“Blah, blah, blah. . . I’m such a moron. I think women can repel unwanted sperm like they have some kind of internal pelvic bug-zapper.”
The fury will eventually die down around what Todd Akin said.
People will even forget about it, as they always do.
And some people, and this is what really frosts my ass, some people will walk away from this saying, “Enough, already. What’s the big deal? He apologized.”
Sadly, it’s not just about one interview.
We have an unwritten system of judgment in this country, which values women based on what they give to those around them. “She was a mother of three,” an obituary might say, or “She was a loving wife and daughter.” We place a lot of value on women based on how much they take care of the rest of the world, but almost never on how much they care for themselves.
I was once a woman who gave nothing back to anybody. I was once a raving, selfish drug addict. It wasn’t unusual for me to call up my parents and accuse them of stealing money from me; I was so desperate to feed my addiction. It tore them up.
I stole. I lied. I ditched everyone I cared about for drugs. If I had died during this dark time, my obituary writer would have had to tell a lot of lies.
Toward the end of my “using” career, I was raped.
I woke up late at night, still stoned and drunk, to a man I didn’t know, sitting at the foot of my bed. It was my sh*tty life and a million wrong turns that had led this person to the foot of my bed. He was the roommate of a drug dealer I knew. He let himself into my apartment because it was too much of a crap-heap to have a functioning lock. As it turns out, I was too fuzzy on the actual details of that night to give the police anything they could use to arrest him.
Some would say I deserved it. I’m sure some people thought it. Hell, I thought it.
Lying on a stretcher in the hospital, waiting for the “rape exam,” one of the nurses asked if I wanted something called a “morning after pill.” Once she explained it, even in my haze, there was no question in my mind that I should accept it.
Four months later, I found myself in drug treatment, and slowly learned how to separate the things I was responsible for from the things I wasn’t. What a relief to realize that nobody deserves to be raped. What a relief to make amends to my parents and forgive myself, so I could move on and become who I now am.
What a relief I didn’t get pregnant by my rapist.
But this is why I’m so angry.
Because by the standards of the conservative right, the standards of Todd Akin, Paul Ryan, and anybody else who legislates based on misinformation and “morality,” that unkempt, strung-out girl on the stretcher would have been denied the right to abort a rape pregnancy. And why stop there? Let’s go ahead and outlaw the morning after pill while we’re at it.
It would have been easy to judge my situation at that time. Look who she hangs out with. Look where she lives. I’m forever grateful that nurse didn’t judge me for how I must have looked to her, and instead just did her job.
Does it matter that now I am a loving wife, mother, daughter, and all those good things we like a woman to be?
Would I have had any chance at becoming those things if I had been forced to carry a rape pregnancy to term?
But, we don’t admire women who put themselves first. We don’t admire women who say, “No. I don’t want this baby.” How very selfish. How very un-loving. How very anti-mother-earth of us. No obituary ever says, “She took good care of herself, always.”
I’m not angry because one wrong politician said one wrong thing. I’m angry at the mentality behind the man, the laws and the movement against my rights.
I’m angry because downplaying the pain of rape and its consequences is exactly what these guys have to do to justify the choices they want to make for us. One of them just got caught saying something out loud is all.
The damage of that continues, long after all the big apologies.
Caroline Burau is an author, blogger and 911 dispatcher in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Her memoir, Answering 911: Life in the Hot Seat was a Reader’s Digest Editor’s Choice and her novel Sugarfiend is just really darn good. Check her out at here.
Editor: Thaddeus Haas
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