3.10.2006

Fox News' Low-Cut Dress Proclivities and Republican "Family Values"

Chayyei Sarah rocks. She cites a great post from MediaMatters.org about Fox News and the revealing attire of some of its reporters and commenters. Actually, it's not about the revealing attire as much as it is about the strategic placement of titles on the bottoms of TV screens. I was about to leave a long comment, but decided that doing so would hijack and possibly create unintended debate in her comment section. So I'm posting here instead!

Chayyei Sarah notes that "then we wonder why teenage girls become anorexic." I agree that our external-beauty-obsessed culture and our preoccupation with every square inch of women's bodies is a huge part of the problem. However, I think that if there just a lot of women walking around scantily-clad, that would not be enough to cause anorexia, and I'm afraid of her readers getting that impression. In regard to Fox News, it's about the strategic placement of screen titles in order to not obscure women's scantily-clad bodies, and not about what the women were wearing, as inappropriate for television news as that may be. Knowing Chayyei Sarah as I do, especially her undergraduate credentials and feminist proclivities, but also not wanting to put words into her mouth, I just want to remind everyone else out there that anorexia is way more complicated than the clothing that women choose to wear.1 In hot climates where women wear little, I doubt that there is a higher incidence of anorexia than in colder climes. There was a substantial problem with anorexia when I studied in Israel for a year in an institution that required women to wear knee-covering skirts and elbow-reaching shirts, as well as clavicle-touching collars. I think that the reason that women's internal problems get turned into self-starvation (as opposed to other potentially destructive outlets, like drugs, alcohol, or, chas v'shalom, suicide) may be more because of the obsession with and constant sexualization of women's bodies, regardless of what they wear.

Whew! That was probably an overreaction to Sarah's sort of flip comment about anorexia, but what am I good for if not overreactions?

Contrary to what you might think, that wasn't what I came here to say.

What I wanted to say is that it sickens me that Fox News, which clearly caters to conservative, religious-right America, wouldn't think twice about highlighting a woman's scantily-clad body. Christian right "values" bother me on many levels, but one particularly disgusting thing about them, to me, is the focus on the "sanctity of human life" in respect to a fetus, but not the "sanctity of human life" in regard to sexual ethics. A fetus is deserving of sanctity but a grown woman is not? What gives? Even leaving the abortion issue aside, a political movement that espouses "family values" seems to divorce and adulterate an awful lot. I'm not saying that Democratic politicians don't also divorce and adulterate, but at least their entire political platform was never based on false family values. Just sayin'.

It would be so easy to point to these statistics right now, but I won't (or I will, but with a caveat:) because there are so many other explanations for these differences than human values. In regard to murder rates, there are always more murders in the summer than the winter and in warmer states than colder states. In places where people congregate outside and hang out on the streets more, there are more opportunities to kill. (I read this somewhere, not sure where, anyone know?) In regard to divorce rates, I'm fairly sure that lower levels of education and lower economic status in Red States lead to earlier marriages, which could easily correlate to more divorce. I can think of two ways that Republican "family values" might lead to higher divorce rates, though. If people are marrying earlier to avoid having pre-marital sex, then that might be correlated to higher divorce rates, although I don't know the stats on that. More significantly, though, if people are marrying to avoid having an "illegitimate child" that could also easily lead to a higher divorce rate, either immediately after the child is born or as soon as someone realizes that marrying in order to prevent "illegitimate children" is not a recipe for long-term marital happiness.

I think I'll stick to my values, thank you.


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1. From the NAMI website, for those of you too lazy to click:

What are the causes of anorexia nervosa?

Knowledge about the causes of anorexia nervosa is inconclusive, and the causes may be varied. In an attempt to understand and uncover the origins of eating disorders, scientists have studied the personalities, genetics, environments, and biochemistry of people with these illnesses. Certain personality traits common in persons with anorexia nervosa are low self-esteem, social isolation (which usually occurs after the behavior associated with anorexia nervosa begins), and perfectionism. These people tend to be good students and excellent athletes. It does seem clear (although this may not be recognized by the patient), that focusing on weight loss and food allows the person to ignore problems that are too painful or seem unresolvable.

Eating disorders also tend to run in families, with female relatives most often affected. A girl has a 10 to 20 times higher risk of developing anorexia nervosa, for instance, if she has a sibling with the disease. This finding suggests that genetic factors may predispose some people to eating disorders. Behavioral and environmental influences may also play a role. Stressful events are likely to increase the risk of eating disorders as well. In studies of the biochemical functions of people with eating disorders, scientists have found that the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine are decreased in those with anorexia, which links them with patients suffering from depression. People with anorexia nervosa also tend to have higher than normal levels of cortisol (a brain hormone released in response to stress) and vasopressin (a brain chemical found to be abnormal in patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder).

7 comments:

Avi said...

Well put. It boggles my mind how Republicans can somehow debate these points in a way that makes sense to them. It often just comes down to religion, I guess. I was arguing with a nice Jewish family in Tennessee about abortion, and the bottom line was that they felt that it should be outlawed because according to the Torah, you're not supposed to do it. There was no point in arguing any further because if someone feels that the laws in our wonderfully secular society (as secular as one could hope for, anyway) should mirror the laws in the "good book," there's no getting through to them. All I can do is pray for them.

