Thursday, August 23, 2012

About this Akin thing....

Tonight I am going to veer sharply to the left and talk about politics instead of migraines. This whole Todd Akin, the Senate candidate from Missouri who used the term "legitimate rape" thing, has got me pretty riled up. It's not just the Akin thing. It's all the reactions to it. It's that Paul Ryan, who has the possibility of becoming our next Vice President, co-sponsored a bill with the guy that used the term "forcible rape", and that Mike Huckabee said extraordinary people come from rape--as if getting pregnant by a rapist is OK because your child will be extraordinary. It's the utter tone deafness of men, especially conservative men, it seems, on this issue.

Here's my take on it. A man can never understand what it's like to be a woman. Should go without saying, right? Well, it seems it needs to be said. Girls are taught from an early age to be protective of themselves, that there is evil in the world, and that our sexuality is something we must guard. We are aware that we are the physically weaker sex, and that we must take precautions because of it. We don't go out late at night, we park in lighted areas, some women carry mace or even a taser or gun, and we keep our doors locked. We do all of this because we intrinsically know that as women, we are more at risk than our male counterparts.

I bet I don't know a single woman who hasn't at some point in her life felt threatened by a man. The first time I can remember feeling endangered sexually by a man I was 12 years-old, volunteering in a nursing home. It was my last day there, and my best friend who was usually there with me couldn't come that day. The janitor, who had always been very friendly and kind to both of us, hugged me extra close when I told him it was my last day and said "I would love to take you into this closet (gesturing to the janitor's closet) and do things to you." I immediately knew what he meant, and it wasn't that he'd like to take me and give me candy. Then someone walked around the corner and I scurried away as quickly as I could. I hid in the bathroom the rest of the day. I don't think I have ever told anyone about it except my best friend back then and more recently my husband until writing about it now. I didn't tell anyone that day because I thought somehow I would get in trouble. I guess that's how 12 year-olds think. Now I wonder what that janitor did to other volunteers or the residents at the nursing home, even.

Since then, I have been followed in Wal-mart and had to be escorted out of the store only to find the man that followed me waiting outside, presumably on me. Just last week a gas station attendant looked me up and down and stared at my chest as he told me he "loved my outfit." Eeewwww. I was glad he wasn't getting off duty as I was leaving the gas station, because he definitely gave me the creeps.

These are just a few examples of things that have happened to me. There are other stories like these, and I'm not alone. This is how women are treated. We get nervous when we are alone and hear footsteps behind us. We get nervous when we are home alone and the doorbell rings unexpectedly. And I'm one of the brave ones who basically thinks nothing bad will ever really happen to me. I have friends who won't even spend the night at home alone or drive to the next town by themselves at night. My parents would prefer if I weren't so brave.

Men never think twice about doing these things. Men never feel at risk sexually, much less worry what would happen if somehow they were raped and then actually got pregnant, right? Every rape scene in every movie makes women think how unspeakable that would be if that happened to me. I would bet a man watches a rape scene and never thinks, wow, that could happen to me. Here's the kicker, let's say it did happen to a man, he doesn't have to worry about being pregnant. Nope. Never crosses his mind. It's impossible. He doesn't have to anxiously wait to find out if his period will come or go buy a pregnancy test and experience the trauma of knowing that he STILL has a piece of that rapist, that person who did something so vile, inside him. Women have these worries. Most women, at some point, have imagined how horrible this would be.

It also goes without saying that women SHOULD NOT have to worry about these things. It's a sad world. Another thing a woman shouldn't have to worry about is whether someone, usually a man, in Washington, DC or her state's capital is going to tell her what she has to do if she were to go through this horrible experience. She shouldn't have to worry about whether her rape meets the definition of rape that Todd Akin or Paul Ryan or any other Congressman decided to put in some piece of legislation before she can get medical services. President Obama said it best when he said "Rape is rape." There aren't degrees of rape. You can't be a little bit raped, or only minorly raped, or unforcibly raped, or legitimately or illegitimately raped. You are raped, period. In that situation, at the very least, after a man has taken away your rights over your own body in a horrible way once already, the least that can happen is your government not take away your rights to your body too.

The Republican Party doesn't seem to get this. Women just don't seem to matter much in the Republican Party. Personhood Amendments, Transvaginal ultrasounds, defunding Planned Parenthood, doesn't matter how it affects women--they'll go for it. Personhood Amendment bans contraception and in vitro fertilization? Sure thing. Republicans are cool with that. Transvaginal Ultrasounds are horribly invasive and unnecessary tests? No matter. Republicans want that too. Planned Parenthood provides health services like breast exams, contraceptives, and cervical cancer screening to millions of women each year? Screw'em, they say. Republicans will defund it anyway!

What's my point? I don't know. I've rambled. My point I guess is that Women Matter. We are informed by our life experiences, we are smart about our own bodies, we can make our own choices. We don't need men (or other women) in government telling us what to do with our bodies, period. Let's be pro-women and pro-common sense. Let's keep government where it belongs--out of our doctor's offices--and let's tell men like Todd Akin and Paul Ryan to shove their definitions of rape up their collective asses.