Rape Prevention Clothing

Late last night, this came across my feed. My interest was peaked but my feminist anger was brewing. So the idea of this clothing is that it is meant to be there for women in the event that the unthinkable happens and they come into contact with a rapist. Take a look at any list of ‘helpful’ tips for women to prevent rape. None of the tips will prevent a rape except the one that is never mentioned: don’t come into contact with a rapist.

We live in a rape culture. Slut shaming and blaming women who are raped happens all the time. Her skirt was too short, she drank too much, she hung out with the wrong crowd, she had sex before so she must have wanted it now are all familiar refrains to feminists and women who work with women. Now, thanks to AR[1] clothing women have one more thing they can add to the list!

The premise behind this clothing is that it will slow a rapist down as it is hard to get off and made of material that does not cut easily. The first thing that popped into my mind was that impeding a determined rapist will result in the woman suffering more injuries, perhaps even death. Really, the only thing that will protect us from rape is making sure we don’t come into contact with rapists. Most women are raped by men who know them so it is doubtful that they would even be wearing the protective clothing inside their supposedly safe homes.

It is interesting that this has become a thing. I had been thinking that the best way to prevent rape would be for men to wear clothes that do not allow them to have sex when they go out until they can prove they are not rapists. A trusted person would hold on to the key or tool to remove the clothing until the men are safely home and unable to rape a woman. Think about the possibilities! Women would be free to go anywhere we want, do what we want and at any time of the day or night. The government could institute a licensing system whereby good men could prove themselves and not have to wear the rape prevention clothing. Men could go through a graduated licensing system, similar to driver licensing in BC. Now, seriously, this is a campaign I could get behind!

[1] Could the AR stand for anti-rape?

A Great Day for Progressives or a repudiation of Romney?

Barack Obama’s victory last night will give progressives in the US some vindication. However, I think the election results could also be viewed as an outright rejection of the Tea Party faction within the Republican Party. The severe mocking of some of their candidates and their ridiculous positions on rape, for example, on social media played a huge role. The Republicans have also not figured out that the US is no longer a huge monolith to which they can appeal. There is an ever-shrinking number of rich, old, white guys and, the women they control, to effectively elect regressive Republicans. Unfortunately for Obama, Democrats did not gain control of the House of Representatives, which means there will be more gridlock in Congress.

The Tea Party has seriously damaged the credibility of the Republican Party. Its presence has blurred the lines of the separation of church and state – a fundamental principle upon which democracies are built. Their ridiculous stands on rape and abortion sufficiently shocked enough women, most of whom who thought the issue had been settled. The spectre of rich, white men being able to tell women what they could do with their bodies scared enough of them so they went out and voted. The Tea Party has moved the Republican Party so far to the right that it was no longer recognizable to many. Mitt Romney is seen as a moderate by Tea Party standards, which I am sure, scared the crap out of informed Americans.

The role of social media cannot be discounted either. Within minutes of a gaffe or ridiculous policy position being uttered the internet buzzed with mocking graphics. Every single day for months some Republican position was being mocked whether it was Big Bird or ‘legitimate’ rape, nothing escaped. These graphics spread like wildfire basically reducing Republican positions to small sound bites for the internet generation. Republicans seemed to ignore this channel to mock Obama. It is not surprising, as the Republicans didn’t appeal to youth in anyway. Their error, however, was not understanding that many people are on social media and would see these graphics. I can remember the very effective graphics of Mitt Romney putting his dog on the roof of his car and the flurry of Big Bird ads after Romney said he would cut funding to PBS.

Even though Obama has been re-elected, it would be wrong to think that things are going to substantially change. American presidents, who head up one of the branches of government,[1] has less power domestically than a Canadian prime minister with a majority government. Our prime ministers control both the executive and the legislative branches of government. This means they have the power to control the legislation that is introduced and enforce the party discipline to ensure it is passed. While the US does have a party system, the idea of party discipline is not used. Instead if a US president wants to pass legislation they must lobby for all their votes.[2] The Republicans still have control of the House of Representatives, which will make Obama’s legislative agenda difficult. As a 2nd term, ‘lame duck’ President, Obama will be able to spend whatever political capital he has as he cannot be reelected. Some presidents in this position decide to become more active in foreign policy as this is mostly within their control.[3] If Obama decides to do this, we can only hope that he uses his power for good.

I think the reelection of Obama is more of a repudiation of Tea Party Republicans.[4] Had Romney had any control over the other candidates running he may have been able put forward a more moderate campaign. Had Romney denounced some of the more wacky ideas[5] he may have had more success. However, Romney’s elitist attitudes[6] probably drove women and minorities into the arms of the Democrats. In trying to appeal to be conservative enough for the Tea Party, Romney did not attract any new voters to the Republican Party.

If the Republicans are ever to be successful as a party they will need to do several things. First, they must divest themselves of the Tea Party. It is clear that this faction within the party cost them many races; virtually all of the rape deniers were defeated. Second, they must develop more centrist policies that appeal to women and minorities. Third, they must figure out social media. The Democrats, and particularly Obama, are much more savvy when it comes to the internet. They understand how it works and they use it to their advantage. Fourth, Republicans need to understand that their traditional base of support is eroding and there are no new heirs apparent on the horizon. Insisting that everyone can become a millionaire and successful if they just pull up their bootstraps is a garbage nightmare and has no place in politics today.

I am relieved that Obama won because the alternative was so completely scary. Romney seemed to lack the intellectual capacity to be president of the United States. I had visions of him invading Iran because he falls for the ‘weapons of mass destruction’[7] line. He was also scary because no one really knew when he would flip-flop or adopt a completely new position. I think many Americans realized that he may say one thing but would quite likely do another if he were elected.

