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Late Night: On Legitimacy, Or Why Akin’s Comments Weren’t (Just) About Rape

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Let’s be clear about this. Akin didn’t misspeak. He meant what he said when he said he thinks you only have a child if deep down you really want to. I know you’ve read his idiocy a hundred times. Read it once more: 

“If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down,” Akin said, according to The Washington Post.

I’ve been trying to write about this for hours. It keeps sticking in my throat.

You see, I’ve been trying to have a baby for eight years. Trying and failing. And on almost every day of those eight years, someone has said something to imply that I just didn’t want this enough.

That I was somehow willing this not to happen.

That I was telling my body not to do this.

That I just had to change my mind.

Akin’s comments about rape were disgusting.

So was his insinuation that wanting, that human will, that desire or lack thereof has anything at all to do with having a child.

If wanting made you pregnant, I’d have a dozen kids.

(If wishing otherwise made it so, I know some people [so do you] who’d be childless.)

Yet we persist in thinking this is about something that can be done on command. When it doesn’t work, we tell women this is something in their heads, this is something they have to feel their way into somehow. So when Akin said it was something women could feel their way out of, I wasn’t in the slightest surprised.

His comments make much more “sense” viewed through the lens of movement pro-life truth, in which babies are blessings from God full stop.

Think for a minute, though. What is the equal opposite of that assertion?

I had someone at church once very sincerely tell me the Biblical story of Abraham and Sarah, as if that would be a comfort. Not realizing that she was saying children are for those deemed worthy.

Not realizing she was saying I wasn’t.

It makes a kind of twisted human sense. When something lousy happens, it has to be somebody’s fault. (That’s actually the solace of belief in a God who is kind of a schmuck; at least you have someone to blame.) Rather than confront the randomness of the universe, we make it about what you did or didn’t do.

I get questions all the time, about how hard I really tried, beause people like Akin think wanting makes it so. Did I try eating spinach? Did I try standing on my head? Did I try acupuncture? This doctor? That one? Yoga? Meditation? Drugs?

Did I try to do this?

Did I try not to?

I could show you my needle marks and surgery scars. I could show you my medical records. I could show you the bills.

But I doubt any of that would convince you, if you believe that all I had to do was want.


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Allison Hantschel

Allison Hantschel

Allison Hantschel is a 10-year veteran of the newspaper business. She publishes First Draft, a writing and politics blog, with her partners Holden, Jude and Scout. She is the author of the books Chicago's Historic Irish Pubs (2011, Arcadia Publishing, with Mike Danahey) and It Doesn’t End With Us: The Story of the Daily Cardinal, about a great liberal journalism institution (2007, Heritage Books). She also edited the anthology “Special Plans: The Blogs on Douglas Feith and the Faulty Intelligence That Led to War” (2005, William, James & Co.) Her work has appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, the Daily Southtown, Sirens Magazine, and Alternet. She lives in Chicago with her husband, two ferrets, and approximately 60 tons of books.