Down the Slippery Slope
October 29, 2008 by Amy Siskind
Bear witness to the continued disintegration of the moral fiber of our country. The festival of misogyny is in full swing. What small and muted protests rise can hardly hold back the vitriol by those who want to see Sarah Palin look-alike porn, who want to demean her intellect, her accomplishments, her fitness as a mother, who want to see her humiliated, knocked to the ground by a man twice her size, hung in effigy, burned, stoned, dead.
This is no longer about Governor Palin. Nor is it any longer about Senator Clinton. During this election season we have seen hatred of women boil up from the national consciousness like vermin from a carcass, infesting our national political dialogue. Our collective refusal to speak out against this affront to women has enabled the misogyny to spread and flourish.
Women have officially taken a seat in the back row. How do we know that women have become second class citizens in our society? A picture is worth a thousand words. Simply put, lynching a woman in effigy is not a crime. In fact, to many it is downright hilarious.
Through the despicable actions of one Chad Michael Morisette, a spectacle of our national hatred of women has been provided for our amusement and edification. His effigy hung without incident for three weeks before a local station picked up on it and made it into a national spectacle. In interviews, Mr. Morisette helpfully explains that if the Sarah Palin mannequin hung by a noose from his roof were a Barack Obama mannequin, all hell would break loose. Chad thinks that because October is “Halloween month”, his creation ought to be tolerated as an “art project”. Chad knows that hanging a black man in effigy is a hate crime because of the nation’s history of enslaving and lynching African Americans. Yet women were the property of men not so long ago, and though, like African Americans, women can now vote and have bank accounts and decline sex with their husbands, they are still beaten, raped and murdered in great numbers because they are women every single day. One in four (25%) of women across all socio-economic lines will experience some form of domestic violence in their lifetimes (as will teenage girls before they leave high school).
If the mannequin were Senator Obama, Chad’s display would be called hate speech and the mannequin would come down. If the mannequin were depicted as a gay man, Chad’s work would be called homophobic, and the mannequin would come down. But put a woman’s head in a noose and hilarity and photo ops ensue.
One would think that with domestic violence affecting one in four women and teenage girls in our country, that violence against women would be classed as a hate crime, and that images promoting violence against women would be deemed hate speech. One would think that the women, 84% of whom are raising the children in our country, would be a special and protected class, but we are not. Hate crimes legislation covers color, religion, sexual orientation and national origin: gender is not included
So long as women wait for progressive men to become our protectors, this situation will not improve. Only we can change this. After the election, we must all work together to make violence against women a hate crime, to speak out against and end misogyny—if not for ourselves, for our daughters and granddaughters.
Now many of you are outraged (as am I) by Mr. Morisette and his hateful display. You have asked that we speak out, and I have this to say: Mr. Morisette’s punishment will be living in the shadow of his actions. A small man who thinks he is stepping up by stepping on another discriminated class is no one’s hero.
History celebrates brave men and women who lift up the oppressed and the disenfranchised: Eleanor Roosevelt, Robert Kennedy, Bayard Rustin, to name a few. The villains of history are those who seek to keep others down. They are the ones in the chimney full of flames.