The best responses to Todd Akin’s ‘legitimate rape’ bullshit

Don’t you just love when politicians say they “misspoke”? Like, wouldn’t it be better just to say they had a stroke or were drinking?

For example, take this “misspoken” gem: “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try and shut that whole thing down,” said current rep in the U.S. Effing House of Representatives Todd Akin as he tried to defend his stance on abortion to a TV station. If I were his PR rep I’d blame the booze.

Akin’s suffered a lot of political setbacks in his Senate race since then––namely huge financial setbacks as GOP funders run away screaming, but dude’s digging in his heels, refusing to quit and instead offering some lame apology to the people (but none to Science, Biology, or FACTS).

Here are some of the best, definitely not misspoken responses since then:

President Obama: “Rape is rape. The idea that we should be parsing and qualifying and slicing what types of rape we’re talking about doesn’t make sense to the American people and certainly doesn’t make sense to me… We shouldn’t have a bunch of politicians, the majority of whom are men, making healthcare decisions on behalf of women.” (Washington Post)

Wall Street Journal Editorial: “Mr. Akin has sunk his own ship.” (

Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass.: “As a husband and father of two young women, I found Todd Akin’s comments about women and rape outrageous, inappropriate and wrong. There is no place in our public discourse for this type of offensive thinking. Not only should he apologize, but I believe Rep. Akin’s statement was so far out of bounds that he should resign the nomination for U.S. Senate in Missouri.” (ABC)

A DOCTOR: “A further problem with proclamations like Akin’s, though, is what they sound like to women who have been raped. If you believe what he does, then anyone who did get pregnant wasn’t ‘legitimately’ raped. Moreover, it belies a willful ignorance of science. Rape has occurred in history time and time again. Women get pregnant from it. This is known. There is no debate to be had. (CNN)

Katie J.M. Baker: “For decades, conservatives have claimed that women can’t get pregnant from ‘legitimate’ rape thanks to their wise, all-knowing uteri, psychic ‘juices’ and Spidey Sense-like ‘secretions.’ (Hmm, if legislators can applaud our vaginas for being so omniscient, how come they can’t let us control them?)” (Jezebel’s “Official Guide to Legitimate Rape”)

“Akin” himself: “I am an evil, fucked-up man who should never have been elected to the United States Congress, and anyone who would vote for me is probably a pretty big fucking dumbshit, too.” (The Onion)


The pretty pretzel of femininity

The next time you’re in a class or in a meeting, take a look at the girls. How do they sit?

You’ll see that women don’t sit; they fold. Women cross their legs. Cross their ankles. Fold their arms. We contort ourselves into pretty little pretzels just to appear smaller and not take up space.

Then take a look at the guys. How do they sit?

Men don’t sit; they sprawl. They let their legs lay open. They lean back. I just read in TIME that assuming a “power pose” can release chemicals in the brain that make one feel confident. One of the most powerful poses is the boss pose: Feet up on the desk and hands laced behind the head. How many times have you seen a woman do that?

Which are the powerful poses? Which ones are manly? Which ones do you do?

I noticed that if my boyfriend and I find ourselves in someplace new, say a new friend’s house or a store, we react very differently. I survey the room. I take in the colors on the walls, the height of the ceiling, the décor, the statement the room makes.

But before I am done doing that, the boy has: pushed a button or picked something up or knocked something over. I look. He does. I am girl. He is boy.

Somewhere along our girlhoods, we evolve from fearless, confident, even cocky doers to watchful, needy, insecure watchers. Boys don’t get this training.

This is how I am a feminist: I train myself out of the ways femininity can hold me back.

How do I do that? I read. Learning about power poses taught me that the next time I feel nervous or insecure while talking to someone, I can assume a more powerful pose and change the tone of the whole interaction. Or at least how confident I feel about it.

There's a reason they picked a boy for the Nissan "kidzilla" commercial.

While I’ll be the first to admit that although I am completely girly—not even a hint of tomboy here—the more I learn about the world, the more ways I learn how to not be “just a girl” and let my life be driven by the rules of girl-ness.

But that not word often gives feminism a bad rap: on the surface, it seems obsessed with the things that one isn’t. It seems bent on saying no: to women’s magazines, to traditional family roles, to an obsession with appearance.
But feminism isn’t just bitching about the ways femininity can hold you back: it’s moving beyond that. It’s about sitting in a chair and taking up space. It’s about walking into a room and grabbing something. It’s about speaking up without waiting to be spoken to. It’s about unhooking yourself from whatever conscious or subconscious Rules for Girls exist and figuring out exactly what you want to do.

While I kvetch about the power of women in the first world, there are enormous differences in female power around the world, which Erin so eloquently explained in her essay about feminism. She pointed to women who aren’t allowed to drive cars or go to school or choose their life path and dared you not to be enraged.

