What Does the GOP Know About Rape?

For a party that insists discussions about social issues (namely, abortion) are a distraction, Republicans spend an awful lot of time legislating, talking about, and litigating against abortion access. It would seem that were the GOP actually unconcerned with the abortion issue and more focused on creating jobs and boosting the American economy, the unemployment rate would be well below 8 percent and the economy would have seen substantial growth above 2 percent. But alas, as evidenced by the introduction of over 1,100 reproductive health and abortion-restriction bills in federal and state level the 2011 legislative session nationwide, the GOP and their Tea Party progeny are well focused on usurping control over women’s private parts.

Abortion is a polarizing issue in the United States. A majority of Americans believe a woman should be able to control her own fertility, including having the choice whether to continue a pregnancy. Most americans agree that abortion should be allowed for victims of rape or incest, or when a woman’s health or life is at risk. But the GOP platform committee approved a party platform this week that supports banning abortion altogether without any exception for the life or health of the woman or for cases of rape or incest. The Republican National Committee will vote on this platform in full next week. The platform, including it’s careless abortion position, is likely to be approved in stride.

This week, one especially ignorant and dishonest republican, Senator Todd Akin, claimed that women cannot get pregnant from rape saying, “If it is a legitimate rape, the female body has ways of shutting that whole thing down.” (I guess he’ll say anything to score points with pro-life extremists. Or maybe he is just THAT ignorant.) I don’t believe I can pull a more bullshit claim out of the ether than that.

Akin and his buddies including Paul Ryan claim that exceptions to abortion bans for women’s health, or rape and incest victims are a “red herring.” Their meaning – “exceptions to abortion bans for rape are unnecessary because women who were REALLY raped cant get pregnant”. The GOP audacity to categorize rape according to the physical state of the victim is absolutely dispicable and illustrates just how much contempt for women’s autonomy the Republican party harbors.

The statistical occurence of pregnancy among rape victims has actually been studied. According to a study presented at The South Atlantic Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology (Am J Obstet Gynecol 1996;175:320-5), the national rape-related pregnancy rate is 5.0 percent per rape. Holmes, et al also concluded that rape-related pregnancy occurs with significant frequency – to the tune of 32,101 pregnancies resulting from rape each year – and is closely linked with family and domestic violence.

But the GOP doesn’t believe “legitimate” rape victims actually become pregnant.

The real GOP policy is to force impregnated rape victims to sacrifice their bodies and their lives because a fetus is more important than any woman’s sanity, health or life.

The real red herring here is that the GOP is unlikely to confirm any woman’s rape as “legitimate” enough to sanction the woman’s choice to terminate her pregnancy. Apparentlyin GOP-land, a woman could not have possibly been raped except if she lay on her death bed after the attack. So those of us who were raped by our abusive husbands – not really raped. Those of use who were raped after we passed out from drinking – not really raped. Those of us who were slipped a date rape drug – not really raped. Those of us who stopped fighting because our attacker had big fists and a knife and we didn’t want to die – not really raped.

So next time, struggle a bit more so you have some STAB WOUNDS to prove your rape was LEGITIMATE! And since you can’t get pregnant from “legitimate” or “forcible” rape, if you do turn up preggo you must just be some kind of masochist.

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I find it insane

The worst, I think, is people who insist that they are not sexists, they are not misogynists, and then proceed to denigrate to women in general.

I find it insane how quickly a conversation about abortion can turn into a misogynistic rant. The things people say about women sometimes astound me! I seriously think some people would rather see a woman dead than provide an abortion that would save her life, let alone protect the woman’s health.

