Wichita, Kansas—The following is from my friend Tom Rambo:
There are things that have been weighing heavily on my mind, and I feel the need to share them, because politics appears to be obscuring certain realities that shouldn’t require clarification, but apparently do. These are issues concerning women and they are important to me because I’m a husband of 40 years, a father of two daughters and a wonderful daughter-in-law, and because of the many women in my life who are cousins, friends and co-workers. These issues, however, should be important to everyone. Second, we men don’t get to determine what defines rape as “legitimate.” Rape is rape, and all men need to get that through their heads. I would say that men have no concept of the demeaning nature of rape, but I suppose we could ask men who were raped in prison if there is a question regarding the legitimacy of the act or not, because I’m sure they would have an opinion. For the most part, rape is an act of violence and has nothing to do with sexual satisfaction.
Sometimes men will try to excuse their actions by saying, “She said no, but she didn’t really mean it.” Raging testosterone seems to cause some men to make bad decisions. However, that’s not an excuse. Here’s a fact, people - If a woman says no, and you keep going, it’s not consensual. “Date” rape doesn’t make it any less of a rape; it merely defines the circumstances.
Women are not here to amuse men or simply satisfy our sexual needs, so men need to quit acting like it. There is no such thing as raping somebody just a little bit; rape is rape. In addition, if a woman is raped, nobody but that particular woman gets to decide what she’s going to do about it. Telling her she has no choice in the matter is emotional rape. She is violated twice and neither time, has any say in the matter? Excuse me, but that is bullshit!
Third, women are entitled to every right as citizens of the United States that men are, and that includes equal pay. My daughters and my wife are amazing, intelligent women. They are more than capable of making their way in the world and taking care of themselves financially. They should be paid just as much as any male counterpart. Moreover, as a father and husband, I will tell you this. You will respect wife and my daughters, and their role in the workforce. If you don’t, they have every right to call you out on it. There are not rights for men and different rights for women. Equal rights are for everyone, period.
In this current political season, women’s issues have been front and center and I am still stunned at the attempts many Republican candidates are making to diminish women and deny them control of their own destinies. It’s not right, it’s not legal and it’s not moral. Any man who would vote for Todd Akin and those like him should never look another woman in the eye again, particularly his wife or daughter, because his vote says “I have no respect for you as a human being”. In addition, any woman who would vote for Todd Akin and those like him, well, I don’t know how she could ever look at herself in the mirror again, because her vote says, “I have no respect for myself.”
Electing misogynistic assholes and placing them in positions of power is disrespectful to women and it sends a message to men that women are somehow less important than they are, and that some rapes are OK because they're not "legitimate" rapes. If that’s OK with you, then you should be ashamed of yourself.
It may seem strange that this blog starts with a long quote from someone else. However, Tom Rambo has said so well what needs to be said at a time when politicians make haphazard comments about women’s reproduction organs, and worse, about their reproductive rights. I don’t know if it’s coincidence that those foot-in-mouth politicians are white male Republicans, but it shows how far removed those people are from the realities of women’s lives and their reproductive systems. It could be that most of them missed their sex ed classes in school, either because they just didn’t go or because they’re too old to have had the advantage of sex ed classes. I know I didn’t because naturally in 1950, parents didn’t want to expose their innocent children to any knowledge about their working sex organs. I suppose those in charge of deciding such things didn’t realize that the children were out in the nearby Kansas pastures and wheat fields fogging up the car windshields with their heavy breathing.
I don’t want to make light of this. Every school year, a girl or two would disappear from school and I know at least four girls in my small class who ended up pregnant before she got married. Of course, back then, the girls always got married. That’s no way to go into adulthood.
Given the warped views of certain politicians, one wonders how many others think the same thing but have the smarts to keep their mouths shut. The claims that women’s organs can shut down a pregnancy if a rape is “legitimate,” and the claim that “pregnancy from rape is a gift from God,” are bad enough. What is worse is that male politicians seem to think it is their prerogative to keep women from getting low-cost reproductive health care from Planned Parenthood, where they also get mammograms and other types of health care that they can’t afford otherwise. These mainly male politicians do their best to restrict women’s abortion rights and access to abortion. Even without overturning Roe v. Wade, access to abortion has decreased steadily in America with the rise of the power of right-wing religious zealots. Politicians in several states have placed unnecessary restrictions on clinic facilities, down to something as trivial as door size and distance to a hospital. They say they are doing this to keep women safe. We know better. If they wanted to keep women safe, they would keep legal, doctor-conducted abortion accessible to all women.
The fact is, legal abortion is safer than an appendectomy. Illegal, inaccessible abortion means women die or become able to have more children because of injuries sustained during the procedure. Why anyone would think it’s a good idea to go back to the old days, when women relied on the grapevine to find out where they could go to take care of unwanted pregnancies. At one point, pre-Roe v. Wade, a group of women, in cooperation with some ministers started a network of underground abortion providers and tried to spread the word that women could get safe, if illegal, abortions. Finally, common sense prevailed when Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun wrote the opinion legalizing abortion in 1973. It was a close decision and has been challenged ever since, but has never fallen. During that time, women have been able to use their own moral judgment in making a decision that should be theirs to make.
Blackmun’s hope was that the Roe v. Wade finding would take the issue of abortion out of the political arena. He, of course, was wrong to think that would happen. Anti-choice factions grew up like weeks as soon as the decision was announced, and soon anti-choice leaders such as Randall Terry and Troy Newman found the fight against legal abortion to be a cash cow for them.
In fact, when Scott Roeder killed Dr. George Tiller in the vestibule of a church, not only did women around the country and the world lose an ally in their fight for reproductive rights, Troy Newman lost his fundraising cash cow. Newman, who lives on an acreage in Towanda, Kansas, where his children ride horses and lead the sweet life, was using every ploy in the book to bring back his money machine. People thought once Dr. Tiller was gone, there was no need to donate to Newman any longer.
Now, the anti-choice crowd, politicians among them, have decided that women shouldn’t have access to contraception. In the minds of these people, the only role for women is to have babies. Maybe I’m oversimplifying, but how else to explain the backlash against women like Sandra Fluke, who spoke out when only men were invited to testify at House hearing on contraceptive coverage in the Affordable Health Care Act?
As a woman who came of age just as contraceptives came on the market, I don’t understand the antipathy toward allowing women the freedom to decide when, or whether to have children. I have three children, and I think they’re the most wonderful kids in the world, as are my grandkids, but I was happy to be able not to have more so I could concentrate on those three and go on about my own life at a certain point. What some people seem unable to realize is that kids are hard. Being a parent is a twenty-four hour a day lifetime commitment. Some women aren’t ready for that.
This is especially the case when a woman is pregnant as a result of rape. If anyone of those men had ever been raped, they would understand what an awful thing it is to experience.
We have an election coming up in a few days. This election will be important for many reasons, but for me one of the most important issues citizens must deal with is the issue of reproductive rights. Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential candidate, has made so many turns on the issue of women’s reproductive rights it’s impossible not to get dizzy trying to keep up with him. Paul Ryan, his running mate, is sure of where he stands. He thinks women should reproduce—period. After all, what else are they good for?
I don’t know how others will vote. I know I’m voting for the sake of all the women I know, including those in my family. I hope others will follow my lead.