I agree with Ann on this issue. The Obama campaign has put out feelers, looking for a rape survivor who is willing to film a campaign commercial for them to highlight the differences between the Obama/Biden ticket’s support for women, and especially victims of hate crimes against women, and the McCain/Palin ticket, which is laden with an ugly history from the rape kits debacle to McCain’s no votes on various bills to fight violence against women. Considering that there is a legitimate difference between the tickets, then this is not “playing politics”. Politics is the stuff of real life, and when we put something like violence against women out of the reach of “playing politics”, we fail to understand that violence against women is a political issue and politicians should address it. I like how Ann puts it:
Political and issue-based campaigns frequently recruit people with first-hand experience to speak publicly and in ads. I wondered, would my reaction be so strong if the Obama campaign was seeking a laid-off autoworker to discuss his economic policies? Decidedly not.
For instance, if you want to see a stomach-churning ad about a taboo subject that most people would rather not talk about, but has to be talked about for political reasons, check out this ad from the South Dakota Campaign For Healthy Families, a group that’s fighting the South Dakota abortion ban:
I’m sure that it wasn’t fun for Tiffany Campbell to talk about how she had to undergo a selective abortion after finding out that one of the fetuses she was carrying was basically all but dead and killing the other one, but it was absolutely necessary.
And this isn’t a Trauma Olympics, either. Some people getting laid off suffer worse trauma than some rape victims, and vice versa. Some people are haunted by being mugged, and some people laugh it off, but it’s a mugging all the same. It’s tempting for feminists to characterize rape as a trauma markedly different than all others, because it’s a trauma that has historically been taken not seriously at all. But I don’t know that it’s helpful to overcompensate by suggesting that it’s the worst possible thing that could ever happen to a woman beyond a shadow of a doubt, and that it’s therefore out of the reach of basic political discourse. That doesn’t reinforce the idea that rape is a very serious crime so much as it reinforces the idea that rape survivors are tainted, that they have a stain on them that somehow separates them from the rest of the human race, putting them and their experiences beyond the common forms of discourse, which include campaign commercials.
What offends me is when the survivors of traumas are deployed for the benefit of campaigns or candidates that don’t have any intention of helping them. Bush’s misuse of images from the aftermath of 9/11 come to mind, especially since he betrayed those lost and the survivors by using their trauma as political cover to get his war in Iraq. But Biden’s long history of going to bat against sexual and domestic violence, and Obama’s long history of strong support for reproductive rights (which is intertwined with anti-violence activism for reasons both obvious and subtle) means that they have the track record to back up such a commercial.