It’s been more than a week since Todd Akin, a Republican congressman and nominee for the American Senate, argued against abortion – and against the laws allowing it – on grounds that “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
So, in his mind, there is never a real reason for letting a woman choose to terminate a pregnancy since she won’t get pregnant when, for example, she’s raped…
I haven’t addressed this because I kept waiting for the revelation: The Martians are here. And they have taken over the body of Todd Akin. And in their evil and alien ways, they are voicing the most misogynist, misguided and disgusting opinions. But- no. This was not extra-terrestrial influence. I am left speechless. Mainly out of anger on behalf of the countless women and girls who have suffered rape and ensuing pregnancies over the centuries. How dare anyone imply that a woman was not raped based on the fact that she got pregnant? Secondly – and here I am going to write my personal opinion. It’s not an analysis but I figure I owe it to you to state my own position pretty clearly when dealing with this topic – I cannot stomach the pro-life/pro-choice debate in America. It scares me. And I am thankful that Israeli politicians and media are not like that. Women have a right to choose – and in the ideal world, there is no need for terminating any pregnancy. But guess what – the Messiah isn’t here and the world is broken, nothing is ideal. So let’s protect the rights of the living individuals (women) and not attack those who choose to have an abortion.
However, since it took me so long to get to this, it’s hardly news any more. But it is part of an on-going worrying trend of regressing into a world view where women are talked about and not included in the conversation about their life, bodies and choices.
Take Israel – temember that great piece in Bloomberg, published a few days after Akin’s rant? “Israeli Women Ahead In Science Poised To Lead In Biotech” (Bloomberg, August 22, 2012)
Women outnumber men in biology and related sciences in higher education in Israel. That could give women an advantage as the government and private investors put increasing amounts of money into the life-sciences industry, one of the country’s fastest growing sectors, collecting the most venture capital money in the first half of this year.
Great news! And no politician is trying to change the laws allowing women to have abortions here (well, the parliament is in recess and trust me — our politicians sadly also spew racist, misogynist, intolerant, ignorant words. But I don’t want to go there right now). But while we read great news of women making headway, women are silently pushed to the sides. Ha’aretz reported stubbornly (and here I commend their stubbornness) this past week on the latest attempt at making women invisible in the public sphere: Bus ads without women, food ads without women. It’s not new. But it isn’t going away. Yes, it’s coming out of the ultra-orthodox sector of Israeli society. But we are the ones standing idly by. And I wonder when we got so indifferent to it? Am I the only one who is disappointed in the people elected to govern? Who feel betrayed?
My frustration was actually echoed in a piece I read today — on women’s rights in South Africa: Et Tu, ANC Women’s League? Rebecca Davis writes about how the Womens League of the ANC (yes, the historical organisation – African National Congress) has been defending the ANC president. That is not strange. what is strange, to me, and what upsets Davis is that the criticism of ANC President Jacob Zuma comes after he on a talk show addressed his daughter’s marriage and said “I was also happy because I wouldn’t want to stay with daughters who are not getting married, because that in itself is a problem in society. I know that people today think being single is nice. It’s actually not right. That’s a distortion. You’ve got to have kids. Kids are important to a woman because they actually give an extra training to a woman, to be a mother.”
Davis’ sharp analysis reveals the problems (for people who believe in gender-equality) of the statement. Among other points is this:
Women who do not get married are not ‘a problem in society.’ Whether married or not, South African women often end up supporting families anyway: a Stats SA report from September last year found that nearly 44% of households in South Africa are female-headed. An example of a real problem in society is the extremely high levels of domestic violence and spousal abuse in this country, which also provide a compelling reason for why a woman might choose to leave a marriage.
I am not saying Zuma’s statement is as bad as Akin’s. Or that you can compare a company removing pictures of women from their products with a country prohibiting abortion.
But I am saying that these cultural discourses have implications in society. What is it really that is being said about women these days?