Tomorrow is my first day of classes with my new employer, and combined with a large amount of time well spent chatting with friends and loved ones on Tuesday night (technology is a poor but serviceable substitute for being near people you actually know) the intended Wednesday post did not get finished. You'll see that on Thursday, and it's one of those posts. Honestly I'm curious to see your reaction. Usually I don't give a shit.

I kid, I kid.

In its stead, Eve "Vagina Monologues" Ensler has what is hands-down the best response yet to Todd Akin, and I strongly encourage you to read it. I must confess that the long, overwrought personal gut-spill essay is not my favorite form of commentary on social and political issues, but given the nature of the Congressman's comments (and the author's ability to be effectively restrained and objective about a deeply scarring and personal issue) makes this incredibly effective. Read it.

I want you to close your eyes and imagine that you are on your bed or up against a wall or locked in a small suffocating space. Imagine being tied up there and imagine some aggressive, indifferent, insane stranger friend or relative ripping off your clothes and entering your body – the most personal, sacred, private part of your body – and violently, hatefully forcing themself into you so that you are ripped apart. Then imagine that stranger's sperm shooting into you and filling you and you can't get it out.

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It is growing something in you. Imagine you have no idea what that life will even consist of, spiritually made in hate, not knowing the mental or health background of the rapist.

Then imagine a person comes along, a person who has never had that experience of rape, and that person tells you, you have no choice but to keep that product of rape growing in you against your will and when it is born it has the face of your rapist, the face of the person who has essentially destroyed your being and you will have to look at the face every day of your life and you will be judged harshly if you cannot love that face.

Side note: In college I was participating in a workshop with numerous student organizations when the question, "How can feminism move forward?
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" was posed for our consideration. My best friend at the time, a lesbian of the Butch type who vocally led a women's group on campus, rose and said "We can start by admitting that 'The Vagina Monologues' kinda suck without feeling bad about it." I've not once heard the VM mentioned without thinking of this and chuckling on the inside.

You can see why we were friends.

21 thoughts on “AKIN CODA”

  • Middle Seaman says:

    Cannot be put any better or any stronger. In a lesser way the GOP is raping us all. The whole country. They toy with us while holding a gun to our heads or lower. Akin may have done us all a service if we follow Eve's emotional and intellectual rebellion.

  • Evokes the same sort of emotions as Jake Brigance's summation to the jury near the end of "A Time to Kill" in that it forces you to change your perspective from outside looking in to inside looking out.

    And this takes on the larger issue of exceptions to abortion bans, which a large faction of the GOP would like to eliminate: that the life of the fetus (regardless of the circumstances of its conception) supersede those of the woman carrying it.

    We should all thank Todd Akin for putting out there as bluntly as he did; no one can mistake the position of the GOP any longer. (Scott Brown's protestations notwithstanding) I was astonished that the party took this time to double down by declaring that they want a constitutional ban on abortions (with no exception language) as a plank in this year's platform. Idjits.

  • c u n d gulag says:

    You may not think that "VM" is great theatre, but you'd probably admit it's great polemics.
    Whether you agree with Ensler or not, it certainly makes its points.

    As for the Todd Akin situation, what makes me laugh is, not only how long it took that great 'profile in courage,' Mitt Romney, to get up and say anything definitive publicly (two days!), but how weak he and the whole GOP establishment look in telling Akin that he needs to step down – and instead, Akin tells them to kiss his baptized ass, and stays in.

    Akin represents the Evangelical Dominionist Christian wing of the Republican Party. These are the people who have been the ground troops in ALL elections since Goldwater put them down in 1964. At first, they concentrated mostly on local elections and building up a political base from the ground up, until Reagan opened-up this Pandora's Box, and welcomed them into national politics before his 1980 run for the Presidency.
    And they have virtually taken over the Republican Party in the last 30 years.
    Akin also represents the John Birch wing of the Teabaggers – the kind of people who think Ike was a Red.
    So, the GOP has as its base, the gamut of crazies running from religious to anti-Communist/Socialist.
    You own them, baby!
    Or, do they OWN YOU?

    In telling Akin to step down, the GOP is risking offending their base.

    But the felt they had to do it nationally, because he openly said what most of them believe – or at least say they believe, in order to get elected, and stay reelected – and they felt that if they're tied in with Akin's beliefs, it may do some real harm in the coming national election.
    You can't have people realize that the whole party thinks that women are chattel – the GOP's running for political domination, "for pete's sake!"

    And the whole GOP must think they're being coy, or that we're remarkably stupid (not a bad bet on their part). when on the ONE hand, they're denouncing Akin, and on the OTHER hand, trying to shield the co-sponsor of Akins' draconian anti-abortion bill – VP pick, Paul Ryan – and on the THIRD hand, for their Convention, are drafting their party's OFFICIAL policy platform on calling for a Constitutional ban on abortion that makes no exceptions for rape or incest. Which is virtually the same as the bill proposed by Akin and co-sponsored by Ryan.

