Tuesday, April 03, 2012

More Republican Slut-Shaming

Sorry if it seems like a theme in my postings, but this kind of stuff has really been chapping my ass lately. Let’s review the bidding, shall we? A presidential candidate’s wife’s blind trust invests in a fund that owns shares (oh, excuse me: used to own shares) in a media company that owns a sexually oriented website that might (but then again, might not, depending on who you talk to) be complicit in underage sex trafficking.

And this has something to do with the candidate himself… how, again?

Oh, I remember: OMG! Teh secks!!! Yeah, that’s how.

Let’s be perfectly clear: I’m not defending underage sex trafficking, nor anyone who’s responsible for it.

But that’s not why this story is a story. This story is a story so somebody can put “Romney” and “sex” in the same headline. Now, I’m the first to call out most Republicans (and all of the remaining Republican presidential candidates) as hypocrites and prigs when it comes to human sexuality, and I’m the first to say sex-negativity, and its attendant sexism and misogyny, is an incredibly serious problem, but I’ve got a couple problems with this item:
  • Ann Romney’s “ownership” of anything sketchy is as diffuse as the interstellar medium, and Mitt Romney, the real target of this story, is yet one more step removed. As a comparison, my own 401k is partly invested in an S&P500 index fund: Am I therefore morally responsible for every act of every second-level subsidiary of every one of the 500 companies on that index? Is my wife? You might be able to make a logically consistent case that every owner, no matter how small the ownership interest, is responsible for every act of a company… but that’s not a very pragmatic position to take, socially, and it’s certainly not the standard we commonly apply.

  • Do we imagine that none of the other companies the GS Capital Partners III fund has invested in have ever done anything questionable? Of course not, but Candidate’s Wife Has Distant Links to Company that Did Something Sketchy has no sizzle as a headline… unless, of course, the “something sketchy” is (you guessed it) OMG! Teh secks!!! This story is a scandal because we’re addicted to the notion that sex itself is a scandal; sex would’ve been the lede on this, I’m convinced, even without the actually scandalous aspect of trafficking. Bringing this up is just plain slut–shaming.

  • Like the so-called sex scandals tried out against Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, this is an attack on the candidate’s wife, which puts it in the category of misogyny (maybe that seems redundant to the slut-shaming point, but it feels worth mentioning separately). We progressives think it’s reprehensible when Democratic presidential candidates are attacked through their wives; why would we stoop to doing the same to Republican candidates’ wives?. Hillary Clinton was much more of a legitimate political partner when her husband was running for president than are Karen Santorum or either Mrs. Gingrich or Ann Romney; why would we tolerate attacks on the latter women any more than we did attacks on Hillary?

Look, I have many, many pressing reasons not to want Romney to be president, any more than I want Santorum or Gingrich to be president, but his wife’s gossamer-thin connection to illicit sex-work advertising isn’t one of them. These candidates pose a serious threat to the future of our republic… but calling “their women” sluts and whores (or, in this case, whoremongers) is entirely out of bounds. It’s exactly the sort of socially destructive sex-negativity and sexism that is one of the pressing reasons I don’t want any of them in the White House.

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