The worst, I think, is people who insist that they are not sexists, they are not misogynists, and then proceed to denigrate to women in general. A recent conversation with a “pro-life” friend and his buddy turned sharply south when the friend intimated that only lazy and irresponsible women have abortions. I  pointed out that if abortion became illegal again, women would once again start dying unnecessarily from back-alley abortions, that abortion doesn’t just go away when it is illegal, and that illegal abortion presented a massive public health problem in cities all over the country – which was the primary reason for liberalization of the short-lived laws prohibiting abortion by a third of the United States starting with Colorado in 1967 even before Roe v. Wade was decided.*

For their part, this guy his buddy tried to convince me that abortion is never necessary to protect women’s health, abortion doesn’t save lives, women shouldn’t “open up ya legs”, women are irresponsible, women let men take the blame, women instigate and trap men into sex, women are dumb, women are selfish, women don’t need to enjoy a “frivolous and meaningless” sex life, a woman who has an abortion is a “hoe”, and finally, that I personally am ignorant and immature.

Way to go pro-life guys. You sure do make your comrades proud.

 

*Okay, I didn’t give them the history lesson. But I did point out the public health issues.

Abuse Knows No Bounds

Domestic abuse does not discriminate. Abuse can happen to rich people, or to poor people. Abuse strikes the educated and the illiterate. Abuse doesn’t care if you are Black or white or Asian or Latino or any other something. Abuse hurts the weak and the strong. Abuse isn’t sexist, it can happen to women and men. Abuse stalks the young and the old. Abuse is cool with straight, queer, gay, lesbian. Abuse is everywhere, lurking behind closed doors, in open windows, at parties, and on the street.

Domestic violence is a chameleon. Sometimes abuse dresses in bluish-purple clothes. Other times abuse wears the Emperor’s New Clothes. But just because abuse is not written on someones face doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

Abuse holds on tight. Abuse is shackles and shame, alienation and isolation. Domestic violence ensures the abused hears from his or her loved ones, “There is no point in trying.”, “Well if you wouldn’t…”, “You should just stay with…”, “It’s all your fault.”, “I don’t believe you.”, “You’re lying.” Abuse tries to take away everything you love, until it kills you.

If you know someone who is being abused, please don’t give up on them. It can take an abused woman, on average, 6 to 7 times to leave an abusive partner for good. It can be hard to keep “being there.”

But the abused needs your help. You can’t give up. Help is patience. Help is encouragement. Help is love. “Being there” is the best thing you can do.

Embattled Birth Control?

Personally, “unrestricted, unlimited sex, anytime, anywhere” sounds pretty damned fun to me.

On August 1st, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced historic new requirements for insurers on services for women that should be covered by new insurance plans at no cost (i.e. – without a copay). To determine what medical care would be covered, the Institute of Medicine was charged with reporting to the DHHS what services and screenings for women are needed to fill gaps in recommended preventative care. In the IOM report, “Clinical Preventative Services for Women, Closing the Gap“, the committee defines preventative services as,

measures—including medications, procedures, devices, tests, education and counseling—shown to improve well-being, and/or decrease the likelihood or delay the onset of a targeted disease or condition.

The services recommended by the IOM include common sense stuff:

