Via Feministing, it looks like the Obama campaign is planning to film a campaign commercial with a rape survivor telling her own experience. Like Ann, I come down on the side that it’s not in any way inherently exploitative (assuming, of course, that the woman in question is entirely and unequivocally on board with what they’re doing):
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.
All too often rape survivors are seen as objects of pity, rather than as people who have agency and a powerful voice. At a basic level, it’s good to have real women (not actresses playing survivors, Lifetime-movie-style) stand up and speak to this issue from experience. The major caveat, of course, is that there cannot be any coercion involved. And it doesn’t look like there was.
In fact, I will go a step further to say that at a basic level, of course having not seen the commercial as of yet, this is absolutely fabulous. Really, I’m downright thrilled about it. Yes, even if it’s a mere attack ad against Sarah Palin, because the rape kit thing absolutely deserves to be attacked, as does her atrocious position on abortion.
The idea of sexual violence being made into a campaign issue just boggles my fucking mind. I’ll tell you what: that is not politics as usual, that is being willing to tackle an issue that is traditionally seen as: a) secretive and shameful, b) only affecting women (false) and therefore unimportant (doubly false) and c) really controversial — not because rape is wrong, but because there are too many people out there who don’t want rapists to be held accountable for it. The kind of politics where we can talk about sexual violence as though the government should have a role in preventing rape and holding rapists accountable, and the kind of politics where rape survivors are given a public voice, is the kind of politics I’ve long dreamed of.
I look forward to the ad and can’t wait to see it. I only hope that it is well done and actually addresses some of the real concerns of women, survivors, and all who care about them. Your thoughts?