Point is, my weekend was off to a lovely start. And then, well, this happened.
... But then it just kept nagging at me.
Obviously Congressional Representative and Senate-hopeful Todd Akin has already backed away from these comments. He's done what politicians always do whenever they realize they've said something that pisses off everyone, and said he misspoke. On Mike Huckabee's radio show (Huckabee is a fan of his), Akin said:
"I made that statement in error. Let me be clear: rape is never legitimate; it's an evil act that's committed by violent predators. I used the wrong words in the wrong way. What I said was ill-conceived and it was wrong, and for that, I apologize."
Now, on most issues where "a politician says something stupid, then apologizes", this would be the part where I'd argue we should accept his probably-bullshit apology and move on, because fuck it, who cares? Politicians lie and manipulate facts and generally abuse information on a general basis all the friggin' time. It's their job, and I follow enough politics that I am very well versed in their manipulating techniques. As a normal thing, a politician saying something stupid then backing away from it never phases me. But this IS NOT a normal thing. RAPE IS NOT A POLITICAL ISSUE. I just... there's no other way to say that. This is not about politics. At all. And then the Congressman kept going on the Huckabee show. And this is the best place to start really getting into this:
"I was talking about forcible rape. It was absolutely the wrong word."
Okay. I'm going to explain this very slowly and precisely, because, while I know all my readers are attractive and intelligent people, I want to be absolutely sure that NO ONE can be confused about this. Representative Akin says he was talking about "forcible rape." So maybe he doesn't quite understand what the term "rape" refers to? You see, the word "rape" is the term used to describe unwanted sexual advances that are forced upon one person by another. All rape, by definition, is "forcible rape." This is about as basic an understanding of the term as exists.
So, okay, if Representative Akin meant "forcible" when he said "legitimate" (try not to think to hard about that line of logic, I know it makes no sense, but let's play along with him for a moment), and all rape is forcible, let's reexamine his initial statement from that video: “First of all, from what I understand from doctors, [pregnancy from rape] is really rare. If it’s a
Let's put aside empathy for a moment and stick to pure science fact. I understand that Todd Akin probably doesn't have to worry too much about getting pregnant, but this notion of "no pregnancy from being raped" is categorically false. Actually, it's worse than just normal-false, because the horrible evidence seems to suggest just the opposite: statistically speaking a child is more likely to be conceived through rape than through two consenting people who want a child.
Back in 1996, the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology did a study that found that in fertile women who were raped, 5% of the assaults resulted in pregnancy. Now that's pretty awful by itself, but how does that compare to, say, intentional sex for the purpose of procreating? Well, a study published in 2003 in Human Nature found that the chances of procreation were doubled in incidents of rape, compared to deliberate attempts to create a child. I don't like reprinting these numbers, because frankly, it makes me extremely uncomfortable to think about. But people need to understand just how WRONG Representative Akin's comments are. There's nothing excusable about them.
Hey, you want me to make matters even worse? Of course you do! Let's take a look at which members of Congress are on the Committee of Science, Space, and Technology. You know, Congress' "Science Division" committee. And what's this? Why, it's Congressmen Todd Akin, from Missouri's 2nd District! So, are we to infer that a member of the Congressional Science Team is confused about how rape, pregnancy, and sex actually work? I'll leave you to draw your own conclusions on that one.
No matter what, minor details like "science", "facts", and "reasonable common sense" all say that Representative Akin is completely wrong. Hell, he's said so himself, just ask him. He said something stupid, realized it, and promptly apologized- just check his new advertisement asking our forgiveness for him. He could still be a senator, you see! He doesn't really think rape is okay!
The thing is, I don't really believe him at all. I don't mean I think he's down with raping people- only truly horrid human beings think rape is a good thing, and seriously, a pox on all of those people. But I just don't think he understands what is so fundamentally horrible about his general outlook. Representative Akin doesn't seem to understand what all the fuss is really about, why all these people think rape is such a big deal. And he's hardly the only one.
Look at a variety of people who've come out in support of his bogus statements. Here's Iowa's Representative (and general crazy person) Steve King, suggesting he'd never heard of a girl getting pregnant from statutory rape or incest:
REPORTER: You support the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act that would provide federal funding for abortions to a person that has been forcefully raped. But what if someone isn’t forcibly raped and for example, a 12-year-old who gets pregnant? Should she have to bring this baby to term?
