Elizabeth Warren's 'Rape' Fantasy: Perverting Feminism for Personal Convenience

Cole R. DeLaune

It is a widely accepted prescript of conventional wisdom that the Democratic Party operates as the singularly reliable agent of contemporary American female interests. The alliteratively appealing ingenuity of the ubiquitous "War on Women" meme is that it simplifies the tangled historical and philosophical considerations of the girl power ethos to a slickly glib canard: the collective Right has reveled in misogyny since time immemorial, and their colleagues across the partisan divide have just as definitively brandished the mantle of women's progress with nothing less than heroic brio.

The boon for leftist officeholders willing to leverage such mythologies to electoral advantage is evident: with public opinion consistent only its mercurialness after the red tide of the 2010 midterms, any marketing strategy premised on deflection is a potential game-winner. The pervasiveness of the liberal establishment's similarly reductive take on the advancement of race-related civil rights policy is well cataloged, so it is little wonder why a broad-based vilification of the GOP's nominal chauvinism is the political talking point de rigueur. After all, many prominent Republicans have, at the very least, failed to navigate the optics encompassing the issue: most notably, of course, members of the House caucus confoundingly hindered the passage of several new provisions during the renewal of the Violence Against Women Act, and by now, there must be but a handful of Americans unfamiliar with Representative Todd Akin's practically medieval misapprehensions with respect to the basics of gynecology. However, just as one polarity of the ideological spectrum defies easy definition, so, too, does the other: just consider the latest developments in the meticulously chronicled Senate contest in Massachusetts.

Faced with an unexpected five point deficit in the most recent Public Policy Polling survey of likely November voters, Elizabeth Warren knew what to do: lie. Unfortunately, she did so as clumsily as she had previously stumbled through one embarrassing response after another during the late spring when questions arose about her extensive pattern of self-identification as a Native American. After the infamous television interview in which Missouri Congressman Akin expressed horrifically misguided views on reproductive biology, Warren mustered an impressive degree of braggadocio if not factual accuracy, and declared, "I understand that Scott Brown and other Republicans want to pretend Todd Akin is an isolated individual, but he is clearly in line with the Republican agenda."

The only problem? Senator Brown, a dependable moderate for the pro-choice perspective, had already denounced the Representative's remarks earlier that morning and encouraged him to resign his nomination to the upper legislative chamber of Congress. "There is no place in our public discourse for this type of offensive thinking," Brown said, contextualizing his position as a precipitate of his role as a husband and father. What he elected not to mention was his own experience as a survivor of childhood sexual assault, which he addressed in his 2011 autobiography Against All Odds. Not to be deterred by customary credos of decency, Professor Warren debuted a radio spot the following morning that intoned, "Just imagine if Republicans win the White House, or gain control of the Senate," a confusing prompt to say the least since Bay Staters will be able to count on a bald contrast to Todd Akin irrespective of which contender prevails this autumn.

Warren's insistence on churlishly casting a victim of sexual abuse as insensitive to "rape" reflects not only the mounting desperation of her campaign, but also the debasement of feminist precepts as a byproduct of an overarching moral fecklessness. The professor's campaign is, in sum, a narrative of ideological schizophrenia, an abstract of the political candidate as chameleon. Initially, there was the bellicose and righteously intractable woman warrior, so committed to a muscularly articulated brand of populism that she was willing to leave "blood and teeth in the streets" for the benefit of the aggrieved middle-class. Subsequently, as circumstances dictated, there materialized the battered grandmother fielding imaginary "attacks on her family"; the peculiarly retiring prom queen on whose behalf Governor Patrick had to intercede in the prelude to the local June party convention; the aw-shucks neophyte whose plainspoken sensibilities bristled at the rough and tumble turbulence of the stump; and the "first [prospective] senator from Massachusetts with a Native background." Now, we have a curious hybrid of politicos past (President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton circa the volatile 2007 preliminary debates come to mind) who favors scorched-earth distortions that insult the intellectual astuteness of Bay State women with baseless fabrications. In the coming weeks, bank on the emergence of a softer side of Warren in a sympathetic display reminiscent of Hillary's teary earnestness prior to last quadrennium's New Hampshire primary.

