THE HANDMAID’S TALL TALE: A Point By Point Rebuttal Of Emily Zanotti’s Op-Ed Internet Feminists Wage War on Women’s Intelligence


BY JONATHAN VALANIA Not sure how I wound up at American Spectator — who even knew they were still around? Last time I checked they were using their Richard Mellon Schaife right-wing welfare checks to slime Anita Hill and spin trailer park fantasias of phantom menace and the dark doings of Billary in the fever swamps of Arkansas back in the ’80s out of whole cloth. But I wound up there nonetheless, probably because I stupidly follow PJ Media on Twitter and they were hyping Naked DC blogger Emily Zanotti‘s response to the social media outrage in the wake the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision — subtly-titled Internet Feminists Wage War on Women’s Intelligence– as the one to read if you only read one. So  I read it and…best I can tell I must have blacked out, overcome by raw liberal outrage. When I came to three hours later, I had nothing to show for my time other than this line-by-line rebuttal you see below.  Who even does that anymore? I’ll never get those three hours back. Never. I’ve learned my lesson, I’m done reading American Spectator until at least after Hillary’s second term. If you would like to read her piece beginning to end without my comments, go HERE.  Below, plain text is Emily Zanotti, my comments are in bold.


If you’re still on social media after yesterday, you’re profoundly masochistic, in need of a stiff drink, or both. Take this moment to examine your Twitter timeline for evidence of the following words: “slippery slope,” “minefield,” “ban,” and “birth control.” Use them as a drinking game and get yourself most of the way into a bottle of Smirnoff. If there were ever an excuse for day-drinking, it’s the amateur constitutional lawyering happening across the Internet. Let’s not mention the Oval Office, where the “constitutional lawyer” in residence stridently disagrees with the professional justices on the Supreme Court.

Sigh. Another oh-so-wearying day slaving over a hot Internet. Social media can be so trying, but it was especially so after the Hobby Lobby decision. Liberals be all actin’ up an’ shit. You had to spend all day setting the Internet straight, shouting over social media that having your employer all up in your uterus is the best of all possible outcomes. And now it’s Miller time. Oh, what japes!

What has happened over the course of the last twenty-four hours is nothing short of a War on Women.

Pathetic. A half step above ‘I know you are, but what am I?’ Don’t even get me started on all the reasons that statement is completely ludicrous, we’ll be here for days.

But this isn’t the war that has dominated headlines for its fanatical notion that people do not lose their right to believe in a higher power once they open their organic, locally-sourced artisanal coffee joint in greater Portland.

REALITY CHECK: Nobody is objecting to the owners of Hobby Lobby believing in a higher power. There is, however, a crucial difference between believing in a higher power and forcing that belief on your employees, specifically when you ascribe certain counter-scientific beliefs about contraception to that higher power, despite zero biblical evidence. Nothing in the Bible about contraception — nothing, folks. This objection to IUDs and Morning After Pills is man’s idea, not God’s. Interestingly enough, the Bible doesn’t say anything about Viagra or vasectomies, either, but Hobby Lobby is willing to pay for them.

The women who purport to speak as mouthpieces of the feminist movement on the Internet may be the least intelligent consumers of media since the people of Salem took the word of two twelve-year-old girls as gospel truth of demon infestation.

Ad hominem (which is just a fancy-pants name for name-calling, sticks-and-stones stuff) attack. I haven’t run the metrics on this, but best I could tell the overwhelming majority of people objecting to the Hobby Lobby decision on social media never identified themselves as capital-F feminists.  Obviously, ‘feminist’ is a very loaded word in right wing circles, and invoking it in a piece for American Spectator is like waving a red cape in front of a bull. Standard debate strategy: Define your opponent before they can define themselves, preferably in terms that advance your position on an issue. In this case, ‘Everybody objecting to the SCOTUS Hobby Lobby decision is a bra-burning, man-hating Feminist.’ Let’s face it, that’s what most readers of American Spectator think of whenever they hear the F-word.

