“These are not your decisions to make. These are not your words to define.”

Eve Ensler has put it best.

The award-winning playwright of The Vagina Monologues penned a column entitled “Dear Mr. Akin, I Want You to Imagine,” published two days ago by The Huffington Post which directly addresses Todd Akin, the Missouri Congressman running in the GOP Senate race who recently asserted in an interview that a woman could not get pregnant if she were the victim of a “legitimate rape.”

Read the column and tell ARK what you think.


Todd Akin: A Case Study

I’m sure that our on-the-beat ARK readers have all heard by now about Tea Party Representative Tod Akin’s (R-Missouri) atrocious comment yesterday, which reads, as the New York Times quoted:

Todd Akin

“It seems to me, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare,” Mr. Akin said of pregnancies from rape. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something: I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be of the rapist, and not attacking the child.”


ARK has discussed abortion already on this blog, so I won’t recite that argument again, but let me reiterate:

Regardless of where folks stand on the abortion debate, and regardless of the moral or religious ideals folks want our government to uphold, women’s health needs to be a priority.

That means that accurate sexual health education needs to be provided across the country so that people form their decisions about health based on science and logic and fact.

That means that victims of rape and sexual assault need to be tirelessly advocated for, and that their physical and mental needs need to remain at the forefront of policymaker’s minds.

Bear in mind that Representative Akin (who is currently running for the Senate) did note that rapists ought to be punished–but really, people who are completely ignorant of women’s health and women’s bodies need to be kept out of public office–and especially need to be kept out of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, on which Akin currently serves–because they have failed to represent more than half of their constituents.

I’ll leave you with a quote from Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) which graced the Politics section of the September edition of Elle (pg 384):

Women need to be willing to take more risks in running for public office. I’ve talked to countless women who’ve convinced themselves that they’re not ready, not knowledgeable enough about the issues. I’ve never talked to a male candidate who felt that way. Ever. Truly never. A female officeholder once told me that to talk about international trade policy, a woman felt she needed a PhD. A man felt that he was qualified if he drove a Honda.

There are plenty of things that silence women in the world of politics, and silencing ourselves is one of the worst responses.

See you back on campus in a few weeks, ARK! Stay tuned!


Are we ready for Gender-Neutrality?

This column was in my local daily paper earlier this week: http://townhall.com/columnists/monacharen/2012/03/09/gender_specific_writer/page/full/

Mona Charen

Essentially, columnist Mona Charen expressed discontent about Apple’s new word processor Pages because its spelling and grammar corrector suggested she make some of her terms more gender neutral.

Now, I can see her point on some counts–Pages tried to correct the “lady” in “first lady” to “individual,” for example, which doesn’t quite make sense. Furthermore, it preferred “speaker” or “advocate” to “spokesman” and Charen was concerned that her sentence would be confusing with either of those suggestions. In this case, if the person she was quoting was, indeed, a man, there really isn’t an issue anyhow.

But Charen doesn’t say that Pages was too picky or was offering the wrong suggestions. Her anger was directed, rather, at the political correctness of the spelling and grammar corrector. She concludes her column thus:

Apple’s language sentinel has been schooled in political correctness at the expense of English. In another column, I mentioned that the collapse of marriage was “aggravating” inequality in America. Consider “irritating” or “exasperating” instead, Proofreadress advised.

No, those are words I reserve for her.

Does political correctness actually significantly change the English language? If it does, is that a bad thing? This may be a better question for a linguist than for an activist for social change, but I think that political correctness mostly affects suffixes (-er/-ess, -man/-woman, etc.), so probably won’t change the form and function of the language to the point where it’s unrecognizable.                      
Perhaps a more pressing concern is that our society may not ready to unlearn political incorrectness. Are we so used to the current structure that we can’t see past it, that when change starts to affect all parts of society, people get irritated and exasperated?                                                                                                                                   .
I think that Charen was mostly overreacting (especially because Microsoft Word’s Spellcheck isn’t perfect either), and I don’t think that her column was much more than an outlet for frustration because she didn’t connect her anger to any broader problems besides pushing “political correctness at the expense of English.”                                                   .
Still, I think that it’s important that we recognize, as feminists and, more importantly, as activists, as people trying to change society and its discourses, that these are the arguments and sources of resistance that we will meet. People don’t really like change, especially when they feel personally confronted with it.                                                                     a
That said, do you think Apple was right to include these “politically correct” suggestions in Pages’ Proofreader? Do you think Charen has a right to be upset? And most importantly, do you think that this is just an isolated case of somebody being anal, or is it an indicator of widespread resistance to “political correctness” and why it exists?                                       aLet me know! For those of you traveling back to school after break today, be safe.                         aPeace,