Reporting from Gilead: MAGA v the Swifties

As we see the brutal failures of an Ethnostate and a Petrostate – we can also look across the Atlantic at the emerging Republic of Gilead. After years of erosion of woman’s rights and attacking enshrined laws protecting privacy and a right to choose, today is the day the Texas Supreme Court ruled that Kate Cox—a woman pregnant with a non-viable and life-threatening fetus—is not eligible for an exception to Texas’s abortion ban.

Kate Cox (pictured below), who “has been in and out of the emergency room and can’t wait any longer,” is now fleeing Texas after Ken Paxton sought to force her to give birth with the above judgement. Paxton, the impeached (and indicted) fraudster is a leading contender to be Trump’s Attorney General.

Cox, the 31-year old mother of two has had to flee Texas to receive an abortion according to her lawyers at the Center for Reproductive Rights.

Almost immediately after Cox won a judicial restraining order to receive the needed procedure, Texas appealed the decision to the State Supreme Court who halted the judge’s ruling. Disgraced Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton threatened any doctor who performed the abortion with felony charges, even though an abortion was necessary to save Cox’s fertility or even her life.

Now in a crazy move MAGA Republicans are now spending their energy attacking Taylor Swift as she attempts to mobilise her fans – and girls and women in general to a) register to vote and b) resist these attacks on women’s rights.

Swift’s platform has terrified the MAGA movement creating a hilarious backlash and exposed how massively triggered and threatened the religious-right and the far-right MAGA movement is by … women in general.

Charlie Kirk complained that Taylor Swift was going to destroy the country because she used her platform to get “4 million girls registered [to vote] in 24 hours.” His ‘podcast’ airs some of the most rancid misogyny. Warning this is unhinged:

This isn’t meant to be a trivial entrance into the grotesque pantomime of the US culture wars, the Texas ruling seems to be a shocking moment in a process that can feel like a slow descent into madness without any definition. As the Overton Windows slide of what’s acceptable or normal or defendable this haziness is a problem.

As Sarah Ditum has written (“Never-ending nightmare: why feminist dystopias must stop torturing women“) about the blurring of feminist dystopian fiction and actual reality:

“A woman, pregnant by rape, is denied an abortion, legally detained and subjected to a forced caesarean. A woman on low income wants to leave her controlling partner but can’t, because a government policy designed to “prevent family breakdown” means all their benefits are paid into his account. A woman reports a sexual assault, but the police don’t believe her, so they prosecute her for making a false allegation, while her attacker remains free to attack more victims. Girls are systematically groomed into prostitution, and police ignore their abusers. A man boasts on tape that he can “grab” women “by the pussy”: he is elected president. These are all things that happened in Ireland, the UK and the US over the last decade.”

The Charlie Kirk manel – and the wider ultra conservative movement is so threatened by what Taylor Swift represents – a financially independent, sexually confident, independent woman with political clout. But they are also aware that the margins are likely to be narrow in next years election, and any substantial mobilisation of young women disastrous for them.

As Ditum comments: “… as political and cultural commentator Helen Lewis has pointed out, contemporary feminism has shown incredible strength in consciousness raising but much less conviction when it comes to concrete aims.

There are vital campaigns and notable successes (the Repeal the Eighth Amendment campaign to remove Ireland’s brutal restrictions on abortion, for example, and Caroline Criado-Perez’s work on female representation), but while high-profile movements such as the Everyday Sexism project and #MeToo have unambiguously established that we have a sexism and sexual harassment problem, they haven’t yet coalesced around a solution.”

Alternatively in Latin America there have also been huge successes in the feminist green flag movement, as Verónica Gago said (“What Latin American feminists can teach American women about the abortion fight“):

“In Argentina, there are multiple reasons behind the expansion of the green tide and the demand for legal abortion from below. On the one hand, there is the long history of activism by the Campaign for the Right to Legal, Safe, and Free Abortion, formed 15 years ago as a nationwide network, defined by its federal character and its emphasis on participatory democracy and pluralism. On the other hand, more recently the feminist movement reached the mass scale with mobilizations for “Ni Una Menos. Vivas y libres nos queremos” (“Not One Woman Less. We want ourselves alive and free”), against the multiple and interconnected forms of gender-based violence. These were tied to the organization of the international feminist strikes that drew connections between feminized economic violence and precarity and other forms of gender-based violence.”