When addressing Internet feminists I use the word “feminist” loosely, since while the term should encompass nearly every walk of life interested in the true rights of women, it seems in this case to refer specifically to someone who is so hapless at financial and reproductive matters that she’d practically prefer bottles of birth control be administered by a government authority that also watches her swallow them.

Weird how she somehow turns universal access to birth control into something scary and Orwellian yet somehow kinky and voyeuristic. This strikes me as very niche perspective on universal access to birth control. I’d like to see how this polls.

To hear such harpies opine you’d think the Earth had caved in, the bottom had fallen away, and that condoms were going to be placed under lock and key by ruthless and uncontrollable Hobby Lobby executives bent on bringing about a dystopian Margaret Atwood novel.

Not only are those who objected to the Hobby Lobby decision man-hating bra-burners, they are also “harpies” — ugly, half-bird-half-woman creatures from Greek and Roman mythology that abduct and torture people. A tad misogynist, no? Then she ill-advisedly references Margaret Atwood’s novel The Handmaid’s Tale, the plot of which Wikipedia summarizes thusly:

Beginning with a staged terrorist attack (blamed on Islamic extremist terrorists) that kills the President and most of Congress, a movement calling itself the “Sons of Jacob” launches a revolution and suspends the United States Constitution under the pretext of restoring order. They are quickly able to take away all of women’s rights, largely attributed to financial records being stored electronically and labelled by gender. The new regime moves quickly to consolidate its power and reorganize society along a new militarized, hierarchical, compulsorily Christian regime of Old Testament-inspired social and religious ultra-conservatism among its newly created social classes. In this society, almost all women are forbidden to read.

War rages across the fictional Republic of Gilead and pollution has rendered 99% of the population sterile. Kate is captured after seeing her husband killed and daughter kidnapped while the family tried to escape into Canada. Kate is trained to become a Handmaid, a concubine for one of the privileged but barren couples who rule the country’s religious fundamentalist regime. Although she resists being indoctrinated into the bizarre cult of the Handmaids, mixing Old Testament orthodoxy and misogyny with 12-step gospel and ritualized violence, Kate is soon assigned to the home of The Commander (aka Fred) and his cold, inflexible wife, Serena Joy. There she is renamed “Offred” – “of Fred”.

Catastrophic unforced error. Never enter into the debate comparisons to works of art whose message is antithetical your argument, in this case a novel set in the near-future where women have been stripped of all reproductive rights by rich, powerful men. Hmmm. Wonder which side of the Hobby Lobby debate Margaret Atwood is on? Hmmm. I wonder. Also, now it’s my turn for ad hominem attacks. The owner/founder/CEO of Hobby Lobby is David Green. From here on I will refer to Emily Zanotti as “Ofdavid,” as in “Of David,” because in the wake of the SCOTUS decision, all the women who work for Hobby Lobby are “Ofdavid.” And what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

Absent from the discussion is the notion that the ruling was relatively narrow. It applies provisions of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (authored by Senator Chuck Schumer and signed in to law by Hillary Clinton’s husband) to companies that are directly owned and managed by people who have day to day connections to the business. The ruling applies only to the Health and Human Services contraception mandate, and the ruling itself offers a congressional remedy that would serve the government’s purpose of handing out free birth control whilst preserving those First Amendment rights that our country was founded on, thanks to that ragtag band of Plymouth Rock-bound puritanical nutcases.

I will let noted legal analyst, lawyer and SCOTUS scholar Jeffrey Toobin take this one. As he wrote in the New Yorker in the wake of the Hobby Lobby decision:

The Court’s decisions in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby and Harris v. Quinn conform to an established pattern for the Roberts Court. It’s generally a two-step process: in confronting a politically charged issue, the court first decides a case in a “narrow” way, but then uses that decision as a precedent to move in a more dramatic, conservative direction in a subsequent case. […]

The Hobby Lobby decision follows the same pattern. Again, Justice Alito’s opinion (for the same five-to-four majority) expressed its ruling in narrow terms. Alito asserted that the case concerned only a single “closely held” private company whose owners had religious objections to providing certain forms of birth control. According to the court, federal law required that those wishes be honored.

