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.

8 comments:

  1. I have not done great at setting a civil tone on your Facebook. I apologize for that. I'll try to articulate my feelings here in a civil way and simply ask others to do the same. This blog hurts. I feel like I'm holding one thing in each hand that are precious to me. On one hand I really do have deep convictions about the unborn. I've examined the life debate and until someone can scientifically prove to me when the soul enters the body I have no choice but to default to conception. Therefore I see the termination of a pregnancy as sin. On the other hand I have deep convictions about the abuse of women. In my first three years counseling I've been pretty amazed at how much sexual abuse exists in the past of so many women. Then I have to go home and look at my wife and my daughter with fear in my heart and an overwhelming desire to protect them. I would say may deepest concern for the future is a daughter growing up in such a sexualized culture. Nothing in my counseling office has stirred my heart more with deep heartache and righteous anger than dealing with the sexual abuse of women. If I had to keep score I would say I have done more to help the victims of abuse and to help men fight their perversion than I have in the fight to decrease abortions. I wish I could say I had done more for the unborn. What this blog says to me is that I have to drop one of these issues, I can't both love women and love the unborn. Do you really think if all Planned Parenthood was about is "providing health services like breast exams, contraceptives, and cervical cancer screening to millions of women each year?" Do you really think I would want them shut down? Do you really think Paul Ryan is smoking cigars in a Republican "War on Women Room" then going home kissing his daughters goodnight with an evil sinister grin. Call me crazy for where I draw the line on life. I can deal with that. Say that when I support pro life agendas that I am inadvertently hurting women. I can even deal with that. But please don't paint me as cold and callused towards women. It is simply not true and it moves the argument no where. Is there legislation tied to protecting women from abuse that isn't tied up in abortion because I would love to hear more about that? I would be glad to write my Senator and engage in that fight at a political level.

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  2. One women's issue that has been eating me up lately is human trafficking. My wife and I are sponsoring a documentary viewing at church tonight on the issue. It's Called Nefarious: Merchant of Souls. I know with your political connections you probably know more about what is going on on capital hill about this issue. Again, I'd love to know more about what I can do concerning that issue.

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  3. Thanks for your post. I know there is quite a bit going on to fight human trafficking at a state level right now. I'm not sure about it nationally. Representatives Greg Leding (D) and Representative David Meeks (R) are two state Legislators who have taken a lead on the issue. There was recently a summit discussing it and what could be done locally, I don't know much about it, but I think it will probably come up in the 2013 legislative session. Polaris Project (polarisproject.org) is something Rep. Leding tweets about a lot when the subject is mentioned.

    I appreciate the work you've done with abuse victims, and I appreciate how difficult this issue is to deal with, period. I think you, and anyone can care about both the life of the unborn and women... I just don't know if there are absolutes. I don't think anyone, Republican or Democrat, DOESN'T care about the unborn. We all struggle, but again, I just don't know if there are absolutes.

    I don't think there are Republicans sitting around smoking cigars looking for ways to stick it to women, but with their policies, the result seems like they are sometimes. I think they are utterly tone deaf and clueless when it comes to women. On Planned Parenthood, 97% of what they do is provide preventive health services to women who can't afford to get them elsewhere. NINETY SEVEN PERCENT. Why defund them over 3% of what they do? That's like shutting the church down because some people who have gone there have had bad experiences. You do a cost benefit analysis and see that they do way more good than "bad" and you keep them open and funded!

    I think a big part of this comes down to the fact that I am never going to argue with you over what a prostate exam feels like. It would be pointless. If I were a legislator, I would feel very hesitate to legislate an issue that were primarily a men's issue. However, I see no hesitation from men to legislate anything about women, be it how to define when they are raped, when they can have contraception, health screenings, or childbearing. There are things women should just be free to decide for themselves.

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  4. "I just don't know if there are absolutes. I don't think anyone, Republican or Democrat, DOESN'T care about the unborn. We all struggle, but again, I just don't know if there are absolutes."

    But see, I'm not sure there are republicans or democrats that DON"T care about rape victims. Though Akin said something really stupid and not backed up by science I think he cares about rape victims. I don't know anything about the guy beyond those three dumb sentences but I assume he does have a soul. There is a big difference between being wrong and being evil.

    "I think a big part of this comes down to the fact that I am never going to argue with you over what a prostate exam feels like."

    Ok. But surely you can see the difference here. I believe the womb contains a human life that has rights. My prostate does not contain life. At least I hope not, that would be pretty gross.

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  5. LOL. I hope your prostate doesn't contain a soul too. BUT, if it did, I still wouldn't feel right legislating what you did with it. God would have put you in charge of that, and rightly or wrongly, you would be the one who could make decisions about it.

    Maybe all Republicans do care about rape victims. Surely they do. But evidently not enough. Or some of them really are that dumb and tone deaf about women and victims of abuse.

    I get that you believe the womb contains a human life with rights. But, rightly or wrongly, for whatever reason, God gave that womb to a woman, not a man. It is up to that woman, and her alone, to decide what happens to that womb in her body.

    Again, it comes down to the difference in being a man and a woman. You can't imagine what it would be like to have someone tell you what you have to do with your body. I can. I have had friends go through sexual abuse and I have tried to put myself in their shoes. I have had a friend get pregnant too soon and I have thought about the choices she faced. As a man, you will never have the specter of sexual abuse or even pregnancy affect you the same way it will a woman. Men and women just can't have this conversation on equal footing. We can talk around each other all day, but I will never, ever make you understand what it's like to hear you (or any other man) talk to me about what you think should and should not happen to my body if someone rapes me.

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  6. Hear, hear! What women are expected to put up with is appalling. It's unacceptable. I hope we will all use our power by showing up to vote and telling people who are attacking our rights that it's not okay.

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  7. Yes, Diana! I agree. It's hard to believe that so many things that should be settled rights of women are under attack in 2012. Remember in November should be women's battle cry right now.

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  8. Amen, sister!

    ~ a multiple sexual abuse survivor.

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