Are you still sad the Romney/Ryan ticket lost?

Do you have fawning admiration for staunch pro-life politicians whose absolutist viewpoint on abortion successfully tricks you into thinking they have titanium backbones? Are you sad that your country’s laws won’t be influenced by men who believe that a foetus is a person with equal human rights to the human that carries it? Are you depressed that there won’t be a constitutional personhood amendment that bans all forms of abortion and many popular forms of birth control such as The Pill and IUDs, as well as In Vitro Fertilisation?

If you’re still sad about that, I’d like you to meet somebody. Her name is Savita Halappanavar:

Oh, I’m sorry. You will not be able to meet her. Savita passed away last month in Galway, Ireland, because doctors were unable to perform a life-saving abortion. They had to wait until the miscarrying foetus inside her no longer had a heartbeat before they could remove it from her body. By then she had blood poisoning and her body shut down and died over the next 24 hours. Even though this woman’s husband pleaded with doctors, reminding them that the couple were not Catholic, the law of the land imposes Catholic belief on everyone.

This is what happens when politicians insert themselves into health care decisions. No person can serve two masters, especially when that person is a medical doctor trying to observe the tenets of the Hippocratic Oath and the demands of politicians’ hypocritical laws.

So. I’ll ask again. Are you still sad that the Romney/Ryan ticket and so many anti-abortion candidates lost? Or have you finally realised that when it comes to this painfully, tragically complex personal issue, these politicians haven’t got a damn clue?

GOP: Team Rape!

I recently received an e-mail from a reader. The author didn’t specify whether or not they wished their identity to be known, so I have not included it here. If the author wishes, that person may choose to identify themselves in the comments. Here is the question:

I know you are outside the US, but one of the subjects that has been glossed over in the Presidential race is Romney’s view on rape. He states that he allows for abortion in the case of rape or incest, but has refused to illuminate the particulars, especially after Todd Aiken’s outrageous comments re:”legitimate rape”.

From my own experience in the mormondum, the church has very strict guidelines given to the bishopric and stake presidents as to what constitutes legitimate rape. The victim has to fight and has to scream loud enough to be heard. In my case, I asked (during my church court “hearing”) what if you are tied up? gagged? what if they threaten your toddler daughter sleeping in the next room?

None of that applied. And it was noted by the bishops first counselor that had I been righteous, the Lord would have taken me (I would have died) before the assault. Also, in the State of Utah, even if convicted, in the case of incest the judge has the right to waive jail time for the convicted rapist.

I believe this is a legitimate line of inquiry to ascertain Romney’s views on the subject. But I can’t get anyone to be more pointed in asking this question. Any thoughts on a post on this?

Establishing a legitimate line of inquiry on any issue related to Governor Flip-Flop is difficult due to general lack of consistency, but let’s do our best to establish the larger context here. A quick search on YouTube yielded this hall of shame of rape quotes:

These comments are so horrible that only comedy can make sense of them:

A full timeline of Republican RapeGate 2012 would fill five blog posts, so I’ve tried to pick out the most prominent events from the War on Women that have to do with rape. I hope that I can use these events to string together a narrative on why Republicans have stepped in it over and over again when it comes to rape.

January 28 – Redefining Rape

Mother Jones reports on the Republican plan to decriminalise non-forcible rape. Under proposed legislation, rape would only be really rape in cases where women struggled, screamed, or attempted to fight off their attacker. Pregnancies resulting from assaults where a woman was unable to put up a fight due to being frightened, coerced, too young, incapacitated, or disabled would no longer be considered “rape” and would not be eligible for most forms of financial assistance for an abortion.

Why would Republicans take this position?

It’s in the Bible. Deuteronomy 22:23-24 makes it clear that if a woman has sex with a man in a location where others might be able to hear her cries for help, she wasn’t raped and should be stoned to death as an adulterer. Verses 25 and 26 make it clear that if a woman is raped in a location where nobody could have heard her scream out, then only the rapist should be killed and the woman should be spared.