But, as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg pointed out in her dissent, there is almost no limitation on the logic of the majority’s view. Almost any closely held companies—which make up a substantial chunk of the American economy—can now claim a religious orientation, and they can now seek to excuse themselves from all sorts of obligations, including honoring certain anti-discrimination laws. And after today’s “narrow” rulings, those cases will come.

Also, the First Amendment, and by extension the Constitution, was not written by the Pilgrims, which, best I can tell, is what you mean by “that ragtag band of Plymouth Rock-bound puritanical nutcases.” In which case, you are referring to the Mayflower Pilgrims who landed on Plymouth Rock in 1620. They started the Plymouth Colony which lasted until 1640, by which time all the Mayflower Pilgrims, or, as you like to call them, “that ragtag band of Plymouth Rock-bound puritanical nutcases,” were dead, or would soon be. The Constitution would not be created and ratified for another century and a half after all the Mayflower Pilgrims were dead. I only mention this because you repeatedly, and downright gleefully assert, in so many words, that anyone who disagrees with you on this issue doesn’t know what they are talking about.

Such nuanced, yet rather obvious conclusions had to be drawn from the opinion itself, but in order to draw them you also had to read it, something which these Spokeswomen for All Ladies seem shockingly unable to do.

Hearsay, your honor. Also, insufferably smug.

Is birth control now illegal?

Objection, your honor. Classic Straw Man Argument. Has anyone suggested that the Hobby Lobby decision resulted in the criminalization of birth control? No.

Will women be forced to bleed to death in the streets from endometriosis without the necessary treatment the pious class keeps just slightly out of reach? No.

Ofdavid places the bar pretty high for what has to happen before reasonable people can oppose the SCOTUS Hobby Lobby decision. ‘Does it criminalize birth control or cause women to hemorrhage in utero until dead? No? Then shut up and enjoy your religious freedom!’

At least sixteen birth control options are still on the table for Hobby Lobby employees, and will be there tomorrow behind the pharmacy counter, unmolested by the creeping hands of corporate hegemony (and even the Catholic Church has no prior objection to your chosen therapeutic treatment).

The fact that 16 out of the 18 contraception options that the ACA requires employers to include in their employee’s health care coverage are still available to Hobby Lobby employees is irrelevant. What is relevant is that Hobby Lobby, not a doctor, is making medical decisions for the employees. Why is this any less troubling to you than Obama making medical decisions for you? Is it because Obama is black and allegedly Muslim and David Green is white and Christian? Yeah, I went there.

What results from all of this is a War on Women’s Intelligence where lock-step, conformity-demanding legions with the intellectual curiosity of a lesser Kardashian spread a message to a waiting audience with little regard to its veracity, inciting panic with a campaign of misinformation. Whether this misinformation takes root speaks of the audience, of course, but the mere fact that women in places of influence seem hell-bent on speaking directly to a female audience with nothing but thinly-veiled contempt for that audience’s intellectual capacity is a real killer. Almost without exception, everyone hawking the War on Women thinks women are dumb enough to believe them.

Objection. More hearsay and ad hominem attacks, your honor, none of corroborated by actual evidence. Ofdavid is asserting that anyone who disagrees with SCOTUS’ Hobby Lobby decision is as dumb as a Kardashian and, insultingly enough, thinks all other females are actually dumber than a Kardashian and can be easily duped and whipped into hysteria. First of all, it’s impossible to be dumber than a Kardashian. The rest is just over-broad condescending generalizations, the empty calories of debate.

