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On International Women’s Day (March 8), the National Rifle Association (NRA) released a video featuring spokeswoman Dana Loesch railing against supporters of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements. These activists, she claimed, tell women they can do whatever they want and yet also tell them they are “too stupid own a firearm” and “too stupid and too weak and too simple-minded to defend ourselves in the face of a threat.”
“These are conflicting messages,” Loesch noted.
Loesch is right about one thing: There are a lot of conflicting messages happening when it comes to women and guns. But feminists aren’t the problem here — the NRA is.
First, there isn’t anyone across the ideological spectrum that supports gun reform because of gender bias. I have never heard anyone in Congress, Republican or Democrat, advocate for gun control because women are “too stupid or too weak or too simple-minded” to own a gun.
Second, Loesch is knowingly and disingenuously trying to draw the line between women who rally for equal rights, equal pay and equal treatment in the workplace and those who are speaking out in support of gun reform. There is certainly overlap, but many of the voices speaking out for gun reform were pushed to action by tragedy. These are women and parents who have had to experience the unthinkable — whose children and family members have been murdered, or who themselves have experienced gun violence.
But most importantly, if Loesch and the NRA really want to empower women, they should probably start by ending their nasty public attacks on women who disagree with them.
On the same day that the NRA released its International Women’s Day video with Loesch, it released a different video complaining about the mainstream media’s coverage of gun reform. The video begins with a blatantly sexist attack against MSNBC Morning Joe co-anchor Mika Brzezinski, describing her as a “sexy cable news anchor” and implying that her only knowledge of guns comes from Google.
Effectively, the NRA wants to have both ways. They trot out Dana Loesch to appeal to women with one video while using another video to launch a nearly simultaneous (not to mention blatantly sexist) attack on a female member of the media.
Loesch should know better. As someone who has received her fair share of online hate, she is no stranger to the gendered double standards hurled at women with regard to intelligence or temperament. In 2013, she told Politico that she was “intrigued by the fact that men can be aggressive and they’re just seen as being aggressive. Women can be aggressive and they’re looked at as though they’re bitches, and I don’t particularly think that’s fair.”
If Loesch and the NRA really want to empower women, they should probably start by ending their public attacks on women who disagree with them.
Apparently her ability to recognize double standards does not extend to the treatment of women she disagrees with politically. Brzezinski has written multiple bestselling books and has worked in journalism for the better part of three decades; she also recently received the Leonard Ziedenberg First Amendment Award. Reducing women like Brezinski to “sexy cable news anchor” illustrates how desperate and afraid the NRA is of smart and fierce women. The organization knows the facts aren’t on its side and so have resorted to tired clichés and stereotypes.
One of the biggest ironies here is that, according to a Pew Research Report, “among Republican and Republican-leaning gun owners, women tend to be more supportive than men of policy proposals that would restrict gun ownership… about six-in-ten Republican and Republican-leaning women who own guns say they would favor banning assault-style weapons (60%) and creating a federal government database to track all guns sales (57%).” Those numbers plummet to 28% and 35% respectively when asked of Republican men.
It’s likely many of the female gun owners the NRA claims to support favor the exact kinds of policies the NRA virulently opposes.
In other words, it’s likely many of the female gun owners the NRA claims to support favor the exact kinds of policies the NRA virulently opposes. The NRA isn’t listening to women, it’s ignoring and undermining them. And it’s doing this while continuing to urge female gun owners to speak up for what they want and be part of the broader conversation.
Perhaps the most cynical element of this charade, however, is that that research shows owning a gun for women in particular does not make them safer; it often makes them less safe. Indeed, female crime victims used guns to defend themselves just 0.4 percent of the time, according to the National Crime Victimization Survey. This has not stopped the NRA from aggressively marketing guns to women and girls, of course.
The NRA doesn’t care about empowering women anymore than it really cares about making American women safer. Makes you wonder: Who really is being “too stupid or too weak or too simple-minded.”
Kurt Bardella is an NBC THINK Contributor and a former spokesperson for Reps. Brian Bilbray, R-Calif., Darrell Issa, R-Calif., Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee and Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter: @kurtbardella.