    If they can sell this draconian misogynistic "Christian" agenda to a majority of the American people, they'll deserve to win.
    And this country will deserve it's decline into being a Dominionist Christian Fascist Banana Republic.
    Think, Haiti – but larger and drier.

  • @gulag:

    The mainline GOP begged Akin to drop out. (Not necessarily to their credit – as someone put it on NRO, he turned the focus back to women's issues at a time when the national Rs CANNOT afford that.) No one likes him but evangelicals who will show up to vote against Obama either way.

    Except for one person…

    McCaskill wants him to stay in and do more damage.

    Thanks for the Ensler link. Riveting prose from an unexpected source.

  • @Jacquie:

    With you. I DESPISE HuffPo, and I kind of resent it when they put up something that good.

    Can't they just stick to John Cusack's thoughts on Obama and let me not look at their ads in peace?

  • Sorry, but the right has its own complete set of anecdotal armor. There is a small army of white Christian ladies who were impregnated through rape and adore their babies.

    I don't know how to tell you this, but a smiling, simpleminded white girl who speaks English and thanks Jesus for her Little Blameless Miracle counts more, to these people, than the many thousands of women in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe who don't share her perspective. Right wing Christians believe that if those beleaguered women were Christian (or the Right Kind of Christian), that they would see things properly and not blame the baby.

    But a creature such as Akin can't repeat that old wives' tale about the mysterious self-protection of the Holy Lady Parts like an inexperienced child. He was around during the the wars in Yugoslavia and Rwanda, and he knows about rape with the goal of impregnation. He knows that it works, and he knows how. He's a liar and a hypocrite.

  • mel in oregon says:

    i've always thought only the women should decide on whether to carry a child or not. with rape or incest, the women has enough trouble without some loony white man telling her what to do based on a bunch of religious mumbo jumbo. what's strange about akin, ryan, romney, the tea party & conservatives in general is they are the primary foes of muslims & sharia law in general. but the fact is, there crackpot christian bullshit is far more a threat to american women than any outside the united states threat. i see no difference between them & hitler.

  • There has been quite the rape-alooza in the British media this week, as it digests Assange, Akin, and some quite incredible comments made about consent by agent provocateur and MP, George Galloway. Every columnist, just about, has bashed out 300 words on rape, and it's featured on all of the TV and radio news discussion programmes and call-in programmes. I've spent quite a lot of time reading a few wise and stirring pieces on rape that were written by men, and picking through a slew of victim-blaming rape apologia that failed to even acknowledge women as agentic human beings. I say all of this because I think my reaction to Eve Ensler's piece may be coloured by my current state of bone-deep weariness. I'm pretty raped out.

    I have huge admiration for Ensler, and the quality of her activism. I'll even give her a pass on the Vagina Monologues, because a) a random charity performance that I did a favour for meant that I met some of the best people ever, who are a huge part of my life twelve years later, and b) it's a kind of entry level lady-love-your-cunt for people who are never going to read Susan Brownmiller. After reading the comments from other survivors underneath her piece at HuffPo, I've even tempered my view that she doesn't entirely successfully navigate the wire-thin path between making it clear that rape is a big unpleasant deal, and giving people hope that having it happen to you doesn't mean your life is over.

    I'm actually furious, though, that this is how the conversation runs. That women are forced to open a vein in public, in an effort to be taken seriously. That women need to construct an argumentum ad misericordiam out of the painful details of their own lives, and the lives of other women, in an effort to wring the slightest acknowledgment that something awful, that happens to a quarter of all women, is real and worth spending a single morsel of political capital on.

    In my life, no one has interrupted me while I've been speaking at a conference, stuck their finger up my nose, and pulled me off the platform. I don't need to be the world's most imaginative person to know that would hurt my nose, and be both frightening and humiliating. In my life, no one has ever kidnapped me, or deprived me of food and water. I've never been homeless. It does not take much in the way of placing yourselves in someone else's shoes to get a sense of how any of those states might feel. How is it such a stretch of empathy for our lawmakers to understand that rape is scary, painful and unpleasant?

  • @ Elle: In answer to your (probably rhetorical, but fuck it, I'm answering it anyway) final question: Because it is far easier for them to sympathize with the rapist than with the victim.

