here; the goal here is to punish women who have unapproved sex, and Democrats aren’t doing that, so obviously they’re really the ones waging a “war on women,” not the shiny armor-clad knights campaigning to re-chain women to their biology and punish any woman who has sex and doesn’t want to “pay” for it by having a baby–it’s all for the ladeeeez, of course. In other words, any woman who wants to live a life not scripted by the modern evangelical Christian mindset is in danger here.

Meanwhile, the real War on Women proceeds apace.

The problem is that “Billy did it too” just isn’t a good reason to justify denying women basic, intimate bodily rights or not making freely available all the tools they need to manage their reproductive capacities. But that seems to be exactly what Rand Paul said: that because Mr. Clinton cheated on his wife with an intern, he had no right to work to advance women’s rights. I see that all the time from Christians in general–this idea that it’s okay for them to do something really nasty if they think non-Christians are doing it as well. Besides being flat-out wrong, it’s also not even in the same class of offense to compare one person’s marital indiscretion to an entire paradigm of denying women basic rights.

In the same way, a commenter right here once tried to make the claim that because he thought one abortion-providing doctor had acted unprofessionally, that made it okay for everybody to deny women the right to make their own healthcare decisions. That’s so far past irrational I don’t even know how to approach it, but it’s a common thing to see in the forced-birther movement–look at how many anti-abortion folks point to the rare cases of abortion providers doing something criminal as justification for denying all women the right to self-ownership (not realizing that pro-choice advocates usually point to these same cases as examples of what happens when abortion access is limited, not of what happens when abortion is freely, easily available).

My preacher ex-husband, Biff, thought it was okay to quite literally threaten me with bodily harm and death because he saw threats as a valid tool to get me back in line. I’d acted out first, so he was justified in threatening me. Until I acted out, he thought he had no reason to go nuclear like that, but once I’d acted out, he felt justified in using threats. (Longtime readers know what he said, I trust, without my having to repeat it.) I’ve heard Christians on online forums and Facebook justify being really nasty the same way–that if someone’s sharp at them or critical of their religion, then they have free license to be sharp and critical back. It’s happened so often I’m almost past pointing it out anymore. Almost.

Haven’t we progressed a little teeny bit beyond that kind of thinking? What happened to turning the other cheek, or taking the high road?

The simple reality is this: Bill Clinton did what he did a long time ago–decades ago. But even if he was still stepping out on his wife or hitting on his interns, trying to justify misogyny by saying we can all drop feminism because Mr. Clinton had an affair is so far past ludicrous it barely qualifies for the word. Rand Paul is seriously saying that because a Democrat had an affair–which is by no means unique among politicians of any affiliation–that invalidates the cheater’s position on women’s rights.

Is he really wanting to turn this into the Predation Olympics here? Because I’m willing to bet that the “famblee values” party is going to lose if we start listing off and counting examples of their own indiscretions. Let’s start with that “pro-life” toad Scott DesJarlais, who not only cheated on his wife numerous times but strong-armed his mistress and ex-wife alike into getting abortions. (Bonus: the pic in that link shows his dead-eyed current wife, who looks like she’s second-guessing every decision she’s made in her entire life that has brought her to this point.) He definitely doesn’t walk the “pro-life” walk and he’s definitely not only been divorced, which is hardly what Jesus commanded, but also cheated on his wife. Does that mean I can obliterate every “pro-life” argument by using him as a scapegoat? No, it does not. His own inability to live according to his own frequently-stated and fervently-held platforms of misogyny and fetus worship doesn’t invalidate the platform itself. It doesn’t help the anti-choice side much that its own strongest adherents can’t handle living according to the laws they’d force on everybody else, and his hypocrisy certainly brings to glaring light the indisputable, often-demonstrated fact that abortion restrictions like the ones he favors really only affect poor women, not the privileged women he prefers to boink, no, but in and of itself, his affairs and his abortion-love don’t in themselves invalidate the arguments his side uses.

Does the GOP want to try to play this game with me? Because I’ve got lots more Republicans and high-level Christians I can name–there’s a whole tag for it on this blog, called Christians Behaving Badly. I’m willing to bet there are a lot more of them than there are of us on the “dirty deeds done dirt cheap” side of the polka hall. I may call attention to them, but that’s not because their deeds in and of themselves invalidate their arguments and attempts at evidence. And I call attention to their frequent attempts to squirm out of doing horrific things to people in the name of “love” because I think people need to see what they’re doing and need to know that the misdirection attempts don’t work.

