[Trigger warning: this article features discussion about rape.]
US Representative Todd Akin (R-MO) made headlines over the weekend for his scientifically inaccurate and misogynist description of how women’s bodies deal with pregnancies conceived through rape.
Akin was a guest on St. Louis-based KTVI-TV’s Sunday morning talk show “the Jaco Report.” The host, Charles Jaco, asked, “If an abortion could be considered in the case of tubal pregnancy or something like that, what about in the case of rape, should it be legal or not?”
“Well you know, uh, people always want to try and make that as one of those things — well, how do you, how do you slice this particularly tough sort of ethical question,” Akin said. “It seems to me, first of all, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something. You know, I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist, and not attacking the child.”
Once the story broke, Akin released a statement saying that he misspoke. While many, including GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, have called for him to drop out of the upcoming Senate race against incumbent Claire McCaskill (D-MO), others, like former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, are standing behind him. Akin announced on Tuesday that he would not be dropping from the race.
During Akin’s time in the House, as a member of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, he co-sponsored a bill with current vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan that sought to, among other things, change the definition of rape to “forcible rape.”
32,000 women get pregnant from rape per year, according to a 1996 study by gynecologist Dr. Melisa Holmes. Additionally, women do not have biological mechanisms that kick in and abort a potential pregnancy when they suffer rape-related trauma. Finally, and most importantly: There is no such thing as “legitimate” or “illegitimate” rape. That kind of dichotomy is disgusting; implying that some victims are being untruthful when they come forward is so fundamentally misogynist that it boggles the mind.
However, it isn’t really surprising that Akin — a stereotypical religious conservative with a history of trying to legislate female reproductive rights out of existence — believes these things. He is a logical product of a state that not only incorporates patriarchy into its legal framework, but its social and cultural institutions as well.
Akin is the product of a system that promotes the false idea that women need men just to exist, that women should only ever be concerned with having and raising children and keeping the home clean; a system that looks with disgust upon women who seek to live and work and play independently of it. It is a system that permeates all aspects of all our lives. Akin — and many others, both in and outside the insulated sphere of electoral politics — not only accept this system but rush headlong to meet it, and as such, it is understandable (though by no means acceptable) that this occurred in the first place.
It’s easy to dismiss or mock Akin as “just another misogynist Republican” (and to be clear, he is one) and be done with the whole affair, but it is perhaps more useful and productive — especially as anarchists — to approach this situation and its aftermath with the intent of opening a frank and visible discussion about patriarchy and oppression. Patriarchy infects everyone under it as it endeavours to perpetuate itself. We are not immune to it, even though we recognize that it is a coercive societal force, and if all we do is point and laugh, we have helped patriarchy along.
There is a vibrant and productive current of anarchist feminism that exists today. We (speaking as a straight, cisgender, white male to my straight, cisgender, white male comrades) need to listen to this current. We need to heed what they have been trying to tell us for years. We need to start shutting down the disappointing trend of “manarchism” that has popped up in recent years and work with anarcha-feminists to popularize and spread ideas of a world without the State, a world built upon voluntary free association and mutual aid and the idea that all persons are equal — not just dudes.