I know that our first-world problems are nothing in comparison to how these women are held back. But I see first-world women hold themselves back all the time. Think about the women in your life: How many of your friends, aunts and sisters are meek little watchers just because they’re women, desperate for some attention and validation? A comedienne once said: “I’d give up free health insurance if I could get these three people in the front row just to LIKE ME.” I laughed. Because for so many of us, it’s true.

My truth? I am girly. I am feminine. I’m not trapped in either term. This is how I am a feminist.

–By Tara Cavanaugh

This is the latest in our “Why I’m a Feminist” series, which also includes Erin’s post and Sam’s “Where my lady Legos at?

Everyone who says they’re for equal rights is a feminist.

Feminism (n.) – the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men.
While my eleventh grade English teacher would deride my opening statement as pathetically cliché, I find that the dictionary definition of Feminism is the most useful for explaining why I am a Feminist. It’s as basic as being an American: that all men are created equal is a truth to be held self-evident, then you are a feminist.

Photo by Linsey Addario for National Geographic

I am a feminist because I believe that women are a powerful social, economic and human force who have as much right to self-determination as any man on this planet. I am a feminist because what I endure as a woman in the United States amounts to paper cuts compared to the injury other women endure around the world.

Regardless of economic or political power, countries that educate and liberate their women and girls are across the board more successful. Countries where women have access to proper prenatal and maternal care have lower infant mortality rates. Countries that deny women education, rights and reproductive freedom deny themselves half of their potential labor force and capacity for economic growth.

The lack of a Y chromosome is not justification for treating a person like a possession or a second-class human being.

Pick up the December issue of National Geographic and look at the Afghani women who are shown in the images. One girl set herself on fire, another had her nose and ears cut off by her husband. Few are policewomen and actresses who (gasp!) drive a car. Look at these women and tell me you are not a feminist. I dare you.

–By Erin O’Neill

Why I’m a Feminist

Editor’s note: This is the first in our latest series, “Why I’m a Feminist.” We explore what feminism is and how we live it in 2010.

My name is Sam Howard, and I’m a feminist because even in 2010 women are still being left out of the conversation of humankind.
It’s funny to look back on things that I’ve done in my life before I came out as a feminist, because I can see how I already was a feminist. I just didn’t have the word for it yet. But I still had the words to say when I felt that as a girl, I was being left out in some way. Before I knew about women’s rights, outside of a “girls rule, boys drool” discourse, I stuck up for women, namely myself, in the realm of toys.

Where my girls at?

I had a bone to pick with the Lego company. An avid appreciator of those colorful building blocks, I saved all of my allowance and chore money to buy different kinds Lego sets. (My favorite collection being the wild west one. Duh.) But the more Legos I bought with my saved- up dollars, the more frustrated I got. Where were all of the lady Legos? I asked my mom.
She carefully looked at all of my Lego figures, and we separated them into male and female piles. Out of my huge collection of Legos, there were less than ten women Legos. So she helped me write a letter to Lego explaining that I was girl who loved Legos, and that I had many other female friends who loved Legos, and well darn it we wanted more girl Legos in our sets!
I didn’t know it, but I was a little feminist back then by starting to put women into a conversation and a context they’d been left out of. (FYI: Lego send me back a personalized and hand signed letter kindly explaining that their sales showed that boys buy Legos far more often than girls, so the figures that come with the sets reflect that. But, they apologized for my feelings of alienation and sent me a load of free Lego ladies, which quickly replaced the hoards of Lego men I had.)
I came out as a feminist in college because simply put, it’s important to me. It’s important for me to let people know that we are not in a state of gender equality and someone needs to keep fighting that fight. And I know that at least one of those someones fighting the good fight is me.
I can’t really consider feminism a lifestyle, but I can and do consider it a part of my identity. I don’t share all of my identity with everyone I meet, but I will share it with anyone who wants to know about it. My own personal brand of feminism comes out in my what I choose to read, the way I react to things on campus, and how I choose to respond to people in the workplace, which is all to say I choose my feminist battles wisely. To respond to every single oppressive and sexist thing I see in a given day would completely separate me from most of this world that I live in and frankly, it would be exhausting. Not everyone wants to hear my speech about why that sexually-demeaning-thing-I-just-heard-that-guy-say-hurts-women-AND-men-equally so I choose who I’m going to have that conversation with.
I see the action of having that conversation as fighting my feminist fight.
I identify as a feminist because of all the ways I see women, all kinds of women being left out of the conversation: be that conversation about children’s toys, innovation in the workplace, sexual desire, religious doctrine, or anything else.

–By Sam Howard