Women’s Equality Day came and went in a blur last month, but folks are still celebrating all around Important Media, the network that hosts CleanTechnica, with a series of posts this week on women’s rights and accomplishments. So without further ado, let’s hear what the #1 cleantech site in the world (yes, that would be CleanTechnica) has to say on the subject of women’s rights in the context of our other favorite topic, climate change.
Rights, Rape, and the Equal Right to Science
If you want to sum up the consequences of willful ignorance on women’s rights in two words, it’s hard to do better than U.S. Representative Todd Akin (R-Missouri) did when he used the phrase “legitimate rape.”
Those two simple words lead into a labyrinth of twisted reasoning worthy of the Minotaur’s maze, so for now let’s just focus on one aspect, and that is the right to partake equally in the advances of modern science.
Akin brought up the concept of legitimate rape as a matter of settled science while trying to explain why he believes that conception rarely if ever follows from an act of rape.
Vanessa Heggie of the Guardian points out that “legitimate rape” once did have a firm grounding in science, at least insofar as the scientists of 13th century England were capable of understanding how female reproductive organs function.
Heggie notes that even as recently as 1814, medical texts persisted in linking pleasure (in other words, consent) with conception:
“For without an excitation of lust, or the enjoyment of pleasure in the venereal act, no conception can probably take place. So that if an absolute rape were to be perpetrated, it is not likely she would become pregnant.”
A woman gets pregnant after being raped, therefore she consented, therefore no rape occurred. Even Monty Python couldn’t do justice to that argument.
Nowadays, of course, most people know better. For those that don’t, it’s just a matter of wishful thinking: thinking that pregnancy is a condition that women can easily avoid by refraining from engaging in sex for pleasure.
In this formulation, there is no need for contraceptives of any kind, let alone access to routine and safe early-term abortion procedures performed by licensed medical professionals. All that is necessary is for women to not have sex for pleasure unless they really do want to get pregnant. So simple!
That’s what you get when you base 21st-century women’s health policies on 13th-century science.
Wishful Thinking about Climate Change
Would it surprise you to know that Akin applies the same thought process to climate change? Over at Grist, senior editor Lisa Hymes notes that Akin’s website provides a page on global warming that expends a lot of two-dollar words to reach a two-bit conclusion, aptly expressed by Akin on the floor of the House in 2009:
“In Missouri, when we go from winter to spring, that’s a good climate change. I don’t want to stop that climate change, you know. So, and who in the world would want to put politicians in charge of the weather anyway? What a dumb idea.”
Unfortunately, Akin has plenty of company at the upper reaches of his own party, as demonstrated by an article titled Top 5 Craziest Things GOP Contenders Said on Climate in 2011 by Joe Romm of Climate Progress.
Whether they laugh it off as a joke or couch it in science-y (Hymes’s word) language that refers to no science at all, supporters of the denialist position are engaging in the same kind of wishful thinking behind “legitimate rape,” and, for that matter, creation “science” – facts, schmacts.
It’s one thing to ignore the science of the 21st century as a matter of personal opinion, but for policymakers charged with the well-being of a nation, the bar for professionalism should be set much higher.
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Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. You can also follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.