Monday, August 27, 2012

Ryan and Rape

The Huffington Post drew attention to a statement made by VP nominee Paul Ryan about rape and the method of conception. His statement was that “the method of conception doesn't change the definition of life."
Many commenters, liberal and conservative, pointed out that Ryan doesn’t specifically say “rape is an acceptable method of conception” and that he also talks about the Romney/Ryan ticket, which at some point might have mentioned exceptions for rape, incest, and life of the mother.*
*Of course, I think it’s safe to discount that last argument, since the official GOP platform which was recently unveiled supports a complete ban on abortion, even (especially?) in cases of rape and life of the mother. I’m still not quite sure how they expect a 10-week old cell cluster to become a person without – you know ­– a woman to grow inside, but that’s another story.

First of all, semantics. Ryan is specifically asked about exceptions in the case of rape, and his response was formulated within that context. What Ryan’s statement does do is very-explicitly imply that a rape or sexual assault is a legitimate (thanks, Akin!) way to begin a pregnancy. Which it's not. Ever.

This is simply a nuanced form of victim-blaming.

Rather than focusing on a culture that is still far too tolerant of rape (mainly because it refuses to fully recognize or understand it), this shifts the focus to the outcome - to villainizing the women who don't want to deal with the repercussions of rape as Republicans think they should. It shifts the entire discussion away from “rape is an evil that cannot be tolerated” and turns it to “women are second class citizens.”

It’s a diversionary tactic to make us focus on one aspect of our rapid disenfranchisement, while another aspect of it is just further cemented in the popular vernacular.

Several years ago, Israel was dealing with an issue of increased rapes. Then-Prime Minister Golda Meir was encouraged to institute a curfew for women, for their own protection. Meir responded “Men are committing the rapes. Let them be put under curfew.”

At the national level, we lack even this basic understanding that we cannot continue to blame the victim. Rape will continue to be an issue so long as men like Todd Akin and Paul Ryan treat it as an inevitable occurrence, or as if most women are just liars and sluts who make it up or ask for it.

Rather than wanting to eliminate rape, Ryan wants to eliminate a woman's choice in dealing with rape. And that's the problem with his particular, insidious brand of misogyny.  

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