Todd Akin has entered the headlines again by reflecting on how he has "relived" his legitimate rape remarks "over and over again" since his defeat to incumbent Senator Claire D. McCaskill (D-Mo.) in the 2012 U.S. Senate elections. Akin is reliving the moment which demolished his senatorial campaign, and still has yet to take steps to show a sincere apology through his actions, not just his words.
Akin was infamous for a particularly disturbing comment when he described his stance on abortion. He said:
"Well you know, people always want to try to make that as one of those things, well how do you, how do you slice this particularly tough sort of ethical question. First of all, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."
The line of contention which drew the most ire was, "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down." Within a matter of hours back in the dog days of August, the Twittersphere blew up with quotes and comments. Claire McCaskill's campaign condemned the statement within four hours, and the Republican presidential ticket, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, quickly denounced and distanced themselves from Akin's campaign. The rest is history — the incumbent senator went on to win the election by 15 percentage points.
Akin was asked on a radio interview last night whether he regretted his statements last year, and said, "Of course you regret it. You think what it would have been like if I hadn't done that." He then said, "I've relived that moment many, many times."
Akin's apology can hardly be called heartfelt when political calculus is the end goal of all his statements. You think what it would have been like if I hadn't done that. Theintent of this statement is to show he's regretful for making a big blunder on the campaign trail, instead of empathizing with or considering the many people who have experienced what it means to be raped. A politician's words never touch the grass, do they?
Akin's moral position on this issue, on classifying different types of rapes, as if there are binary constructs to define "legitimate" and "illegitimate" rape, hasn't necessarily changed given his recent statements. What needs to change is what societies around the world are doing to address issues of violence against women. Discussion is needed, including and incorporating men, as to how we address the issue of rape so that attitudinal changes can occur and awareness can increase. This isn't something that will get fixed overnight, but over time, we will come to greater self-realization about how we treat women, how rape is treated in this country, and what are we going to do about it as a collective body. While Akin's original intent was to discuss abortion, he opened a new door into a discussion that is much needed in the United States on how rape culture is addressed by different stakeholders across the board (non-governmental organizations, community leaders, and yes, even politicians). While this is a sensitive issue it is one that needs to be addressed and acted upon as several incidents have shown.
Akin's statement regretting his decision to speak the words he did shows a gap between appearance and reality. He regrets the statements because of the political ramifications, not because of his moral inclinations or his concer for the thousands of rape victims in the United States who have had to experience what nobody in the world should ever have to experience.