Simon Williamson

Accept the gifts that come with rape

2012-02-17 13:36

Simon Williamson

I wrote a fortnight ago about the delusional manner in which a bunch of old male politicians aimed to torture women who intend to terminate their pregnancies. They were ultimately successful.
 
That, however, seems piddly when one looks at the volatile debate that has ignited in the USA over the last two weeks, bringing out the best in many public figures’ inner bigot.
 
US President Barack Obama sent collective Catholic blood pressure up when he ruled last week that every employer who provided healthcare would not be able to remove contraception or birth control from plans. As you probably know, the Vatican (which is where the president of Catholicism lives, you may know him as the Pope) is ardently opposed to contraception, abortion and so on.

The floodgates of misogyny

High profile Catholics have spent many words into the nearest microphone since Obama’s announcement. This, combined with the momentum of the presidential campaign of “social conservative” Rick Santorum has thrust women’s issues to into the media spotlight. The term “social conservative” applies to Santorum about as aptly as “lengthy” describes Dirk Diggler. And an added catalyst for chaos was thrown into the cauldron when defence secretary Leon Panetta ruled earlier this week that women could fight on the front lines of the army.
 
Well, didn’t that just open up the floodgates of misogyny? Santorum really put the cherry on top of the dirty cake, which I am about to explain to you. He doesn’t believe in a woman’s choice to abort her pregnancy even if she was raped. Even if by her dad or another blood relative. He said to Piers Morgan on CNN, “I believe and I think the right approach is to accept this horribly created - in the sense of rape - but nevertheless a gift in a very broken way, the gift of human life, and accept what God has given to you.” So yep, women of the USA, enjoy the gift via rape that has been dished out to you. By God, according to this chap.
 
Even that was pretty light compared to what else cracked the media headlines this week. Liz Trotta is a Fox News contributor, and spoke on the channel on Monday, lambasting the current defence administration for allowing the  “feminists to direct them to spend a lot of money” to deal with an increase in sexual assaults in the military. Said Trotta at that statistic, “Well what did they expect?” You know, because men just can’t help raping women when they are in close proximity. So hoof the women so the poor men can stop raping them and focus on the wars at hand. Trotta also lambasted the administration for spending money on “sexual counsellors all over the place, victims advocates… to support women in the military who are now being raped too much”. Silly women. If you don’t want to be raped, then don’t serve your country. Duh!

Patronising

Rick Santorum also had a few cents to throw in about women fighting on the front lines. And this is where the tone changed from abusive to patronising. Santorum said to John King on CNN: “My concern is being in combat in that situation instead of being focused on the mission, they may be more concerned with protecting someone who may be in a vulnerable position, a woman in a vulnerable position.” Taking into account what Liz Trotta said, it seems American men are only capable of either protecting a woman above all else, or raping her (and then preventing her terminating her pregnancy).
 
Bryan Fischer, the director of the American Family Association (a conservative think-tank promoting Christian values and opposition to anything that wasn’t legal 100 years ago) wrote in a column on Wednesday that he agreed with Santorum. Fischer claimed: “Our culture has lost sight of the priceless and unique role for which God has designed women: to bring new life into the world and nurture it to maturity.” So, thank you women for your wombs and ability to pump milk from your boobs. If you could limit it to that we’d be awfully grateful.
 
Quite how this has become the national discourse when a spluttering economy, higher-then-usual unemployment and a national budget are the most pressing matters facing the US is extraordinary.

Quite how, in the teens of the noughties, women’s right to contraception is being questioned blows my mind - bear in mind The Pill was accepted by the US Food and Drug Administration as a contraceptive in the 1960s. In the 1970s, over 60% of Catholic women were using some form of contraception. In fact, in 1972 the US Supreme Court ruled that a state government was not permitted to prohibit the distribution of birth control. This is hardly new.
 
Men should be grateful

Neither is the issue of women in combat. Those blessed with vaginas were fighting, albeit disguised as men, as early as the American Revolutionary War, which ended in 1783. Although women did not serve in combat situations in the American army for quite some time since the Union was set up, it has been the norm for them to be in close contact with male military officials in almost any role, including nurses, support staff and administration.
 
I’ll tell you what men should be really grateful for: the fact that women haven’t been given a chance to govern the world like men do. The people I listed above are not crazies on the side-lines. Santorum is leading polls to become the Republican nominee for president of the world’s most powerful country. Liz Trotta dropped her message on one of the world’s most powerful television news networks, and the American Family Association has nearly 200 radio stations and a monthly publication with a circulation of over 180 000.
 
I was very much under the impression that we had moved on from the days when women were considered nothing but sex organs attached to something that foetuses could live in.
 
How very shocked I was to find out this wasn't the case. 

Simon Williamson is a freelance writer.

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Read more on:    barack obama  |  simon williamson  |  rick santorum  |  us  |  us elections 2012
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