Ronnee Schreiber, SDSU Political Science professor and author of "Righting Feminism: Conservative Women and American Politics"
Related Story: Women Take Prominent Role In Gun Debate
ALLISON ST. JOHN: You're listening to Midday Edition here on KPBS. I am Allison St. John in for Maureen Cavanaugh the debate over what to do to prevent gun violence in the US is splitting the nation and women are weighing in as strongly as many infect two of the strongest voices and congressional hearings last week were women, firstly former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and activist Gail Trotter of the conservative Independent women's forum as you might imagine women are more likely to support responsible gun control seminar but a recent pew research study shows women favor rights overcome control, our next guest has done a study over how conservative women are doing countering conservative principles about abortion and gun violence, Ronnee Schreiber is political science professor said in a state University and author of the book rising feminism conservative women in American politics, thank you so much for coming in, Ronnee,
RONNEE SCHREIBER: Thanks so much for having me
ALLISON ST. JOHN: So before we look at gun violence and what women are doing about it I want to ask you about your research has revealed in general about the women's movement in this country and how conservative women are ring into feminism?
RONNEE SCHREIBER: Sure, one of the basically main findings when I studied national conservative women organizations is that they to him to speak as women on behalf of women's interests. So, one of the key components of their strategy is to talk about issues that we typically think of as feminist issues, like abortion or gun control in this particular case, women's health issues, and frame them as women's issues but from the perspective of conservative ideology. So they are speaking as women so they too can represent women and that creates a big public debate over what women's interest really are. Are they framed feminist or are they really conservative?
ALLISON ST. JOHN: There is a place for every woman to fit into on the spectrum. I would like to invite our listeners if you'd like to call it the numbers 888955727We are speaking with Ronnee Schreiber of San Diego state University so now specifically we have clips to jog the memory of what happened last week it's interesting that two of the most caring calls came from a minute the Congressional hearings first players former Democratic Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords who survived of course a near fatal shooting in 2011.
NEW SPEAKER: Too many children are dying, too many children. We must do something. It will be hard. But the time is now. You must act. Be bold, be courageous, Americans are counting on you.
ALLISON ST. JOHN: So that was the voice of Gabby Giffords of course beseeching Congress to do something about nonviolence. Here now is conservative activist Gayle Trotter of the Independent women's forum, responding when questioned at the Congressional committee.
RONNEE SCHREIBER: Guns and equipment safer. The Supreme Court has recognized the lawful self-defense is a central component of the Second Amendment guaranteed to keep and the right to bear arms. For women the ability to arm ourselves for our protection is even more consequential than for men. Because, guns are the great equalizer in a violent confrontation. As a result, we protect women by safeguarding our Second Amendment rights. Every woman deserves a fighting chance.
ALLISON ST. JOHN: So, Trotter does not want any restrictions on assault weapons or any of the other things in the proposed legislation, so Ronnee, just in general what did you take away when you heard the totally opposite approaches to gun violence from different women?
RONNEE SCHREIBER: It's interesting, you hear a couple of different things going on, one is one tiltrotor framing the issue as a women's issue and this is how we will protect women and that is done very intentionally and with good cause and she's the only person during the testimony that was actually speaking on behalf of women explicitly. Now of course Gabby difference is a female, a woman but she was not shooting as a women's issue, she was framing it as a mother's issue so you get that perspective.
ALLISON ST. JOHN: I believe Trotter also talked about, she gave an example of a young mother who defended her child with a gun. So they both are sort of playing the mom card as it were.
RONNEE SCHREIBER: Yes if you look at the different debates now, the conservative and what I'll say her feminist woman skip some of the groups are liberal, don't necessarily call themselves feminists like moms rising.org you do basically see this kind of mom debate going on, mom's interest debate so moms rising.org supports legislation that Obama introduced or will introduce, and does it from the perspective of mothers and I have a clip here basically from one of the postings from Kristin Rowe Finkbeiner who runs moms rising.org. Writing to you from the kitchen table while my kids do their homework appreciating just that they are here and safe, and goes on to support Obama's legislation and Gail does the opposite saying we need guns to protect women and their children, so it's a really interesting debate going on here, and they are both using these conceptualizations of mother to frame the debates.
ALLISON ST. JOHN: The gun that was used in the example that Trotter cited I believe the congressman responded and said the one she used is not one of the ones that will be banned in the legislation Trotter stuck to our guns instead I don't think women should be limited at all in their choices. It's interesting, good choice, but abortion choice it's kind of ironic.
RONNEE SCHREIBER: Although to be fair to the Independent women's forum they do not take a stand on abortion. So they are more of a libertarian organization, which explains actually their position on gun control.