    We need to start from a place of misogyny. Make no mistake, the modern GOP *is* misogynist in its values and stated goals. Women are pathetic, helpless sperm vessels at best, vicious castrating lesbian-whore harridans at worst. (And really, those are the only two categories–you're either a Stepford Wife, or a vagina dentata with legs.) And in either case, women are held in the utmost contempt. Simple minds think in terms of binaries, and love to align them: White is Good, Black is the opposite of White, so Black is Evil. Men are Good (because, hey, we're the ones compiling this list), so Women are Bad. Thus Rape is, frankly, not that bad–because A. she wants it, B. she has it coming, and C. who gives a shit what she thinks–she's a woman! And it's always easier to care about a non-person in the form of a fetus, because it's an abstract onto which we can project all that we love about ourselves, as opposed to that woman, with all her messy 'individuality' and 'difference.'

    A frightening number of men go through life evaluating the women they meet with "I'd fuck her," "I don't want to fuck her," "I really want to fuck her," and so on–and then base the amount of attention they give to the woman in question based on their self-answers. When you see women as an endless succession of "yes"es and "no"s, it becomes really easy to forget that *women* are the ones who *themselves* get to say "yes" and "no." So, rape? Do women really get to say "no"? No, no–that's for *us* to decide. And thus, we conceive of the idea of "legitimate rape," which is, I suppose, what happens when a woman sends the wrong signals and gets what doesn't want, but was stupid enough to ask for.*

    All of this is reductive and (sadly) common knowledge. But I think we forget what's so obvious when outrageous statements like Akin's burst onto the scene. But they don't come out of nowhere; they're the equivalent of turning up the volume on the soundtrack that's been playing all along, and which we overlook because of its familiarity.

    *Yes, I threw up in my mouth a few times writing this.

  • @J. Dryden

    That is grimmer than anything I've ever come up with, and I would self-identify as (mostly) rad fem.

    I mostly practice my feminism through the medium of femocracy, or through being involved in the governance of grassroots feminist organisations, which means that I deal with inequalities mostly in the aggregate and through the slight abstraction of policy.

    I think I've tended to conceptualise patriarchy as a system that remains oppressive principally through inertia, in that those with their hands on the levers of power are insufficiently persuaded to take steps to mitigate inequality, even if they're personally minded to do so. I've tended to slightly roll my eyes at that Germaine Greer idea that men as a class actually, viscerally hate women as a class, rather than just benefit from their subordination.

    I assume that social conservatism is inextricably bound in unexamined sexism. Watching men on the left blithely and publicly slutshame the women who claim Julian Assange raped them, and to set out frameworks for sexual relationships that suggest they're indifferent to rape if not actually rapists, has been truly shocking. I had assumed that we were all basically on the same team, differing on priorities and emphasis and analytical frameworks, but not on the issue of whether women are humans. I'm not a wide-eyed ingenue on the subject of sexual violence, but this past week feels like being slapped in the face with my own naivete.

  • No.

    I appreciate that raped women carrying unwanted pregnancies to term is the most obvious angle to take when you're making the argument for legal abortion. But this kind of rhetoric is disingenuous at best and incredibly misogynist and harmful at worst.

    Reproductive freedom isn't about who *deserves* an abortion the most. It's about deciding where we are comfortable drawing the line on viability, and allowing everyone to make their choices after that. If we argue that a raped woman shouldn't be forced to carry a fetus to term, we are by implication saying that women who chose to have intercourse *should* be forced to "live with the consequences" or whatever bullshit. Ditto a medical-necessity argument. Every time you carve out am exception, you are taking away rights from the people who don't fall under it.

    And beyond labeling the women, what about the fetuses? Why doesn't life begin at conception for a fetus created by rape, under this line of thinking? Why should certain fetuses be up for termination, just because their mothers are theoretically "blameless" in their conception?

    Fuck that. Rape is terrible. I also know that if I lived in a state that only had a rape exception and I had an unwanted pregnancy after consensual sex, you can bet I would say the conception was due to rape if I wanted to terminate the pregnancy. Reproductive rights are not something that have to be earned, and people like Eve Enaler spouting this kind of sensational hypothetical rhetoric are just making it easier for anti-choice activists to split hairs with us.

  • I entirely agree, Maren. I have more respect for anti-choice people who will brook no exceptions, because at least that's a consistent, if repugnant, position.

  • @ Elle: It is maybe, *maybe* possible that my experience last week serving as a juror on the trial of a defendant accused of 26 counts of child molestation (all young girls) *might* have skewed me a trifle towards the dark side of seeing things. Which isn't entirely fair to the big picture, I know. I certainly don't think that all men are like that (I like to think I'm not, though that's precisely the kind of self-excusing self-assessment that would earn someone swiftly ironic punishment on THE TWILIGHT ZONE, so I'd best be on my guard), only that certain strata of society encourage men to be like that. And that the contemporary GOP hits a lot of the hot zones. That much I stand by.