I realize they’re trying to position themselves a certain way, but that only works if they’re not lying, and they simply are lying. Remember when Obi-Wan Kenobi tried to tell Luke that it was totally okay that he’d told the boy that his father was dead, “from a certain point of view”? Yeah, remember how well that worked on Luke? He was furious. It was a lie. It wasn’t a certain point of view. His father was not, objectively speaking, dead, no matter how metaphorically his old mentor saw things. Obi-Wan had played with words and changed the meanings of them without sharing the new definition with Luke, who had trusted him enough not to wonder if a redefinition had happened. But thankfully, people are trusting Republican–and Christian–leaders less and less like that. In the same way as Luke refused to accept Obi-Wan’s redefinition as justification for the lie he got told, I don’t view someone trying to remove my bodily rights and liberties and deny rights and liberties to entire swathes of humanity as fighting “for” people. That’s actually the categorical definition of a war on someone, not a war for someone. When you’re fighting for someone, you’re not actively trying to keep them subservient and disadvantaged. And I ain’t the only person who sees this blatant attempt at redefinition and refuses to let it slide.

I realize that to Republicans, we’ve always been at war with Eastasia, but someone’s got to point out that slavery isn’t actually freedom no matter how often they say it is. If enough of us refuse to buy into this doublespeak and speak out against it, maybe the GOP will realize they’re not going to win elections by drilling down on the stupid like they did here.

Rand Paul and Mike Huckabee are desperately hoping that their misdirection attempt works, and it just doesn’t, any more than it works for Christians who try to point to atheists’ peccadilloes as “proof” that their religion is objectively true. “Bill Clinton cheated, therefore Democrats shouldn’t even try to help women advance” does not follow. “I have lots of lady friends and I see a lot of women in high-level grad school spots so sexism is over, y’all” does not follow either.

It’s like they don’t realize women are listening to them. We know perfectly well how well women’s rights are going. We can hardly hear these Republicans crowing about how good we have it, what with having to do most of the housework and childcare in our own families, earning 70 cents on the dollar what men earn for the same work and same qualifications, getting plunged into poverty if we have unapproved sex and can’t get an abortion (or if we get divorced from our Shiny Happy Godly Husbands), not being able to make our most basic healthcare decisions without being moralized at and shamed, graduating from all these grad schools and discovering there’s a nice thick glass ceiling keeping us from actually getting into high-end careers, being vastly under-represented in government and in CEO positions all over the country, and not even being able to go out in public to do our laundry or buy our groceries without being harassed by entitled dipshits who “just want to talk” to us and then get abusive and infuriated when we decline their generous offer of companionship. Yeah, we’ve won all right. Everybody can just relax now. Bill Clinton cheated on his wife, which is something Republicans never, ever, ever do, so obviously Democrats should stop working on women’s rights.

Seriously, do they realize we can hear them? I mean, I know that “women actually have ears and can critically evaluate what they hear” is a detail they missed on the level of the switch between “siren” and “music” I missed a lifetime ago, but this was such a surreal and bizarre pair of pronouncements that I really have to wonder what in holy hell they were thinking.

It’d probably be best if Republicans just didn’t talk at all. I’ve never seen a group as comically inept at talking to women as they are. Never. The more they say, the worse it seems to get. Are there seriously any women at this point who are so misinformed that they believe Republicans actually care about the economy or jobs over denying women their basic rights and liberties and stopping evil gay people from marrying? Do they seriously want to support a party that actually thinks, contrary to all expert opinion, that denying women abortions boosts the economy and creates jobs when study after study says the dead opposite? Do women want to live in the Mayberry fantasyland? Let me answer that for you: No, we do not. We’ve shown the Republican party this truth over and over again. And their reaction is to insist that no, really, they just need to find the magic way to phrase and position their misogyny and magical thinking so that women hear it and go “oh, wow, you’re totally right, I was just not seeing it the right way.” (I run into all sorts of Christians who think this exact same way, so I don’t think it’s a uniquely political fantasy, which is why we’re talking about it here on a religion blog.)

We’re going to talk about sex next. Sex, sex, sex. Sexytimes sexiness sex. Mmmmm, it does a body good, don’t it? Sex. Specifically, we’re going to talk about the fear of flying. Something else Rand Paul and Mike Huckabee have highlighted here is the Christian patriarchal terror of women as fully sexual beings, and I think there’s enough there to unpack and mull over that I want to talk about it by itself next time. See you in a couple days? Be here with your bells on. (We’ll also be talking about the scariest word I knew back in my fundie days, so I think we are going to have a lot of fun.)

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