ALLISON ST. JOHN: I must say I feel like at the basis of faulty arguments there is fear, isn't there. Fear is an emotion I think that is powering the debate a lot, but would you say it's more the basis of the conservative position?
RONNEE SCHREIBER: I do think that is true, maybe just in terms of the rhetorical style because I was reading the perspective of the national organization for women which is a feminist group and they talk about the need for gun control particular because guns are frequently used in domestic violence situations. So, that is playing a bit on fierce, justifiable fears of women in domestic violence situations. But I think the testimony was so, Gail Trotter's testimony was so strong and used fear to such an extreme extent that I think it does come across as conservative women may be invoking the more strongly.
ALLISON ST. JOHN: The Independent women's forum which I believe she is the head of
RONNEE SCHREIBER: She is not the head of it, but she does speak on its behalf.
ALLISON ST. JOHN: They are again certain parts of the women against violence act which seems to contradict this argument.
RONNEE SCHREIBER: It actually boils down to what their perception of what the state or the particular national government should be so their opposition to the violence against women act has to do with whether or not the federal government should be involved in both determining funding for violence against women's programs and what role the federal government should play vis-à-vis local state enforcement. So, it actually is in some ways ideologically consistent having to do with rock while the government should play in regulating everything, but it ultimately does sound contradictory because it once and she is promoting something that often leads to the other.
ALLISON ST. JOHN: And in fact I understand women's groups that you've been studying how the women are waiting, they are not necessarily fighting for issues that are important for other feminists such as gender equality that is not a big issue for them.
RONNEE SCHREIBER: I think I guess I depends on how you would frame gender equality.
ALLISON ST. JOHN: It is a lot about framing.
RONNEE SCHREIBER: It really is about language. They would say that that is not true. They would say if you have legislation for example like this legislation if it passes would actually hurt women and you heard Gayle Trotter using the term guns being the great equalizer, so they would see it in an alternative way.
ALLISON ST. JOHN: Do you think that Gayle Trotter and some groups like theirs are seen by columns of the NRA are there any evidence of connections between the NRA?
RONNEE SCHREIBER: There probably are connections I would be surprised if they're coalescing with each other on certain issues particularly dislike while I frankly am not a supporter of most of the issues that most of the conservative women support I take issue with the term bond because I think it's important to recognize their limited perspectives on these issues and see it as important to act on their behalf.
ALLISON ST. JOHN: I can see in terms of equal rights is meant by an assault women it's understandable that women would like them to, that's equal rights but why would women not support an assault weapon ban is a better way to prevent what happened to Sandy Hook?
RONNEE SCHREIBER: I think it is more concerned about the government overreaching from their perspective. So probably what they are doing in this case is ultimately they may concede on that particular issue, but they want to make sure that that is where it stops.
ALLISON ST. JOHN: So now, just to bring this debate back to San Diego woman we have a clip from our interview that our producer Melissa Cabrera did recently with elected San Diego Republican (inaudible) member Marie Waldron of Escondido and here Waldron is talking about why women need guns.
NEW SPEAKER: As a mom I feel very strongly about the safety of our kids and it plays and with this issue very much because we want to keep our kids safe, and as a mom, you know we feel vulnerable especially as women. There is a statistic out there and it comes from the Stanford Law Review, that as many as 200,000 women use a gun every year to defend themselves against sexual abuse.
ALLISON ST. JOHN: Well, that is an interesting statistic, 200,000 women a year. That is a big figure. Is there any evidence that the women in those cases came out the winner? And those altercations? I mean, you know, I think there are some other studies hear from Harvard that show that women in states with more cuts are more likely to die either by unintentional gun deaths, suicides or homicides. So, how would you characterize her argument there that 200,000 women have defended themselves against sexual abuse?
RONNEE SCHREIBER: Being a social scientist I would like to see how the study was conducted and how accurate it was, what the context was. As you say, you said a Harvard study, there are other studies that show when there are guns in the home for example they are more likely to be used against women in domestic violence situations, and therefore women in households with guns are not safer because of that. So I think there's countervailing evidence to what she said and of course it's interesting typically be played she started off by saying as a mom, so we are here again, women making the argument about protecting their children and so on and of course it's not unrelated to some extent as to what happened in San Diego put all these babies basically been killed. But it is a way for women to gain legitimacy and effectiveness by talking about their perspective from other.
ALLISON ST. JOHN: And of course each side squats the statistic that support their arguments, soWith all the sort of mommy wars, I think the role of mom is very powerful and as we have more women in Congress it is becoming more powerful. But do you think women have the power to determine the outcome of this debate?
RONNEE SCHREIBER: I certainly think they could have a very strong role in it because I think you are right that invoking motherhood is very powerful. And so if you have women testifying in speaking about beating being either afraid for themselves or their children, wanting to protect their families either from having guns at home or with having guns in the home depending on how they talk about the issue I think that's something that resonates with a lot of people.
