Man, I Feel Like a Woman

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Mmmmm! This foot tastes delicious!
  • "Mmmmm! This foot tastes delicious!"
If there's one important lesson we've learned in the last few weeks, it's that the people who make laws regarding women's bodies and the people who report on those laws both have no idea how women's bodies work. They talk about our bodies as if they are these unimaginably strange places that "regular people" can only guess as to the mysterious workings of.

On Monday, Republican Tom Smith of Pennsylvania, who is running to unseat Sen. Bob Casey, said the following to a luncheon crowd:

Mark Scolforo, Associated Press: How would you tell a daughter or a granddaughter who, God forbid, would be the victim of a rape, to keep the child against her own will? Do you have a way to explain that?

Smith: I lived something similar to that with my own family. She chose life, and I commend her for that. She knew my views. But, fortunately for me, I didn’t have to ... she chose they way I thought. Now don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t rape.

Scolforo: Similar how?

Smith: Uh, having a baby out of wedlock.

Scolforo: That’s similar to rape?

Smith: No, no, no, but … put yourself in a father’s situation, yes. It is similar. But, back to the original, I’m pro-life, period.

I repeat — in case the gorge rose halfway up your throat and you really need to be able to vomit — "put yourself in a father's situation, yes. It is similar." "It" being your daughter getting pregnant out of wedlock and your daughter getting pregnant via rape.

Let us all call our fathers right now and thank them for not being Smith. I mean, my God, the only person who could say that becoming pregnant via rape and becoming pregnant out of wedlock are similar is a person who has never bothered to try to imagine what it's like to be raped.

And the truth is, once a person is at the point where he can say something like this in public, I think we just have to accept that this is what he believes. He's never going to change his mind or suddenly grow more compassionate for women. He literally can't imagine that it would be worse if his daughter got pregnant via rape than if she got pregnant when she was not married. That can really only happen because he literally can't imagine his daughter as a person with wants and desires of her own.

But the difference between

"Hey, you want to mess around?" "Yes, I do."

and

"I want to mess around with you." "No." "Tough shit."

is so enormous that they barely count as the same thing — unless you think the only thing that counts is whether the dude gets off.

This seems like a strange thing to be typing at the back end of 2012, but women have feelings and opinions about the things we do and the things that happen to us, and those feelings and opinions matter. For those who think sex outside of marriage is wrong, getting pregnant out of wedlock can be embarrassing, but it's just that. A little embarrassing. You had a human urge. And you went with it. You might wish you'd made another choice, but you've not been violated.

Frankly, being raped is terrible. Another person, who gets off on taking away or ignoring your autonomy, uses you without regard for your desires or your safety, or in some cases, even your life. Discovering you're pregnant after you've been raped is not similar to the embarrassment you might feel when your parents discover that you're a person with sexual urges. A rapist is nothing like a guy who just wants to have sex with this girl he likes.

For some women, yes, a pregnancy is a chance to defy their rapist by turning something terrible that happened to them into the goodness that's a child. For other women, pregnancy by rape constitutes an ongoing violation, and the notion that Republicans want to make it illegal for us to undo the damage is devastating.

If you cannot imagine how devastating it would be, then you should do much more listening to what women are saying, much more trying to put yourself in a woman's situation, and much less spouting off answers to women's problems.

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