Rape Fatigue and You:
When There’s Just No Anger LeftBy: Erin Gloria Ryan
Since around 2pm on Monday, I've felt like a contestant on a sadistic Japanese game show, donning an American flag bikini and a blindfold, covered in glue and standing in a phone booth, trying to catch dollar bills with my flailing arms as an industrial strength blower propels cash around me at high speeds. But instead of cash, I'm trying to process and react to a veritable blizzard of ignorant, rape-related bullshit flowing unabated from the mouths of conservative lawmakers in America. Reading story after story of how, say, a cranky old coot of a doctor peddling medically dangerous misinformation has somehow informed half of the American public's views on women's health care, or how, say, another dude — always a fucking dude — is saying that he doesn't think that pregnancy from statutory rape or incest is really A Thing since he personally doesn't know any pregnant kids or how, say, the GOP is condemning this sort of Wingnut Real Talk while quietly inserting a mandatory ultrasound hat tip/constitutional amendment that would force all rape victims to carry their assailant's child to term into their official party platform has worn me down.
I am at full rape capacity. I am officially in the throes of rape fatigue.
The first time I had to get up and walk away from my computer, shaking my head in disbelief, was when I first found out about Akin's morning show shenanigans. Really!? "Legitimate rape" victims don't get pregnant because of some unknown mechanism in the female body that "shuts that whole thing down?" My Twitter feed exploded with jokes about how Akin envisions that the female anatomy contains an army of scrubbing bubbles, about how legitimate murder shouldn't cause death, how the doctors Akin spoke with must think that the uterus has the personality of a Schutzhund champion. A uterus dentata, if you will. But rather than sharing in the embarrassment and chastising Akin for talking yang about crap he had no business talking about, the knee jerk reaction from the conservative loudmouths I hatefollow for their entertainment value was to defend Akin, or point out how Biden saying that dumb thing about chains was SO MUCH WORSE. Yes. Let's protect our own fragile illusion of perpetual correctness above all else. BEING SHOUTY IS ALL WE HAVE! NEVER STOP SHOUTING!
Akin's statements didn't surprise me, but the depth of his ignorance and the extent to which people with a lot more power than I have back him up did, no matter how many times it's reiterated to me (Remember this? Or this? Or this?). I'm not jaded enough to accept this as par for the well-manicured, men-only course, but should I be? Sure, Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, John Cornyn, Sean Hannity, and a host of "unnamed GOP officials" paid lip service to disapproving the sentiment, but then went ahead and ratified an official party platform that promotes a constitutional amendment that would outlaw abortions with no exception for rape or incest and wrote in an Official Bro Fist Bump for states who require women seeking abortions to receive a
And yesterday, Todd Akin's grinning carcass had the gall to issue a 30-second apology for using the "wrong words in the wrong way." He has daughters, after all, and a wife. He loves women. He's likely talked to literally dozens of women in his life whom he did not subsequently stone. Also yesterday, Iowa Rep. Steve King backed Akin up, telling another local news outlet that he'd never heard of a child getting pregnant from statutory rape or incest. Sounds like someone needs a dressing down from Oprah, who was raped at age 9 and impregnated by a relative at age 14. Or maybe this Mexican 10-year-old. Or not. It's not secret, after all, that Steve King really does not like Mexicans.
Paying attention, digesting, and reacting to every dismaying War on Women news item that hits my inbox or reddit or endless alarming "PLEASE SEND MONEY NOW. WE NEED YOU - Michelle" emails that I still get from the Obama campaign after donating during 2008 can start to wear down on a person after awhile. Earlier this year, I pitched a "depressing new state laws governing or related to your ladybits" post to my editor, thinking it would take me about a week to research. There was so much shit to wade through that it took me almost a month. Along with scores of other women, I watched, agape, when Congressman Darrell Issa hosted a panel on birth control featuring all religious men whining about how allowing women to purchase birth control with their health care plans violated the men's religious freedom. I watched the entire multi-hour web stream of the hearing, thinking that maybe these men were just being deliberate assholes, that this was the newest realm of the urban hipster. Choosing to be religious and using that choice to interfere with women choosing not to be pregnant. Hipsters love irony. And when Virginia lawmakers pushing for mandatory transvaginal ultrasound laws were quoted saying, basically, that pregnant women had already been penetrated vaginally once, so it makes perfect sense for the state to require they be penetrated again, I winced so hard I think I strained something. Remember the time when Terry England of Georgia justified his support of a bill that would force women pregnant with nonviable fetuses to carry them to term with the fact that he was a farmer and sometimes livestock delivered stillborn baby farm animals and it was very, very sad? I did, until the memory was temporarily displaced by the next crappy thing a man who is actually in charge of stuff said. I was so fed up with Todd Akin's assholery yesterday and so distracted by the fact that he used a picture of a backlit fetus on the page he used to panhandle for signatures supporting his decision to stay in the race that I missed the fact that he misused YOUR, which is the sort of thing that pedants like me typically receive with gleeful schadenfreude.