  • well-woman visits;
  • screening for gestational diabetes;
  • human papillomavirus (HPV) DNA testing for women 30 years and older;
  • sexually-transmitted infection counseling;
  • human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) screening and counseling;
  • FDA-approved contraception methods and contraceptive counseling;
  • breastfeeding support, supplies, and counseling; and
  • domestic violence screening and counseling.
Well, unless you live under a rock or are completely unconcerned with women’s reproductive issues, the fall out from the release of these new HHS guidelines has been epic. Both for it’s greatness, and for it’s sheer moronic misogyny. As expected, the National Women’s Law Center, Feminist Majority Foundation, National Organization for Women, NARAL, and Planned Parenthood Federation of America (P2) have all come out in support of the new guidelines. Representatives from many organizations are commending the HHS for actually listening to and implementing the recommendations of real medical experts and scientists. Some of the reaction has been beyond epic, such as this Bollywood-inspired song and dance routine made for Planned Parenthood:
Any feminist woman knows the depths of Bill O’Reilly’s misogyny. But he feels he continually needs to remind the world how low his opinion of women. On his awful, bias-as-hell show back in July, O’Reilly spoke to a fake liberal woman and a conservative woman about the HHS’s mandate for insurers to cover birth control. (Any liberal who was asked the question as he stated it would have pointed out that O’Reilly’s description of the regulations was inaccurate.) The conversation was completely biased, as O’Reilly asks “liberal” contributor Leslie Marshall if the government should pay for “everybody’s birth control…in the world”. Even leaving out the fact that O’Reilly misrepresents the DHHS requirements (that private insurers pay for birth control for private policy holders, not the government!), he goes on to insult every female birth control user by saying they are “to blasted out of their minds to use it anyway”. Since O’Reilly doesn’t care to actually engage women in a substantive manner, he obviously doesn’t know that the 56 million women who use highly-effective birth control don’t take it when they are “blasted out of their minds”. In addition, he attacks the “health care deal for the ladies” talking to Lou Dobbs, saying we ‘all’ will have to pay for this. Someone should call him up and explain how, we are all ALREADY paying for it!
Although the regulation includes an exception for religious institutions, the Family Research Council argues that the regulation “undermines the conscience rights of many Americans.” Um, yeah, he must mean the less than 1% who don’t use any contraceptive method whatsoever. (I argue that women working for religious institutions should not be subject to their beliefs if not shared, and should have an alternative option for contraceptive coverage.) A spokesman for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, says “pregnancy is not a disease, and fertility is not a pathological condition to be suppressed by any means technically possible.” Someone should let him know that no one said pregnancy was a disease. But there are,however, many conditions and diseases associated with pregnancy, many of them fatal for the pregnant woman. Oh, but wait, the Catholic church doesn’t care about the pregnant woman. I forgot.
The arguments against prohibiting cost sharing for preventative services only gets more ridiculous. Stephen Colbert can state it much more hilariously than I. And Jon Stewart breaks it down on the Daily Show. The arguments of opponents to this mandate are not rooted in science or medicine. They are solely rooted in religion. The catholics say the rules are “messing with God”. Other conservatives say giving away free birth control will result in rampant promiscuity. And conspiracy theorists argue that free birth control is just the first step in the government’s assertion of complete control over the reproductive lives of the citizenry for population control purposes. Um, communist China anyone?
These arguments become especially irreverent when you consider that of women of reproductive age who do not want to become pregnant, 99% use a contraceptive method other than natural family planning, and two-thirds of us take a highly-effective method (i.e. – sterilization, the pill, IUD, etc.) regardless of our religious beliefs. And these conservative, anti-choice pundits seem to forget about the fact that not all women using contraceptives are unmarried young people, contraceptive use helps breastfeeding women breastfeed longer by helping them space their pregnancies and increases the socio-economic status of women who are consequently able to delay pregnancy, preventing unplanned pregnancy reduces the need for abortion, couples are less likely to separate after a planned pregnancy than an unplanned pregnancy, contraceptives help prevent the spread of sexually-transmitted infections and HIV, and some women are prescribed contraceptives for reasons other than pregnancy prevention (such as endometriosis). I could go on, but I think I made my point.
The DHHS will be taking public comments on the new regulations through the end of September. Personally, “unrestricted, unlimited sex, anytime, anywhere” sounds pretty damned fun to me. (I hope my husband is up to the challenge!) Plus, I am TOTALLY DOWN with becoming a 4-star General in Obama’s Army of Flesh Thirsty Young Sluts! And, seriously, who would compare domestic violence counseling and breastfeeding advice to getting a pedicure? Oh, wait…

Wimbledon reeks

I love tennis.  Women’s tennis, men’s tennis, singles, doubles, love it! The Australian Open each year is a beacon of hope that winter is finally ending and the summer or sport is soon to follow.  But recently, my ears have been assaulted repeatedly by unwanted noise during women’s tennis matches.  And I am NOT talking about any noise made by the players!  I am talking about the incessant complaining and criticism by the female announcers during women’s matches with regard to players’ grunting.

