Memo to men in the GOP: Rape is rape
Despite some Republicans’ recent comments, sexual violence against women is unambiguous.
Richard Mourdock (Joey Foley/Getty Images)
By Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D.
(The Root) — I don’t know about you, but in the words of the late, great civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer, I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired. I learned these words from my middle school band director, the late, great Royal J. Singleton III, which he applied to our sometimes uninspired performance of a new musical composition. I understood then what he meant and later what Hamer meant by those words. In her case, she had had enough of being mistreated, and for Singleton, he was weary of being undervalued for his efforts to teach us.
In this case, I have to say that I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired of some men in the GOP undervaluing women by uttering the most inane sentences about women’s bodies, specifically rape and subsequent pregnancies. The parsing of what defines rape or the attempt to make distinctions about rape is unconscionable.
Rape is a violent act — period. No ifs, ands or buts about it — it is about power and violence. It is what it is. Even though rape is defined in different ways by different states, the central requirements are the use of force, sexual inter-course and a lack of consent. It is an unlawful, criminal act against a person’s will, and victims can be men and women.
To add insult to injury, now some male members of the GOP have the nerve to discuss what women should do in cases where pregnancy results from rape. Most recently, Indiana Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock stated that such a pregnancy is God’s intent, so an abortion should not be warranted. Come again? Mourdock claims his words were “twisted” and that wasn’t his intention.
Regardless, the idea that you can say words that would give the impression to many people listening — including GOP Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), who canceled appearances with Mourdock after his comments — that God ordains rape is unacceptable. Politicians like Mourdock and Missouri Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin, who coined the term “legitimate rape” earlier in his campaign, need to understand the power of language.
The misinformation that they continue to circulate, whether unintentional or not, does a disservice to women everywhere, including women and their families and their political party. It is hard enough for women to move forward as survivors of rape, but then to pressure them about what to do with pregnancies resulting from those violent acts is despicable.
I often wonder how these archaic views would change if, indeed, men could get pregnant in general or after being raped specifically. Would they be so quick to offer testimony about situations about which they clearly know very little? The answer is that men cannot get pregnant, which is why pregnancy and rape in this context and abortion are women’s-rights issues — period.
On another note, where are the women in the GOP regarding Mourdock’s statements? Though she’s a prolife advocate, Ayotte at least has distanced herself and denounced his views as not representing her own. But is it possible to be a Republican and stand for women’s rights? Those who think not should check their history books for women like J. Ellen Foster, Mary crisp or former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, whose comments about being largely pro-choice (except for late-term abortions), have been carefully worded and clear: The government does not belong in this issue. Some believe this statement cost Rice the GOP vice presidential nomination.
The tradition of Republican feminists seems all but lost, but many need to remember that in 1894 and 1896, the Illinois Republican Women’s State Central Committee sponsored Ida B. Wells’ lecture tour on women’s suffrage. And the late Sen. Arlen Specter was a pro-choice Republican, though many label him a traitor or opportunist for switching parties. Is there room in the GOP for a pro-choice Republican like Specter anymore?
While GOP women and men (if there are any left) who support women’s rights need to stand up, GOP men who think like Mourdock and Akin need to sit down and be quiet, because I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired of their blatant disrespect and clear contempt for women.
Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D., is editor-at-large for The Root. She is also editor-in-chief of the Burton Wire, a blog dedicated to world news related to the African Diaspora and global culture. Follow her on Twitter.