Just today, I saw a statement online that tried to downplay the outrage that has come from the statements of Rep. Akin on “legitimate” rape by comparing this to a “real” problem – that of President Obama’s latest statement about a “red line” with Syria. That, the statement I read online said, was a real problem. A call to arms. A threat of war. In other words, a manly problem. Who cares about women’s rights when we are talking about yet another war?!
It is easy to discount the importance of women. Apparently. After all, it has been going on for at least as long as we have history, in every culture, in every time, the whole world over. But, in our modern age, with all of our advancements in political regimes, science, technology, and ideas, how can we still fail to see the interconnectedness of war and the way that we treat women?
On war, Virginia Woolf once said, “[A]s a woman, I have no country. As a woman, I want no country. As a woman, my country is the whole world.” On the importance of women in the world, Hillary Rodham Clinton famously said, “Women’s rights are human rights.”
However, the truth is, neither of these statements goes without saying, even today, and yet, these ideas are utterly intertwined. Of late, a lot has been said about the GOP waging a “War on Women.” They have retorted that no such war exists. They couldn’t be more wrong, however, because there is a war on women, just as there always has been. The world over, women are stoned for suspicion of extramarital affairs, forced to wed their rapists, jailed for political songs, and, here at home, underpaid, denied medical care, denied child care, and stripped evermore of the autonomy over their own bodies. I know that this may not be the war that men so crave, but it is war, nonetheless. Yes, this, too, is war.
It is the war that each woman fights everyday, whether she is aware of it or not. It is the war she fights when her male colleagues talk about the length of her skirts in the break room. It is the war she fights when she is dragged from her home and forced to abort a wanted child in order to comply with a governmental regulation. It is the war she fights when she is violated bodily with a weapon while her children are killed in front of her. There is no doubt that some of those things are far, far worse than others of them, but if we fail to recognize that they all come from the same place, we perpetuate the problem.
These acts occur because there is a war on women, just as there always has been. Women are less than human, each and everyday, and the worst part is that we pretend it isn’t happening. Or, at least, we pretend it isn’t happening here. I do not want to live in a place where my children are ripped from me, where I am forced to witness violence everyday. But, that comes from the same place that telling women what constitutes legitimate rape and when, how, and if she can become a parent comes from, as well. All of these come from a place of disregarding women’s value, dehumanizing them.
Though the political right is guilty of this, they are far from alone. The truth of the matter is that no major political party has done right by women. It must not be ignored that misogyny knows no political, economic, or religious bounds. It comes from everywhere and is readily embraced by people (both men AND women) from all walks of life. Many on the left have been quick to defend Julian Assange or claim that the charges against him are simply politically motivated. I refuse to do that. The charges against Assange are that he had sex with someone while she was asleep and had unconsented to unprotected sex with another.
With all of this talk about what constitutes “legitimate” rape, you might be confused. Allow me to clarify. Both of these acts constitute rape in my book. As a survivor, I bet I am not alone in feeling incredibly uncomfortable with the idea that we would qualify what real rape is. The filmmaker, Michael Moore, was quick to distance what Assange is accused of doing with real rape. Of course. Because when someone agrees with us politically, we must allow them to rape and pillage freely. Obviously.
What total, utter, misogynistic crap! I don’t care what side you are fighting for. If you rape someone, you are not on my team. We obviously have very different priorities. In fact, I find it offensive on a political level, as well. The left is about the rights of the individual – personal freedom and autonomy – and few things fly more in the face of this principle than rape. End of story.
Women have been defending ourselves against a war for the length of human history. My mother’s generation thought they had seen the end of this, with the decision in Roe v. Wade and the rising numbers of women in college and high-powered careers. The last few years, it has become clear that this war is far from over, however. Ignoring war doesn’t make it go away. It will not go away until we are willing to admit that fighting is necessary. First and foremost, this means some due rage. I am as tired as the rest of you. The fighting is tedious, I know. But they won’t stop taking away our rights unless we demand that they stop. Demand it.