You see, often, when a person makes a powerful, full-effort athletic move, an exclamation of exertion may be heard.  This is true of basketball, volleyball, tennis and virtually any other sport a person happens to enjoy.  This is a phenomenon unrestricted by gender boundaries: men do it, women do it, even kids do it.  The sporting battle cry is an elemental part of sport.  And I must admit, when I dive for a well-placed hit during a volleyball game, I am unashamed of my own exclamations (especially when I get a positive result).  But for some [obvious] reason, women in particular are being ridiculed and denigrated for doing what comes naturally for sportsmen everywhere.

Watching Wimbledon this year, I had to endure female tennis announcers making derogatory comments about the female tennis players on court.  Statements such as female grunting is damaging the sport, women should tone it down, the women’s grunting is distracting, and other myriad critical comments nearly managed to make me turn the channel.  Every women’s match, I find myself more and more offended by this unending tirade of misogyny.  I am personally unbothered by the gentlemen’s or the ladies’ grunting.  It’s a natural phenomenon, as I explained earlier.  But listening to Mary Carillo, Chris Evert and Pam Shriver constantly criticize female players seriously bursts my bubble!

Yes, women grunt during rallies, but so do men.  Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic played for the men’s championship today.  Their match was a continuous exchange of grunts.  Novak even emits what I describe as a double crescendo grunt that peaks just before and just after his strike.  And Rafa’s grunt is just as audible.  But not once did I hear the male announcers lob criticism on them for their liberties.  Oh, and don’t let me get started on some of yesterday’s players like Andre Agassi!  Yet, let a woman like Maria Sharapova or Venus Williams utter the same athletic sounds, and Shriver and friends are all over the television saying they are bad for tennis.

And now there is talk of a ‘ban’ on grunting?  How much more ridiculous can we get?  Can you imagine what would happen if a ban were raised on grunting during tennis matches?  My theoretical scenario begins thus:

During the 2011 off season, the ATP and WTA approved a ban on grunting. With the enforcement of this ban, players can be docked points, removed from a match, fined, and even disqualified for ‘cheating’.  Despite strident opposition by players male and female alike, the WTA has announced that the ban will become effective with the start of the first major tournament of the season, the Australian Open. The chief complaint among players in opposition to this ban is the fear that the ban will prevent players from exercising their full potential on court, for fear of consequences imposed for uttering sounds that are involuntary.  And top women players fear that the ban will disproportionately affect their professional prospects, and have threatened to file civil legal action against enforcement of the ban.

 Spectators and lovers of tennis have expressed similar fear that tennis may lose its competitive edge, post-match penalties will interfere with the sport’s integrity, or that stoppage time for penalties may hamper match progress. 

Not to mention, it would be utterly ridiculous!

I believe that this angst for females making any kind of noise emanates from a cultural misogyny so deeply ingrained in all of us that even women don’t realize they are indoctrinated with it.  In the nineties, when Monica Seles first made a name for herself, she too was ridiculed by announcers, and nicknamed “Moan-ica.”  One would think that 20 years after Monica Seles took Gabriela Sabatini to school, women in sport would be shown a bit more respect.  Who decided how women should act?  Who decided grunting wasn’t appropriate behavior for women?  When did announcers decide how the players should play?  Hmmmm, excuse me, but I think that should be the players’ decision.  The fifties image of the graceful feminine lady tennis player should be the furthest thing from people’s minds as they watch tennis today.  Well behaved women rarely make history.  The announcers and spectators need to get over it.  If you don’t like the grunting, turn down the sound.  Otherwise, shut the hell up already!

Some people make noise when playing sports.

And while I’m at it, commentary surrounding women’s tennis too often descends into the announcers’ perception of the female players’ body and beauty issues rather than discussions about skill or off-season interests.  Not once during Nadal’s and Djokovic’s match today did I hear the announcers discuss the players’ weight, clothing, or physical appeal.  During Wimbledon I have personally witnessed announcers’ discussion of how frequently a player is photographed and an announcer’s issues with another player’s weight (as if it were any of her business).  Seriously, if I wanted to hear about that kind of crap, I’d turn on TMZ.  Geez.

I love tennis, but it’s obvious that, just off court, equality is still a long way off.