by Siobhan Carroll, Braevehearts blog
Q: What do Kim Kardashian, the Steubenville rape and trial, and North Dakota all have in common?
This is going to be a long-ish answer. If you haven’t been living under a rock, you know that Ms. Kardashian is currently expecting her first child (disclosure: I am also currently knocked up with bambina #3, due around the same time) and has had the temerity to gain weight. While gestating a whole new human being.
Just a couple of weeks ago, the suspects in the Steubenville rape case were found delinquent (the juvenile court equivalent of guilty) of assaulting their “friend” during an evening of drunken revelry. Tellingly, defendant Trent Mays apologized after verdict, stating that “No pictures should have been sent around, let alone taken.” So he apologized for being caught, not for his violation of another person’s body. Says a lot about Mr. Mays, no?
Meanwhile, North Dakota was busy passing laws banning all abortions after six weeks and termination of pregnancy for genetic problems or gender selection, and a personhood amendment. This has been done as the state has cut back on school lunch programs, because once that baby is born, he’s your problem, lady.
Three very different illustrations of the issues we have with women’s bodies. I am no fan of Ms. Kardashian and frankly resent being put in a position where I feel I should defend her. Because the woman released a sex tape several years ago and is a creation of reality TV, we feel we have the right to criticize the body she is famous for. Specifically, several tabloid covers this week focus on some aspect of her weight gain and pregnancy shape. Her body is not considered her own, but rather a totem for our own amusement, a canvas for our own insecurities and fears, and perhaps some schadenfreude to see that famous shape even mildly distorted. Where did this sense of entitlement come from? Did she sign some paperwork I am not aware of? None of this is at all our business, even if Kardashian has made her living airing her dirty laundry. She didn’t eat an extra burrito or have her metabolism slowed by illness- she is PREGNANT. Leave her alone.
Steubenville, OH has been the focal point for a now notorious rape trial based primarily on evidence gathered from prominent social media outlets. Two teenage boys carted a female friend who had passed out drunk from one home to another, photographing and videotaping themselves penetrating her vaginally with fingers, and possibly more. There are photos of her slung between the two boys like a hammock, her pants missing. Videos of other teenagers that night laughing and talking about her and what was done to her.”I just saw a dead body get raped” was one line, delivered with a disturbing tone of glee.
Why did this happen? At the base of this crime is a notion that the victim deserved what happened to her because she passed out drunk. That she somehow gave an all-access pass to her body by not longer being able to say no or fight back. After all, silence is consent, right?
Lastly, the North Dakota legislature passed and their governor signed a trifecta of bills aimed at making their state virtually abortion-free. There is little expectation that these laws will be upheld in federal court, but powerful Tea Party-based conservative forces wanted to make a statement and they certainly did. There are no exceptions for the health of the mother. It defines “personhood” at the moment of conception, regardless of the “personhood” of the individual carrying a fetus. There is no mention of whether a woman may or may not be prosecuted for a miscarriage. It’s as though by being pregnant a woman gives all right to her body over to the government.
These are three very disparate examples of how we do not allow women ownership over their own bodies, and they are indicative of a pathology we have about what it means to be a woman and what our bodies are for. Let me clear: my body is my own and is for what I decide to do with it. That could be for entertainment, for partying too hard, or remaining childless. It is for skydiving, grocery shopping, exotic dancing, lazing about and feeding my baby. It drives a car, folds laundry, provides for my family, and is educated. It gets sick, makes mistakes, has sex and occasionally a good hair day.
It is mine. Not yours. And I hereby revoke any right you may have thought you had to judge it, assault it, and make decisions for it. Are we clear now?
Siobhan Carroll likes wine, steak, peanut butter cups and equal rights. She lives in Maryland with her husband and 2.5 daughters, and blogs about life and other things she finds tedious at Braevehearts.com.