The continuing evolution of the most visible 2012 novice spotlights the unique array of societally ingrained paradigms with which stateswomen still contend, but it spotlights a cautionary allegory of abstract aggregate ideals sacrificed to circumstantial ambition. Feminism is ultimately about fidelity to the self, and Warren's interpretation of "the self" appears to be situationally negotiable; the resulting composite attests to the legitimacy of the old axiom that "everything" is eventually indistinguishable from "nothing": when one dons as many personae as the professor has, one defiles them of meaning. More gravely and pragmatically, her coarse disrespect for a man who triumphed over a specifically abominable species of trauma shocks the conscience and offends the most elementary tenets of female empowerment. But considering Warren's documented contempt for the Native casualties of a profoundly flawed sociological architecture, she'd probably say Senator Brown was asking for it.

Educated at Dartmouth College and Columbia University, Cole DeLaune is a native of Oklahoma and Tennessee. He currently resides in Atlanta, and has contributed editorial content to Vogue and Elle, among other publications. He is a member of the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma.

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member's picture
I don't think he's saying that. Many non-Natives read this website and publication. And Cole's article is too verbose. I think many English writers would agree.
dwanna's picture
I didn't read @Darrell Ross' post as bordering on racist. He's not saying that NDNs can't understand. He's merely pointing out that simple, concise sentences make an article more interesting to read--for EVERYBODY. It's hard to get the point of an argument when you get lost in a long, convoluted sentence with "peppered" with jargon, pretentious, flowery language, euphemisms, and doublespeak.
scola's picture
Oh good grief. You're not the first (or only) Native to graduate from an Ivy. Harvard '06 right here. Quite frankly, you come across as elitist and seriously out of touch. I barely got through your needlessly wordy piece. And your petulant responses to commenters who disagree with you? "As for your dispute with my diction: are your seriously criticizing someone for having a developed vocabulary? I’m mortified on your behalf that you’d express such a sentiment, since you previously self-identified as a former teacher." Wow. There's a fine line between having something to share and forcing your own sense of self-importance on others. I can see why you're a fan of Brown.
angeladavis's picture
Everyone should expand their vocabulary- this is not my problem. I don't understand the support of Brown over Warren only because he and his office seem to think making fun of Native Americans is an acceptable activity. Numerous reports exist of them laughing to demonstrations of the 'Tomahawk Chop" and using it as a symbol of Warrens demise. Not to mention his failure to help ensure Native American women are included in the VOWA. I understand that the authors political feelings lean conservative, but am sickened by his willingness to embrace someone with no consciousness for the first peoples of this land. To post this article here is disheartening.
calliope's picture
uhh i didnt get that the writer was saying anywhere in the thread or in the post that hes the 1st native to graduate from an ivy. i do think that a white lady telling an indian to stop acting so smart and better than everyone, like michelle did, is basically really troubling when u think about casual racism. it's reminiscent of the 'elitism' charge that was so popular against the president in '08 because of his education and it's also kind of reminiscent of the 'elitism' charge against elizabeth warren actually. and a teacher telling someone to stop using big words is pretty weird. i get that certain writing is more accessible than others and that seems like a good area of discussion but when u say 'don't parade your big words out in front of us' or whatnot then arent u basically saying 'don't learn big words.' 'Cause what is the use of reading and learning words if youre not going to use them? there's also the fact that the commenter michelle isn't really talking about anything that was in the article but is just pulling out talking points that dont really mean anything 'cause theyve been said over and over on the campaign trail. and i think the writer has made it pretty clear in other opeds that his position on the race is more about the ideas that elizabeth warren will validate about inidians if she wins rather than being a 'fan of brown.' your mileage may vary of course.
scola's picture
I wasn't defending Michelle's post so much as responding to the author's comments. And in no way am I saying 'don't learn big words.' I'm not entirely sure where you got that from. I am saying, however, that hiding behind your vocabulary in order to win an argument and/or make others feel less intelligent is weak. I brought up his background because his education has been mentioned in past articles. His rebuttals have had no substance, only a barrage of words he's picked up along the way. That doesn't reflect strong writing, strong journalism, or strong logic. It's just petulance, plain and simple.
calliope's picture
