September 4, 2014

The violent imagery deployed against Scott Walker by Debbie Wasserman Shultz is gendered — it's domestic violence.

When Wasserman Shultz says "Scott Walker has given women the back of his hand" and "What Republican tea party extremists like Scott Walker are doing is they are grabbing us by the hair and pulling us back," she evokes domestic violence. Grabbing a woman by the hair and pulling is the classic image of a caveman capturing his sex partner by force. Sociology professor Lisa Wade wrote a piece on the subject (cross-posted at Ms. Magazine):
[T]he caveman-club-’er-over-the-head-and-drag-her-by-the-hair narrative is pure mythology. The mythology, nonetheless, affirms the idea that men are naturally coercive and violent by suggesting that our most natural and socially-uncorrupted male selves will engage in this sort of behavior.  Rape, that is.
If we think of it that way — the feminist way — Wasserman Schultz can be accused of subtly purveying a rape metaphor.

Here's a vivid drawing by R. Crumb showing grabbing and pulling a woman's hair to control and subordinate her during sex: "Big healthy girl enjoys deep penetration from the rear."

Some of the most lurid stories of violence against women extract the dragged-by-the-hair detail for the headline: "Brutal attacker forced woman's head down Burger King toilet before dragging her outside by her hair with the threat: 'You're going to die today'" and "Man dragged ex by hair, tried to run her over, police say." From the Occupy Wall Street blogging at FireDogLake: "Cop Dragging A Woman By Her Hair?" ("Cops especially like the opportunity offered by long-haired females (view above video) to drag such females by the hair across the pavement to be zip-cuffed.") 

Attacking and controlling a woman by using her long hair — the shining emblem of her femininity repurposed as a hand grip — strikes a deep chord. It is a chord I believe Wasserman Shultz meant to strike. She wanted to reach through our conscious, critical mind and stir that most powerful emotion, fear.

To give the back of his hand is a more puzzling expression. I'm seeing it internet-defined as merely an insult, connected to the phrase "back-handed compliment." I think that's confusing "back-handed" with "left-handed." According to the (unlinkable) OED, the figurative meaning of "back-handed" is "indirect, like a back-handed sword-cut." Dickens wrote "Having given her this back-handed reminder" (in "Our Mutual Friend"). But what's a back-handed sword-cut? I think you can picture that easily. And the first meaning of "back-handed" is "With the back of the hand" as in "A back-handed slap across the face." And, indeed, "back-hand" is a verb, and it means "To hit... with the back of the hand." So I think to give the back of one's hand is the way you'd punch if you began with your fist across your chest.

57 comments:

Larry J said...

I've seen back of the hand slaps many times in old movies but they seem less effective than a standard slap.

As for Debbie Wasserman Shultz, she reminds me of her father, the guard in "Hogan's Heros" who proclaimed, "I know nothing! I see nothing!"

chickelit said...

Identity politics is leading us to a political dichotomy wherein R = men and D = women.

Witness said...

"Wasserman Schultz can be accused of subtly purveying a rape metaphor."

It's not even a little bit subtle.

pimp-slap

Hagar said...

Ascribing thought to Blabbermouth Schultz is an error.

She is not an evil person; just mindless.

Ken B said...

A contemptuous backhanded blow across the face, the way a master would casually strike a servant.

Matt Sablan said...

Looks like my post in the other thread about how the wording was specifically chosen to evoke fear of rape was a bit mistimed. If I'd waited, I wouldn't have even needed to say it!

Headless Blogger said...

Ann - Try pimp hand. I think that was the term DWS wanted to use.

Brando said...

Of course. They have so little left in their playbook, it's come down to "Republicans will rape you".

Hopefully enough women get disgusted by the cheapness of such attacks and react against it. If the Democrats can't come up with a better reason to vote for them, they deserve to lose badly.

Todd said...

I believe a back-handed slap is also meant as an additional insult.

A palm-slap is more of an insult than an attack, like a fist punch would be (i.e. slapped her face instead of punching her). A back-handed slap strikes me (no pun intended) as even more demeaning than a palm-slap.

Ann Althouse said...

I was thinking that a backhanded hit might be something you'd do to someone who was standing close to you, that it implied some intimacy (or that the person had gotten in your space). It would be a way to surprise someone in that intimate position. You arm is resting against your chest, but you can suddenly hit someone very hard, perhaps in the jaw, before they have time to spring back. The intimacy is a source of violent power in this scenario.

rhhardin said...