This is where the concept of “legitimate rape” and “forcible rape” come from. Jews and Christians who actually read the Old Testament and understand it will naturally arrive at this conclusion. Let’s repeat that: The Bible specifies that rape isn’t rape unless a woman cries out for help. Staying silent for any reason — roofies, a gun to the head, or the threat of violence to people in the next room — means it isn’t really rape.

February 16 – State Sponsored Penetration

Slate reports on a proposed Virginia law that would require women seeking abortions to receive a medically unnecessary vaginal probe whether they wanted it or not, leaving them with the choice of being sexually assaulted by their doctor or carrying an unwanted fetus to term.

Why would Virginia Republicans do this?

The Bible can shed some light once again. Women are described quite clearly as property to be managed by men. They are listed behind cattle in many cases describing property distribution, and abduction and rape was considered a legitimate means of securing a wife. Exodus 21, Numbers 31, Deuteronomy 20, Deuteronomy 21, Deuteronomy 22, 2 Samuel 12, Judges 5, and Judges 21 are just a few very clear examples of the status of women in the sight of Yahweh. Opposition to abortion is almost exclusively based on biblical-based belief. Is it surprising that people who utilise this book for their moral compass would merely reflect the callous misogyny found in its pages? These men don’t hate women. They just don’t know how to love them as full human beings.

March 6 – Women are Livestock

Georgia State Representative Terry England compares women to chickens, cows, and pigs giving birth while arguing against an exception to Georgia’s strict abortion laws that would allow women with non-viable fetuses to obtain abortions rather than carry them to term, only to result in stillbirth or instant death of the baby. The bill later passes.

Why would Republicans in Georgia do this?

Women having the status of livestock is in the Bible. Noticing a trend yet, anyone? The Tenth Commandment (Exodus 20:17) treats a woman as exactly the same as a man’s other pieces of property: his house, his servants, his ox, his donkey, or any other personal effects. Including his wife.

April 5 – Women are Caterpillars

GOP Chairman Reince Priebus dismisses the idea of a Republican War on Women as fictional as a “war on caterpillars.”

Why would the leader of the Republican Party say this?

We may live in a modern world where Christians heavily cherry-pick from their scripture, but there are still consequences to reading a sloppy text written by nomadic warlords and strung together by politicians thousands of years later. In the Bible, men are the prophets, lawmakers, priests, and kings. God is male and so is his son. Women are auxiliary substances to maleness. They are on the same level as real estate, livestock, and household goods. Is it really that surprising that someone who chooses the Bible as his ultimate moral guide would be influenced by its lack of serious treatment of women as full human beings?

August 19 – Legitimate Rape Can’t Cause Pregnancy

Senate candidate Todd Akin insists that “legitimate rape” cannot result in pregnancy. This implies that the 30,000+ women every year who conceive after rape must have enjoyed the attack and therefore can’t complain about the government forcing them to bear their attacker’s child.

Why would a Republican Senate Candidate say this?

This goes right back to Deuteronomy 22, where rape isn’t rape unless it’s physically forcible and the woman screams for help. Anything else, according to the Bible, isn’t really rape.

August 20 – Romney Condemns Akin

Mitt Romney calls Akin’s words “insulting, inexcusable, and, frankly, wrong.” Romney, Ryan, and other GOP higher-ups call for Akin to resign from the race, which he refuses to do.

Why would the Republican Presidential Candidate say this?

At the time I hoped it was because Romney, a former pro-choice candidate, was at least reasonable enough to see that comments like this are horribly offensive and political cyanide. Also, being Mormon rather than Catholic or mainstream Christian, he’s able to adhere to official LDS policy of allowing abortion in cases of rape. The fact that this reaction may have been part of an effort to get a more palatable Republican candidate in the Missouri senate race did come to my mind but I could not be sure.

Until . . .