“An important element for understanding the massiveness of these mobilizations was precisely the way in which the struggle for abortion was woven together with other feminist struggles. This allowed for cognitively and politically connecting the different forms of violence against women and feminized bodies as systemic violence. The violence of often deadly and costly clandestine abortion was thus connected to domestic violence, sexual harassment and the gendered pay gap in the workplace, and to the murders of female environmental and Indigenous activists in rural areas. In turn, this enabled constructing the demand for abortion in terms that go beyond a merely individual right, challenging the conception of the body as private property.”

Perhaps the atrocity of the Texas case – and the live threat of a possible Trump second term – might be the moment when the outrage and hurt turns to mass mobilisation against these reactionary forces.

Comments (35)

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  1. Alan C says:

    At least in the USA, it’s the USA government that treats some of the population like shit, here we allow a foreign country to screw us over and over again and just suck it up. As a pensioner who worked for 51 years, I just received a £10 Christmas bonus from the DWP, thanks for that, I’ll donate it to our local food bank.

  2. Mary MacCallum Sullivan says:

    Since it seems normally to be men who comment in this space, I think it may be useful to response from a woman’s perspective.

    The threat – and the reality – of violence against women (not ‘gender-based violence’), both individual and political, means that our different bodies, and our lived experience in relation to our bodies, shapes our existence and often limits our possibilities. We are experiencing a backlash against most of the rights and freedoms that women had achieved since the arrival of ‘the pill’, at least (I hope our voting rights are not at risk).

    Here in Scotland we are experiencing our own version of Gilead, as our combined voices and resistance across non-government-funded women’s organisations and networks are silenced and ignored, if not actively discriminated against, as most obviously in the Scottish Green Party. Our medical and same-sex services are at risk, and this is likely to exclude many women who therefore suffer greatly, but alone and unsupported.

    We may not be suffering from the threat to remove the possibility (not the right) to abortion, but that is coming ‘yet, for a’ that’….

    1. Derek Thomson says:

      If it’s “coming yet for a’ that” it’s more likely to be pushed by the likes of Kate Forbes, not the Green Party. Don’t try to equate a progressive piece of legislation with the actions of the Rapture mob in America please. If you want some “men cannae be women, simple as that” the National should suit you fine.

      1. John Learmonth says:

        Well said Derek, keep those uppity women in their place. That’s ‘progressive’ politics in action.

        1. Derek Thomson says:

          What, because she’s a woman I should temper my response?

          1. John Learmonth says:

            In a free society nobody should have to temper their response. Feel free to voice your opinions. So if I say that if a bloke puts on a bit of lippy, wears a short skirt and exposes himself (and his male sexual organs) in women’s changing rooms that doesn’t make him a women will I be freely able to express that opinion in a ‘progressive’ society?

          2. Derek Thomson says:

            You are free to express any opinion you want, as long as you’re aware that it makes you look like an idiot. You’re not an idiot, are you? So why would you choose to make yourself look like one with a stupid opinion like that? Takes all sorts.

          3. Move this debate to a better tone please

          4. Derek Thomson says:

            On reflection, that’s a fair request.

          5. Derek Thomson says:

            I had posted a lengthy rebuttal, but wasn’t allowed to post it. If this one is allowed, all I’ll say is there are times when I’m ashamed to be Scottish, and this debate is one of them.

          6. Derek Thomson says:

            I shouldn’t have posted that comment so quickly after yours, but I have to say that it’s grotesquely offensive to suggest that people are seeking Gender Recognition certificates because “all” trans people are desperate to get into women’s changing rooms. Utterly grotesque. This type of language has consequences. There was a doctor who used to be on the National message boards who had a trans niece. The abuse he suffered was sickening in the extreme, and he was chased off the board. If the abuse was against gay people, it would be condemned out of hand. It’s just wrong.

