Why we can’t write off Todd “Misspoke” Akin as a lunatic exception


By know, we’ve all cried/become devout existentialists/had our eyeballs pop out of our sockets a la Tex Avery cartoon heard about Todd Akin and his much deserved politico-rebuke storm. So, there’s a real candidate out there who believes “science” equates with unicorn-like feminine wiles, and that “legitimate rape” contains two words conceivably arranged next to each other. Politicians on both sides have been swift to castigate. Which makes it tempting to believe that regardless of politics, we’re all human beings on the same side here, and we can write this off to “Another Ridiculous GOP Thing said by Ridiculous GOP White Guy.” (A file that’s blossomed quite robustly this year!)

Unfortunately, we can’t.

Don’t let semantics fool you, for the underbelly of these issues has been swirling around all year (hell, hundreds of years). The very politicians who are now distancing themselves from Akin uphold the underpinnings of his beliefs. When Akin “misspoke”, he ostensibly meant to say “forcible rape” in lieu of “legitimate rape.” Who could forget in medieval recent history that over 150 Republicans tried to alter the Hyde Amendment to redefine rape in these terms? No wonder Akin’s confused why everyone’s all huffy about “ONE word.” (Errr, one word, and one Seussical understanding of biology. All in good folly!) The GOP has been politically harmonious with Akin in regards to the push for abortion restrictions. See: Paul Ryan, others.

Look, I genuinely don’t believe that most of the anti-abortion politicians believe in Immaculate Misconception the way this dolt does. But it’s undeniable that they share the same flawed and downright dangerous understanding of rape.

These are the people who believe in dicing rape into little groups, sanctioning a framework in which women are forced to qualify their rapes. And even beyond the legal issues of women’s autonomy, these common GOP sentiments offer an unjustly hopeless outlook for survivors. What they’re really saying is that we can tell when it’s a “legit freal frealsies” rape, since victims are always mentally and physically incapacitated at the hands of their tragedy. This perspective presents victims with neither a vision of hope for recovery, nor a voice to relay their own experiences. If she is able to find healing, the rape wasn’t real. If her life does not sink into total disrepair, the legitimacy of her rape is called into question.

This logic is so divorced from reality, and opens up a nightmarish floodgate of assumptions. Just look at this sickeningly loaded footnote in response to Akin:

* To a degree, Akin is being slammed unfairly for an unfortunate choice of words. His term “legitimate rape” is being twisted by some into a suggestion that some forms of rape are OK, and that’s clearly not what he meant. He was trying to draw a distinction between rape and cases in which women might claim to have been raped in order to qualify for an abortion. Of course, that attempted distinction creates problems of its own, largely because it suggests that only the most brutal form of rape — inflicted at gunpoint or after a physical beating — constitutes “real” rape.

“The girl who cried rape!” is now a remotely valid defense for Akin? This perpetuates the most surreptitious beliefs that manage to seep their way into our policies. You know how it goes: perhaps significant portions of “victims” are just ruthless liars suffering from post-intercourse regret. Perhaps the rape wasn’t brutal, stranger-popping-out-of-a-bush-to-attack-religious-white-virgin enough for it to be, in layman’s terms, “legit”. Let alone worthy of abortion! The GOP may not believe in Akin’s version of science, but they support the same groundwork.

What I want to say to Akin, but more so those who dissociate from his “controversial wording” yet align themselves with all the relevant policies: Marinate on why over half of rapes are not reported. And instead of focusing on that rascally group of women who lie about their rapes, how about addressing why only 3% of rapists ever face a day in jail?

Or, at the very least, if you don’t want us to get abortions, stop stymieing access to our birth control and emergency contraception.

Oh, and sorry if I misspoke and came off way too legit and yadda yadda!

Disclaimer: This post was written by a Feministing Community user and does not necessarily reflect the views of any Feministing columnist, editor, or executive director.

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