Once, during a radio interview, I was asked if the War on Women was a real thing. I laughed like an overacting Bond villain. Ha! Ha! Ha!
When part of your job is delivering bad news, part of your job is constantly reading bad news. And, implicitly, occasionally drinking an entire bottle of wine on a Tuesday or taking a long, aimless walk that takes you all the way across the Manhattan Bridge and into the section of Chinatown that smells like an army of zombie fish. It's sitting at your family's dinner table during your summer vacation, unable to think of things to talk about with your own father that don't involve female anatomy or the regulation thereof. It's falling asleep in front of an episode of Arrested Development you've already seen 1,000 times because the scene when Tobias ascends the hill dressed as a mole makes you temporarily forget the cloud of ugh.
But even though I wish it would, it doesn't stop. Rep. Todd Akin still leads Claire McCaskill in the polls by a point and refuses to drop out of the race. Voters — millions and millions of them — will still cast their ballots for people like Akin and Iowa Rep. Steve King this election, even though they've made it their business to deregulate the hell out of banks and regulate the shit out of women. I hate to sound like a crotchety YouTube commenter who just watched a clip of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo for the first time, but what is wrong with this country? We have so far to go before we're even close to where we need to be for human beings to coexist in a state that is not terrifyingly precarious for one or more historically disenfranchised groups. This story and the garbage avalanche that has followed feels like stepping outside of my apartment one morning and realizing that I had traveled through time to 1955. Or 1200. I feel like a teacher who just gave a long division test only to discover that most of her students don't know how to subtract.
As President Obama said earlier this week, "Rape is rape." Seems like a pretty simple concept that a human being possessing a basic level of empathy should understand. But so many people don't. And no matter how sputteringly angry I get, no matter how many Twitter jokes or scathing Atlantic articles are written and petitions are signed, assholes are still going to vote similarly destructive assholes into office.
Akin, King, and the rest of the GOP that supported a WIRE HANGERS ALWAYS! constitutional amendment aren't simply destructive assholes — they're actively harmful, ill-intentioned. Evil. And before you condemn me for being overdramatic and premenstrual for choosing the word "evil" to describe guys who wear suits and America flag pins, consider what that word means — profoundly immoral and malevolent. People who truly believe that rape cannot lead to pregnancy because of *~uTeRuS mAgIc~* or that women who become pregnant under any circumstances must stay pregnant are using information that they know to be wrong in order to promote laws that cause bodily harm, physical punishment, and distress to women. Doesn't get much eviler than that without getting weapons and uniforms involved.
What needs to happen before spouting ignorant, anti-woman crap in public is uniformly met with the same sort of derision we now reserve for politicians who appeal to ethnic stereotypes during drunken tirades? How much longer are we all going to have to stay angry, after our mothers spent their lives angry? And is it even working?
Eventually a person gets to the point where they can longer withstand the constant blitzkrieg of bullshit. So, Steve King, Todd Akin, and shouty Twitter conservatives: you win. Rape outrage limit reached. I have given this all of my fucks, and the fucks I have given are still not enough fucks. So many more fucks need to be given, and I have exhausted my fuck supply. The fucks are on backorder. Employees are working overtime to restock my fucks, but in the meantime, please accept this 10% off coupon while we wait for the fucks to arrive via FedEx. I'll be over here, drinking wine from a Pac Man mug and watching cartoons.