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How the GOP's Real Agenda Is Revealed in Their Nasty Rape Comments

The umpteenth rape comment reveals the real agendas and beliefs of the GOP as a whole.

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Republicans bow to the demands of "pro-life" organizations, not a single one of which supports even birth control, and the GOP now routinely opposes any effort to make birth control or sexual education available and accessible. They  propose laws that would require women to tell their employers what they're using birth control for, so that employers could determine which women don't deserve coverage (the slutty ones who use birth control to avoid unwanted pregnancy) and which women do (the OK ones who use it for other medical reasons).

Mainstream GOP leaders, including Mitt Romney, campaign with conservative activists who lament the fact that women today no longer fully submit to the authority of their husbands and fathers, mourn a better time when you could legally beat your wife, and celebrate the laws of places like Saudi Arabia where men are properly in charge. Senate Republicans, including Republican vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan and "legitimate rape" Todd Akin, blocked the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. And Ryan and Akin joined forces again to propose " personhood" legislation in Washington, DC that would define a fertilized egg as a person from the moment sperm meets egg, outlawing abortion in all cases and many forms of contraception, and raising some  serious questions about how, exactly, such a law would be enforced.

Underlying the Republican rape comments and actual Republican political goals are a few fundamental convictions: first, women are vessels for childbearing and care-taking; second, women cannot be trusted; and third, women are the property of men.

Mourdock's statement that conceiving from rape is a gift positions women as receptacles, not as autonomous human beings. This view of women as vessels – vessels for sex with their husbands, vessels for carrying a pregnancy, vessels for God's plan – is a necessary component of the kind of extreme anti-abortion legislation most Republican politicians support. 

So is the idea that women are both fundamentally unintelligent and dishonest. Akin's "legitimate rape" comment and Rivard's contention that "some girls rape easy" rely on the idea that women routinely lie about rape and shouldn't be believed; blocking VAWA relied partly on similar logic  put forward by men's rights activists, that women lie about being abused in order to secure citizenship and other benefits. Hostility to abortion rights similarly positions rightwing lawmakers as the best people to determine whether or not any particular woman should be legally compelled to carry a pregnancy to term.

Women, they seem to think, don't know their own bodies or their own lives, and cannot be trusted to determine for themselves whether continuing a pregnancy is a good idea.

Rape treats women as vessels, disregarding our autonomy and our right to control what happens to us physically and sexually. The Republican position is that women are not entitled to make fundamental decisions about our own bodies and our own sexual and reproductive health. When that position is written into the GOP platform and is a legislative priority, can we really be surprised when it's further reflected in Republican legislators' comments on rape?

These aren't a few errant remarks from insensitive politicians. They're at the heart of the Republican party's agenda.

Jill Filipovic is a lawyer in Manhattan who formerly served as the Gender and Reproductive Justice editor at AlterNet. More of her writing is available online at her blog, Feministe.

 
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