Suffragette City 11


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She said he put something in her drink. That she said no. That they were dating, though, so it was her fault. When she told her parents, they shamed her for losing her virginity.

She was walking home from a night class. He followed her, attacked her on campus. She never reported it. It was her fault, you see, because she was a female, walking alone at night.

He said she had a short skirt on, and she was drunk. What was he supposed to do? He never heard her say no. He said she owed him.

Shall I go on? Or do we know enough of these stories by now that we can agree rape is not about sex and no one ever, ever, ever asks for or deserves to be raped.

Apparently, we’re not there yet.

This is the week that America learned about “legitimate rape” from a graduate of high school and college, a member of the House Science, Space and Technology committee. Apparently, according to Rep. Todd Akin, whose “science” is not my science, women have super-powered ladybits that can determine whether she’s being raped and whether to allow herself to get pregnant.

Trying to give the benefit of the doubt, I still can’t find a reasonable version of what he may have meant, either with the “legitimate rape” or the faulty science. Even his party leaders rushed to distance themselves from his remarks.

I think Rep. Akin did not misspeak; I think his remarks are indicative of a culture that likes to explain away the distasteful with with alternate realities. In claiming that women can prevent pregnancy during rape by “shutting down” or failing to “secrete” certain chemicals, he puts more onus on the victim than has already been heaved on her brutalized shoulders:

Not only is it your fault you got raped, but it’s your fault you didn’t prevent a rape pregnancy.

The truly troubling part to me is that there are women in America who believe these convenient and cobbled together theories from the “guidance” of “well-meaning” leaders. When I heard this man’s idiotic statements—call a spade a spade—I wondered how my friends who are rape survivors would respond. Did they hear the implied condemnation in his words? I did.

There are plenty of women who do not think there is a war on women. And that’s fine. Everyone’s entitled to her opinion or ideas. It is hard for me, however, to hear this kind of dialogue and not see that this is one more way the female body is imprisoned by politicians as bargaining chips.

In 1920, American women were granted the right to vote. Our leaders had finally decided we weren’t so soft of brain that we could maybe handle the responsibility of using our own agency to make a decision about whom should lead us. I never wanted to be a one issue voter, and I don’t this I am. I think the war on women is about power, authority, and knowledge. Just like rape isn’t about sex.