  • I have no respect for the principled ban-abortion-except-rape position, none at all. Like @Elle above, I have more respect for the ban-all-abortion position, and I actually even have more respect for the less-principled version of the except-rape position that sees this as a temporary concession, which they were pushed into by pro-choice activists, because at least the principle they're working towards *might* only be anti-woman in practice, rather than in intent. The thing that's so offensive about the rape exception is that it casts pregnancy as a punishment for women's immoral behaviour. Some supporters are more aware of that than others.

    But the pro-choicers who are pushing the rape exception as a wedge, those are the ones that should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves, because despite their own theoretically pro-woman stance, they are propagating this idea: as soon as you make the argument that it's worse to block abortion for a rape victim, because "she couldn't help it", you are unavoidably making the parallel argument that it's less bad to block abortion for any other woman, because it's _her fault_ she got pregnant. All of the comments about the psychological toll the pregnancy takes on the rape victim are *just* as applicable to any number of other situations where the sex itself was consensual but the relationship was abusive or otherwise nasty and ended early in the pregnancy… but those don't ever seem to come up in these discussions. That's because as soon as we start framing any part of the debate in terms of a rape exception, pregnancy turns into a very public (and expensive, and even slightly dangerous) form of slut-shaming.

  • i guess the idea that women should decide to have children or not is obsolete and not worthy of thought.

    the whole idea of others imposing their beliefs on me and others is what this means to me.

    that is what this is all about to me. if someone wants to have an abortion, fine, if they don't fine. just don't tell me or others to do what YOU want them or me to do.

    the whole fallacy of this being our right to LORD over other is what the abortion issue signifies.

    since we live in a christo fascist society, just like the "horror upon horror" islamofascist one i hear the Right wing wail and flail about every day for the last 30 years, i am so tired of the issue of " Do as i say".

    i just hope women are prepared to stay barefoot and pregnant if there is no ability to admit and defend that life is not just black and white, but myriad shades in between. God how i hate Religion and their stupid Gods.

    and i really do wish the Rigth wingers would move to Somalia. would be nice. i also have to admit that i live in Somalia today,aka, what used to be called the US of A. too many people have been killed by the Stupid/God Fearing Right for so long and it is really disgusting to pretend otherwise. own up to being slaves in the New World Order of the Right, once and for all.

  • @J. Dryden

    That sounds really rough, and I imagine involved seeing and hearing a lot of things that you would have preferred not to see and hear. I hope you're okay.

  • Whether ethical abortion is sometimes possible or never possible has nothing to do with how the woman got pregnant.

    And whether or not you believe abortion can ever be appropriate has nothing to do with the ethics of forcing another human being to remain pregnant against her will.

    Applying horrid extremes to create a preliminary boundary helps those squeamish middle grounders approach the challenging parts of the abortion discussion.

    For left leaners in the middle, that might involve admitting that there are boundaries to ethical abortion. (I find this hesitation understandable, given that lawmakers on the right want to establish zygote personhood, with rights superseding those of the mother.)

    For right leaners in the middle, it's a mile marker they can point to: circumstances in which abortion seems appropriate, if tragic. The "horrid circumstances" rule satisfies their demand that the mother couldn't help but get pregnant so it's not her fault. The same reason they cling to a definition of rape that involves great violence; it removes doubt and demands no discernment.

    This level of thinking, however muddy, can apply when deciding whether you personally could consider having an abortion.

    If you think it's just a glob of tissue, ethical abortion is possible — but you might resolve to be diehard about using birth control (including Plan B) to do all you can to avoid pregnancy. If you think a teensy smear of cells is a human being who is dependent on you for life support, you might decide abstinence is preferable to having an unwanted pregnancy you don't feel you can terminate.

    But whatever you can live with, or cannot, you do NOT get to impose that choice on someone else. If that bothers you, take comfort in the fact that no one gets to impose her (or his) standards on you. No forced pregnancy. No forced abortion. Neither, never, no.

    (Digression: the fact that the "personhood" group don't hold full-ceremony funerals for two-week-late periods makes me doubt they honestly and deeply believe a completely realized human being has just died…even if they are willing to pretend so in legislation.)

    (And another: fetal viability is an interesting matter now that a micro-preemie the size of a soda can may be forced like a spring bulb. Beyond that, there is the question of who pays for months of neonatal ICU care. I don't know how the GOP resolves the matter of million-dollar preemies with no healthcare coverage, but I bet their constituents aren't demanding that they answer for it, either. Too bad.)

  • @ Ladiesbane

    Digression: the fact that the "personhood" group don't hold full-ceremony funerals for two-week-late periods makes me doubt they honestly and deeply believe a completely realized human being has just died…even if they are willing to pretend so in legislation.

    That's where Personhood Funeral Services steps in.

  • Elle, you made my day. Nothing says "dignity" like "Please click SHOP in the toolbar above to learn about our Funeral Service offerings. *** Satin-Lined option is vital for the most God-fearing, Jesus-loving families"

    I wish I had thought of it first.

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