The blogosphere and radio talk shows have erupted with festering conversation this morning, just like a greasy teenager’s face erupts with festering acne. At the core of all this jibber-jabber is the following argument: “Todd Akin is bad. He said some morally reprehensible things that were also lies, and he should step down.” You might likewise hear scraps of “the liberal media is destroying Akin’s character,” and “the patriarchy has created a ‘culture of rape’,” and “all rapes are legitimate,” “most men don’t know what rape is,” and so on.
This is some fantastically interesting shit–a bunch of folks talking as if it’s somehow a major epiphany that Republicans lie and that a political candidate should be made to exit an electoral race for doing so. This is just like Rush Limbaugh being asked to step down because he suggested that a female Georgetown graduate student was a prostitute for wanting taxpayer funded birth control at her school.
But didn’t we already know that AM talks show hosts and political candidates say offensive, insensitive, and sexist things all the time, and that when they’re not slipping up and uttering them out loud, they’re thinking them constantly? The Republican Party isn’t asking Akin to exit the race because of saying what he said; he’s being asked to quit because he said those things out loud. Getting caught is the ultimate Republican disgrace.
What things? In case you’re just emerging from the bottom of a crater at a nuclear test site in the Nevada desert and haven’t been paying attention for obvious reasons, Todd Akin is running for Congress in Missouri and he said the other day that pregnancy was rare in cases of “legitimate rape” and that the female body had a magical way of preventing pregnancies that came from real rapes. The whole concept of “legitimate rape” suggests that Aiken thinks there’s a bunch of Machiavellian chicks out there who claim to have been raped without actually being raped, which is a smack in the face to rape victims everywhere, and that saying that pregnancy can’t come from rape makes every rape victim who got pregnant from the attack feel as though she wasn’t “really” raped, further belittling the victim. (This is what the pundits and survivors are saying.) Moreover, the eggs and sperm have no idea what context under which they’re uniting, and whether or not sex is forced, the pregnancy rate is still about 5%, science tells us.
Fair and true enough. But what’s more interesting to me is the worldview in which rape never causes pregnancy and in which “legitimate rape” is a rare occurrence. This is a worldview that allows abortion to be completely banned, even in cases of rape, because rapes don’t actually cause pregnancies and all pregnancies therefore are the result of consensual actions. Heck, with this kind of an argument, you can even ban abortions in cases of incest, so rape victims are forced to raise the child of their attacker and incest victims can raise their own 9-headed babies.
What’s also interesting about this situation is that the anti-abortion right has been using precisely these arguments to try to ban all abortions since the early 1980’s, and just now we’re suddenly starting to talk about it and get outraged that they’re forwarding their agenda with lies.
On NPR this morning, two survivors were discussing why rape continues to happen even in 2012 (the U.N. reports that 1 billion women are assault victims), and one of the survivors asked why women in power in the U.S. and U.K. didn’t do more to prevent rape and the faulty evidence processing and dehumanization that often accompanies reporting it. The other survivor responded, saying that elected female officials were part of a “patriarchal system” that dominated the entire world and where there is patriarchy and patriarchal systems in place, we will always live in a rape-positive world. Men bad, women good, only answer: complete female domination (as if rape never existed in the handful of matriarchal societies that still existed before being crushed by the technoindustrial complex sometime in the late 20th century). Let the pendulum swing the other way, and there will be no sexual violence. (Plug-in free footnote: Bonobo chimpanzees, our closest genetic relatives, are matriarchal and engage in freaky-deaky sex all the time–gay, straight, oral, intergenerational, orgies–you name it. Interestingly, they have never been observed to rape each other, but these are chimps, not people.)
So when I listened to the survivor talk about the Patriarchy as this invisible, insidious thing that we are unaware of and is secretly making us all rapy, I started wondering what parts of this Patriarchy had influenced her outside of her awareness. Then it dawned on me: sexual assaults are still pervasive in “civilized” 2012 in part because (if this feminist analysis of the Patriarchy is correct) the feminist movement itself has traces of the Patriarchy in it, since it was instigated by people who were unaware of it and had known nothing else their entire lives. This is also why Communism failed–you can’t take a bunch of folks who have never known anything but capitalism and suddenly undo all their lifelearned habits for the Benefit of the State. Marx was bourgeoisie and a couch-surfer. The rest of the Communist pantheon? All capitalists.
So, feminist Lady Gaga plays the piano with a butt cheek while wearing a sheer bodystocking, and the rest of the sex-positive feminist movement is reading 50 Shades of Grey while I type this, because nothing’s more matriarchal than being objectivized or tied up and…penetrated. ‘Cause, like the progressive lesbian couple next door is so postgender that one of them still wears the pants in the family.
So, I think I’ve just described why the (every) revolution will be indefinitely postponed. This may make you sad, but the kernel of wisdom behind all of the cultural inertia is that true revolutions will require a radical reframing of the way we look at things, especially for the revolutionaries themselves.