ALLISON ST. JOHN: To know there's any evidence or record system becomes a registered to women as opposed to men?
RONNEE SCHREIBER: I don't know that it would be an interesting statistic.
ALLISON ST. JOHN: It would be because I would be surprised if in fact many goods are purchased by minute left in the household and it makes a man feel safer. I wonder how many women feel safer when they have a gun in the house.
RONNEE SCHREIBER: It's a good point. You mentioned earlier the beginning of the interview about statistics from the pew research Center and I probably looked at the same study, but in all cases having to do with any kind of restriction or bans on various kinds of gun access, gun safety or gun control, women always favorite much more than men do.
ALLISON ST. JOHN: I'm interested, 888-895-5727 about whether their arguments in homes, not arguments, but even the whole discussion about guns in the home, whether there are discussions about men and women about the wisdom of having guns in the home and whether, you know them and are buying them in hopes that women are using them, but would they. From your research what I think is so interesting is that we now have some women coming up with strong arguments against which you might traditionally imagine, woman would argue with guns coming from a completely different place, isn't it?
RONNEE SCHREIBER: Absolutely. I think that is something that feminist organizations need to take heed and recognize there is a competing to make going on and obviously they do. They recognize that. And I think what, to me what I was taken by by the hearing in front of the senate judiciary committee was the only person speaking again explicitly as a woman was a conservative woman. So I don't know why they didn't get a more liberal or feminist woman to kind of present a different argument. I'm not sure. One never knows how that happens in terms of the staff getting people to testify and so on but I was taken by the fact that that was missing in that debate.
ALLISON ST. JOHN: I can see how some woman might feel it's safer if the child school has an armed guard there, but if anyone is going to argue for the de-escalation of the arms race in this country. You might imagine it would be women. How do you feel about the women's role in looking at this suggestion which I think has come from the conservative side that it would actually be safer to have every school have an armed guard?
RONNEE SCHREIBER: Well, the pew study that I cited before actually has a question to do with whether or not they support more teachers and officials with guns in school and demand support that 47% of the time, women supported 32% of the time, so from a statistical or public opinion point of view women are not as in favor of it relevant to men but there are still 32% of them that do. I would think that women in general would be less supportive of it because it would be frightening to children I think to show up to school and see armed guards there. I'm and mom, I'm going to invoke the mom thing I think my younger daughter would freak out and would freak out if she showed up at school and saw an armed guard in front of the school and she would want to know why and I think it would create an atmosphere of fear.
ALLISON ST. JOHN: When you see that side you think people in the women's movement need to pay more attention to the upwelling of conservative women support of gun rights as opposed to responsible gun control, how do you think that they need to be taking it on as an argument?
RONNEE SCHREIBER: Well, I think they need to talk about the statistics first of all, so they need to, and I think this has been done at least by some journalists. Ruth Marcus have a response to kill Trotter in the Washington Post the other day basically saying that some of the studies that she presented or the data she presented was not accurate so first is to present the data if it is available, the actual accuracy by which comes protect or do not protect women. The other is to talk about women safety, gun safety that is basically the language that the feminist groups have been using.
ALLISON ST. JOHN: We have just time to take one caller on line two, thanks so much for calling midday.
NEW SPEAKER: I want to make a quick comment basically is when I hear these discussions it seems like from the right, they tend to get the focus like somebody is trying to take guns away and in reality all this is is trying to tighten up rules about who can buy guns and who can't. It's really all the discussion talking about taking guns away except with the exception of assault rifles which you can agree or disagree with, but for the most part nobody's talking but anybody's right to keep or pay her rent arms, and they are talking about who and what you have to go through to get it, to get a drivers license you have to take lessons, and go through the thing at the DMV, but you can go to a gun shop and buy a gun so the main thing is who gets to buy them and what you have to go through to get them and that is really in reality what the argument is.
ALLISON ST. JOHN: Thank you so much for the call, so in essence what Gayle Trotter is arguing is that we as a woman should not be restricted under the Second Amendment at all, we should be free to go out and buy assault weapons if we want to.
RONNEE SCHREIBER: Right, I mean she is obviously are doing the extreme position here again probably recognizing that perspective is not going to win. I think the color is red that the actual legislation being proposed is pretty minor in terms of restrictions. But, what you see obviously is political posturing and a slippery slope that one restriction can lead to another.
ALLISON ST. JOHN: We have to come to an end hopefully we've stimulated ideas for people to talk about over the kitchen table at home Ronnee Schreiber and like to thank you so much for coming in
RONNEE SCHREIBER: Great, thanks for having me.