A SYTYCB Entry
Until this week, it would never have crossed my mind that the words “legitimate” and “rape” could be combined into one neat little psychotic statement. Silly me! I should have known better. After all, we’re living in a country where politicians are trying to take away women’s access to basic health care on a daily basis, so why wouldn’t we have a politician who would actually make a statement like this:
“It seems to me, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare,” Mr. Akin said of pregnancies from rape. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something: I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be of the rapist, and not attacking the child.”
Thank you, Representative Todd Akin! You have just solved a huge debate in this country! Now that we all know that “The female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down”—you know, “that whole thing,” AKA conception—we can just shut down this whole war on women thing. Because if only all of us silly women had understood the magical powers of the female body, we wouldn’t be worried about unplanned pregnancy in the first place! Who needs birth control now that we know this: Just close your eyes during sex, and turn off the pregnancy switch.
BAM! Problem solved!
Oh, wait. It doesn’t work that way. (Luckily, Mother Jones has a handy flowchart, “Can I Get Pregnant?” that might be of help if you’re feeling a little confused.)
Of course, Akin backpedaled rapidly, stating shortly after, “In reviewing my off-the-cuff remarks, it’s clear that I misspoke in this interview, and it does not reflect the deep empathy I hold for the thousands of women who are raped and abused every year.”
Deep empathy, my ass. Rep. Akin’s understanding of what “empathy” entails seems pretty on par with his understanding of how conception works.
Personally, I’m already exhausted with this new line of craziness. With men like Paul Ryan running as a VP candidate, and Texas courts trying to strip Planned Parenthood of all funding, it’s gotten to the point where I just want to close my eyes and start screaming.
I wish I’d never read the words legitimate rape. But what I wish even more?
I wish I could live without being scared about the possibility of being raped (and you can throw whatever adjective you want in front of it, but it still ends with RAPE). I wish I could live without being scared that, after something so horrific and life-altering happened to me, that some politician might tell me whether or not he deems my experience “legitimate,” based on his personal (mis)understanding of what defines rape.
Is it any wonder why so many rape victims remain silent?
So while we might be exhausted by such ridiculous rhetoric, and want to brush it off, we can’t. We cannot stay silent. As Rebecca Solnit so aptly put it in her timely essay about women being crushed into silence:
Most women fight wars on two fronts, one for whatever the putative topic is and one simply for the right to speak, to have ideas, to be acknowledged to be in possession of facts and truths, to have value, to be a human being. Things have certainly gotten better, but this war won’t end in my lifetime. I’m still fighting it, for myself certainly, but also for all those younger women who have something to say, in the hope that they will get to say it.
Todd Akin might have admitted that he “misspoke” with his statement about rape. But lucky for him—because he is a man in a world where women must fight for control over our bodies and our basic human rights—he wasn’t scared into silence before he opened his mouth.