I guess I should say “thank you.” Gratias vobis ago. Thank you to the Republican Party’s long game, a partisan SCOTUS, years of deliberate Democratic avoidance. You see, I’ve been wanting for a while to write a book about social control, forced reproduction, and their effects on real people living under an authoritarian government.
To write about the Capitol Insurrection, as the one-year anniversary approached, I went back through my chat logs from January 6, 2021, in the interest of refreshing and confirming my memory. What I found, in lieu of any particularly meaningful conclusions, was a window into that day and how some friends and I were dealing with catastrophic events as they unfolded.
That day, I had a university meeting wedged between SCS panels, and I think I actually found the precise moment when I realized what was going on. That moment is a fairly profanity-laden series of messages with a very-online friend of mine, to whom I sent “So what the fuck is happening in DC?? I've been in meetings and the capitol building is being stormed??” followed by “i allegedly have another meeting right now and i am physically nauseous after having like a 5 minute break and seeing the news.”
At 2:00 pm on January 6th, 2021, a mob made its way up the steps of the U.S. Capitol following a morning of brinkmanship, speeches, and speculation. I sat in my office at home, logged into a Zoom session, watching Twitter and a streaming news channel on one screen, all while pretending to be engaged with the beginning of an SCS Panel, “The Powers and Perils of Solitude in Greek Literature.”
What do you read for an insurrection? Classics offers plenty of material for revolutionary bibliophiles: compilations for the budding revolutionary, handbooks for coups both successful and failed. The Capitol rioters certainly had their Classics before their eyes, as Curtis Dozier outlined shortly after the event: Caesar and Xenophon, Vergil and Herodotus.
It seems to be, first of all, from what I understand from doctors, it’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down.
So ended Missouri Republican Todd Akin’s chances of unseating Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill in the 2012 U.S. election. Discussing pregnancy resulting from rape (timeline of the comments here), Akin was defending his belief that anti-abortion laws shouldn’t include exemptions for victims of rape. Akin’s words are a now-classic example of a “Kinsley gaffe,” when a politician slips up and says what s/he actually thinks—classic enough that the term “Akinize” now describes the tactic whereby a Democrat compares a Republican opponent’s words to Akin’s “legitimate rape” comments.
Akin was expressing a factually baseless belief that’s not a new idea, and was part of such a trend of election-cycle “rape and pregnancy controversies” that Wikipedia has a page devoted to it. He also was participating in a tradition dating back at least to the 1st/2nd-century CE Greek medical writer Soranus of Ephesus, whose treatise on gynecology is filled with quack-science gems akin to Akin’s. Yet there’s a key difference of opinion between Akin and Soranus, as we’ll see, that makes Akin’s comments more sinister by contrast.
Classical studies as we know it today grew partly from the pressure of politics — from people’s need for a repertoire of words and images that could respond to the new political possibilities in early modern Europe. When Coluccio Salutati studied Latin prose composition at his boarding school in Bologna, he focused on the art of letter-writing (the ars dictaminis), as generations of Italian boys had done before him. But his teacher also lectured on Cicero and other classical authors — and as Salutati’s career took him to the chancellorships of Todi, Lucca, and Florence, his administrative vision was broadened by his knowledge of classical history and moral philosophy.