When news broke Sunday about Paul Ryan’s new comments about rape, I was just finishing a new post for the Independent Voter Network about the Todd Akin news cycle and what it showed us about media bias (and our own biases). Indeed, I was naive enough to think we had all learned something:
One wonders if so many attacks on the so-called intellectual elitism (or liberalism) of the media — almost always code for news stories that place fact in context without moralizing or religiosity — has begun to weaken the ranks a bit. Perhaps, as the Women’s Media Center points out, the most telling part of the Akin news cycle is the reservations journalists had in reporting scientific fact. Surely, it would not be seen as biased to merely state how human conception works. Or, for that matter, the number of women who conceive after being raped. (Approximately 32,000, according to the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.) Or, going all the way now, what is not rape and what is.
But wait! You didn’t hear about the new Paul Ryan rape comment? The one where he includes rape as a “another form of conception”? Yeah, me neither. What was that about the lessons we learned from Rep. Todd Akin statements about “legitimate rape” last week? And the lessons learned about the media being lazy and well, fucking up (to paraphrase Akin’s own interviewer about falling down on the job). Here we go again. Watch the clip for yourself. It’s embedded in this Huffington Post piece, which has a headline that just says it all: Paul Ryan said something that should probably force him off the ticket, but you probably didn’t hear about it.
And lest I fall into the trap of the traditional media and fail to correct a false assertion blatantly told by Paul Ryan… Let’s set the record straight on rape.
While some rapes may result in conception, rape is not simply a method of conception. Rape is a criminal act. And it is a form of violence against an unwilling, non-consenting partner. (Here’s a guide on what rape is.) In fact, talking about rape in the way Ryan does actually puts it in conflict with Akin’s earlier assertion that the female body can shut down conceptions from rape. The way Ryan spins it, rape is just an item on the conception menu. Meanwhile, Akin’s comment eludes, however minutely, to the idea that a pregnancy resulting from rape would be undesirable (which is where a woman’s body shutting it down comes into play, I guess).
In my book, Ryan’s comments are worse than Akin’s by a long way. Putting rape in neutral terms — such as calling it a method of conception — has a nullifying effect on the criminal act you are talking about: Rape. People go, “Oh, conception is not bad so conceptions from rape must not be that bad.” This is a shell game. This is essentially a marketing campaign designed to desensitize you to the idea of rape and any resulting conceptions from rape. The endgame, of course, is that you vilify women who seek abortions after they are raped. Because why wouldn’t you want to keep your rape-baby, you evil slutty whore?
If Ryan, Akin and their ilk can’t get bogus terminology like “forcible rape” codified into law — putting a narrow definition on what rape is while simultaneously creating a greater onus on survivors who seek justice, medical attention, and any other service necessary to recover — then the next best tactic is to strip away any empathy the public might have for survivors of rape. After all, a tipping point even within the GOP is whether or not an exception should exist for rape/incest survivors in abortion bans. Those exceptions, which are fairly meaningless because they are almost impossible to qualify for, are what make some conservatives appealing. (And really, why is one reason to have an abortion more legitimate than another?) It makes them look compassionate, fair even. And we all know that’s a lie, too.
All eyes will be on Ryan as he readies to speak at the Republican National Convention tonight. Indeed, according to a new poll, more Americans are interested in hearing Ryan’s speech than Romney’s. As a party, the GOP wants to over-turn Roe v. Wade. Now all that’s left is the fight over exception clauses to out-right abortion bans. I know a lot of political bloggers are prone to hyperbole to make a point, but I don’t think it’s over-stating it to say that for women, a lot is riding on this election.
There is no softer side of rape, no matter how conservatives try to spin it. There is no “consensual rape.” No “legitimate” rape. There is just rape. Rape is bad. It is always bad. Period.
Then there is abortion. It exists. Love it. Hate it. Either way, it is legal and it is a form of health care. And women who get one deserve the same amount of privacy and respect as any other person making decisions about their health and medical care. It doesn’t matter the reason. It’s none of your damn business.
So let me break it down as simply as I can: Rape = Illegal; Abortion = Legal.
And to the media, with whom I feel especially aggrieved since I am still an adjunct member myself: Get your heads out of your fucking asses! Follow-up! Be diligent! Stop cowering because you are afraid someone is going to call you a liberal just for reporting facts! Do your job!
This post is an updated version of one originally posted on The Sin City Siren.