Conservative Women Keep Turning The Feminism Thing On And Off, Can't Get It To Work!
Kellyanne Conway wants to know why no one cared about her #MeToo moment. “If we’re going to have an honest conversation," she said in an interview at Politico's Women Rule Summit, "you can’t pick and choose depending on somebody’s politics.”
On October 9th of 2016, the day after the release of the Access Hollywood tape in which Donald Trump bragged about grabbing women by the pussy without their permission, Kellyanne went on MSNBC to defend him. During the appearance, she says, she said that when she was "younger and prettier" she had several instances with politicians, involving "them rubbing up against girls, sticking their tongues down women's throats uninvited who didn't like it."
The press, she says, did not pick up her story, because she worked for Donald Trump.
The next day, Kellyanne appeared on MSNBC again, and implored the press to stop using the word "sexual assault" in reference to grabbing women by the pussy without their permission, on account of that is not the word Donald Trump used to characterize this sort of greeting.
"He did not say the word sexual assault," Conway said, adding that Trump "respects women."
This explanation is strikingly similar to the one Trump has taken to in defending Roy Moore, insisting there isn't anything to the accusations because "he totally denies it."
In a blog post last week, Bristol Palin asked "What's Wrong With The #MeToo Campaign?" The answer? That people were really sexist to her mom, and all of those so-called feminists who are MeTooing all over the place didn't even care.
What we need to look at is a real TRUE standard that needs to be set. But here’s a question. How do we pick and choose whom to hold accountable? Why aren’t we looking at all of the sexual harassment? Why are some things “just a joke” for some, and serious offenses for others? The solution is to come together and treat sexual harassment the same, no matter what side of the aisle you may be on.
This was followed by an extensive list of incidents in which Sarah Palin was treated or talked about in a pretty damn shameful and gross manner -- and this is coming from me, a feminist who really hates Sarah Palin.
The first example she used was a time when Fox Anchor Chris Wallace thought her mom should sit in his lap. She writes:
When Chris Wallace was asked if my Mom would be sitting in his lap for an interview, he responded, “One can only hope."
Did Wallace receive any consequences for this kind of sexual harassment?
None. No one at Fox radio batted an eye with his violent misogynist rant – in fact he’s still celebrated.
Want to know the craziest thing about this? He still has a job at Fox News, and my mom doesn’t.
Had Bristol taken a moment to Google, she would have discovered that the entire first two pages of results on this came from Jezebel, The Daily Beast, ThinkProgress, Crooks & Liars, Media Matters, Huffington Post, NPR etc. She may have also noticed the dearth of conservative sites covering it.
(For what it is worth, Bristol -- should you want to lead a campaign to get Chris Wallace fired for those comments, I would be right behind you. I would absolutely support you in any way I could, as would many other women on the Left. But why is it that we're supposed to do all of this ourselves? Could you maybe help a little, or are you just here to stand over our shoulders and point out when we've missed a spot?)
Bristol Palin and Kellyanne Conway are far from alone when it comes to conservative women claiming that feminists only care when women on the left are sexually assaulted or harassed or experience sexism. Yet, if we look at the coverage of Gretchen Carlson and Megyn Kelly's accusations against Roger Ailes, or at the accusations by a female conservative radio host against formerly beloved liberal icon Al Franken, that is demonstrably untrue. Even going back to the 2008 election, feminists who hated Sarah Palin and all she stood for were still calling out sexist bullshit against her -- perhaps most notably, at the Sarah Palin Sexism Watches at both Shakesville and Feministing.
When Sarah Palin was asked about what she thought of Bill O'Reilly's firing from Fox News, she said that the onus was on women to just "not take a paycheck" if they are being harassed.
“Corporate culture there obviously has to change. Women don’t deserve it, they should not ever have to put up with any kind of intimidating workspace. At the same time, if a woman believes she is being intimidated and harassed, she needs to stand up and do something about it, not stick around for a paycheck for years and years and years and then after the fact complain about what she went through."
Yet, she herself continued to take a paycheck from Fox, and even work with Chris Wallace after the "lap" incident. She continued to work for Fox for four years after Roger Ailes publicly said he only hired her because he thought she was "hot and got ratings," after Tucker Carlson tweeted “Palin’s popularity falling in Iowa, but maintains lead to become supreme commander in Milfistan.”
I'm not bringing this up simply to call Sarah Palin a hypocrite. I am bringing it up to highlight the ways in which prominent conservative women often find ways to not fully empathize, even with women on their own side, who do the same things they do, outside of instances where it might benefit the Right politically. They can't bring themselves to raise the banner of feminism without the intent of beating other women with the pole.
Tacks like "Why don't feminists care about conservative women?" or "Why are feminists complaining about issues women face in America, instead of devoting their time to complaining about the ways countries we don't like treat women? Don't they care about those women, who have it worse?" have a purpose, but that purpose is not "helping women." If it were, you would see those women talking about those issues in contexts other than criticizing what feminists are doing wrong.
When Kellyanne Conway brought up her own experiences with sexual harassment and assault, it wasn't to raise awareness of the issue, or to work to rid our government of abusers -- it was to defend Donald Freaking Trump from allegations of the same, in hopes of making his whole "grabbing them by the pussy" thing seem less appalling.
When Bristol Palin (rightly!) pointed out that Erick Erickson was a gross, sexist asshole, it was to defend Donald Trump from allegations of being a gross, sexist asshole. When she brought up the ways her mother had been treated in a sexist manner, it was not so much a condemnation of those who did that, but of "the feminists" whom she didn't think did enough about it because her mom was not a liberal.
Feminists are not stupid. There is not one of us who thinks liberal women are the only ones who experience sexual assault, sexual harassment or sexism in general. We are more than well aware that conservative women experience these things as well. We do not want them to experience these things, regardless of how terrible their political opinions are. But if the result they want is to excuse men on their own side from scrutiny, or even to excuse themselves from feminist criticism, they're going to be sorely disappointed.
The Left is cleaning its house of predators even though we know that the Right will use that to its political advantage while ignoring and making excuses for its own. There's no "whataboutism" happening here, this is not a game of political football -- it is all bad and we want to put an end to all of it. It would be nice if we didn't have to do it all by ourselves. It is a lot of work.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. In addition to her work at Wonkette, she also has a biweekly column at Dame. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse