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I hesitated on blogging on the Todd Akin controversy because other folks, like Eve Ensler, have done such a brilliant job. Instead, friends like brithna encouraged me to pick up my literary equivalent of a sword and do battle with the rape denying extremists by writing out a rant disguised as Devil Wears Prada FanFic.

Summary: Andy and Miranda respond to the firestorm around Todd Akin and his apologists.

Author’s Notes: Lauren Weisberger and 20th Century Fox are the true owners; I’m just letting the ladies play in my sandbox for a while.

 Too Legit To Quit

Andy looked around the studio of the newest up and coming designer that Miranda had discovered. The open space of the loft was filled with drafting tables, rolls of fabric and more people than the occupancy permit allowed. At one end, an impromptu stage had been erected.

It was a scene of barely controlled chaos with several members of the Runway staff milling around the half dressed models, the designer trying not to panic at them arriving thirty minutes early and Miranda sitting on a folding chair amidst all the madness as cool as an iceberg floating toward an ocean liner.

Everyone was so completely focused on worshiping at the altar of fashion that they completely ignored everything else, including the drug paraphernalia they had to step over to get into the loft, the furor surrounding the upcoming Presidential election and the hurricane developing near Puerto Rico.

“How very insular,” she thought to herself, the ghost of a smirk drifting across her lips. She conveniently forgot that, had her own Facebook and Twitter feeds not exploded with reactions to the Missouri Senate candidate’s comments about ‘legitimate rape’ and the miracle vagina secretions keeping rapists sperm from becoming babies, she might have missed the controversy, too.

Since drinking the Kool-Aid and accepting Nigel’s fashion lessons, she found herself becoming less informed of current events. Her days and nights were so filled with her job that she no longer read the New York Times or any other paper for pleasure. Unless the story impacted fashion, publishing or Miranda, she tended to miss it. She still woke and showered to the local NPR station, so she wasn’t entirely ignorant of what was going on in the world but, compared to her past devouring of the news, while she wasn’t quite living under a rock, there were $1000 a yard Burmese silk curtains between her and reality.

She was pulled out of her thoughts by a slight head movement from her boss. Immediately, Andy focused on Miranda and her reaction to the beginning of the run through.

An hour later, Andy judged that things hadn’t gone too badly. Miranda hadn’t pursed her lips or eviscerated the designer for wasting her time. She might have rushed the goodbyes a little but it was nothing the fawning designer would notice over his rush from successfully completing a showing for one of the most demanding women in the world.

After they exited the loft, Andy obeyed Miranda’s unspoken gesture and slid into the waiting Town car with her. Typing a quick text to warn Emily of their imminent return, Andy felt the hair on the back of her neck rise.

Glancing up, she wasn’t surprised to see Miranda studying her. Lately, she had been developing a sixth sense about her boss. Afraid that she had missed an order, she asked, “Yes, Miranda?”

“What was that smirk for?”

Andy’s brain froze. “Um…smirk?”

“Don’t play dumb. It doesn’t suit you.”

Knowing that she was seconds from losing her most-favored-assistant-status no matter how she answered the question, Andy decided to be honest. “I was just struck by how out of touch everybody was. All that focus on fashion…uh…stuff when there are bigger issues.”

Miranda rolled her eyes at the use of stuff. “Such as?”

“The War on Women for one!”

“You believe I am ignorant of these attempts to roll back women’s equality and health access?”

“No, Miranda. I know you are well informed.” Andy smiled. “As I’m the one that lays out the newspapers and magazines on your desk every morning.”

“But?”

“But I guess I’m just disheartened that we are in such a women’s centered profession with little to no acknowledgement of the serious consequences that some of these conservative politicians will have on women’s rights.” Turning slightly in the seat, Andy earnestly continued, “Their utter ignorance of basic science is not just harmful to women but to society as a whole. I mean, who really thinks that women have secretions that stop pregnancy when we’re raped?”

“More than their ignorance, it is their inability to empathize that most disturbs me.” Miranda took a deep breath. “Todd Akin’s ignorant statements about legitimate rape and the past actions by the House of Representatives around adding forcible before the word rape indicate a singular lack of awareness of what it means to be sexually assaulted. For him to then think he can brush it off by claiming he misspoke is reprehensible.”

“I know!” Andy exclaimed.

“While I may not be the most emotionally available person on the planet, even I can extrapolate from my own experience to understand getting pregnant after being raped would be a continuation of the violation.” Pulling her wallet from her purse, Miranda took out a well worn picture. She rubbed her thumb over the image before holding it up for Andy.

Andy leaned over and saw two babies, with the bare wisps of red hair on the tops of their tiny heads, lying on a white mink coat. It was hard to believe that these little angels had grown to become the terrors she knew. “They’re beautiful, Miranda,” she whispered.

“My daughters were conceived in love but, by the time they were two years old, I couldn’t be in the same room as their father without being filled with an urge to stab him with a fork.” Miranda delicately shrugged. “It has taken many years for my ex and I to achieve a sort of equilibrium where we can be in each other’s presence and still be civil.”

Andy guessed their yelling at each other on the phone must not count as being in each other’s presence. She had the good sense to keep her thoughts off her face as she nodded for Miranda to go on.

“My daughters are precocious young ladies with their own personalities but sometimes, though, they can cock their heads a certain way or quirk their lips and all I can see is their father. The wave of negative emotion can be overwhelming.” Miranda paused. “Just think of how difficult it must be for the women who are forced to bear the product of their rape. For them to see in their child the face of the one who violated them.”

Swallowing hard against the threatening nausea, Andy croaked, “Inconceivable.”

“I think that means exactly what you think it means.”

Andy giggled at Miranda getting the reference to her favorite film. When she noticed that the car had stopped in front of the Elias-Clarke building, she stopped laughing.

“I’m disappointed that you lumped me in with the others, though. Frankly, it is a little insulting, Andrea.” Miranda put her sunglasses on and prepared to step out of the car.  “Perhaps you should take a look at the Op Ed page in tomorrow’s Times.”

Andy licked her suddenly dry lips. She wanted to apologize for making assumptions but worried that doing so would just make things worse. Watching Miranda walk away from her was devastating so she did the one thing she knew could be a peace offering. She raced across the street for a tall latte with two raw sugars, boiling hot, no foam and promised herself to get up early and pick up a paper before work tomorrow.

New York Times, August 23, 2012 –  Guest Column by Miranda Priestly

As a woman who has centered her life in fashion, I have spent many hours defending the avant-garde against charges that we are creating a sexualized culture that encourages rape. Despite the fact that no study has ever shown that women who wear short skirts or revealing blouses are statistically at greater risk of rape than their more modestly clad sisters, many people are convinced that women are raped because of their appearance and behavior.

There is ample evidence against either having anything to do with sexual assault. A United States Federal Commission on Crime of Violence Study found that only 4.4% of all reported rapes involved ‘provocative behavior’ (self-defined as a noticeable gesture towards the perpetrator, encouraging him or her to carry out the crime) on the part of the victim. This is in stark contrast to murder cases, in which 22% involved such behavior.

Many years ago, I was a junior editor of Runway London when Lindsay Armstrong committed suicide following the trial and conviction of her rapist. This is notable because the defense attorney used the form fitting pants and the motto stitched on the back pocket to demonstrate his contention that Lindsay was the sort of girl who asked to be raped. While the readers of this paper might not recognize this particular case, I will never forget it because I had been responsible for a spread featuring that new line of “Little Devil” jeans.

Her death brought home to me the unalterable truth that whatever one wears, whether it be out of season or just plain outrageous, one never deserves to be raped. Putting women in conservative clothing isn’t a cure for rape. It’s an ineffective, rather useless measure against an act of violence. Further, focusing on the clothing of the victim instead of the crime of the perpetrator perpetuates the lie that men are incapable of doing two things at once: being aroused by what they see while honoring the humanity of the woman who has attracted their eye.

This tactic is called slut shaming and is basically attacking woman and girls for being sexual, for having one or more sexual partners, and for acting on sexual feelings. Every time we condone it, it damages not only the girls and women targeted, but society as well.

An example of slut shaming is the Toronto police officer who made that unfortunate remark about women “dressing like sluts” being more likely to be raped. Another is Rush Limbaugh verbally attacking a young woman who was speaking in defense of access to reproductive health care. For speaking her mind in a thoughtful and civil way, she was called a slut on his national broadcast.

In this atmosphere, it is easy for our politicians to believe they will find a sympathetic audience when they speak about “forcible” or “legitimate” rape. Representatives Akin and Ryan would never have pursued that line, nor would the Republican National Committee leave out the rape exception on the abortion plank of their platform, were they not convinced that they had the political cover to do so.

Despite what the Republican nominee for President and his surrogates believe, our lives are not side issues. Women have the right to determine what happens to their body and to not be assaulted or molested whether that is by a rapist or an elected official.

I hope to see all of you at the polls in November.

Miranda Priestly

Editor in Chief

Runway Magazine

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