America is Stuck on Three Themes About Women

The words you choose don’t affect reality, but do affect your conception of reality. I don’t have formal training in psychoanalysis, but I’ve begun to think that there is some sort of widespread, culturally embedded Freudian, subconscious block at work in the larger society. Maybe you have noticed particular features of American discussion habits, but have thought little of them?

Once I began noticing these rhetorical themes in nearly all discussions about the treatment of women in the context of reproduction,  I couldn’t help but think also that it must certainly be ideological and therefore not easily amenable to the debate process. Ideology tends to reflect, not the emphasis on answers, per se, but on the obsession with certain questions (the “right” answer being assumed).

These three themes can be summarized as follows:

1) Do not mention women.
Opponents to certain types of women’s advocacy issues, generally, and abortion, specifically, focus their attention on anything or anyone but the needs of the woman in question; in the case of reproductive issues, upon the fetus almost exclusively.
If, to you, it seems to be strictly arbitrary, it is because it is strictly arbitrary. Discussion about medical care, safety or health is often deliberately kept away from any mention of the woman and never (where applicable) involves the responsibility or role of a man.

2) Spontaneous hyperbole.
When people talk about the two parties of interest, woman and child or woman and fetus, the fetus is referred to, frequently and spontaneously, with the adjective innocent, as in “innocent child”.
How young does a woman have to be before she is referred to as innocent or not publicly shamed?

3) Victim fetishization and blaming.
Women are implicated in their own rapes. Indeed, in America, most victims are usually implicated in their own suffering.
It is only after convoluted and ritualistic story-telling, the kind of which we regularly practice and consume in our culture, that a person can hope to vindicate themselves symbolically and turn themselves into a right and proper Victim.

Consider additionally that these will often seem to be invoked without the slightest thought or premeditation. It is completely spontaneous.

Drilling down into the replies offered, I find that respondents are often also at a loss for words. They often attempt to backtrack and explain, retro-actively, why they only mention the man or why they would describe a fetus as “innocent”, unprompted, or why they put so much emphasis on the responsibility of the woman. I think at work here is a combination of causes: A tangled web of cultural momentum, of vaguely religious indoctrination, and of verbal habits gotten from consuming the rhetoric of major media vendors — radio, television, newspapers, magazines, etc.

Incidentally, the above three themes tend to cluster together and respondents are hardly aware of all three even when they are aware of one. Also, I think this not is a Republican v. Democrat, Conservative v. Liberal divider; I think it is fairly universal and affects the quality of discussion in general, not to sound too agnostic about it suddenly.

These examples are a fairly good indicator of the level of discourse in America. The incompetence and stupidity hasn’t quite descended to that depicted in Idiocracy, but ‘water cooler’ chit-chat rarely rises much higher than many of the most stupid political statements one hears lampooned. No accident, I suppose, that political representatives and hired pundits alike would be so deeply tapped into all three of these aspects of American ideology when it comes to formulating an opinion about women.



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