In my previous post, I mentioned that I had recently finished reading Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power & A World Without Rape. Well, I am back to discuss another one of the incredibly problematic accusations that was made in this book. And yes, we are going to be focusing once again on Jill Filipovic’s essay “Offensive Feminism: The Conservative Gender Norms that Perpetuate Rape Culture, and How Feminists Can Fight Back.” (Prepare yourselves.)
In addition to misquoting religious texts and accusing “anti-choicers” of trying to “give a fetus rights that no born person even has” (Friedman & Valenti, 2008, p. 19), Filipovic also decided to draw illogical comparisons between sexual assault and abortion. This is what she said:
“Sexual assault is not only a crime of violence and power, but also one of entitlement. So long as men feel entitled to dominate and control women’s bodies, sexual assault will continue. While issues like reproductive justice may initially seem unrelated to sexual assault, they are a crucial aspect of women’s bodily autonomy and integrity – legally forcing a woman to carry a pregnancy for nine months and give birth against her will and without her consent, or coercing certain kinds of ‘unfit’ women into not reproducing, are deeply troubling uses of women’s bodies to serve the needs, ideologies, and desires of others” (Friedman & Valenti, 2008, p. 26).
Filipovic then went on to claim that “anti-choicers” were actively supporting rape culture:
“We need to situate sexual assault within the greater cultural battles over women’s bodies, and recognize that anti-rape activism cannot be separated from action for reproductive freedom, anti-racism, LGBT rights, and broader equality; and that the opponents of those movements are the same people who have an interest in maintaining rape culture” (Friedman & Valenti, 2008, p. 27).
Now, there are many, many things that could be said in response to these claims. For example, it is intellectually dishonest to claim that pro-lifers are “legally forcing a women to carry a pregnancy for nine months and give birth against her will and without her consent”. As a pro-life woman, I have no interest in forcing women to give birth. However, I am interested in ensuring that the state does not sanction abortion, which allows doctors to systematically dismember an unborn human fetus/being/child. This has nothing to do with “forcing” women to give birth and everything to do with “forcing” men, women, and physicians to abstain from participating in the destruction of human beings.
But Filipovic’s accusation goes much deeper than this. The real claim that Filipovic is making is this: by opposing a woman’s bodily autonomy, “anti-choicers” are supporting rape culture. So let’s examine this claim.
As a pro-life woman, I would like to clearly state, once and for all, that I believe in, support, and advocate for a woman’s right to bodily autonomy. I mean, let’s be serious. I am a woman. I love women. I believe in women’s rights. I studied feminism. I am a traditional feminist. I am thankful for my bodily autonomy. I support the bodily autonomy of other women. Capiche?
However, there is a massive difference between supporting a woman’s right to bodily autonomy and supporting a woman’s right to exercise autonomy over the body of another human being (ie. the human fetus). This is where pro-life and pro-abortion advocates diverge.
You see, pro-abortion advocates believe that a woman not only has the right to control her own body, but that she also has the right to control the body inside her body (ie. the body of the human fetus). (Side note: This is why the “My body, my choice” slogan should really be “Our bodies, my choice.”).
However, as a pro-life advocate, I reject this belief. I reject the idea that another individual has the right to assert control over, perpetuate violence against, and threaten the existence of another individual. And do you want to know a secret? This is perfectly in alignment with my stance as a traditional feminist who combats rape culture!
When a man rapes a woman*, he is asserting control over and perpetuating violence against another autonomous individual. In simplified terms, he is violating the woman’s bodily autonomy.
As a pro-life woman, it is my belief in bodily autonomy (among other things) that fuels my opposition to sexual assault. And it is also my belief in bodily autonomy (among other things) that fuels my opposition to abortion.
Now, before people begin to freak out and make all sorts of unfounded accusations against me, let’s make one thing perfectly clear: I am not suggesting that abortion and sexual assault are similar. However, what I am saying is that Jill Filipovic’s claim is absolutely false.
Do “anti-choicers” actively support and maintain rape culture by “opposing” a woman’s bodily autonomy? Absolutely not. As I demonstrated, the pro-life worldview is premised on the equal distribution of human rights and bodily autonomy to all human beings, born and unborn. This is what fuels our opposition to abortion. This is what fuels our opposition to human trafficking. And this is what fuels our opposition to rape culture.
One final point: The connection between rape culture, abortion services, and businesses like Planned Parenthood is a lot more problematic than you might think. I would recommend that you watch this video and this video. The reality is that, through our activism, pro-life people have been actively combatting rape culture. And realistically, if you truly want to combat rape culture, you too must oppose the insidious way that abortion is used by Planned Parenthood to cover-up sexual abuse, sexual assault, and sexual exploitation.
*Note: I recognize that rape and sexual assault do not always follow this construction. However, in light of the fact that the vast majority of sexual assault is perpetrated by men against women, this is the construction that I have chosen to use.