Scola- so his education was mentioned in a past article. i'm still not clicking on how that means his tendency to verboseness translates to 'i'm the first and only native ivy leaguer.' he doesnt mention it in this article so im really not understanding that leap of logic. youre taking him to task by arguing that his use of big words shows that he thinks he is better or, in your own words, 'the 1st native to graduate from an ivy.' so. . .u evidently are saying that using big words is a negative. my point is, if one has learned big words through reading or whatever and that's how one communicates, why not use them? his reply to michelle could have been more diplomatic but as i said, a white lady telling a minority to not "show off" and implying that said minority should dumb their writing down is offensive. im also not sure how he was supposed to have 'substance' in his rebuttal since michelle basically hollered nonsensically about anyone who finds warren unsettling wanting the 99 percent to 'rot' in the street. there is no reasoning or response to anything in the article. he's heavy on the sarcasm below, but i see him explaining and clarifying phrases in the post that appeared to have caused confusion like what he meant about 'fidelity to the self' and using statistics. i just dont get the widespread outrage about someone's word choice. he didnt say anything about education or lacking it. but i guess u took exception to the extent that u had to point out your own pedigree? as far as i can see, using large unwieldly words is much less show-offy than pointing out that you went to harvard or have a 4.0 phd or whatnot. though i do realize that his schools are spelled out in the bio, but i think thats pretty typical in most author bios in anything u read.
myche's picture
Where does all of this 19th Century lingo come from. What has Elizabeth Warren done to warrant Cole's so last century rhetoric. Why is he defending the money bags of Wall Street who almost wrecked our economy in 2008. One can almost chock to death on Cole's toxic message. So to prove Cole went to Dartmouth he has to parade before us his expanded vocabulary. But what Cole is really hiding behind all of these words is that he feels that the 1% needs to control all of the wealth in the United States leaving the rest of us to rot in the streets.
laurelseed's picture
This article is much ado about nothing, it highlights the conservative party's failure to represent female interests in VAWA and insulting and uneducated views of many(and any is too many) of it's members but then accuses the other side of what? Not giving them a fair chance of expressing condemnation. There are what people say and what they do. I would see a 'moral fecklessness' of feminism if the conservative party as a whole wasn't also trying to outlaw a woman's right to choose, is trying to further limit the definition of rape by the position in which a person is raped, and having hearing about female contraception without female members. I'm glad Brown is a pro-choice moderate but he is on the fringe of the party's rhetoric and actions. Perhaps he should fix within or go libertarian and enact policies to help women such as equal pay and support the right to choose, then he would have my vote. However, I still see it that women's interests won't be at the forefront of Scott Brown's agenda. Mr. DeLaune, feminism isn't about "being true to oneself" so much as it is about representing women's issues. Which of these candidates do you think will represent women's issues? How about the one on the side which has a current history of doing so? The only one perverting feminism is you.
coledelaune's picture
Your contention that "feminism. . . is about representing women's issues" introduces a host of philosophical considerations and conundrums that have historically (and continue to presently) eluded consensus because there is such a broad spectrum of ideology among women that terminology like "women's issues" fails to reflect. To invoke just one obvious example, it is of course demonstrably possible for a pro-life female public official to effectively represent a constituency and scale institutions of political import as multi-dimensionally, aggressively, and unapologetically as any pro-choice counterpart. A popular maxim in third-wave feminism is that feminism is about choice, or, extending the logic of this construct, the autonomy to determine one's idea of happiness and fulfillment free from the imposition of any overarching proscriptive paradigm. This requires "fidelity to the self," and aspiring female representatives who don whatever costume is most expeditious clearly defy such parameters. The "moral fecklesness" to which I refer is that of Professor Warren herself, not of feminism in general, and the article focuses on a highly specific context, so the question of "the side which has a current history of doing so" is immaterial because the candidates invovled do not adhere to the reductive abstractions typically applied to their respective parties. The ultimate point here is that one has a self-proclaimed champion of the ignored and marginalized effectively defaming a survivor of sexual assault (and what demographic is more disenfranchised in a variety of capacities?) as being sympathetic to the concept of "legitimate rape," absent all evidence to the contrary: one of the most grossly offensive displays in recent memory. This is, however, consistent with Professor Warren's galling hypocrisy on the matter of the voiceless majority, as is illustrated by her refusal to, you know, engage or even acknowledge the Native American community despite her promotion of herself as the potential "first Senator from Massachusetts with a Native background."