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The GOP Is More Anti-Women Than Ever

People cheer during a women's march rally Sunday, Jan. 21, 2018, in Las Vegas. (John Locher/AP)MoreCloseclosemore
People cheer during a women's march rally Sunday, Jan. 21, 2018, in Las Vegas. (John Locher/AP)

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Last month, a man named Courtland Sykes took to Facebook to answer a simple question: Do you favor women’s rights?

A short excerpt of his response will suffice:

[My fiancee] Chanel knows that my obedience comes with a small price that she loves to pay anyway: I want to come home to a home cooked dinner at six every night, one that she fixes and one that I expect one day to have daughters learn to fix after they become traditional homemakers and family wives …. I don’t want them grow up into career-obsessed banshees who forego home life and children and the happiness of family to become nail-biting manophobic hell-bent feminist she devils who shriek from the tops of a thousand tall buildings they think they could have leaped over in a single bound – had men not [been] "suppressing them."

Those are Sykes' words, verbatim.

It’s worth asking who, exactly, Courtland Sykes is.

It turns out he’s not just someone’s embarrassing bigot uncle. He’s a “Trump-style” insurgent Republican who moved to Missouri a year ago in the hopes of beating Claire McCaskill for a seat in the U.S. Senate.

If this sounds kind of familiar, that’s because last time McCaskill ran for Senate, her Republican opponent, Todd Akin, said this during a TV interview: “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

It’s not clear what happens if a woman suffers an illegitimate rape, but I’m sure some Republican candidate for high office will mansplain that before long.

In fact, GOP candidates have been talking this way for years. Back in 1990, when I was reporting for the El Paso Times, the Republican candidate for governor, Clayton Williams, told reporters “a joke” about rape. It was foggy and cold and Williams compared the nasty weather to a rape and told reporters, "If it’s inevitable, just relax and enjoy it." Williams has presumably never been raped, legitimately or otherwise.

As a district attorney, Ken Buck, who ran for Senate in Colorado, declined to prosecute an accused rapist, even though the accused admitted to police that his victim had told him “No” before he raped her. Buck felt a jury would decide that the victim was experiencing “buyer’s remorse.” In other words, she was raped, but it wasn’t quite a legitimate rape.

It’s not clear what happens if a woman suffers an illegitimate rape, but I’m sure some Republican candidate for high office will mansplain that before long.

Striking a blow for equality, a Republican state lawmaker from Florida, Kathleen Passidomo, explained her support for a school dress code bill thusly:

“There was an article about an 11-year-old girl who was gang-raped in Texas by 18 young men because she was dressed like a 21-year-old prostitute," she said. "And her parents let her attend school like that. And I think it’s incumbent upon us to create some areas where students can be safe in school and show up in proper attire so what happened in Texas doesn’t happen to our students."

The emphasis is mine here. It’s intended to underscore the mindset at work here, which is that women and girls are to blame when they are gang raped by 18 men.

I know it’s become fashionable to blame the self-declared sexual predator who occupies the Oval Office for this resurgence in woman-hating behavior. And it’s certainly true that the president is accused of sexual misconduct by 18 women, not including any porn stars to whom he paid hush money for an alleged affair conducted while his wife was pregnant.

But this is getting the cause and effect exactly backward. GOP voters looked past Trump’s despicable comments and conduct toward women because they are a party that despises women, and has for years.

To put it more precisely: the white men who run the party fear women. They fear a world in which women might receive equal pay for equal work, in which they control their own bodies, and most of all in which they have the power to hold men accountable for their despicable behavior.

While the rest of the country is reckoning with the long legacy of sexual misconduct against women, the GOP nominates a senatorial candidate with multiple allegations of sexual abuse against teenage girls. It was left to the voters of Alabama to keep Roy Moore from high office.

Steve Bannon, left, introduces U.S. senatorial candidate Roy Moore, right, during a campaign rally, Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017, in Fairhope, Ala. (Brynn Anderson/AP)
Steve Bannon, left, introduces U.S. senatorial candidate Roy Moore, right, during a campaign rally, Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017, in Fairhope, Ala. (Brynn Anderson/AP)

The lesson in all this is as simple as it is shameless: The GOP has become a safe space for sexual predators and their enablers, from Trump to Moore to Steve Wynn. Obviously, not all Republican politicians or voters approve of this pattern. But they have all agreed to look past for the sake of tribal loyalty.

In so doing, they’ve forged a new consent structure, one that sanctions discrimination, denigration, and ultimately the endangerment of our mothers and sisters and daughters. The only way to change this consent structure is to vote GOP candidates out of office.

Correction: This article initially misstated where Roy Moore lost his bid for the Senate. We regret the error.

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Steve Almond Twitter Cognoscenti contributor
Steve Almond's new book, "Bad Stories: What the Hell Just Happened to Our Country," is now available. He hosts the Dear Sugars podcast with Cheryl Strayed.

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