Don’t let Republicans run away from their ugly words about rape, and their disregard for women’s rights
“A gaffe is when a politician tells the truth – some obvious truth he isn’t supposed to say.” –Michael Kinsley
This week is all about gaffes coming from the mouths of Republican men who are embarrassing themselves when they admit just how much they want to control women’s lives, and judge–and punish!–our sexuality. Many of these men are later trying to run away from their words, saying they misspoke, but in reality their “gaffes” are indeed revealing remarks that highlight their deeply-held misogynist and sexist views.
Case #1, Missouri Congressman Todd Akin, candidate for US Senate, who coined the regrettable term “legitimate rape” and said that “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” Later Akin said he meant to say “forcible rape” instead–but that is also a deeply offensive concept, trying to narrow down the definition of rape and presumably define who are the most “blameless” victims.
[Read Michelle Goldberg's article, Todd Akin’s Rape Comment Was Bad, but His Abortion Views Are Much Worse.]
Imagine how awful it would be to not only experience sexual assault, but then made to feel that your rape wasn’t real rape because you knew your attacker, or were under the influence of a substance, or a myriad of other reasons. These distinctions are not helpful to anyone. As President Obama said, “rape is rape.”
Dante Atkins had an excellent article on the Daily Kos, Why It’s So Important for Rape to be ‘Legitimate.’ Atkins reminds us of some of the outrageous things that conservatives have said about rape. I apologize in advance for posting such awful language and offensive ideas, but this is important to face–this is what some elected officials are thinking when they write laws.
South Dakota Sen. Bill Napoli said in 2006:
“A real-life description to me would be a rape victim, brutally raped, savaged,” he said. “The girl was a virgin. She was religious. She planned on saving her virginity until she was married. She was brutalized and raped, sodomized as bad as you can possibly make it, and is impregnated. I mean, that girl could be so messed up, physically and psychologically, that carrying that child could very well threaten her life.”
Do you want someone who thinks like this determining your health care, rights, and future? It is truly scary. And, this thinking is consistent with the core policies of the Republican party, including the platform that is being promoted this week in Tampa at the GOP Convention.
If Republicans get their way, passing a Constitutional Amendment that abolishes abortion, then maybe a small sliver of “absolutely blameless” rape victims would be allowed to terminate their pregnancies. All other rape victims would be denied that right, along with any other woman who has a good reason to need to terminate a pregnancy–an important life decision that should be made by a woman and her doctor.
Think this is out of the mainstream? Vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan co-sponsored a “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” that referred to “forcible rape” and incest rather than rape in general. Now, Paul Ryan says he supported removing the term “forcible rape” from his bill banning taxpayer funding for abortions, claiming it was included only as “stock language” and not to limit the definition of rape.
“Forcible rape” as “stock language.” I don’t believe it for a second. Even if that were true it’s incredibly disturbing–trying to pass a substantially restricted definition of rape without even intending to? Also bad.
But wait, there’s more….in the process of trying to distance himself from Todd Akin’s comments, Republican U. S.Senate candidate Tom Smith (PA) compared a pregnancy from rape to a pregnancy out of wedlock. Smith later tried to back down from the comments, which was undoubtedly hard since he had probably just told us what he really believed the first time. Indeed, even his backing down was ambivalent; “No, no, no,” Smith said, before seeming to qualify his defense: “Put yourself in a father’s position,” he said. “Yes, I mean it is similar.”
And finally, when Paul Ryan was interviewed about Todd Akin’s comments, even though Ryan asked Akin to step aside and quit the race, Ryan defended his anti-abortion stance and referred to rape as a “method of conception” that he did not want to distinguish from any other.
Republicans can try to run from their words. They can send in a woman, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, to say that it is “offensive” to say that the Democrats are the better party for women. The GOP can try to gaslight us all they want. But it’s very clear that the Republicans are telling us exactly how they feel about women.
The question remains, are we listening, and ready to vote this November to shut their whole thing down?