And it’s a calculated decision: were we to discuss real policy goals in the service of improving access to women’s reproductive services, we’d be talking market solutions, scaling back governmental regulation to lessen the cost of available medications,

Specifically what free market solutions that will lower the price of contraceptives are you referring to? What onerous government regulations are artificially inflating the price of contraceptives? The regulations that say the pills have to actually work and can’t be poisonous?

and teaching a basic understanding of the female anatomy in our “comprehensive” sex education courses. We would instruct young women on how to know and understand their complex bodies, not merely how to shove a pill down their throat and hope for the best.

Not sure what you are getting at here. I’m gonna go out on a limb here and assume these are code words for abstinence-only sex education. If so, let the record show that abstinence-only education has been thoroughly discredited as a means of reducing unwanted pregnancies and the transmission of STDs. See HERE for empirical evidence.

Internet feminists and the like understand that any truly fruitful national dialogue about issues important to women involves not just concession that they may be wrong or that their ideas may be scientifically incomplete, but that any national consideration of market-based policies designed to truly make women’s healthcare more affordable and safer may go at odds with their larger pro-regulatory goals.

Hmmm, before ACA the free market did dictate the price of contraception. Result: women paid through the nose. Is not the definition of insanity doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome? Let me answer that. Yes, it is.

After all, giving Planned Parenthood some much needed competition in the free clinic space or hoisting on the educated single women of our age the need to take personal responsibility in the course of their own reproductive health needs would run counter to the idea that a suffocating and paternalistic government needs to personally manage nearly every aspect of their lives.

I wonder how many women who don’t have to pay out of pocket for contraception — but still pay for it indirectly, mind you — find it “suffocating and paternalistic”? We should take a poll. I’m guessing, out of millions and millions of women, just about none. But I can tell you who will be the first to stop using birth control when it becomes too expensive, the people who can’t afford it. That would be the poor, the very people your team constantly chides for having more children than they can afford or properly raise. That’s the free market at work.

Grainy Facebook profile photos of Ruth Bader Ginsberg are a poor replacement for true consideration of what’s best for America’s women.

Good one, Ofdavid.

The most deeply ironic part of the campaign is the two hashtag slogans which, despite the White House’s continual yet unsuccessful use of the method in world affairs (Russia really backed down from that #standwithUkraine State Department Twitter battle), remain at the core of the White House’s response to the Hobby Lobby decision: #standwithwomen and #notmybossbusiness (which is also, technically, grammatically incorrect).

Irrelevant your honor, there’s no apostrophes allowed in hashtags. Ofdavid should know better, she’s on Twitter.

The White House stands with women only insofar as they impart greater authority to the president over their private affairs,

No, no, no. He’s just trying to make sure everybody who wants birth control has access to it, even if they can’t afford it. Because that’s what Jesus would have done. Ironic, isn’t it?

as though he was a would-be husband in a work of pre-nineteenth century literature, and support the president’s agenda with regard to his health care program (which is, ironically, a corporate work of literature itself).

The rest of that sentence is a hot incomprehensible mess. Do over.

The assertion that birth control is “not my boss’s business” only applies selectively: my boss should not be concerned with what I do in my bedroom and bathroom, apparently, except when he gets the invoice for it.

Again, what part of ‘He’s just trying to make sure everybody who wants birth control has access to it, even if they can’t afford it’ don’t you understand? Don’t make me bring up the what-would-Jesus-do thing again, I know that really stung.

So while the self-proclaimed voices of women’s rights continue to chant out their slogans and churn out horrendous graphic design work aimed at cowing women into their orthodoxy and out of their constitutional rights,

How exactly does universal access to contraception deprive women of their constitutional rights?

remember: even they didn’t know they were victims until the Obama administration convinced them that paying for their own birth control was an oppressive scheme. In the end, they’re just taking orders from a man.

And not just any man. A black and possibly Muslim man. On a related note, it is curious that American Spectator would choose to illustrate a piece railing against free contraception with a picture of a black women. I don’t see any other photos of black women on the site. In fact, I don’t see any pictures of non-white people on the site. But then the American Spectator never placed much of a premium on looking like America, just telling it what to do.