      2. florian albert says:

        When a ‘progressive piece of legislation’ is one which allows a male rapist to serve his sentence in a women’s prison, I can only conclude that
        ‘Progressive Scotland’ has a death wish. Political death wishes are so often granted; ask Jeremy Corbyn or Liz Truss.

        1. John says:

          The prisoner being sent to female prison was not sent to the prison under the proposed, contentious GRA legislation but whatever legislation that is currently on statute book.
          I cannot tell you when that Legislation was passed and whether it is the same across the UK. I do think that there should have been some sort of risk assessment carried out which in the case you are referring too was obviously flawed.
          Perhaps since you have such an interest in this area you could enlighten me around the legislation currently in place?

          1. florian albert says:

            I do not know the precise legal position now. Seeing how the prison service can move prisoners between male and female jails as it suits them , I suspect that there is no clear cut legislation at present.
            The Gender Recognition Reform Act was designed to put one in place, though the authors of this law appear to have given up on its implementation – regardless of any UK Supreme Court involvement.

      3. SleepingDog says:

        @Derek Thomson, what is a woman?

        1. Derek Thomson says:

          Sydney Sweeney for me. How about yourself?

  3. SleepingDog says:

    @Derek Thomson, so despite supporting a new definition of ‘woman’ in law, you cannot or will not supply a (non-misogynistic) definition yourself? Are you really acting in good faith here? I think legal fictions are problematic and likely ultimately harmful, for similar reasons that I reject Plato’s noble lie model. They erode the foundation of common agreement on objective reality. A topical example of a legal fiction is “Rwanda is safe for refugees”. If supporters of the UK government would verbally attack people who disagreed with their legal fiction, what difference is there in your behaviour?

    “In Plato’s The Republic, a noble lie is a myth or a lie knowingly propagated by an elite to maintain social harmony.”

    Legal fictions, noble lies: these are pathways back down to the Cave of Shadows, even if done for the best intentions.

    1. Derek Thomson says:

      I will not. I will not because the nature of the question leads me to believe that the questioner has an ulterior motive in asking the question. Is there a Platonic example of this? I ask with genuine interest. What you regard as legal fictions, what I regard as legal fictions and what judges regard as legal fictions can be very different things.

      1. SleepingDog says:

        @Derek Thomson, from memory, which checking of the Wikipedia article seems to confirm, in The Republic, Plato’s character Socrates proposes at one point telling a ‘noble lie’ so that dividing the ideal society into three stratified classes is supported by each being born with a different metal in their soul (gold, silver, and iron/copper or suchlike), not strictly inherited. This myth, the philosopher argues, will make these social categories and roles more acceptable to the populace, contributing to smooth function of the society.–IV:_The_city_and_the_soul

        I would say this is quite similar to the soullist version of gender identity theory, if you exclude the implied functional hierarchy.

        I can’t remember how serious the character Socrates seemed about this proposal; maybe it was something floated for consideration rather than a recommendation. One of the problems Plato was trying to solve was a military class behaving like wolves to the rest of the population, another was elite corruption. As Wikipedia puts it:
        “Socrates asserts that both male and female guardians be given the same education, that all wives and children be shared, and that they be prohibited from owning private property so that guardians will not become possessive and keep their focus on the good of the whole city.”
        I don’t think this is overall a good recipe but I can appreciate the attempt to solve political problems systematically with working shown and dialogic criticism.

        1. Derek Thomson says:

          I’m not entirely convinced by your link to “the noble lie” of gender identity theory. It seems to me you’re shoehorning it in to fit an existing prejudice.

          1. SleepingDog says:

            @Derek Thomson, but once again you are not engaging on the merits or defects of the argument. You enter a conversation using a term you refuse to define but which definition is essential to it being legally recognised. Do you see why I regard you as acting in bad faith? The strength of your argument should not be relevant to whatever motives or prejudices you think I or anyone else may have.

