On the Rockridge forums, in a comment to a post about women, equality and "the American Dream," Lotus says:
I'm not denying that there are differences between men and women or that women should be treated with any less consideration, and there's the rub. It's not that women need anything special; what they need to is be treated as the equals of men. This is an equality issue, the same as it is for anyone that is not a rich, white, power hungry, heterosexual. It is not merely a male/female issue.
While I promote the development of potential in all people, I resent the separation of women from the rest of humanity or the promotion of individual interests above family or group interests. The whole liberal agenda that began in the 60s has done more to unravel the social fabric and it is this, among other things of course, that conservatives have reacted against. To push this frame is to continue to fracture society using biology as the wedge. We need more equality and egality, not more singling out of "special interests" or "protected status" categories.
To me, it seems that Lotus as totally bought into the conservative frame: that anyone demanding equality for their own demographic somehow is really demanding "special interests." It's sad, but her views are held by many in the progressive ranks.
"It's merely a matter of semantics," some might say. "You're saying the same thing using different words."
But I say that semantics are important. Words have meaning. They resonate with cultural inferences and judgments. They position ideas in our cultural zeitgeist. What words you use determine how the ideas behind them are interpreted by people through their own "common sense."
For example, if you ask people, "Who should have special rights?" most everyone would answer, "Nobody."
However, if you ask people, "Who should be denied their civil rights?" most people also would answer, "Nobody."
These two questions are evoking completely different frames. The first question evokes concern that somebody's trying to pull a fast one and get special privileges over others. The second question, however, evokes a concern that people should not be denied their civil rights.
Yet both questions are answered from the same position: That everybody is entitled to equal rights.
So what gives?
In the '60s and '70s, when women and racial minorities were demanding equal rights, the conservatives came up with a very savvy response: "Why should you deserve special rights?"
It's the classic, "When did you stop beating your wife?" question. They evoked a frame, and if you tried to answer it on its own terms, there was no escape. It is trapping rhetoric designed to destroy your position without even addressing it.
What the progressive challenge today is to reframe the entire dialogue, instead of running away from conservative frames like they've become toxic waste zones. What we need to do is take up those issues that still linger now, four decades after the civil rights movement, and frame them as they were originally raised:
equal rights (not "special rights," as the conservatives would have you believe).
The question is, How do you object to unfair policies, unequal protections, unjust treatment to an entire demographic without pointing it out? How do you talk about equality without someone coming in and claiming that you want special rights?
Case in point....
- 1 in 6 U.S. women and 1 in 33 U.S. men has experienced an attempted or completed rape at some time in their lives
- More than half of all rapes of females occur before age 18; of those, 22% occur before age 12
- more than 260,000 rapes or sexual assaults occurred in 2000; 246,180 of them occurred among females and 14,770, among males
- between 1 in 4 and 1 in 5 college women experience completed or attempted rape during their college years
- Fewer than half (48.1%) of all rapes and sexual assaults are reported to the police
- 7.7% of students had been forced to have sexual intercourse when they did not want to. Female students (10.3%) were significantly more likely than male students (5.1%) to have been forced to have sexual intercourse. Overall, black students were significantly more likely than white students (9.6% vs. 6.9%) to have been forced to have sexual intercourse
So how do we talk about an epidemic of violence against women and little girls without singling women and girls out as the demographic experiencing this violence? How do we talk about equality of justice when, in many states and by cultural bias, rape is the only violent crime on the books where victim testimony is not enough to convict the perpetrator? Do we say, "Some people who shall not be named so they don't get any 'special protections' are experiencing an exceptionally disproportionate amount of violent crime in this country"?
If we're going to address these issues, I believe we have to talk turkey. We have to reject the conservative assertion -- that equality really means "special interests and privileges" -- as totally irrelevant, a distraction from the real problem: that racism and sexism exist, and people are suffering and dying because of it. It's an inconvenient truth, but it's the truth, and it's high time we started doing something about it.
[Thanks to Jessica at Feministing for the CDC link]