Sunday, February 05, 2012

Ron Paul's offensive and the War on Women

On Friday evening, Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ron Paul spoke to CNN's Piers Morgan about his views on abortion.

Ron Paul does not, himself, have a uterus, and although he was once a practicing OB/Gyn, he cannot speak with any personal experience whatsoever when it comes to the matters of pregnancy and childbirth. Nonetheless, Paul held forth on what he feels we women should be permitted to do when faced with the possibility of an unplanned pregnancy. Specifically, an unplanned pregnancy resulting from rape.

I'm still having trouble getting my head around Paul's jaw-dropping words, so let me just quote him directly, and then I'll try my hand at parsing this utterly ridiculous statement:

"If it's an honest rape, that individual should go immediately to the emergency room, I would give them a shot of estrogen."

Setting aside the obvious sexism inherent in telling women what to do with their own bodies, one thing that jumped out at me was Paul's exceedingly callous use of the term "that individual" and the ungrammatical use of the gender-neutral pronoun "them". An individual who has been raped and who might then be concerned about having been impregnated by the rapist is by definition a woman. Yet Paul does not say "woman"; he says "that individual", effectively disappearing an entire sex. The female sex. The very sex that goes through pregnancy and childbirth; the very sex that is disproportionately represented among rape victims (RAINN notes that in 2003, 9 of every 10 rape victims were female.) I'll put on my English teacher's hat for a moment and note that while the mistaken use of the neutral plural pronouns they, their, and them for a singular subject of unknown gender--as opposed to he or she, his or hers, and him or her--has become so commonplace in casual speaking as to be accepted in all but the most formal expressions of language, English does indeed provide gender-specific pronouns for use when the subject or object is unquestionably female. As a rape victim facing a potential pregnancy will invariably be.

Yes, it's easily dismissed as a slip of the tongue, but I submit that this odd, distancing use of the words "that individual" and "them" is rather telling. It smacks of the phrase those people. In other words, not us, but them. The Others. The people who are not like me; the people to whom I do not relate.

Let's look at the next telling part of Paul's statement now. The part where he helpfully orders that individual--excuse me, the raped and possibly impregnated woman in question--to go directly to the emergency room. As rape victims will sadly confirm, when you've been raped, you'll most likely be non compos mentis--not in a clear, organized state of mind (if indeed you are lucky to even be awake, as many rapes take place after the rapist drugs his victim or physically renders her unconscious). Does Paul truly believe that every rape victim can and will go straight to the hospital? As my friend Valerie so succinctly put it in our Facebook discussion yesterday:

"Yes, everybody who's just been raped instantly feels fresh, energetic, and present of mind enough to haul ass down to the ER and ask for an 'estrogen shot'."

Again, Paul's words display a staggering disregard for people who are not Ron Paul. And a complete lack of understanding and sympathy for victims of a crime that Paul, purely by dint of his gender and socioeconomic status, is unlikely to have experienced himself.

But the most abominable element of Paul's statement about What We Raped Women Must Do--the bit that's unsurprisingly garnering the most attention and negative press--is the phrase "honest rape".

Again, I must turn to my love of language here, because I believe that by examining word choices and the manner in which a person frames a concept, we can discover a great deal about his or her character, motivation, and general goodness (or lack thereof).

Honest rape.

What an extraordinarily awful phrase that is. Paul was probably trying to say something to the effect of "a bona fide case of rape, that is, sexual assault as opposed to consensual sex"--and this attitude is of course imbued with its own awfulness along with no small amount of definitional ambiguity--but that is not what he said. He said honest rape. Implying that there are rapes that aren't honest, because women lie. Implying that some rapes, at least, are not "honest" ones--they're dishonest rapes: fabrications, or else stories made up by women who had unprotected sex that they now regret. [Those dirty sluts.]

And it further implies that he, a white male conservative who's apparently crowned himself King and Ruler of American Uteri (and knower of what's best for us) will want you to meet his standard--his personal definition of having been Honestly Raped--if you show up in his emergency room. Will you need to be bruised and bleeding before he'll let you have that "estrogen shot"? (Note to Dr. Paul: there is a safe, effective, simple-to-take medication available to women nowadays--it's called Levonorgestrel, aka "the morning-after pill", or Plan B.) What if your rapist drugged you, meaning you were unconscious during the crime and thus have no outer bruising or lacerations from trying to fight back? What if you couldn't or wouldn't fight back because, oh, I don't know, perhaps you were threatened with being killed? Perhaps the rapist held a weapon to your head? Perhaps other rapists held you down?

What about cases of incest, where the victim not only knows her rapist but is related to him?

What about date rape, where the victim knows her rapist and was unfortunate to be in the near vicinity when he somehow forgot the meaning of the word NO? Is that an "honest rape" or not, Dr. Paul?

I keep coming to the same conclusion I always reach: anti-choicers simply do not see women as fully human--as people--and they do not trust us to make the right choice for our own health; our own private, personal bodies; our own futures.

