Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker won a Pulitzer this week. My response? Complete and utter confusion. I understand that awards for journalism shouldn’t necessarily follow partisan lines, but does this mean we should give them to racist misogynists?
Parker’s past criticisms of Sarah Palin as a public official and her calls for the “empowerment” for women seem like ideals I can get behind. But her feminist-leaning opinions smell more like red herrings than a progressive I could respect. The Pulitzer committee’s choice has created that distinct sound that comes from scraping at the bottom of the barrel.
Parker had a problem back in 2001, when experts tried to recreate what Jesus would actually have looked like. In her column on the topic, she wrote that disproving Baby Jesus’ baby blues “has ruined a million stained-glass windows around the globe and left Christians of all races to worship someone they’ve never seen before.”
Did those scientists mean to say that Jesus didn’t actually look like the All-American Wonderbread we all thought he did? How can Christians worship the Son of God if he doesn’t resemble a cross between a kindly Christian Bale and a golden retriever? Oh noes!11!!1!
This image, Parker wrote, that changed from Aryan Jesus to one based on the skull of a 2,000 year-old Israeli-Palestinian Jew with darker skin and curlier hair “looks like the kind of guy who wouldn’t make it through airport security.”
Racist enough for you? There’s this, too: “Given the tendency of academic research to steer conclusions away from anything that might be construed as Aryan … it’s easy to imagine that Biblical revisionists won’t be satisfied until they discover that Jesus … actually went to the temple to lobby for women’s rights.”
While it may or may not be a problem that blatant Aryanism has fallen out of favor lately, I think Parker’s consternation at a pro-woman Jesus is pretty hilarious. Jesus, the guy who didn’t want women to be stoned to death for extramarital sex, a pro-woman messiah? Don’t make me laugh.
Parker’s opinions on women’s rights become clearer based on another column, in which she discusses the “difficulties servicewomen face in a testosterone-infused military.” Because of the inherent nature of men, Parker argues, women should expect sexual assault if they’re going to do something as foolish as enlisting in the military. As if testosterone was the reason that people rape other people.
Writes an incredulous Parker in 2007’s “The Fog of Rape,” “The Salon story reports, for example, that one woman was ‘coerced into sex’ by a commanding officer, which the Salon writer asserts is ‘legally defined as rape by the military.'”
I guess “coercion into sex” doesn’t count as rape in Parker’s book, but Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Parker is wrong. Rape is not “foggy.” It is the situation wherein one person forces sexual acts on another person. There is no grey-area, there is no in-between. That Parker thinks that a male member of the American military is so easily manipulated by his own hormones that he can’t tell when he’s sexually assaulting someone is terrifying to contemplate.
“Doubtless, many women [in the military] have suffered what they report,” Parker writes. But she also goes on to say, “Doubtless, too, some women exaggerate sexual-assault stories.”
This is then reason enough to mistrust every woman who comes forward with allegations of rape? Parker’s reasoning behind the issue of military rape – which, by the way, doesn’t do anything to explain the rape that happens anywhere else – is that it is caused by “resentment” of military men “because they’ve been forced to pretend that women are equals, and men know they’re not.”
The “lie” of gendered equality (and notice there is nothing here specifically about the average physical and physiological differences between male and female bodies; rather, Parker condemns as false the idea of equality in general) “breeds contempt, which leads to a simmering rage that sometimes finds expression in aggression toward those deemed responsible.”
Even if this inequality were in fact true, Parker puts it across as a somehow defensible explanation for sexual assault. The proposition that all of the victim-rights advocates and sexual assault seminars in the world won’t stop a testosterone-enraged soldier (trained and armed by our own United States government) from raping a woman because of resentment not only plays its part in justifying rape, but also denigrates those military men who are not rapists – no matter how pissy they get about who they have to work with.
As I said before, the mystery of Parker’s schtick – or perhaps its careful calculation – can be misleading at first. Whereas some of her columns praise the empowerment of women, such as Afghani policewoman Shafiqa Quraishi, who was awarded an International Women of Courage Award from Hillary Clinton this year, it remains that others fall back on victim-blaming and xenophobia.
Racism and misogyny are neither new nor rare, but are we really rewarding people for including them in their “insights?”
HALEY DAVIS can be reached at email@example.com.