KING: Well I just haven’t heard of that being a circumstance that’s been brought to me in any personal way and I’d be open to hearing discussion about that subject matter.
Make no mistake, it was a "Gotcha!" question, but then he made it worse, by having a spokesperson clarify his comments with the following:
“What he was saying was, he personally does not know a girl who was raped. He never says, ‘I’ve never heard of that.’ There’s a fine line between ‘I’ve never heard of that’ and ‘I don’t know personally anybody who’s been raped. There’s a difference. There is a difference.”
THAT is BULLSHIT. Everyone knows someone who has been raped. Fucking. Everyone. A 2007 Department of Justice report has 18% of women in America admitting they've been the victim of sexual assault. What's more, the 2012 statistical report on Criminal Victimization, has over 188,000 rapes and sexual assault reports in 2010 alone. Remember, these are only what's reported, and many analyses believe the numbers are considerably higher.
Then there's Governor Mike Huckabee, who, as I said, is a friend of Todd Akin. Yesterday, he added to the fray:
"Ethel Waters, for example, was the result of a forcible rape. I used to work for James Robison back in the 1970s, he leads a large Christian organization. He, himself, was the result of a forcible rape. And so I know it happens, and yet even from those horrible, horrible tragedies of rape, which are inexcusable and indefensible, life has come and sometimes, you know, those people are able to do extraordinary things."
I am beyond being at a loss. This so completely misses the point- how is it that anyone can think this is a reasonable addition to the discussion? "Sure, rape is bad, but some babies born out of it aren't total monsters." WHAT? But his point isn't really supposed to be about rape (even though it is). He's talking about why he thinks women shouldn't abort rape-babies. Let's cut the crap; that is the real objective off all these dudes (you'll notice all of them are dudes) and their "knowing more about rape then women folk" bollocks.
In their precious zeal to make all abortion, no matter what, illegal, the GOP has decided they don't give two fucks about why a woman might dare consider terminating a pregnancy. That's it. It's that simple, no matter how they try to defend it. Once again, the Republican party is backing congressional bills to make all abortion, no matter the circumstance, illegal. That's from last night; the optics of the GOP women's-voter-gap be damned. It's gone beyond comical; a large percentage of congress- mainly Republicans, almost exclusively men- straight up don't really care about women's rights. You can't explain their actions in any other light.
It's not just men, of course, nor is it just the GOP, but it's certainly more prevalent with that group in particular. Abortion rights have always been complicated, but how is it possible that, in 2012, people have been having actual debates about insurance companies paying for birth control pills? How can a Congressman go a national television, talk about rape like it's no big deal, and then act surprised when the entire country freaks out at him? How did we get to here?
There's a total lack of empathy here. It's not that these people don't care about women or women's rights, they just literally never think of them. Not as people, anyway. They here phrases like "the female demographic" and picture concepts, not people. They argue that things like male privilege and rape culture don't really exist, because, after all, there was the feminism movement in the 70's and such. That took care of all women's rights issues forever, right? But- and I know I'm going to blow people's minds here- that is not how real life works.
If you have any questions about why this stuff matters, go check out those last two links. No, seriously, go do it. All the other links I've posted are really just there for you to fact check me and to prove I'm not just making this shit up (Spoiler: I am not.). But those two are about fundamental parts of our culture that we, as a society, don't like to talk about. Hell, we don't like to even acknowledge those things exist. But they do. It's an uncomfortable truth about who we, as a people, are. All the bullshit political comments above? They're a part of it. It's not about just abortion, it's not about joust about freedom, it's about basic human dignity for everyone, and how that flat-out does not exist yet. And I, for one, wish it would change.
I'm not gonna lie, these people make me really, really angry. To the point where I'm not sure I can keep writing much more coherently about them. But please, if I leave you with only one thought, it's this: Don't just let people off with a slap on the wrist when they say shit like this. Whether they're politicians, your neighbors, your own family- it doesn't matter who. Rape isn't a feminist issue, or a pro-choice issue, or even a women's issue. It's a human issue, and every person on the planet should 100% be opposed to anything that marginalizes it.
And that's what you've done, Representative Akin, and all the people who have supported his comments. Marginalized rape. And I'm not going to sit here and pretend otherwise.