Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Apples and Oranges

"I was raped", she said to me. Well, on a T-shirt. From her hideout in a safe. (“Oh, okay." (Awkward) "Would you like fries with that?”) This is Jennifer Baumgardener’s latest controversial statement, where rape victims publicly and proudly announce their sexual assault. A good idea in theory, but I cannot help but feel a million mixed emotions at this. Jennifer Baumgardener is the woman behind the famed "I had an abortion" tee, championed and won by various influential women, including Gloria Steinem, Ani DiFranco, etc. The "I had an abortion" tee makes sense. Such a tee proudly proclaims my right and power over my body, the right to choose what is done with it, decisions affecting it, etc.

I could be wrong, but the I was raped” tee, almost demeans the empowering and positive goals of the “I had an abortion” tee. Almost makes it a gimmick. To clarify, both should not be compared, as if both are actions that occurred on the wearer's body, and this is the wearer’s announcement of such action, openly inviting (or challenging) the world to engage in public discourse over ordinarily controversial topics.

This is not an issue of apples and oranges (apples and oranges are, after all, both fruit.) Abortion is a matter of choice. Rape is not. I have the right to decide the issue of my pregnancy in one, while my pride, innocence, my dignity, my body, is violated in the other. I have heard arguments that rape is often treated with shame and the “I was raped” tee will lessen the stigma attached to rape. There is that slight possibility. But even more possible (and likely) are those who will make a mockery of the pain, the hell, and the misery of these rape victims. This tee will likely not foster the right dialogue, and definitely not in an everyday setting. It will invite the idiocy of those who perhaps will think that the tee-shirt is along the lines of "I went to Paris and all I got was this lousy T-Shirt" … (read "I was raped and all I got was this lousy T-shirt.") Kudos to those for whom public discourse, brevity, etc. helps in their healing process. And I shall remain a staunch devotee of the school of thought that yes, discourse needs to happen on the topic of rape. But creating a situation possibly making light of such a serious and life-altering occurrence is definitely not the way to go about it.

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