by Laura Jane Cohen
At some point almost everyday, I sit down at the desk, press the space bar, and actually use the computer. I know, I know, this is crazy. In a world where nearly every e-mail in my inbox ends with the line "sent from my iPhone", iPad, or droid, I am in the minority. I love when the computer screen wakes up. It seems huge compared to my little phone screen that I stare at incessantly and it is teeming with new information. I open up safari and up pops my daily dose of news. Not a digest of Facebook shares or posts from the local news station, but the actual homepage of the Washington Post. The Post's homepage is awash in photos, video clips, opinions and ads. But my favorite part of the homepage remains the juxtaposition of National, World, and local news. In a glance, I know that a local metro bus has run into someone's house, the zoo is on panda pregnancy watch, the director of "Top Gun" has jumped to his death, and apparently some guy named Mitt Romney is running for president (who knew?). There is even a link called "News in 59 Seconds" where a Post contributor tells me all the "important" things that are going on in less than a minute. I never click that link. I'm sure that Katherine Boyle does a lovely job of distilling my news into a more palatable form, but I like to savor my news like the first glass of wine from a new bottle.
Yes, I really like reading the Post. But, not today.
This morning, my apple "teacher" mug of chocolate glazed donut coffee in hand, I sat down for my favorite ritual, the kids happily playing with their legos behind me, only to be stupefied by the very same juxtaposition I usually love. The first headline, in the largest font, read, "After 80 years, Augusta National admits 2 women". Yay, Augusta! One small step for Condi Rice and Darla Moore, one giant leap for womenkind. Ok, Ok, maybe not. It is just a golf club membership. Honestly, I could care less about golf and even though it is tantamount to blasphemy, I could care less about my home state's equivalent of the Kentucky Derby. Every year as my husband, who never even plays golf any more, turns on the Masters and marvels at the azaleas, the lush greens, and Tiger Woods, the kids and I sneak upstairs for hours of the cartoon network and HGTV. Golf is a waste of time. A waste of money. But, though I don't like golf, the feminist in me couldn't be more pleased that the old white guys in Augusta might finally be loosening up. Yeah, it's not equal pay for equal work, but it is certainly symbolic of something. It's nice to know that the good 'ol boys network will finally consist of a few good 'ol boys with boobs. First headline consumed? Check.
But lurking just beneath this feel good fluff piece, in much smaller font, I read the following, "Republicans seek to contain damage from rape remark". Let me first confess that this is my first morning back from a week at the the beach. Sun, sand, dolphins, and kids frolicking about. The toughest decision we made all week was what flavor of Duck Donuts we would be ordering. It was very difficult and we had to make that decision three times last week. I couldn't even button my pants this morning. So, I wanted, no needed, to read stories about a wrongly convicted Virginia man being released after 12 years in prison, about crab harvesting going high-tech, and yes, even about women being admitted to the club of frivolity.
The article was, of course, about comments that U.S. Representative Todd Akin (R-MO), who is running for U.S. Senate, made during an interview with a local Missouri news channel. Here's the link to the interview: http://bit.ly/Ru0jS7/ . In summary, this member of "The People's House", one half of this great nation's governing body, explained his no-exceptions policy for abortions by stating that "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to shut that whole thing (pregnancy from rape) down."
I'm not naive enough to have been shocked that there are people out there who believe such asinine things. I am, after all, from the South, where our politicians seem to excel at offhanded remarks that make you scratch your head. And I did just closely watch Michelle Bachmann's performance in the Republican Presidential debates. But this article led me to read other articles, which showed that Akin is not alone in his outrageous views. A Bush judicial nominee in 2003, a North Carolina State legislator in 1995, a Pennsylvania state lawmaker in 1988, and even an Idaho state senator earlier this year. Clearly these guys didn't pay attention in 8th grade health class.
Only 20 percent of Americans agree with Akin, that there should be no exceptions made for abortion. And yet, my guess is that among those 20%, they aren't very many who are ignorant enough to think that rape doesn't ever result in pregnancy. And yet, we've managed to elect at least one of those people to the United States House of Representatives and he's running to become a United States Senator.
Hold the green jacket, ladies, we just traveled back a few decades.
So, on a day when womankind seemed to take a tiny step forward (albeit in a somewhat superficial way), the story of Todd Akin brings me back to harsh reality. It will always be men who decide our fate, be they Billy Payne as the head of Augusta National, deciding whether or not we belong in the boys only club, or be it a lawmaker for our country, so misinformed, out of step, and out of tune. On a day that I would have liked to tell my daughter, "hey look, this silly club that has never allowed girls to join, changed their minds and invited a couple of powerful women in. Won't they be surprised by how awesome we are?" I will instead be talking to her about how hard it is to be a woman. And that even today, even though the U.S. Constitution and the U.S. Supreme Court's interpretation of the Constitution says otherwise, old white men and sometimes young ones, too, will always try to tell her what she can and can't do with her body, how much pay she deserves, and what clubs she can or cannot belong to.
Are these really the important issues in 2012? It's funny, but today it feels a bit more like 1952.
Cross-posted at mommy is a 4 letter word