October 23 – Rape Pregnancy is a gift from God

On October 23, Senate candidate Richard Mourdock of Indiana expressed his belief that even when conception occurs as the result of rape, it is a “Gift from God” and no abortion should be permitted. Romney, who the previous day had endorsed Mourdock with the only television commercial he has ever recorded for a fellow candidate for office, sends an aide to release a mild statement saying that he does not share Mourdock’s position, but continues to support him for office.

Why would Romney do this?

I don’t think Mitt Romney cares much about the issue of rape at all. When it was politically convenient, he spoke out against Akin. This allowed him to appear chivalrous and to help his party by trying to get rid of a toxic candidate and find a replacement before the ballot deadline. In Mourdock’s case it’s too late. Pulling support for Mourdock this late in the season would mean automatic victory for the Democrats. As usual for the wannabe CEO-in-Chief, politics take precedent over principle. Achieving the goal of the White House and Republican control of the Senate as well as the House is far more important than defending the rights of women to the GOP. That’s the business they are in. Their goal is power, not compassion. Let’s not be sentimental or hand-wringing about that reality.

So What Now?

Perhaps the GOP will continue to add to RapeGate, but hopefully they’ll adhere to the wisdom of Steven Colbert in this case.

As far as Romney goes, I believe that if elected he would continue along the Republican Party’s path of strict Biblical literalism when it comes to legislating the status of women. Romney isn’t quite the same as a Christian for the purposes of this discussion, as he adheres to additional authorities like the Book of Mormon and the President of LDS, inc. Mormonism lacks the clear-cut Canon Law that Paul Ryan can adhere to, making it harder to know exactly what he would believe. The closest thing that the organisation has is the Church Handbook of Instructions. The boring half has been made public on LDS.org, but the really good secret stuff is periodically leaked online. The most recent edition of CHI Book One contains some pretty revealing information.

Nowhere in the Church Handbook of Instructions are Priesthood authorities told that they should immediately inform civil authorities when they learn of a crime. The book simply tells them when formal versus informal religious discipline should be imposed.

In section 6.7.3 of CHI Volume one, murder and incest are mentioned. Bishops and Stake Presidents are told how to contact internal LDS Authorities regarding spiritual discipline. Nothing is mentioned about contacting police. Later on the same page, Priesthood leaders are informed that people identified as predators must have a disciplinary hearing. Once again, there is no mention of alerting proper authorities.

Section 6.10.3 informs Mormon leaders that “aggrieved victims” should be counseled internally by the Church’s own helpline. “Great care must be taken,” the passage reads, “to avoid causing further trauma, especially to a victim of physical or sexual abuse.” Ironically, the Church’s prime policy document says nothing about reporting abuse to doctors, law enforcement, or professional services for abuse victims — which greatly increases the chances of creating further trauma.

The Church Handbook of Instructions is a treasure trove of bizarre and shocking policies, but what I’ve listed here should present a broad enough picture of what the problem is when it comes to Alpha Mormon Males like Mitt Romney and the issue of sexual violence against women: there is nothing in their training or culture that would lead them to treat sexual violence as seriously as the integrity and reputation of the church. Without explicitly stating that crimes like murder, rape, and incest should be immediately reported to police, the CHI creates a web of policies that will encourage Mormon leaders to keep these issues as internal matters. This leaves children and women who have been victimized at the mercy of male lay ministers who have no professional qualifications when it comes to dealing with criminals or assisting victims.

This is why, unlike so many Republican goose-steppers, I find the story about Mitt Romney’s efforts to stop a life-saving abortion to be entirely plausible. It’s also why I find the prospect of a Romney-Ryan presidency and the possible impact on the U.S. Supreme Court’s makeup to be horrifying.

