It might have been quaint if your granddad had referred to the way girls stayed out of trouble back in his day.
But to hear Rick Santorum funder Foster Friess regurgitate the old aspirin-between-the-knees nonsense on TV was as ghastly as it was absurd. Besides, we know what he meant: Women, don’t be sluts.
For the moment, let's leave aside the sexism and outdated attitudes toward women’s sexuality. Let's give Santorum and the GOP the benefit of the doubt and look instead at intent and presuppositions.
In Santorum’s “Rockwellian” America, men stand by their devoted wives and delightful children. They all work hard, go to church on Sundays, do their homework. Then the parents launch their competent, well-educated kids into a world eager to employ them. Everything is copacetic in Sweater World.
So what’s the problem with having a kid, even if the pregnancy was unplanned? The baby will give you a reason to settle down, or stay together. Even if the father has disappeared, that’s okay. Your family and community will bundle you up with love and support. That kid will be the best thing that ever happened to you.
It’s not like the parents are unemployed, or the boyfriend is beating up the girlfriend and molesting his stepdaughter. It’s not like a girl or boy has to perform sex acts on adults just to survive.
Oh, if only.
As cornball as Norman Rockwell’s illustrations were, their sentimental scenes would be a welcome break from the violence, uncertainty, poverty, rape and sexual abuse that besets the lives of many women and children.
Let these pro-life Republican men who are so concerned about innocent lives put their money where their mouths are. Let them beef up the welfare system by way of a special tax on the wealthy. Let’s put aside a mandatory trust fund that will pay for decent housing, schooling and food for 18 years of each new life created.
But that’s not what the GOP has in mind. Republicans want to control the actions of women and girls, not provide for them.
Meet Katie. She’s a Christian who was “raised in a conservative, Republican, military family,” and she is outraged. Her blog post Grievances against the GOP from a (former?) Republican Woman began as an argument with a fellow Republican. He wasn’t aware of “recent attacks on women’s rights,” and asked for proof. Katie's blog post, full of facts and details about Republican legislation in Virginia, Utah, Georgia and New Hampshire is just that. She also mentions the still unratified Equal Rights Amendment, which was introduced in Congress by — irony of ironies — Republicans. In 1923.
According to vday.org, a group founded by playwright and activist Eve Ensler, one of every three women will endure physical or sexual violence in her lifetime. “Although sources of violence may seem diverse, women’s responses sound tragically similar. Besides the pain and strength you will hear in their survival stories, the themes that resound across cultures and geographies are of the indifference of authorities, the familial instinct of denial, and the lack of public outrage about the violence that millions of women experience every day.”
The other night I had trouble sleeping because of a photograph that recently popped up on Facebook — a young woman kneeling before a wall. It appears that she’s about to be executed. In researching who this woman might be and where this took place, I happened upon the pictures that appear to have been taken just before and after the shooting by people who appeared to be Chinese soldiers. The year, according to one human rights site, is 2004, and the place is Tibet.
Men too have been killed in protests and struggles around the world. But there’s something truly chilling about this particular photograph. Two male soldiers hold the woman in place, but lean far to the side, presumably to keep their uniforms clean. A third male soldier aims a rifle at the back of the young woman’s head.
You don't want to see the next picture, taken seconds later. And I hope my description is sufficient enough that you won’t feel compelled to look for any of the photographs. Because you’ll never forget them.
Yes, China is another country, with a different culture and political system. But if you talk to women here who live with the threat of violence every day, you’ll see that fear knows no boundaries. Besides, globalization means that many problems outside our country have crept in.
There are worse things than an old-fashioned father who overprotects his daughters. Way worse. Too bad that ugliness is closer to the world we actually live in than Santorum’s version of reality.
Donna Trussell is a poet, fiction writer and native Texan. She lives in Kansas City. Follow her on Twitter @DonnaTrussell.