Representative Todd Akin recently found himself at the center of controversy when he went on a Sunday morning talk show and claimed that women can’t get pregnant from “legitimate rape” because the female body has ways to “try and shut that down.” Which, as has been pointed out by millions of people, including leaders of the GOP, is completely, totally, and insanely wrong.
So wrong, in fact, that the GOP rightly realized what a mess this was about to be. And so they asked Rep. Akin to drop out of the congressional race. Apparently their pressuring him got so bad, that his wife, Lulli, responded with the following comment:
“Party bosses dictating who is allowed to advance through the party and make all the decisions—it’s just like 1776 in that way. Colonists rose up and said, ‘Not in my home, you don’t come and rape my daughters and my … wife.’ But that is where we are again. There has been a freedom of elections, not tyranny of selections since way back.”
Now, if I understand this metaphor, and I want to be clear that I’m pretty sure I don’t, the GOP leadership are the British, Akin is the colonists rising up in rebellion, and we are the…wives and daughters? So Todd Akin is protecting Americans from being raped by political party bosses?
That can’t be right. And that begs the question: do Todd and Lulli Akin know what rape means?
I don’t think they do.
On a much smaller and less wow-what-a-terrible-person scale, this same scenario has happened to me. My job, as I’m sure is true with most jobs, involves a certain amount of jargon. When I first started, occasionally someone would say a word or acronym that I had never heard before. Instead of doing the smart thing and asking someone what it meant, I would repeat the word in the same context in which I heard it over and over again. Usually this would go on for about a month, until someone asked me what it meant, and I had to admit that I didn’t know. Then we would both look it up and I would learn that not only had I been using the word incorrectly, but that I had said some truly nonsense things over the past 30 days.
I think the Akins are in a similar, albeit higher profile, situation. They’ve probably heard the word “rape” bantered about in the context of “something unpleasant that happens mainly to women” and they’re guessing on the specifics.
They might be assuming it’s something like a headache, or accidentally watching the fourth hour of The Today Show. And in that sense, Todd Akin’s comments about pregnancy make a lot more sense. Because if he thinks of rape as a moderate headache, then he’s right that women can’t get pregnant from that. If anything, it prevents them. But if he were to think of rape as the rest of us do – as a forcible sexual act – well then he would realize that rape actually results in an estimated 32,000 pregnancies a year.
At some point in the future, I’m sure that someone will call the Akins’ bluff and ask them what “rape” means. And when they finally break down, admit they have no idea, and Google it, I’ve gone ahead and written the public apology that they should issue:
Oh my God, did you guys know that rape meant THAT? We are so sorry, we had no idea what we were talking about. No wonder everyone on that talk show looked at me like I was crazy. And Lulli wants to clarify that she now realizes that’s the GOP leadership isn’t raping anyone, even metaphorically. At worst, I’d call what they’re doing mildly unpleasant, certainly not on the level of sexually assault. We did not mean to compare the two, we feel absolutely terrible. Now we’re going to look up “incest,” because we’re starting to think that doesn’t mean when you get something sharp stuck in your shoe…
You’re welcome, Todd and Lulli. Now, run along, and please just stop using the word rape.