Rape is rape is rape. And rape is evil. And no woman should be forced by the government to bear the child of her attacker. And no legislator should presume to meddle in this area. How many times have we got to say it? Perhaps I’m not articulate enough on the subject. Perhaps this gentleman can help me say it more clearly:

Romney and the Book of Mormon Witnesses

US Presidential candidate Mitt Romney was called out for lying when he claimed he “saw” his father march with Martin Luther King. As it turns out, he couldn’t have ever seen this happen because it never happened. But that didn’t even cause him to blush when he weasled his way out of a literal meaning of the word “saw”.

Hmmm . . .

Did Mr. Romney “see” this event with his “spiritual eyes,” a bit like how the alleged Book of Mormon witnesses “saw” the golden plates with their spiritual eyes after being forced to pray for hours and hours and coerced into signing an affidavit?

Just a thought.

Woman Win: The Story of Menstruation

Many of us have an impression that the days before the 1960’s were completely dark for women. Certainly popular culture was rife with sexism and misunderstanding about the female body, but I ran across The Story of Menstruation, commissioned by feminine product manufacturer Kotex and created by Disney, to educate women about how their own bodies work. It’s remarkably factual, sensible, and affirming regarding the reproductive system. It is a little dated; all of the girls are in skirts, but that was the norm in those days. There’s also only one brief and visual implying that marriage happens before babymaking, but seeing as that’s still the most common order things happen in, it’s hard to nit pick. This film is believed to be the first to use the word “vagina” on a screenplay, and was seen by over 100 million American students when it was released.

Among the filmstrip’s highlights:

  • A simple and scientifically accurate description of the menstrual cycle
  • An explanation that girls get their periods at different ages, and that is perfectly okay
  • An explanation that girls come in all shapes and sizes, and that is normal
  • The shattering of myths that women shouldn’t shower or exercise during menstruation
  • Sensible advice on exercise, sleep, and nutrition throughout everyday life
  • Advice on dealing with the negative side effects of the menstrual cycle, such as feeling bluesy or having digestive difficulty
  • An affirmation of a woman’s importance in perpetuating life.

If not for the caustic smiles it would surely draw from the Facebook generation, I’d recommend this video to remain in use today. I salute you, Kotex, for not only making reliable products that promote women’s health, but also for being brave enough to tell the truth in an era of misinformation.

Oh. That’s Too Bad.

This weekend I went to a baby shower for an LDS friend of mine. The party was almost entirely made up of what you usually see in Relief Society — slightly overweight, harried looking mothers with threadbare smiles and enough neuroses to prevent conversation about anything more complicated than quiche recipes. Other than myself, there was only one other apostate present — a dear friend who thought her way out of the church after too many engineering and philosophy courses at university. She hasn’t formally resigned her membership yet, but it’s been some time since she attended church and won’t be going back.

Neither of us mind attending LDS events. Baby showers, baby blessings, wedding receptions and the like are important enough that everyone should be able to look past differences and help each other celebrate the milestones we cross in life. I must confess to getting a bit fidgety at this event. Although I got to cuddle the newborn for a good long while, I was having trouble striking up conversation with the vapid Aryan hausfraus present. They couldn’t talk about themselves. They didn’t seem to have passions, interests

I was getting rather annoyed with myself. I didn’t want to think that I’m incapable of relating to Mormons any more, but I worried that I’ve drifted too far. Still, I stubbornly hoped that I’d find some way to be charitable toward these women and find a way to connect with them.

And then I walked up to my fellow apostate, who was conversing with Sister Soccermom.

Sister Soccermom had recently discovered that my friend had just become engaged to her boyfriend, who is a wonderful, intelligent, hard-working man of excellent character. He’s also non-white and non-Mormon. Sister Soccermom made the usual inquiries. She also learned that he was very dedicated to ensuring that both partners in the relationship finished their advanced degrees. She learned that they met in their robotics class. She learned that he was a brilliant engineer who had proposed to my friend by taking her on a romantic dinner cruise and popping the question at the bow of the ship under the stars.

Not that any of that mattered, because she then asked the only question that an LDS woman seriously considers. “Where did he serve his mission?”

Sister Soccermom was informed that my friend’s fiancé was not Mormon.

