Friday, August 24, 2012

Gail Collins: The Sexual Spirit of '76, Make history at the car wash

The Sexual Spirit of ’76
Gail Collins
NY Times Op-Ed: August 23, 2012
In colonial America, conventional wisdom held that women could not get pregnant unless they enjoyed the sex.
Earl Wilson/The New York Times
People, who would have thought I’d have an opportunity to bring up this factoid right in the middle of a presidential race? Thank you, Representative Todd Akin of Missouri! Without you, we might have been condemned to spend today reinvestigating the Congressional Budget Office Medicare cost projections.

But, instead, we are going to deconstruct the now-legendary explanation from Akin of how, in cases of “legitimate rape,” women’s bodies will “shut that whole thing down” before pregnancy occurs.

Akin, a U.S. Senate nominee, has a reputation for, shall we say, thinking outside the box. It was not for nothing that the incumbent, Claire McCaskill, had targeted him as the Republican I’d Most Like to Run Against. McCaskill was particularly attracted by his comparison of federal student loans to “Stage 3 cancer.” And then there was his vote against the school lunch program.

But all that paled next to his anti-abortion disquisition during a recent TV interview. In very few words, Akin managed to make three points. One was that rape victims can’t get pregnant. This theory goes back to our forefathers, who believed that in order for our foremothers to conceive, “the womb must be in a state of delight.”

“They never asked the women,” said Margaret Marsh, the co-author of “The Empty Cradle,” a history of infertility in America.

The idea never entirely faded away, possibly because it reflects so well on male lovemaking prowess. (Failure to conceive, by the same rule, was all because of female frigidity.) Since Akin’s debacle, we’ve learned that a former member of Congress once told the House Appropriations Committee that when people “are truly raped, the juices don’t flow, the body functions don’t work and they don’t get pregnant.” And that James Leon Holmes, a federal judge currently hearing cases in Arkansas, once said that “concern for rape victims is a red herring because conceptions from rape occur with approximately the same frequency as snowfall in Miami.”

This line of thinking is also familiar to David Wiley, a professor of health education at Texas State University who co-authored a study on what Texas school districts were actually teaching their students in sex education classes. (He was inspired, he said, when “a sincere male student asked aloud, ‘What is my risk for cervical cancer?’ ”) Searching through the Web sites of groups that were providing program material to the districts, Wiley found one that announced: “If the woman is dry, the sperm will die.”

So the first part of Akin’s comment is not the product of his unique imagination. It’s still being repeated all over the country, perhaps out of veneration for the thoughts of the founding fathers.

Part two was Akin’s mention of “legitimate rape.” This is the piece that had every mainstream Republican honcho in the country calling on Akin to drop out of the race. Karl Rove pulled the plug on his money. Paul Ryan reportedly got on the phone and begged Akin to go away for the good of the team. (The team, or at least the Paul Ryan part of it, had once sponsored anti-abortion legislation with Akin that referred to “forcible rape” in the same cringe-inducing fashion.)

But it’s the third point in Akin’s comment that’s really important for this election. Before he got sidetracked into colonial-era biology, the veteran House member was trying to explain why he opposes abortion even in the case of rape. “But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something,” Akin said, referring to the miraculous female shutdown mechanism that he’d discovered. The rapist, he continued, should be punished, but not “the child.”

This is a perfectly consistent theological doctrine. If you believe that every fertilized egg is a human being, with the same sacred rights as a newborn baby, then, obviously, you are not going to want it to be aborted, no matter how it came into the world.

Politicians who say they oppose all abortions are making perfect sense, except for the part where they try to impose their doctrinal beliefs on the vast majority of the country, which does not share that particular religious conviction. It’s the abortion-except-for-rape-and-incest position that doesn’t compute. Rape victims, yes, but not a 14-year-old who was impregnated by her 15-year-old boyfriend? The impoverished mother of six kids whose birth control method failed? There’s no way to set the worthy-of-compassion bar unless you trust women to set it for themselves.

Maybe Akin’s real sin is that he exposed the phoniness of the rape-and-incest exception, which is just an attempt to make radical extremism look moderate. That and the theory of the delighted womb.  

* * *

From: On Behalf Of Michele Welsing
Sent: Thursday, August 23, 2012 3:28 PM
To: Ed Pearl
Subject: Make history at the car wash

Join us in getting your car washed from Monday, August 27 to Thursday, August 30 — and make history!

You will be one of the only people in the nation to get your car washed by unionized workers.

After years of struggle, workers (know as Car Washeros) have secured the only three union car wash contracts in the country.

The Car Washeros held many of their organizing meetings at the Library, and met to vote to ratify the Vermont Car Wash contract at the Library.

This coming Thursday would have been the 105th birthday of labor and civil rights leader Luisa Moreno.

We think there is no better way to honor the legacy of Luisa Moreno than celebrating the historic victory of local Car Washeros by getting our cars washed at Vermont Car Wash during Luisa’s birthday week.

We are asking all Library members and labor allies to get their car washed between Monday, August 27, and Thursday, August 30, at Vermont Car Wash.

Look for more info about the life and work of Luisa Moreno, and the car wash campaign in the coming days....

Print off this coupon to get $2 off!
(click image for PDF)

Car Wash Coupon
Clean Car Wash Campaign Photo

Vermont Car Wash has become an example of the right way to do business and of the benefits of treating workers fairly. Unfortunately, the reality is that there are still too many owners out there who abuse workers to achieve profit. We need to make sure consumers in Los Angeles know exactly where to get their car washed.

To support the efforts of Car Washeros, we are asking you to:

1. Patronize one of only three unionized carwashes in the nation—Vermont Car Wash, 6219 S. Vermont Avenu, Los Angeles, CA 90044 (at Gage). Take your own car in for a Union Wash and print out the Library coupon to get $2 off, so Vermont Car Wash can track how much business they’re getting from Library supporters. The Library will receive a $1 donation for every car.

2. Share your action through your social media networks after you wash your car.

3. Encourage your family members, friends and coworkers to patronize Vermont Car Wash, and print out copies of the coupon for all of them!

Your actions will go a long way in showing other carwash owners that having a unionized workforce, paying decent wages and providing healthy working conditions is good for business and good for our communities.

SCL logo

Where Making History Is a Struggle  

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