Content warning: sexist and sexually demeaning imagery.
It’s unfortunate that we’d have to give a disclaimer before talking about the behavior coming from one of our major political parties, but here we are. Welcome to 2020.
Recently, the Republican Party of Bernalillo County posted a [again, content warning] vulgar meme on Facebook with a photo of a woman, tongue out, licking a spiny cactus in a sexually suggestive manner. The meme has the words “Things I would rather do than listen to Michelle Lujan Grisham” on the image. The post text reads #AbsoluteTruth.
So let’s unpack this message.
“I’d rather lick a cactus than [fill in the blank of something they really don’t want to do]”. It’s an expression that overstates their contempt for whatever it is they’re being asked to do, don’t want to do, and would rather harm themselves than do.
The Bernalillo County GOP decided that the words were not enough and that a visual would make a deeper impression. So, in the true spirit of the GOP, they selected an image of a woman licking a cactus, spines and all — pricks and all. The sexual connotation is not subtle. This is a stock photo of a woman fellating a cactus from an official Republican Party social media channel. We’re rarely surprised by the actions of the Republican Party anymore but come on. This is low even for them. It speaks to the insincerity of a party that has attempted to rebrand itself in our state as “Respect New Mexico” and claims to be the party of family values.
What’s worse is that this image is directed at New Mexico’s Governor Lujan Grisham. Despite her expertise in public health and successes handling the coronavirus pandemic in our state, to the Republicans what she says with regard to COVID-19 and other matters should be ignored, dismissed, and silenced. Oh how the Republican Party likes to silence women who are in opposition to their so called “values.” Don’t like what she says? Shut her up. Or maybe lock her up?
“Lock her up!”
On Tuesday at a campaign stop in Lansing, Donald Trump went on a tirade against Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and her pandemic response. His pack of supporters, so conditioned to hear “Democrat” + “woman” + “COVID shutdowns” and begin foaming at the mouth, responded to Trump’s attacks on Whitmer with the chant of “Lock her up!” a revival of the 2016 rallying cry against Hilary Clinton for any number of imagined evils.
With no accusations sticking to Joe Biden, Trump went back in time four years for one of the greatest hits in MAGA country — the thrill of threatening a woman with punishment to silence her into submission.
It’s no wonder that the Republican Party of Bernalillo felt empowered and emboldened to sexualize and demean our Governor when this behavior of blatant sexism comes from the top.
Back to that phallic cactus. (Anyone have that on their 2020 dystopia bingo card?)
Let’s run through a quick list of the ways the Republican Party has shown their “Respect” for New Mexicans in the last month.
Earlier this month, the Grant County Democratic Party monthly Zoom call was hijacked by right-wing cranks who made transphobic comments, threatened violence, and masturbated on camera.
The home security video [content warning, nudity] of a naked man stealing a Biden/Harris sign out of an Albuquerque family’s yard is all over the internet. This prickish behavior is a hostile attempt to shock and intimidate, even if the lasting effect is kind of pathetic.
That’s why the cactus licking meme directed at Lujan Grisham is a cause for concern — it’s a window into the twisted ideologies of people who use sexist violence to try to get their way by force. While GOP officials may try to distance themselves from right-wing extremist groups in our state, we’ve reached a point where the lines are blurred or nonexistent.
That’s now the mask-off approach to gender and power by mainstream GOP operatives. This is the trickle-down effect of Trump’s violence toward women. Remember he gleefully recounted how he’d “grab them by the pussy.” To date, 26 women, one of whom was a 13 year old child at the time of the rape, have accused Trump of sexual assault. This is his M.O. And yet in 2016, many people — many women — voted for him anyway.
So, it’s no surprise his camp of supporters, including those responsible for official GOP channels like the Bernalillo County Republican Party Facebook page unleash blatant misogyny publicly. The bar for professional conduct has been lowered into the abyss. They don’t even try to pretend anymore.
Of course, naysayers will point out the meme is a joke. Like the supposed “locker room talk” or boys will be boys excuse for Trump’s pussy-grab quote, this is a game they play. It’s always the ‘women/liberals can’t take a joke” to cover for bad behavior.
In the wake of substantive accountability for sexual harassment, assault, and abuse following the #MeToo movement, that just doesn’t fly anymore. Women are not overreacting. None of this is really about sex anyway. It’s about power. It’s about who gets to have a voice, who gets to lead, and the fragility of conservative masculinity.
We don’t know about you, but this sure doesn’t sound like “Respect” to us. Enough is enough. Now is the time to vote them all out and keep them out for good.