You can see it in the eyes. Vacant, sort of glassy, dark and distant as if staring into a cave full of nails from a thousand miles – and a million joyful lifetimes – away.
It moves on to the skin, pale and ill-fitting like a mannequin in a human costume, like it’s not the slightest bit comfortable in there, closing around a sallow tightness of the mouth and lips, maybe a severity of haircut, the sweater buttoned a bit too tight and the collar cutting circulation to the vital organs, but most especially and obviously, to the heart.
Do you see it? Do you see it, most frequently and with a tragic sigh, in the women of the GOP, from the senseless female candidates themselves (Hi, Ms. Bachmann!) to the sallow wives and disoriented daughters of the ultraconservative males who fear and detest everything real women represent?
You know the look. You’ve seen it a million times, this “Oh my God how did I get here,” this “How can this really be my life,” this look of deep and long-muted pain and/or dull resignation (Hi, Mrs. Vitter!), the long rusted-over knowledge that choices have been made and there was no other way, even though there was, even though there still is.
Know this now: I do not care a whit for Todd Akin, and neither do you. No one really cares about Todd Akin. He’s already a tiny political footnote. He joins a long line of GOP crackpots who believe the most inane things. He has made it fantastically clear he possesses the soul of rotten broccoli and his 2.7 minutes of fame are pretty much complete.
But Akin did a wondrous thing: He generously revealed a particularly cruel aspect of the dark heart of the GOP not normally so clearly revealed, by way of a fantastic blunder about “legitimate rape” that exposed so many layers of ignorance and misogyny it stunned even the most resolutely jaded Americans, even moderate Republican Americans. And that’s saying something.
News flash: Akin’s comment wasn’t really all that radical. It’s boilerplate GOP misogyny. Did you know Paul Ryan co-sponsored a bill banning the use of federal money for abortions except for those stemming from “forcible rape” (as opposed to the other kind)? Akin’s statement was GOP-approved; he just happened to state it more stupidly, more hatefully than most. There is no news here. Let us move on.
Let us move on to… Akin’s wife. There is Lulli, standing next to her man as if dipped in concrete, tight-lipped and hard as a frying pan, looking for all purposes like someone removed her heart 40 years ago and replaced it with a brick.
Akin’s wife appears to us as a wan facsimile of a vibrant, authentic female, something not altogether real, unmoving and unblinking as her husband tries to backpedal violently, saying “No no no, of course rape is a terrible thing, of course women should never get raped, and that’s why I sure hope they stop asking for it very soon because angry Jesus does not like it one little bit.”
What do you think is going through Lulli’s mind in this photo? How many layers of willful denial, how many blinders must be in place in order to stand up there and not reach over and punch her husband in the face?
Is she truly proud of her man? Is part of her thinking, “Oh please, rape ain’t so bad, most of those hussies probably deserved it”? Is she thinking, “Dear God, what has become of my life?” Or is she thinking, maybe, with a hint of abject sadness, of the terrible icepick of fear and misogyny she and her husband have drilled into their six children, and particularly their daughters?
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Oh my God, the daughters. Just look. Look at the two Akin managed to drag on stage with him. It is they who inspired this column. It is they who have a look in their eye like they’ve just been made to swallow a fistful of broken glass. Again.
It is impossible not to extrapolate, not to interpret those expressions as a kind of numbed-out revulsion. It’s clear they’ve been forced to get on stage with their father as a show of family “solidarity,” as if to prove that not all women detest Todd Akin, that, when it comes to the GOP, even a mildly powerful white man can still force women to do his bidding, even after insulting and demeaning them so horribly he should be ashamed to speak to his daughters for a solid year.
Their look is impossible to ignore. Are they plotting their escape? Are they devising ways to reveal Todd’s gay porn collection on Twitter? Are they wondering, deep down, what they did in past lives to deserve the karma of this one?
They are young. They perhaps do not yet know the true depths of their disquiet, how violently they have been misled. But it looks like they suspect it. They know something is deeply, deeply wrong. Tick tock, Todd.
Which of those girls, would you wager, will soon break away from this nightmare? Which one will grab the first opportunity to travel to San Francisco or maybe Paris or Tokyo and have her mind blown open by art and sex and love, wine and yoga and the madhouse kaleidoscopic offerings of the world? Which one will hence run screaming from the bitter shell of a life the Akins’ have forced them to live? Both? Let’s hope it’s both.
Let us be clear. Let us be fair. Certainly not all Republican women – or daughters – are thusly repressed and miserable. Certainly many consciously, even enthusiastically choose their path, and many believe the Republican platform is righteous and good, despite how it hates them and believes they are lesser, weaker, ill-suited to play in the Big Game, much less make their own decisions about their vaginas, their identities, their reproductive powers.
Of course some Republican women lead full and terrific lives, run the household, are the backbone of their families, don’t care a whit that their rights and basic identities as women are sneered at by their party every day, so long as that party continues to protect the “sanctity” of the usual overbearing institutions: family, church, corporations, the military and the unborn Jesus fetus guns of intolerant married gay blah blah blah… wait, what was I saying again? Right. Who cares.
Hello, two young daughters of Todd Akin up there on that stage. I see you. We see you. And we here in the land of the messy and the free-spirited, the progressive and the open-souled, we hereby band together and offer up a prayer, a dirty, wonderful, wild, unfettered blessing to you. Ready?
It goes like this: We hereby hope you will soon find a away to escape, ignite your hearts and minds (and bodies), to blast it all wide open as you realize women are far more juicily, beautifully powerful than you’ve been taught, and that the world is not as small and terrifying as the Republican party would have you to believe.
One tip: Do not listen to your father. Do not become your mother. Come to the light side. Figure it all out for yourself in the most messy, confusing, luminous, smart, expressive, self-defined way possible. It’s completely worth it, more than you know. Just a humble blessing, from us to you. Good luck. You’re going to need it.