A Law of Our Own
Vermonters fresh out of winter hibernation feel a natural inclination to smell the flowers and have some fun. And given the joys of this summer issue of Vermont Woman—we’re going to Paris, and out on the Waterfront, and biking in the mountains—I so hoped to leave behind the hoary frosts of my heart. But Republicans keep appearing in my nightmares—I, who have voted Republican in the past, when Republicans included the likes of Jim Jeffords. Republicans were formerly our allies, when the Violence Against Women Act first became law in 1994, and when it was reauthorized twice in the past. But somehow this year VAWA became “controversial.”
The bill passed the U.S. Senate with important new provisions to protect immigrant women, Native American women and LGBT victims; Republican women voted for it and helped the bill pass. Meanwhile, Concerned Women of America, a far-right religious lobby founded by Beverly LaHaye, expressed grave concern over the dangers of what it called, “Leahy’s bill.” CWA pointed out that our state’s senior senator had been behind many of the inclusive changes—which made me proud of Leahy, and of us for electing him.
Apparently CWA feared that any provision that acknowledged the right of a lesbian to be as safe as a hetero would somehow undermine the sacred bond of marriage, especially when you were an immigrant woman, or a Native American woman married to a white man. It’s hard to see the connections, until you remember denial, and notice that Phyllis Schlafley’s Eagle Forum brought out its arguments, too, smelling of moth balls and crocheted doilies.
Did these ultraconservative women mention violent men who stomp on “sacred,” and an American culture that glamorizes violence? No, I don’t think so, but they did claim that the bill the Senate passed would strengthen “the feminist power structure,” by which I suppose they mean women who refuse to be doormats.
When the bill reached the U.S. House, Republican leadership stripped it of Leahy’s inclusionary improvements, and passed a new version that Democrats such as veteran U.S. Rep. John Conyers called, “a flat-out attack on women.” By this, he meant not only the women who are victims of violence, but a generation of volunteer and professional women who have sheltered and counseled them.
Conyers said in The Hill, “The truth is that this could have been a bipartisan bill, just as it has been in two prior reauthorizations. For nearly a year, we conferred with our Republican and Democratic colleagues in the House and Senate. This bipartisan group worked with survivors, advocates, and law enforcement officers from across the country and identified what programs were working and what could be improved. However, the Republican House Leadership decided to introduce a measure that ignored nearly all of these negotiations and turned their back on hundreds of organizations.”
The Republicans chose to embrace other organizations, however, and women should know about them. In addition to CWA and the Eagle Forum, the National Coalition of Men had demanded “gender-inclusive language” for the law, despite VAWA’s name and its intended mission. Apparently the coalition found that a bill focused on women, and stopping violence against them, went too far. It demanded “accountability measures” in response to “fraud and abuse,” though it presented no evidence or testimony to support its call for “needed reform.”
When I went to NCM’s website, curious about it, I discovered its lead article for that day praised Dominique Strauss-Kahn. He is suing for damages for all he “suffered” when charged by New York officials with attempted rape of a maid who had cleaned his hotel room. Strauss-Kahn, former head of the International Monetary Fund, and a potential candidate for the presidency of France, faced disgrace when other charges by other women in France came in. But, said the author of the NCM article, Strauss-Kahn was making a comeback, and “It’s about time!”
Author Eric Ross, “Ph.D.,” celebrated Strauss-Kahn’s courage, but mostly his having the money to pursue a court case, which most similarly abused men cannot afford, you see. The long article is accompanied by a cartoon illustration of four shapely and crafty-looking models with the headline, “Women of Golddigger.” The frequency of false accusations by women underlies the article’s assumptions, as does the natural proclivity of women—especially immigrant women of color—to enrich themselves at men’s expense.
Here is a quote from the article, which also manages to defame Catherine MacKinnon, the legal scholar who first made it possible for women to sue for sexual harassment on the job. Ross doesn’t bother to spell her name correctly, and then he misquotes her.
Ross claims: “We simply may not, cannot have false allegations of rape in America, because our most esteemed legal scholars, such as Katharine A. MacKinnon [sic], have told our lawmakers ‘any heterosexual sex is rape of a woman.’ So, evidence does not count, as long as the woman says it is rape….”