Way to Miss the Point

Rachel alerted us to Senator Henry’s idiotic definition of rape, which she heard about from the Scene, last week.  It seems now that the big kids have discovered it (see Feministing and Pandagon) and commenters are contacting the Senator in outrage.

My fellow feminists, I have to beg you, please do not miss the forest for the trees.

Here’s the situation on the ground here in Nashville in short:

The Tennessee State Supreme Court has ruled that the women of Tennessee have more of a right to privacy (and thus more of a right to have an abortion if we want) than guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, which means that, if Roe v. Wade were overturned, Tennessee women would still have the right to have an abortion under our state constitution because of our privacy rights,  even if it weren’t federally guaranteed.

The Tennessee Republicans want to amend our state constitution to explicitly state that there’s nothing in the state constitution that protects a woman’s right to an abortion and they want to make this a huge deal so that they can run on it in the Fall.

The Democrats are… well, frankly, I feel like they have mixed motives.  What’s clear is that they’re attempting to call the Republicans’ bluff and playing chicken with my privacy rights.  They’re attempting to pass legislation that would curtail women’s rights to abortion (even though, clearly, at the moment, those laws couldn’t be enforced because of the State constitutional issues) in order to force the Republicans to vote for it.


The Republicans are trying to run in the Fall on their “We wanted to amend the Constitution to do away with abortion, but those evil Democrats blocked us!” and the Democrats want to say “Hey, if they’re so hell-bent on doing away with abortion, and not just granstanding, why didn’t they vote for all this legislation that we introduced that would do exactly that [both parties leaving unsaid that this would not happen unless Roe v. Wade were overturned]?”

Please see what Henry’s up to in that context.  He, a Democrat, is trying to craft legislation that would outlaw abortions in every case except for the life of the mother.  He’s saying, in effect, “Listen, we can’t use rape as a reason to have an abortion, because the meaning of rape is not set in stone.  We might all think we agree on what rape is now, but in the future, rape might come to mean something that we’re not comfortable ending a pregnancy over.”

In other words, yes, he is putting forth a similar argument to what Bill Napoli put forth, but what’s worse is that he’s putting it forth not because he necessarily believes it, but because he’s attempting to score political points.

It’s a win-win situation for the Democrats.  If the Republicans refuse to vote for their draconian legislation, the Democrats can claim that the Republicans don’t actually believe all their own anti-abortion rhetoric.  If the Republicans do vote for the legislation, the Democrats can claim that they championed it.

What I’m asking you, fellow feminists, is to not get hung up on whether Henry is some assholish old dottering fool who misses the good old days when a man could rape his wife with impunity.  For us, here on the ground in Tennessee, that’s beside the point.

The point is that both sides are willing to play chicken with our basic constitutional rights, as guaranteed in the state constitution, in order to score political points.

It’s not about who Henry thinks it’s okay, hypothetically, to rape.  It’s about who he’s actually willing to screw over in order to advance the Democratic cause.

If you’re going to inundate him with emails, inundate him with emails about that.

13 thoughts on “Way to Miss the Point

  1. PS-The commenters suggesting that the women of TN are just too stupid not to recognize misogyny, or are otherwise indifferent, are really special. Aside from which, B, did you forget just how much more fun outrage is without depth or context?

  2. Pingback: Volunteer Voters » The Game Beyond The Game

  3. Pingback: On Missing the Point, and Tennessee Women « Women’s Health News

  4. I think Sen. Henry truly wants the abortion ban passed, and he is trying to find a way to get it passed…there was no cohesive plan among Senate Democrats on what to do regarding this bill.

  5. Senator Henry is a gentleman of principle, high intelligence and wisdom from experience. He also has always been against abortion. That being said, I have never agreed with his position on a woman’s right to chose and I don’t agree with his statement but he is the slyest of politicians and its not clear where this going. He also has been the most sincere and intense champion of children’s rights. He can’t be painted all good or all bad but he is a TN Legislature institution and he looks and talks like a Southern character actor.

  6. Rachel, it’s really all I can do to not walk into that thread on Feministing and start cussing. I mean, really, the patronizing attitude towards women here in Tennessee is disgusting. What choice do women have but to vote for Henry and hope that more progressive members of his party will outweigh his ridiculousness? Otherwise, we vote Republican and they want the same damn thing he does, but worse. I’d love to know what they think it is we should do.

    I’m grouchy because I’m tired, but really, if you’re going to position yourself as a national feminist blog and yourself as some kind of spokesperson for feminism, don’t you have an obligation to try to understand what’s going on in the places you’re blogging about? There are maybe two hands-full of explicitly feminist bloggers in Tennessee. Not one of them is on the RSS feed of these folks?

    That irritates me.

  7. B, exactly. And did anybody ever stop to think, before they started sending angry emails to a legislator in another state, that they might take a minute to find out what’s going on, check with that handful of feminist bloggers to see if there is already some kind of action going on or need for an action (or, you know, get some context), see whether they might be unwittingly screwing with work women in this state were already doing? As it is, I see “outsiders” who are probably generating unproductive sentiments (some of them sent messages to *all* of the state reps) without realizing that there is a larger fight going on.

  8. A right is a right is a right. It is ours and ours alone. No one, especially no one GROUP can give it to us or take it away. At least that’s what the US Constitution says.

    Am I THAT naive? No, I’m keenly aware that people such as Henry think they GIVE us our rights and they can TAKE away our rights. But as long as we let them think this way, as long as we vote people who think this way into office, we will continue to give away our rights.

    I’m still scratching my head about how it is that all this happens when, again according to the Constitution, our rights are inalienable. Not only can’t anyone take them away from us, we can’t even GIVE them away ourselves. They’re that inalienable.

  9. “The commenters suggesting that the women of TN are just too stupid not to recognize misogyny, or are otherwise indifferent, are really special.”

    As a South Dakotan, I totally feel you pain.

Comments are closed.