“Oh,” said Sister Soccermom disdainfully, within hearing of everyone in the room. “That’s too bad.”

It was a good thing I was holding a sleeping newborn at the time, because only the fear of dropping the baby prevented me from bitch-slapping Sister Soccermom. My friend and I were both appalled. The woman knew nothing about my friend or her fiancé. To say that to anyone, let alone a complete stranger, was beyond inappropriate. But the very sad thing is that it was not shocking. That sort of reaction is par for the course. Nobody seemed offended by the remark other than myself and my friend.

It was a moment that confirmed something I’ve sensed for a very long time: I’m not Mormon any more. I used to think that part of me would always be Mormon. But other than making jam and changing my own tyres, I can’t think like a Mormon any more. It’s all slipped away. And thank goodness.

Feminist Fail: PETA

This week’s Feminist Fail is brought to you by hypocritical wankers PETA, who have decided to target his Royal Gingerness Prince Harry whilst he’s in America for military training. A flock of naked scrawny vegan birds was dispatched in an attempt to persuade him to go meat free by using women as pieces of meat:

Well done, PETA. You’ve reminded us that although you’ve got the hots for animals, you clearly care nothing for humanity and women in particular. This isn’t the first time they’ve utilised the Hot Chick approach to marketing, and sadly I’m guessing it won’t be the last.

Regardless of how you feel about the validity of veganism as a lifestyle choice, please give the bird to PETA’s disgraceful use of birds.

Pay Up, Pro-Life Movement

Another day, another rant in the local paper about protecting the “unborn children” that are “murdered” by Planned Parenthood. (Never mind that the vast majority of their services involve cancer screening for poor women.)

I usually have very little patience for rabid pro-lifers, because they tend to be affluent and educated and utterly out of touch with the lifestyles of most women who find themselves in the distressing situation of being pregnant at a time when they lack the relationships or resources to support a child.

But this time let’s compromise. I will respect a person with a no abortion under any circumstances viewpoint under one condition:

That person is willing to pay the entirety of the cost of the pregnancy, birth, recovery, and child support until the child is a legal adult. Let’s throw in a college fund too.

Not such a difficult concession, is it, pro-lifers? The majority of women seeking abortions are economically disadvantaged and frequently never had access to birth control or the ability to insist that their partners wear a condom. So if you’re going to force a woman to keep an unwanted child, you’d better cough up some cash to help pay for it. Until you plump white stay-at-home middle class church ladies realise this, you will fail to see how your attitudes compound poverty and further stigmatise disadvantaged women.

I believe that the pro-life and pro-choice crowds should move beyond abortion and simply agree that the true problem is unwanted pregnancy. I find abortion incredibly regrettable. There is always emotional distress and physical pain involved, even when it’s the absolutely correct choice. I am also unequivocally opposed to the late-term abortion of a fetus capable of surviving outside the womb. At that point we are dealing with a creature developed enough to suffer incredible pain whilst being ripped from limb to limb. But even an early term abortion can leave psychological scars on a woman, and our society’s stigma against the practise makes it difficult for them to seek comfort.

The best option for all women would be to never need an abortion. Then we wouldn’t have to argue over whether or not it should be legal. If there is no glob of rapidly dividing cells in a uterus to begin with, then nobody will have to argue over its fate. But that can’t happen without two things: feminism and funding. So decide when you’d like to pay, pro-lifers. Do you want to pay up in advance and allow women to learn how their bodies work and have the social standing to control their fertility, or do you just want to start cutting cheques to feed babies born from forced pregnancies?

Dutcher Facebook Update: Screencap

Here’s a screen capture of the thread that’s erupted from Richard Dutcher’s comments refuting the standard doublethink that allows some LDS people to dismiss the cognitive dissonance of those who struggle with Mormonism:

Postmortem to follow. The preliminary verdict: Dutcher 47. Pro-LDS minus 23 due to logical fallacies and general silliness.

