As the “war on women” continues, my sole comfort has been watching dumbfounded Republicans try to explain away the misogyny that’s so foundational to their agenda.
In the midst of the fallout over Todd Akin’s comments claiming “legitimate” rape victims are unlikely to get pregnant, the science-whiz whined to Mike Huckabee in a radio interview that he “made a single error in one sentence.” He was frustrated that people “are upset over one word spoke in one day in one sentence.”
Bryan Fischer, a spokesperson from the American Family Association, complained about the Akin backlash, saying, “You talk about somebody being a victim of forcible assault, that would be Todd Akin.” Mitt Romney denounced Akin’s remarks as “insulting” and “inexcusable,” but accused the Obama campaign of trying to link Akin to the GOP as a whole, calling it “sad” and that the move stooped “to a low level.”
But what Romney, Akin, and their ilk don’t understand is that women’s anger isn’t about “one word” or one politician—it’s about an ethos, a Republican ideology steeped in misogyny and willful ignorance.
Akin’s remarks—a combination of cluelessness and sexism—were a reminder that it isn’t just disdain for women that directs the GOP agenda on all things female. Misogyny is part of it, but what’s more insidious than the clear-cut contempt embedded in qualifiers like “legitimate” or “forcible,” is the sly sexism of disinterest.
To Republicans, women exist parenthetically—pesky asides that occasionally require some lip service. It’s why Paul Ryan can describe rape as a “method of conception” without batting an eye, dismiss criticisms about the term “forcible rape” by saying it was “stock language,” or call a health exception to abortion legislation a “loophole.” It’s why Republican Senate candidate Tom Smith of Pennsylvania can say rape is “similar” to having a baby “out of wedlock.” It’s the thinking that led John McCain to put air quotes around “health of the mother” in a 2008 presidential debate with Obama, and why during a Republican primary debate earlier this year the candidates had a whole conversation about limiting birth control without even uttering the word “woman.”