Saturday, September 8, 2012

A Call to Activism

Returned Peace Corps Volunteer and First Response Action supporter Laurel Rowse was incensed by Representative Akin's (R-MO) recent comment about 'legitimate rape' in an interview.  Media made the comment into a partisan issue about reproductive health rights.  The following is Laurel's response to the media frenzy surrounding  Rep. Akin's comments.

Disclaimer: the following is an opinion piece written by Laurel Rowse and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of First Response Action.

Ignorant comments about rape and how a woman's body, mind, and spirit should/shouldn't/will/won't respond to rape are NOT a partisan issue.

I would like to demand that people look deeper, beyond the most recent political rhetoric and beyond the targeting of one party as condoning rape—and see that this is our society, people in our society, actions, and speech in our society—that condone rape. Those condoning actions and attitudes would be the best targets for our collective energies and acts of activism against rape.

I see the positive here, don't get me wrong. It's excellent that people are outraged by Representative Akin's words. However, reducing the problem to one person's words or one political party's problem releases all of us from the responsibility of doing something to change the way violence against women is condoned in our society.

Some things that contribute to the rape-condoning attitude in our society are: using words that are demeaning to women, laughing at a sexist joke, not speaking up when we hear a demeaning comment or a misogynistic joke, and not talking to other women and other men about how the violence-against-women-invoking culture of our society affects every one of us and negatively impacts our lives.

I understand that it is much easier said than done to be the first one to speak up in any number of these situations. For that reason, we must be compassionate with ourselves while we are learning to speak up. The point I am focused on here is that each of us wields some amount of power in this fight to end violence against women and to end rape in our society.

Let us denounce the rape-condoning actions of any public figure such as speaking ignorant, misogynistic, and rape-condoning words, but let us not end our acts of activism there. Let us instead continue on to point out that those same ill words are a reflection of the ill rape-condoning attitudes in our society. Let us turn that same rape-condoning picture that is our society upside-down on its head, so that it becomes a rape-condemning society in its place.

The question I have for each of you is: What will you do to contribute to the activism?

Laurel Rowse RPCV and FRA supporter

One way to support an end to sexual violence, particularly against women, is to support the re-authorization of VAWA, the Violence Against Women Act.  Donations to organizations that advocate for an end to sexual violence, such as RAINN, the YWCA and the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, can support this issue as well.

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