I hate writing this blog post. I hate that I feel it’s wrong to stay silent. I would like to shrug my shoulders and soothe my conscience with the thought that the issue has nothing to do with me. I am not involved. Or, as my country-bred mind would more likely insist, I have no dog in this fight.
But deliberate cruelty should never be ignored, even if it’s not directed at you.
That’s what Missouri Representative Todd Akin’s remarks on pregnancies resulting from rapes are: Cruel. And they were deliberate. Sadly, they are not new. Even worse, they are defended.
Why do I use the word cruel? It’s not hard to figure out. Mr. Akin needed to defend his view that abortion should not be allowed in cases of rape. But how to turn the sympathy most civilized people feel for victims aside? Simple. Make the victim not a victim. Make the rape not a rape. Claim that in cases of “legitimate rape” women can’t get pregnant. Ergo, if a woman who claims to have been assaulted has a bun in the oven, she’s lying. And society can feel comfortable forcing her to carry the child of her rapist to term.
I know cruelty when I see it (or hear it) and I’m compelled to call it out. Not for myself, but for those who Mr. Akin would cause more suffering. Empathy is a pesky little emotion and for Mr. Akin’s purposes, it gets in the way. But to recognize cruelty, sometimes it’s necessary.
Think for a moment about rape. (Yes, it is a horrifying train of thought, but suck it up.) When it happens to a person, both men and women, some of the deepest and most destructive emotional results are shame and guilt. A man will feel he should have been stronger, more physically able to fight off his attacker. A woman feels that also. But added to the burden are the questions, some of them placed in her mind by a society that discounts the trauma of rape: Did I ask for it? Will anyone believe me? And of course: Am I pregnant?
Now, imagine how that woman rape victim feels after hearing Mr. Akin say, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” Try to put yourself in her place. Maybe she’s still worried that she might be pregnant by her attacker. Maybe she was, and terminated that pregnancy. Now, she has the added burden of the Neanderthal suggestion that if she got pregnant, she wasn’t traumatized enough. That her rape was not “legitimate.” You got pregnant? Then obviously “the juices” were flowing. You must have enjoyed it, and your positive pregnancy test is the proof. The shame is yours. It is a way of blaming the victim that brings to my mind the stoning of raped women in Somalia.
Mr. Akin’s comments were cruelty at its deepest, darkest level. He has tried to backtrack from his comments, saying he has sympathy for women who are sexually assaulted. In my frank, country-bred mind, that dog doesn’t hunt. Mr. Akin is sorry. He’s sorry his comments have created a firestorm and jeopardized his election to the Senate. He wants to talk about the economy now. I want to hold his feet to the fire.
Why? Because what he said was cruel. It was so cruel that, even though I don’t live in Missouri I made a donation to his opponent. It was so cruel that I made a donation to Planned Parenthood in his name.
But like Mr. Akin, I’m sorry too. I’m sorry he said what he did. I’m sorry he even thought it. Most of all, I’m sorry for the women who feel even more guilty about their own assault than they already did.
P.S. If you want to Mr. Akin’s ludicrous theory eloquently broken down bit by bit, I suggest your read this piece on Jezebel.