Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Women's bodies in the news.

(Alternative title; 'Oh Yeah. Sexism! I'd forgotten about that...': Reload)

There have been a number of stories involving women's bodies circulating in the news over the last 24 hours, and most of them are fairly upsetting. Two in particular have sparked controversy, which is frustrating, because these statements aren't 'controversial' - they're wrong. And sexist. And damaging. And scary.

The first concerns the comments of Republican Senate candidate, Todd Akin. Let's see what all the fuss is about (via BrisbaneTimes);
Republicans have moved quickly to distance themselves from Todd Akin, the Republican candidate for the Senate in Missouri, after his comments that women's bodies can prevent them from getting pregnant from "legitimate" rape, obviating the need for an abortion.
"Legitimate" rape prevents pregnancy? Um, what? Like, what? I'm assuming this has something to do with Todd Akin being a staunch and unwavering (ie. fundamentalist) believer in God, but my friends who are Christian would never go about saying things like this, because they can reconcile their faith with that thing called, 'science'. And anyway didn't the new testament preach values like compassion? Because this doesn't really seem to connect with that line of thinking. Incredibly, although Mitt Romney did eventually say that Akin's words were "inexcusable, and, frankly, wrong", initially he merely said that he did not agree with Akin's views. Yeah, no. Because they are not "views", they are untruths - dangerous, terrifying, ignorant, misogynistic untruths. Because his comments aren't "legitimate". The Republican party should revoke their endorsement of his candidature. Immediately. 

This focus on rape leads disturbingly well into the next troubling comments from a politician (and I'm limiting myself to two), where British MP George Galloway said that the rape claims against Julian Assange had no basis, because having sex with a sleeping woman does not constitute rape (again, via BrisbaneTimes);

"Woman A met Julian Assange, invited him back to her flat, gave him dinner, went to bed with him, had consensual sex with him, claims that she woke up to him having sex with her again. This is something which can happen, you know. I mean, not everybody needs to be asked prior to each insertion."
Yeah sure it can happen, if it's consensual. But holy shit! This does not mean that if I've had consensual sex with a guy and go to sleep near him, that he can "insert" himself into me any time he wants. This is completely outrageous, and, I'm guessing, would not necessarily be Galloway's opinion if he was ever to become the insertee*. He should lose his job. Immediately. 

Here's the thing, Akin and Galloway, if you want to have sex with someone, you need to make sure they consent to it. Every time. And if they say 'yes', but look or act uncomfortable or unresponsive or terrified, you stop. You stop because physical responses and body language are a powerful and real form of communication. You stop because it is the right thing to do. 

I know it shouldn't, but it continues to astound me that people are still saying this kind of stuff about rape and women's bodies. The worst bit is that with people like this - like Akin and Galloway - their opinions and statements actually do have impacts and power over others, over what is deemed acceptable for others. For women. It's terrifying.

*Having said that, I have no idea of Galloway's sexual preferences and behaviour and am making a massive assumption about both, and am willing to admit that I could be wrong.

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