Politics Wednesday – Reactionaries

Reactionary – adjective; of, pertaining to, marked by, or favoring reaction, especially extreme conservatism or rightism in politics; opposing political or social change.

Reactionary – noun; a reactionary person.

That’s the modern definition of a reactionary. One of my political science profs was more succinct: progressive = forward thinking; reactionary = backwards thinking.

That “backwards thinking” seems to be part and parcel of being a Republican lately. The Repugs seem to have a disturbing nostalgia for the way things used to be–women not working outside the home, women not being able to use birth control, women not being paid the same as men, women not needing legislation to assure police take their claims of domestic violence seriously, etc.

I hope you’ve picked up the common theme here. In case you haven’t, it’s women. Republican men–and some Republican women–in state legislatures across the country have proposed or enacted some of the most backwards laws regarding women’s health and a woman’s right to decide what she does with her body.

In response to a story about the high number of rapes and sexual assaults of women in the military, Liz Trotta, an “analyst” on Fox News, said that women who go into the military should just expect to be raped. I don’t know which is worse–the “lie back and take it” attitude or the assumption that men are just born rapists. My mother said the same thing when I went to work at the FAA, a then male-dominated workplace, but my mother was certifiable.

Rick Santorum, in addition to opposing any form of birth control (So, why is your wife not pregnant again, Rick?), recently said that women working outside the home is harmful to families. He also said that having women in front line positions in the military would mean male soldiers would be distracted by their desire to protect them. If a woman is raped and becomes pregnant, he says, she should just accept God’s gift of life. The more outrageous things he says about women and their place in society, the higher he surges in Republican polls.

In my home state of Virginia, the state legislature just passed a law requiring a woman who wants an abortion in the first trimester to get an ultrasound, even if her doctor says she doesn’t need it. The theory seems to be if the woman sees a fully formed baby she’ll change her mind. The reality is the fetus isn’t fully formed in the first trimester–it’s so small the ultrasound has to be done trans-vaginally. That means the ultrasound device is inserted in a woman’s vagina to obtain the scan of a fetus that is 2.5 inches long and weighs less than an ounce. In case you didn’t get it, I’ll repeat: Inserted. In. A. Woman’s. Vagina. What is it we call penetration of a woman’s vagina against her will?

This longing for a world where women were less than equal partners, where constant childbirth brought early death, where domestic violence was considered a “family matter,” puzzles me. Why would anyone want to go back to a social, political, and economic era that was thinly disguised patriarchy? Do we have to fight that battle all over again?

If it’s because the male ego can’t handle women as equals, get over it. This is life now–women get to choose whether to work or stay at home; whether to have a child or use birth control; whether to serve their country or not; whether to have a rapist’s baby or not. Get over yourselves and your obsession about controlling women’s bodies.

We won’t go back to that. We won’t be like Callista Gingrich who knows the only reason she’s at Newt’s side is to stand there and look pretty as she smiles at him and nods. That’s her choice; it won’t be the choice of women capable of standing on their own two feet.

Sorry, Repug guys, we’re not taking off our shoes, bunking in the kitchen, cleaning the house in pearls, or staying pregnant our entire married lives. We will move forward. You can be the reactionaries.

Rape is Rape

I’ve been a feminist since before I heard the word. When I did hear it, I said, “Oh, so that explains me.” Even then, there were certain feminist concepts I had to grow into. One of those was, “Believe a woman when she says she’s been raped.” This was usually followed by many anecdotes of women who were victimized twice, once by their rapists and then by the justice system who was supposed to be their advocates. I was a bit skeptical. After all, police and the courts are our friends, and I’d heard women in college threaten boyfriends with a cry of rape in order to assure their fidelity or in a fit of post-frat party conscience. I hadn’t yet learned about how the patriarchy socializes young girls with self-loathing. But I digress.

In the early years of my feminism, I didn’t give the rape issue much energy. Focus on equal pay, equal access to jobs, etc. Those were the things important to me as a working woman in a male-dominated profession.

Then, I was raped.

I wish I could say it was the stereotypical slavering madman who accosted me in an alley (though why would I be there?) or followed me from my car. No, it was the man with whom I’d been in a relationship for several years. He was a cop. Now, the occasional use of his handcuffs was mutually stimulating–the  occasional use. All of a sudden it had to be every time, and when I finally said I didn’t want that, I got forcibly handcuffed and dragged to the bed. And raped.

There were days of denial. I didn’t even tell my best friend. If she reads this, this may be the first time she’s heard of it. It was my flight instructor I confided in because he was a big-brother type, and he was furious. He was a policeman, too, and he was the one who told me I had to go to the police department in the location where it happened.

The officer who took my statement–and never processed it–was bored and surly. It couldn’t be rape because he was my boyfriend, and why had I waited days to report it. Obviously, I was pissed at him, so I was making this up. I was wasting valuable police time, and what if, in wasting that time, some woman really got raped. After that dead end, I went to my boyfriend’s department in a different jurisdiction and reported it. I got the same treatment and was also told that cops sometimes need to blow off steam. That’s all it was. Blowing off steam, and I needed to understand the difference between that and rape. I now knew the difference, but I also saw pursuing this was useless.

The good thing I did do was not see him again as part of a relationship. He was friends with my parents, so there were occasional encounters where he expressed puzzlement at why we weren’t together anymore. My mother adored him, and dating him was probably another of my futile attempts to please her. I even fantasized telling my father and imagining my ex-boyfriend’s reaction to the business end of one my father’s guns. But that would mean telling my father his daughter had done things he couldn’t approve of, and I couldn’t do that. To see the disappointment on his face, before his anger, would have been almost as bad as the rape. So, I let it go. I never told anyone else, except the man from the next relationship I was in who showed me what love and love-making truly were.

I reveal all this because today a New York City prosecutor requested that sexual assault charges be dropped against former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn. This after his alleged (I have to say that) victim begged them to proceed. Because this hotel maid lied on an immigration form by saying she was gang-raped (sometimes the only way women from some areas of the world can get political asylum), because a recording of her speaking with a jailed boyfriend was mis-translated, Mr. Strauss-Kahn walks free. Well, free to face two civil suits from the hotel maid and a woman in France, the daughter of a Strauss-Kahn friend who charges that he assaulted her.

The hotel maid has been on television, and her name has been used with her permission, but I won’t use it. To me, she’s still a victim. Lying to get into a country to make a life for you and your child is not the same as lying about rape. They are not mutually inclusive. And she was obviously far braver than I because she has spoken out about her assault.

Strauss-Kahn’s attorneys strip away the hotel maid’s dignity when they continue to claim the “act” was consensual. The DA is uninformed when he says her stories about what she did in the minutes after the assault are “inconsistent.” I was nearly incoherent for days, so I can understand why she may not have been consistent. She has been consistent about the details of what happened, and so, to me, she should have had her day in court–not to prove she’s a victim but to show that women who have been sexually assaulted should be protected by the justice system not vilified by it. Yes, I know she’s already filed a civil suit, but not until the DA’s office made noise about her credibility.

So, women in or traveling to New York, if you’re going to be raped, make sure it isn’t someone rich and powerful; make sure you’re not poor and working a job where if you speak up you could get fired; make sure you’re white and born right here in America; and make sure you have plenty of witnesses so you won’t be accused of “he said/she said.”

Once again, something I thought we as a modern, civilized culture had put aside rears its disgusting head (and I’m not even talking about making victims pay for their own rape kits). I’ll say it in as few words as possible:  Rape is rape.