The GOP Convention is underway, and the official endorsements of the Romney-Ryan ticket have begun with predictable ‘human interest’ campaigning, especially in regards to the ‘women behind the men’– including an appearance by Ann Romney on CBS’ morning show in which she discussed a miscarriage. Likewise, I would be unsurprised if VP-nominee Paul Ryan’s speech this Wednesday included some similar overt references to his family and marital history along the lines of, “I have a wife whom I believe procreates with me consensually . . . I’m 100-percent pro-women, potential voters!”
The gap has narrowed between Obama and Romney amongst female voters, but the president still retains a six percent lead . . . perhaps due to the ‘war on women’ bundle of controversies including last week’s “legitimate rape” fiasco or this week’s news from Arizona vis-à-vis Jan Brewer’s declaration into law that pregnancy begins two weeks before conception (measured from the date of a woman’s last period).
Now, I like to think of myself as a nuanced and fair person, so I’m going to say something that might seem a bit out there. It isn’t just Republicans fighting on the opposing side in the war on women. As social liberals (I assume, if you’re reading this article, you fit this description), we find it convenient to slip into the existing narrative that is fundamentalist Republican nastiness like a pair of comfy slippers. We sigh and complain that ‘they’ve done it again’ and wonder if ‘they’ll ever learn,’ but we’re loathe to turn the mirror inward.
It is undeniably true that the majority of anti-woman legislation and rhetoric that emerges from the political sphere comes from the Right. But (and let’s just stay with rape for an example), the Left is responsible for perpetuating a toxic culture as well. Perhaps it is easier to dismiss the Left’s contributions because their war on women seems to be being fought on a more personal, individual level.
We have the petition to free Roman Polanski (whom Whoopi Goldberg, among others, believe didn’t commit “rape-rape” . . . a mistaken notion that not only conveniently forgets Polanski’s drugging of his victim but minimizes statutory rape, which is in fact, rape).
We have Bill Clinton’s, let’s say, semi-consensual relationship with his interns (because, as any feminist with a most rudimentary knowledge of sexual harassment and workplace power dynamics knows, those were not simply affairs).
We have Michael Moore and Oliver Stone writing editorials and posting bail for accused rapist Julian Assange because they remain “deeply grateful for the accomplishments of WikiLeaks” and they see the arrest as some sort of conspiracy on the part of the United States to prosecute Assange on our soil. Bullshit.
If women and their uteruses and their rapes remain in the abstract, then it seems Liberals are all for them. But because “good guys don’t rape,” these philosophies fall apart when put into practice.
And Conservatives are no better – there is a reason why anti-choice and rape-apologist politicians side-step questions about whether their stance would change should it become personal. The age-old, “what if it was your wife/daughter/mother/sister” question.
The simple and terrible truth is that rapists, rape-apologists, domestic abusers, sexists and sexual harassers exist outside of the two-party system. They always have, and my pessimistic self believes that they always will – at least in the absence of a hereto unforeseen overhaul of societal mores.
Society – which does include our political system, of course, but also encompasses so much more of our human interactions – is what allows these men and women who would oppress womankind to exist and thrive. Correct, conscious political rhetoric can only do so much when 33 states still consider marital rape a lesser offense than other types of rape and can charge the attacker with spousal abuse or battery instead. Women-friendly (or dare I say, feminist) candidates are necessary but ultimately relatively ineffective against a culture of violence that produces rapes in which 73% of the time, the rapist is someone known to the victim (38% of such incidents being a friend, 28% an intimate partner, and 7% a relative). *All statistics from RAINN.
This is macro, big-picture stuff here. It may start with electing officials sympathetic to the cause, but it most certainly does not end there and it necessitates an appreciation for subtlety that goes far beyond Red and Blue.