            The Wikipedia page current defines woman thus:
            “A woman is an adult female human.”
            and you can read the Talk page for an attempt to change it. Since these issues blew up at the anarchist bookfair in London, I have discovered the reliance on postmodernist methods to create new definitions, and some rather peculiar claims such as the European ‘Enlightenment’ having invented the idea of ‘two sexes’ which allegedly diverged from a ‘one sex’ consensus. Within the L*G*B*T constellation, let alone society at large, there is no consensus on such definitions, so why rush towards imposing binding legal fictions?

            We can see the harm, intended or otherwise, that past legal fictions have caused, such as the USAmerican recognition of corporate personhood (whether that is technically recognised as a legal fiction or not). Or the sovereignty granted to the British monarch by God. Or that husband and wife were one person.

            I have less interest in social harmony (which after all is favoured by totalitarian regimes, consumer capitalism, theocracies, blood-and-soil nationalists, hereditary monarchies etc) which I see as humans-first speciesism and characterised by exploitative relations with nonhuman life, than ecological health. When we deny biology to please a section of humans, nonhuman life suffers one way or another, because all planetary life is connected, and to elevate humans above other lifeforms (by attributing them souls or whatever) enables exploitative relations.

          2. Niemand says:

            The contorted efforts some go to attempt to show that the fundamentally binary nature of biological sex is some kind of fiction are something to behold.

            The denial of reality is never a good place to start any kind of debate. But then there is ‘no debate’, only deflection and sarcasm at best. Except that is no longer true – there is now plenty of debate and slowly but surely the absurd claims of a small minority of gender rights zealots are being revealed and understood for what they are: pseudo-religious fantasies. That at least potentially allows for proper space to address the conflict inherent in sex and gender-based rights’ claims. Trans is real, whatever its cause, and has probably been around forever, but it will never be a remotely good basis for asking the entirely of humanity to reverse their understanding of sex and gender and thus what they fundamentally are as human beings. This is where trans rights activism has gone so wrong and why it is so different to gay rights activism.

          3. Derek Thomson says:

            “When we deny biology to please a section of humans, nonhuman life suffers one way or another, because all planetary life is connected, and to elevate humans above other lifeforms (by attributing them souls or whatever) enables exploitative relations.”

            We’re done here.

          4. Derek Thomson says:

            “the absurd claims of a small minority of gender rights zealots are being revealed and understood for what they are: pseudo-religious fantasies.” Is this the “debate” that you’re lamenting the lack of?

          5. Niemand says:

            As SD said, you are not discussing this issue in good faith, or so it appears.

            Come back at me with some meaningful arguments rebutting what I said if you want to show that isn’t true.

            One obvious aspect in relation to what you quoted of me: do we have a thing called gender, something that we are born with that is totally distinct from our biological sex? And if so is there a scientific evidence for this or is it something else that cannot be explained biologically? SD mentioned something called a ‘gendered soul’, an idea that is certainly current in some trans-activism and what led me to talk about pseudo-religiosity.

  4. Having only men discuss this piece and these issues ais too weird.

    1. Derek Thomson says:

      If the girls want to join in that’s fine, as long as they keep their voices down.

    2. Niemand says:

      My comment was a response to comments that led back to Mary’s post (and generally in support), a woman unless I am very much mistaken, who started that particular discussion, a tangent to some extent sure, but is that a problem?

  5. John says:

    It appears that it is impossible to publish a column about women’s rights in USA primarily about abortion rights without it becoming a schoolyard fight about transgender people.
    What is even more depressing is it appears to be mainly male’s arguing about a topic which is not directly relevant to article or to themselves unless they are considering a change of sex.
    It is frankly pathetic and depressing to read such childish nonsense.

    1. Derek Thomson says:

      Gaza is not directly relevant to myself John, but I still care about it, and I still have opinions on it.

      1. John says:

        I will put it another way Derek and this is to more people making comments than just you so it is not personal.
        This article was primarily about abortion rights being under attack in USA. Most of the comments have not addressed the issue but have hijacked the column to indulge themselves in a slagging match about trans rights which is being used as a proxy for petty internal political squabbling within independence movement stirred up by opponents of independence.