If these obdurate, pandering, uterus-free politicians had any sense or sensibility, they would just say, "I'm a man, so it's really not my decision to make, is it? Let's leave it at that, Piers/Wolf/whoever," and keep their opinions about abortion, sincere or not, to themselves.

Because--honestly--it really isn't any business of theirs.


  1. I used to think that Ron Paul was the crazy, but loveable, cranky uncle. Not any more. He's just as evil as the rest of the GOP.

  2. Really why are you twisting this out of context? He was asked about rape and whether abortion would be a choice for him to perform! If the woman was raped and worried if she was pregnant he would give her a choice of estrogen instead of waiting a month(yes takes a month to determine if you are pregnant) and having an abortion. GET IT?!

  3. You delve too deeply into the semantics of a short quote without looking at the broader context and you assume that Paul's words mean the absolute worst thing possible. Perhaps we should look at one of your assumptions that only women can be raped. Biologically this is accurate, yet you seem to miss the possibility that a biological woman who gender identifies as male could be raped and impregnated. Because this possibility exists, the gender neutrality of the sentence should not be an issue. As for "honest rape," assuming that he meant anything other than a rape which did, in fact, occur is absolute nonsense. You then go on to imply that there could be no case where a rape story was fabricated. I would point you to the Duke Lacrosse scandal, and of course there are numerous other instances where false claims of rape have been made. Now what about the larger context? Ron Paul has said on numerous occasions that while he is personally against abortion, he believes it is up to the states to decide whether or not to allow it. I understand that this position is not completely in line with your pro-choice beliefs but I do not think it warrants the unfair reaction you have posted.

  4. "Perhaps we should look at one of your assumptions that only women can be raped."

    That is not what she said or implied.

    "Biologically this is accurate"

    No, it's not. I can't believe you're saying this. Do I have to spell it out??

    Okay, I will.

    Anal rape. That's rape.

    Oral rape. That's rape.

    And whether or not you want to believe it, even the fricking FBI defines rape as penetration: "any kind of penetration of another person, regardless of gender, without the victim's consent. It also includes a broad range of rapes involving both males and females in which attackers use objects to penetrate their victims."

  5. That is not what she said or implied.

    Thank you, Lisa; indeed, it was not what I said or implied. As brave Anon surely knows. I quoted official statistics from the RAINN website, namely, that nine of every ten rape victims was female. Not ten out of ten.

    Nor did I deny that false rape charges or fabricated rape stories exist. Of course they exist. And have nothing to do with what I wrote. I was calling attention to the raw, delusional egotism -- and the magnitude of Paul's grandiosity, given that he thinks he would have both the power and the right to treat a rape victim this way -- on display in Paul's statement. He clearly asserts that he'd rely on his personal judgement of a woman's truthfulness in determining whether or not she may receive the medical attention she needs and to which she is legally entitled.

    Learn to fucking read.

  6. what are we going to do? the thought of a republican presidential victory is more than i can think about...
    reproductive rights, human rights, worker's rights, immigration, oil and gas exploration, loss of parkland and loss of environmental regulation, the supreme court, the rolling back of the affordable health care act, the empowering of the zealots in their party, citizen's united, gun control, war with is all too much to even consider.
    every night, i send every possible good thought into the universe, for president obama, and his re-election.

  7. If you're sending out positive thoughts for Obama's re-election, then, with all due respect, you're part of the problem. Obama is a hypocrite. Obama has betrayed us. Obama has not only continued, but expanded, the worst abuses of the Bush administration.

    These are facts.


    It's stunning to me how so-called liberals are willing to twist themselves into knots to defend the indefensible. Back when Bush was in office, they were (rightly) screaming bloody murder at everything he did. Now that Obama is in office, doing the same things and worse, suddenly it's all okay.

    "But he got rid of Don't Ask Don't Tell!"

    Oh, stop the presses!! Now gay people can get slaughtered in wars just like straight people! Wow, what an accomplishment! While the true meaning of war -- the murder, maiming, and torture of millions of people for corporate profit -- all that goes unquestioned, unexamined, and certainly unreported by the mainstream media.

    Mr. Transparency is prosecuting more whistleblowers than did all other presidents combined. He's sucking up to Wall Street just as much as any Republican. He's bombing civilians in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and did so in Libya. He's continuing the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (leaving 20,000 mercenaries in Iraq isn't ending the war; it's just putting it in the hands of corporations). He doesn't give a shit about the environment, is merely holding off approving the Keystone Pipeline until after the election, because he knows his lock-step bots will vote for him no matter what. He could personally dump oil or radioactive waste into people's backyards, and the faithful would still vote for him. On and on.


  8. Dr Paul said "that individual" because he views everyone as individuals!!! He doesn't group people together by silly things like gender. Paul is the biggest believer in individual liberty and he views all women as people, not just a women.