ALG said...

Thanks for the compliment. By the way, though, it's not true that "according to the Torah, you're not supposed to do it." It's way more complicated than that. At the very least, if the pregnant women's life is in jeopardy, abortion is probably required.

Avi said...

Well, they were referring to situations where the woman simply didn't want the child. Yeah, you could make the argument that the woman's mental health is in danger, but I think that's just a way to try to bend the rules. I think it's pretty clear that according to the Torah, a woman can only have an abortion if she's in real danger, not just because her life will be difficult if she has a kid. I of course don't agree with it, but I think if you're really following the Torah, there's no way around it.

David said...

In my understanding, most Halakhic sources would tend to say that abortion is either forbidden or mandatory, depending on the particulars - very few examples of the idea of "choice" are present. So halakhah doesn't quite fit into the whole pro-choice/pro-life framework, but on balance will tend to prohibit most of the elective abortions in the country.

Certainly, halakhah disagrees with the pro-choice "personal autonomy" approach: one isn't free to tattoo one's own skin, so the idea that one might not be free to terminate one's pregnancy isn't so foreign. Then again, there are cases I'm aware of where Rabbis had to tell a woman that she was required to get an abortion. The Rabbi I spoke to said that that was the hardest "decision" of his career (and he's not young). I put decision in quotes, because it wasn't really a decision, as much as an explanation of what the laws were, but the laws were heartbreaking and wrenching.

Alg, One thing which should be noted about what you were saying about adultery and divorce is that those are qualitatively different things - divorce is not evil, and is not forbidden (unless you're Catholic), but adultery is both. That doesn't change the fact that there's lots of unbeliveable hypocrites in power, but I think those two shouldn't be grouped in quite the same way.

Another thing which should be noted is a difference between New England and the rest of the US regarding divorce, and why the stats are misleading:

Maryland has far stricter divorce laws than Utah - for a "no-fault" divorce in Md, you need to be separated for 2 years. In Utah, it's 90 days. In Maryland, a partner being convicted of a felony, and going to prison is not considered grounds for an 'at-fault' divorce, unless the prison term is more than 1 year. Yeah, soak that up. The result? It's easier to go elsewhere and divorce there than pursue it in Maryland. Other NE states (I know Md isn't NE, but it has a similar legal history) have blue laws which are similar, left over from their puritan upbringing. The laws don't annoy enough people to get changed, and most people just work around them.

Also, I'd be curious to see the percentages of marriages, in addition to the percentages of divorce: if Delaware has twice the divorce rate of Massachusetts, but three times the marriage rate, then comparatively fewer of those marriages are actually ending. Long-term domestic partnership is far more socially acceptable in the Northeast and California than in the South, so that might be related as well.

ALG said...

Hi David,

Thanks for your comments.

You're right about divorce and adultery not being morally equivalent, and I'm sorry if mentioning them together made it seem otherwise. I may go back and change the wording on that, or maybe this comment here is enough.

Republicans who adulterate and also want to forbid gay marriage on the grounds of "protecting the santity of marriage" are really what I find most problematic. Republicans who are themselves divorced but want to forbid gay marriage on the grounds of "protecting the sanctity of marriage" are not the equivalent, although I think that someone who has married and divorded multiple times might want to think twice about being a spokesperson for the sanctity of marriage. I'm not sure why I think that one divorce isn't a qualitatively bad thing, but four divorces are.

I agree that those stastics may be worthless, which is why I included the caveat. I don't know that they're any more worthless than other statistics that people quote in support of their political views.

ALG said...

How could I not have commented on this?

"So halakhah doesn't quite fit into the whole pro-choice/pro-life framework, but on balance will tend to prohibit most of the elective abortions in the country."

I agree, but find it very problematic that so many frum Jews don't have a problem with states trying to pass laws that forbid abortion when the woman's health is in danger. That is, many frum Jews seem to be okay with states passing laws that make halachic practice assur [forbidden]. Who knows where South Dakota thinks the line is between "a woman's life" (which is protected under the law they just passed) and "a woman's health" (which is not protected), but I'm not sure I want legislators to make that decision for me in place of a unit that includes me, a halachic authority, and a doctor. And I'm not sure that if I was in that position, I would want to have to cross state lines to follow halacha.

David said...

I agree - there's a huge qualitative difference between passing a law which requires (say) parental consent before obtaining a non-emergency abortion, and one which criminalizes all abortion other than that which immedately threatens the mother's life.

It does say in Makkot that "if a woman is in [hard labour] and the baby has not yet crowned, you cut it up and take it out of her. If the baby's head has crowned, you don't touch her, because you may not exchange one life for another." Definitely not what South Dakota has in mind!

Your observation is dead-on, and I think it should go farther: I wish that the Jews of all religious denominations would recognize that the parameters of the debate are not congruent with Jewish belief - I've seen a lot of people who believe that the principles of the Democratic party and NARAL were clearly given at Sinai, and the most egregious example is when Jews support organizations like "Americans United for Separation of Church and State." (that's the group that would be against the building of eruvin, as they would use public land for religous benefit).