The trouble started when cave woman started putting flowers in her hair.

rhhardin said...

Domesticated violence, on the other hand, would be humor and a good prose style.

Seeing Red said...

So if I'm a female Tea Party member, what does she say about me?

rhhardin said...

One of these days, Alice, pow! straight to the moon.

n.n said...

A backhanded slap is not about violence per se, but about degradation and powerlessness. While dragging someone by their hair is about both, but especially violence. They used the same tactic when they described women as "barefoot and pregnant", and the latter without recourse to an abortion.

n.n said...

As for the Tea Party, it is principally about public corruption. For example, we have nearly a $3 trillion non-contributory entitlement (i.e. welfare) economy, and there are still indigent, and even homeless people. Someone is lying.

Hagar said...

Unhinged might be a better word.

And Todd is right above. "Back of the hand" is about contempt more than violence, if a slap is involved.

Also may not be about violence at all; just the opposite of shaking hands, palm to palm, as in "giving someone the back of one's hand."

exhelodrvr1 said...

THis just emphasizes the fact that there is significantly less there there in the whole rape culture/war on women/etc. than the Democrats want us to believe.

lgv said...

Clearly the back of the is meant as the back-handed slap.

What is it with WI Republicans? You've got a governor that smacks women and drags them by their hair and you have a VP candidate that pushes old people in wheel chairs over cliffs.

Larry J said...

Look at the back of your hand. The bones and blood vessels are close to the surface and the skin is relatively thin. Striking or slapping someone with the back of your hand is going to hurt you about as much as it'll hurt them. A palm slap can deliver a lot more force. I personally don't see how using the back of your hand is more demeaning.

bbkingfish said...

Do you really think your readers require this kind of hand-holding explication of Shultz's not-very-subtle broadside?

You must hold your audience in very low esteem.

Levi Starks said...

you think DWS knows what the OED is?

Unknown said...

When your entire political party is a corrupt scam, this type of fear-mongering is necessary for the campaign.

Brando said...

Seeing Red--that's easy. If you're a female tea party member, you're obviously a self-hating woman, just like the ones who think women should take charge of their own safety, and be treated equal to men while being held to the same standards and responsibilities of men. Such people are clearly anti-woman, and blinded by the patriarchy.

rhhardin said...

Violence, Gewalt, seems to be feminine in German.

Sample sentence is excellent though not indicating gender

After the game, violence broke out on the veranda.

Nach dem Spiel brach auf der Veranda Gewalt aus.

MayBee said...

It doesn't need to be over-analyzed.

What in the world does she think the tea party or Scott Walker is doing to even come close to deserving this metaphor?

William said...

A back handed slap is more dismissive and contemptuous than a slap or a punch. A slap is a physical insult you inflict on an equal whose actions you challenge. A back handed slap is an action you take against an insolent servant.

David said...

"If we think of it that way — the feminist way — Wasserman Schultz can be accused of subtly purveying a rape metaphor."

I'm with you except for the subtle part.

traditionalguy said...

Back handed blows come from one walking or standing beside another as a surprise move.

Wasserman back handed all men as Rapists with her accusation of violence.

But the Dems actually feel that Walker raped the female teachers when he took away mandatory Public employees Unions dues check off. They see that as dragging them by the hair out of the Capitol in Madison, Wisconsin.

jacksonjay said...

Next thing you know, Scott will be a tax cheat and a murderer. Unfortunately, this kind of bullshit works with loinfo mofos, especially womenz. Lady partz don't always think with their brains.

Anonymous said...

Because there is nothing at all violent happening when a woman is raped with a medical probe.

Bandit said...

Becuz it's always cool for Dems to make outlandish claims because lapdog media will never call them on it.

Wince said...

In that FDL OWS video, it looks like the cop dragged the woman by her backpack, not her hair.

One guy in the crowd in particular appears to want to change the reality he saw by verbally repeating something else to make it "true".

Seems to me that in the dénouement of Obama, that syndrome has become pervasive. "It's true if we say it is often enough, prominently enough, unchallenged by the media."

Case in point: Debbie Wasserman Shultz.

Ann Althouse said...

"It doesn't need to be over-analyzed."

Your debutante just knows what you need/But I know what you want.

Wilbur said...

A backhand does convey contempt: think of the hothouse slapping scene in the move "In the Heat of the Night".

MayBee said...

Ha!

Hagar said...