[1] The Executive.

[2] This is how Americans end up with so much ‘pork barrelling’ in their legislation – they end up tacking unrelated things on in order to get the votes.

[3] Bill Clinton did this.

[4] Obama also had the ‘incumbent factor’ working in his favour. Most sitting US presidents who run for a second term are re-elected. Recent exceptions to this were George Bush Sr. and Jimmy Carter.

[5] Women can’t get pregnant from legitimate rape and even if they do it is God’s will come to mind.

[6] “Let the foreclosures run their course” and the whole 47% thing.

[7] Or nuclear weapons.

Republican Assholes

Not a day goes by that I am thankful I live in Canada and not the USA. Consider this lovely quote from Todd Akin who is running for the US Senate, in Missouri:

“First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare,” Akin told KTVI-TV in an interview posted Sunday. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

Akin said that even in the worst-case scenario — when the supposed natural protections against unwanted pregnancy fail — abortion should still not be a legal option for the rape victim.

“Let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work, or something,” Akin said. “I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.”H/T Shakesville

So in Akin’s narrow little world, us women-folk have the ability to know when we are being ‘legitimately raped.’ And, our bodies, the wonders they are, can discern the difference between legitimate and illegitimate sperm! Does the cervix just close up shop? Does the egg scream ‘no, you can’t impregnate me you legitimate raper!’ Let’s take this a step further. What defines a ‘legitimate rape.’ Clearly it depends on the victim. Given many of the Republican’s beliefs one can guess that the victim of a legitimate rape would be white, Christian, and virginal. Not a virgin – your rape is bogus even if you have all the signs of a legitimate rape; a sex-trade worker, you weren’t raped, you just didn’t get paid; college student taking birth control, you weren’t raped you planned for it.

Now let’s talk about the no abortion for rape victims even when the woman’s body fails to recognize the sperm of a ‘legitimate rapist.’ No abortion for you! Instead, we are going to protect that child and make you give birth to it – which, I am sure, would feel like being raped all over again. The thing about how these regressive pricks view women means that at some level all women are harlots and asking for it. It is as though the mere presence of our vaginas makes us want to have sex. And those men in Washington are bound and determined to control women’s vaginas!

Now, you may ask, why I am getting all upset about this little gem. After all, it is not as though Todd Akin is going to come up here and get all up in our Canadian vaginas. He doesn’t have to. Our Canadian media covers enough American politics to ensure that his message is spread here. Canada’s abortion debate has been closed since the 1980s. Yet, this year, Motion 312 came to the floor of the House of Commons to further ‘clarify’ when a fetus becomes a human being. Up until this point, it was at birth. Even though Stephen Harper assured all of us women that he had no interest in re-opening the abortion debate, he has, nonetheless, allowed this motion to come to the floor brought by one of his MPs: Stephen Woodworth. So even though Akin and his ilk can’t make policy here they can sure influence it. This is even more so when Conservatives are in power in Canada. With a Liberal government, social conservatism really does not gain much traction here on the policy front. We can only hope that this motion is ultimately defeated. The fact that it saw the light of day is still so disturbing.

‘Forced Sexual Activity’

Language and its use is very powerful. Take for example Cross-Country Checkup on CBC yesterday. They were talking about the Toronto District School Board Report released last week. Rex had Julian Falconer on who headed the commission that produced the report. I must say that I was very impressed with how Mr. Falconer grasped the issues. He was discussing the rate of sexual assault of young women in schools and the abysmal rates of reporting. His conclusion that for a young woman to report brought down the whole weight of the legal system, her parents etc was not working. After consulting with women experts in this matter he came to the conclusion that the issue should be handled like abortion. A young woman can make her decision about terminating her pregnancy without the involvement of parents. This way, he reasoned, young women are more likely to report the crimes committed against them school authorities and then the schools can take action against the perpetrators. To the parents who would complain that they would want to know if their daughters had been raped he basically let them know that under the current system they don’t know and at least if young women are reporting more then perpetrators are being dealt with and the parents may find out at some point. I was very impressed with Mr. Falconer’s clear and concise thinking around these issues. But I digress.

Back to the language issue. I hate it when people use euphemisms. Rex seemed to have a hard time with the word rape so he called it ‘forced sexual activity.’ What a way to diminish what is actually happening. Last time I checked ‘forced sexual activity’ is rape. Why can’t we call it what it is? Even sexual assault puts a softer touch on rape. We need to demand that violence, like rape, be labeled appropriately. If we do not then we risk a minimization of a huge crime committed mostly against women. You can bet that if it were the young men being raped it would not be called ‘forced sexual activity.’

Another one that is really pissing me off these days is the term ‘gender-based violence.’ I am not sure why we are calling violence against women ‘gender-based violence’ now. Again, it is throwing ambiguity at an all to real and serious issue. When that term is used people have to stop and think about what it could mean. Most people only see two genders (that is a whole other post) and so they have to stop and think about this applies to men. Well it doesn’t really. The bottom line is that in ‘gender-based violence,’ for the most part, men commit violence against women. Julian Falconer did not discuss violence perpetrated by females in schools. I am sure there is some. But for the most part it is young men who commit these crimes against their peers.

What are the solutions? I am not really sure. I do know that we have to call it like we see it. We need to expose violence against women and we need to call ‘forced sexual assault’ rape. As a society we need to address male privilege and how we keep passing it on to young men. Men need to take responsibility for their actions and women need to hold them accountable.