        1. SleepingDog says:

          @John, I took the article to be largely about misogyny and dystopian science fiction written by women. The latter I have some familiarity with, having read Margaret Atwood’s Gilead novels The Handmaid’s Tale and The Testaments; Naomi Alderman’s The Power; much of Ursula Le Guin’s work several times; but not the newer ones in Sarah Ditum’s article. I have read several of the Women’s Press science fiction works, featuring writers such as Joanna Russ.

          I wasn’t going to comment on the article until I felt obliged to call out some perceived (and actual) misogyny in the comments (for which some of others were deleted). I thought that was an essential message of the article itself, by the way: call out misogyny when you see it.

          Female writers have, I feel, most strongly contributed to the ecological tradition (Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring being a striking example) and this applies to science fiction. The pollution of our natural world, and the increasingly blatant wars on women and children, are natural topics for science fiction writing. But it is especially vital to talk about things we don’t see, such as the reproduction-damaging chemicals dumped in our seas, and the anti-life nuclear weapons waiting in dark silos. These damage and endanger practically all life on Earth (forever chemicals, nuclear war etc).

          There is a real danger that in ignoring biology in law and politics we forgo some protections that non-human life as well as human bodies should have, and as real science has shown, the amount of reproductive and nurturing tissue in women’s bodies is far more vulnerable to these above-mentioned threats (chemicals, radioactivity) than men’s, just as children’s bodies are more vulnerable than adults, and embryos combine both vulnerabilities. The actions we take and inactions we tolerate today will have planetary-wide impacts for centuries. This should, I hope, explain my deep concern that we have planetary-realistic ideologies driving our politics, law, science, culture etc.

          1. John says:

            Thanks for reply.
            I have read article on several occasions and it is about women’s rights in USA and beyond primarily focusing on abortion. The second last paragraph then highlights some other major issues currently threatening women’s rights such as domestic violence, gender pay gap, sexual harassment which are equally relevant in UK today. There is little proper discussion around these subjects in comments section which I would think are real life day to day issues for women in Scotland.
            Yet what do we get in comments from primarily males – little comment on these issues but the usual name calling about transgender issues. I repeat again, without taking sides, that transgender rights (a niche issue if ever there was one)is an issue that is being used by many male (and some female) commentators as part of proxy war between and against independence supporters which has its roots in a personality clash between the two previous First Ministers. It is being used by opponents of independence to stir up trouble. The obsession with this subject as exhibited by comments above and behaviour of protagonists on both sides is really depressing to many people who support independence.

          2. SleepingDog says:

            @John, sure, although I think the article has a much wider scope looking at warnings of the future if these trends continue.

            In terms of ethics, it isn’t just science fiction dystopias which are concerned with reproduction, but horror is often obsessed by it. Vampires, werewolves, zombies, Dr Frankenstein’s monster, all explore the ethics of humanlike lifeforms unmoored from the core ethics of human biology and reproducing asexually and without consent. Why are these stories so popular? What is it in the human psyche that themes speak to?

            Can we measure the health of human society objectively through proxies, in similar ways life sciences measure the health of ecosystems? Which are the most significant symptoms of disease (like domestic violence, sexual harassment, unequal pay) and how can we measure symptoms which remain largely hidden and/or under-reported?

            What can we learn from history where population growth and depletion (reproduction and immigration are battlegrounds in Palestine-Israel) is war? How will AI-robot militaries change this? What weapons are particularly targeted against population reproduction?

            What is the relationship between capitalism and the family? Lucy Worsley’s radio series Ladykillers had some interesting insights on this. Recent historical research has uncovered stories of enslaved women managing their own fertility under appalling conditions, traditions of resistance which were passed down through generations.

            What, in short, are the political drivers behind ideological opposition to abortion, contraception, women’s rights? The politics of reproduction, as addressed by writers like Silvia Federici in Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation. Not niche issues, these.

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