When Pelosi was asked if she would ever compromise with the Republicans, and she replied that she "certainly would consider Republican ideas - if they should ever have one," that was giving Republicans "the back of her hand."

Ann Althouse said...

"Back handed blows come from one walking or standing beside another as a surprise move."

Yes, googling "pimp hand" (as suggested above) bought up some images that made me see back of the hand as a way to surprise-hit someone next to you. And that fits with the idea of insulting, because you don't even need to turn and face the person. She's so insignificant that you can just knock her back without even setting yourself into an attack position.

Hagar said...

And that is the same Nancy Pelosi whom Obama recently lauded as a wise leader and no ideologue, but like himself, a middle of the road politician, that always stood ready to cooperate and compromise with the opposition party in order to move the country "forward."

chillblaine said...

"Because there is nothing at all violent happening when a woman is raped with a medical probe."

Are you saying that fetal evacuation, a procedure that will be performed thousands of times today, is equivalent to rape?

Michael said...

It is important for the Democrats to speak directly to the stupid women voters who feel as though their lives have been ruined by Republicans who dream up ways to thwart their desires. The war on women is, of course, a fiction but one that has been embraced by cynical Democrats who realize that the depths of stupidity have not been yet plumbed. Thus they fight, fight!, against the mean conservatives who want to pull their hair and hurt them.

Watch The View and you will see what conservatives are up against. It is a celebration of stupid

Alex said...

DWS just wants Scott Walker to keep his pimp hand strong.

Gahrie said...

Identity politics is leading us to a political dichotomy wherein R = men and D = women.

It's actually R = men and married women; D = single women

mgarbowski said...

There is an interpretation of the "turn the other cheek" Bible verse that turns on the idea that a backhand slap involves scorn as well as violence. "[B]ut whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also." Note that the quote specifies being hit on the right cheek, which would mean a right-handed person gave you a backhanded slap. The idea is that by presenting the left cheek you are challenging them to hit you as an equal. Not sure if it's correct but it is a fairly widespread idea and I think the "giving women the back of his hand" meme is using this idea that a backhanded slap is violence plus an insult from someone who considers himself socially superior. Google "turn the other cheek backhand slap" for various essays, plus a reference in Wikipedia.

FullMoon said...

But everybody still talks about
How badly they were shocked
But me, I expected it to happen I knew she lost control..

dbp said...

"...grabbing us by the hair and pulling us back." can certainly evoke a variety of images:

The first image, being dirty-minded, was that she was thinking of rough kinky sex. It is more than a little weird to use this kind of imagery on your political opponents.

Another image is of kids fighting, pulling hair and telling on each other to their mom. DWS, if I recall, has young kids. So she might just use infantile language out of habit. This is not the kind of habit or level of professionalism one might expect from the face of a major political party.

Diogenes of Sinope said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Godfather said...

Debbie is dumb but manipulative. Don't take her any more seriously than you do Joe Biden or Elizabeth Warren.

Edward said...

A Chinese activist woman questioned
on her release from prison by a
New-Age feminist twit answered:
Why yes, yes I did learn something
in prison: It hurts more to be slapped with the back of the hand than the front. (Think Knuckles)
See also biblical original advice
on passive resistance to Roman
punishment: I am a man, not a child; Slap me with the back of your hand, on this cheek, not with the front on the other.

libertariansafetyguy said...

The back of the hand is the "pimp hand," as in "my pimp hand is strong!" It's a calculated expression.

Sayyid said...

"To give the back of his hand is a more puzzling expression."

No it's not, it's the definition of a pimp slap. It's the same metaphor.

Michael Ryan said...

Maybe something like this was in mind.

Locomotive Breath said...

Don't feel like the "big healthy woman" has much to fear from the scrawny little man in the R. Crumb drawing.

holdfast said...

So should Walker let this go, should he call her out for defaming him, or should he pretend to let it go but send out surrogates to mock DWS unmercifully?

Andrew X said...

There is one message that the GOP could really drive hard if they were savvy, which of course......

But the message to really club people over the head with is essentially how much the democratic party relies on cheap thatrics and emotional manipulation. It is what elected Obama twice, and here we are.

Surely that message can be presented successfully in SOME manner, SOME where that it will be effective.

Johanna Lapp said...

Not even macho villain Scott Walker would plunge his hands into Debbie's greasy mop.

Does she style her hair with mayonnaise?

JoyD said...

I see "back of the hand" as waving off, dismissively. It's meant to convey contempt.