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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coledelaune's picture
Michelle, I'd be happy to respond to substantive points if you'd care to introduce them into the discourse; as it is, I'm unable to reply to a deeply misguided and erroneous interpretation of the piece (I never mentioned the "1%" in the article, so you're applying a baffling degree of extrapolation and inference in your reading, to say the least). 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. Way to denigrate learning and education with those remarks. Of course, they're not half as troubling as your assertion that, "You should feel offended because you're an Indian." I sincerely hope you didn't leverage such formulas in the classroom, as that would be pretty much anathema to fostering intellectual independence in your pupils.
laurelseed's picture
No the point is that Elizabeth Warren is not perverting feminism and does not have a rape fantasy as you falsely claim. Feminism is the belief in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes and advocates the women's rights movement including women's health and reproductive rights. Scott Brown voted against equal pay for women. He also supports healthcare professionals being able to turn women away from care if they feel the care is morally objectionable. He cosponsored the Blunt amendment, a Republican bill that would allow employers and insurance companies to deny women insurance coverage for basic health care services, including contraception, by citing moral objections. Scott Brown has received the endorsement of Massachusetts Citizens for Life - Massachusetts' leading ANTI-choice org. because they - "consider him a senator who votes prolife. We have to take his word for it when he says he is prochoice. But what we're looking for is someone who votes prolife, and he does." Once again: there is what people say and what they do - what they do truly reflects who they are because our actions affect others in a greater manner. His support of these policies effects women's rights in a negative manner. The overuse of adjectives may hide to many the point you're trying to make, ha ha, a strength in a verbal debate but weakness in an author, ha ha ha, ultimately it won't save you from a flawed argument. Does your 'fidelity of self' include rolling in the mud and throwing about at Elizabeth Warren with egg on your face? It sure looks like it:)
darrellross's picture
Blech. Do you always write with so much fluff? It seems like you are intentionally adding all the extra unnecessary words just to obfuscate your intent. Or perhaps you prefer to come off as elitist in hopes someone annoyed with having to read your post will complain about it? In that case, my hat is off to you! It would be quite fun to read if it were about something a little more mundane. "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." You are off here. Your own quote of her states “I understand that Scott Brown and other Republicans want to pretend Todd Akin is an isolated individual...". So she precluded her GOP-as-anti-women remark with a statement that she understood Scott Brown's view. So Scott Brown is moderate. Cool. I have done some reading about him. I wish more Republicans were so level headed. The rest of your post is pointless. You prattle on with insults for Warren and for feminism, with little substance. Feminism is about fidelity to the self? Nice. Glad to see you understand that women are just a bunch of selfish whiners. You play the victim card for Senator Brown again (was that the 5th time?) as if his pureness of heart lets rank-and-file GOP members off the hook. Your dismissal of Warren borders on misogyny. Your whole post feels pretty anti-woman.
coledelaune's picture
I'm unsure how you lack the agency to determine the reading material you consume, so your complaint about "having to read (my) post" seems a little disingenuous, as does the conjecture about my hypothetical and convolutedly counterintuitive strategy to garner replies. So whatevs. And, no, Warren's states that Brown is 'pretending' that Congressman Akin's views are different from his own and those of most Republicans, so she is implicitly contending that the Senator is being dishonest in distancing himself from the remarks about "legitimate rape." Exactly what insults did I supposedly leverage against feminism? Yup, feminism, as I already stated in a previous comment response, is about choice, or the autonomy and self-determination to follow a path free from the pressures and influences of any overarching paradigms, including that of first-wave or second-wave incarnations of feminism itself. This requires, connecting the dots of logic, wait for it. . . "fidelity to ths self." No one (except, of course, you, in what I would assume is an attempt at sardonicism) is positioning "women (as) just a bunch of selfish whiners." Perhaps your rather peculiar degree of anger regarding my diction is clouding your reading comprehnsion? Since my criticisms are specific to a particular female political aspirant and deconstruct elements of her behavior that are arguably delterious to feminist ideals and the advancement of strong women leaders as an abstract, you're either unfamiliar with the definition of "misogyny" or are simply, once again, defaulting to intentional distortion.
coledelaune's picture
And perhaps your focus on the stylstic aspects of the op-ed illuminates a foundational problem parsing constructs of reasoning. I can't bring myself to pepper my sentence with extraneous and random "ha ha ha" interjections, but, please, by all means, insert them mentally if it aides your processes of interpretation. Professor Warren demonstrably mischaracterized Brown's position on reproductive rights as consistent with the views expressed by Congressman Akin. So, yes, this total fabrication reflected in her remarks about the "legitimate rape" gaffe constitute a fantasy because they are completely divorced from a wealth of evidence to the contrary. Accusing a political opponent of subscribing to the notions of "legitimate rape" because it is electorally expeditious not only distorts objective reality, but it demeans feminist precepts by advancing inaccurate and offensive ideas about a survivor of sexual assault. Senator Brown has a 2011 rating of 45 from NARAL, a score that positions him squarely in the center of the ideological spectrum on reproductive rights, which is consistent with my description of him as a "pro-choice moderate." NARAL has praised him within the past year for at least one of his legislative stances. You're correct that Mass Citizens for Life has touted his candidacy. . . That doesn't mean that his voting record hasn't been more or equally consistent with a pro-choice ethos than an whole array of Democratic Senators and Representatives, including Ben Nelson and Robert Casey (at various points in the past decade), Mike Ross, Jason Altamire, Daniel Lipinski, Jerry Costello, Joe Donnelly, Collin Peterson, Heath Shuler, Dan Boren, Mark Critz, Charlie Holden, Henry Cueller, and Jim Matheson. I'm well aware of his actions vis-a-vis the Equal Pay Act and Blunt Amendment; those are certainly topics that have garnered substantial coverage over the course of the campaign, and his votes are, of course, subject to publc scrutiny and analysis both journalistically and in the context of debate. They don't, however, legitimize Warren's attempts to link him to the Akin "rape" imbroglio, or suggest that he in any way champions the related problematic ideology. And abstract philosophical dissonance has characterized feminism from its inception, ergo the emergence of second-wave and third-wave manifestations: revision and evolution yielded altered institutionalized schools of thought. Feminism is indeed about ensuring that women have independence and sovereignty to elect a lifestyle of their ideation, and this, does of course, encompass "social, political, and economic" elements. My point in highlighting the "fidelity of the self" is that the history of feminist ideals has been complicated, to put it mildly. Initially, there was the immediate post-Friedan movement, which ultimately arguably proved myopic in its own respects; the subsequent "you can have it all" iteration; and, presently, the "you can choose whatever path you like" principle.
gizmodo's picture
@ Darrell Ross and your post borders on racist if u think that Indians have trouble understanding big words. If that's not the subtext of your 1st paragraph then why bring it up? Guess ndnz have to have things spelled out very simply for them.