Richard Dutcher rebuts accusations of “angry apostates” on Facebook

The following was forwarded to me by a friend. A Facebook comment made today by Natalie Hess, a Provo-based real estate agent, read:

This is going to be bold, so be prepared. I’m so sick of hearing about lds people who are watching & reading anti-lds propaganda & then actually believing it as 100% truth. Seriously use your brains people! Don’t believe everything u watch/read. Consider the source, usually it’s begrudged people coming up w/ this crap!

Richard Dutcher, yes the Richard Dutcher who made “God’s Army” and “Brigham City”, replied:

And this is going to be unpopular. So be prepared.

You have a point, Natalie. But, as one who has studied and researched more Mormon history and doctrine than anyone I know (other than some scholars and published writer friends of mine), there is another side to that coin.

There are so very many church members who are familiar with only material published by the church/Deseret Book. And then they come into contact with something controversial from an outside source (not all outside sources are “anti-Mormon” by the way) and turn to Deseret Book or the church for an explanation and…guess what? There’s little to nothing.

And so they research a little more and find out not only that what some of these outside sources are saying is true, but that the church deliberately hid and/or lied about the information. And then they’re really confused. They’ve trusted in the church, they’ve sacrificed for the church, they’ve LIVED for the church, and then they find out that the church has lied to them, repeatedly.

It can be quite a faith shaker. In many cases, a faith destroyer.

Yes, there are anti-Mormons who lie and cheat (using partial information) and do anything they can to fight against Mormonism. But there are very many historians and scholars with no axe to grind who simply put forth material that is contrary to the church’s official story.

Some of us can manage to live with the cognitive dissonance of holding two contrary realities as somehow both true. Some of us can’t.

Be patient with those who are struggling with information that is shaking their faith. They’ll need your support. It is a hellacious ride which will most likely end in a very painful collision with reality.

It is also a painfully confusing experience to realize that the church you love and have sacrificed for is withholding information from you, while your “enemy” is telling you the truth. So very painful and confusing.

Is Modesty Narcissistic?

There is such a thing as narcissistic immodesty. But I think we see enough of slut-shaming and people who are obnoxiously self-serving that there’s no point discussing the difference here.

What I would like to get at is the idea of modesty defined as cloth covering socially defined bits of skin.

Perhaps my ability to remember having an LDS mindset is slipping away from me, but I can’t help but feel there’s something pretty narcissistic about assuming that God gives a toss about what you wear on your body. Presumably if some all-knowing deity decided to say to himself “Oi, I fink I’ll make some blokes and birds wot can worship meself” it seems likely that he knows what you look like naked. It seems even more likely that he isn’t too impressed with the silly getups we put on to make ourselves feel important. Really. Take a look. Do you really think an all-knowing, all-powerful deity is impressed with any of the following?

What seems more likely? That God is desperately concerned with what we put on our bodies, or that our own vanity and squeamishness about sex has produced some pretty outlandish solutions to appease this invisible false god called Modesty? Religious-based dress codes serve one of two purposes: to make some fat-headed man look important, or to keep women under control by concealing their bodies like valuables in a safe. Both stem from the same narcissistic idea: “Everyone is looking at me. If they are not, they should be so they will know I’m important.” Robes of pomp and circumstance are no less narcissistic than Islamic burqas and LDS garments, which can easily be mistaken for clothing that encourages anonymity. All non-functional ceremonial clothing serves only to identify a person as being different. Better. Chosen. In the know. Definitely not like the rest of the rabble.

“Ah, but you forgot,” the people of the book will say. “God was the first fashion designer. Those fig leaves were so last July. What’s really in for this Fall is animal skins.”

My only answer is this: do you really think God was serious? Can’t you recognise a good joke when you see one? Frankly if I had to work with two gullible gits like Adam and Eve I’d have one last go at them before they got sacked from their jobs as groundskeepers. And I know I’d do it by making them think they had to wear something silly on the way out the door.

Just . . . give it some thought.