Tuesday, April 16

‘If rape is inevitable… enjoy it’: This man’s daughter told us not to vote for him

In June of 2020, a young woman’s tweet urging Michiganders not to vote for her father, Republican Robert Regan, for state representative went viral. “If you’re in Michigan and 18+ pls for the love of god do not vote for my dad for state rep. Tell everyone,” Stephanie Regan wrote on the platform.

In 2022 Robert Regan, now poised to win a Michigan House seat, mentioned his daughters in a revolting comment that doesn’t just highlight the GOP’s blasé attitude toward sexual violence but also underscores how fathers can, and do, direct their misogyny at their daughters.

During a Facebook livestream on Sunday, Regan was arguing against Republican strategist Amber Harris’s call to give up trying to overturn the 2020 election, which will inevitably fail. Ostensibly attempting an analogy, Regan said, “I tell my daughters, ‘Well, if rape is inevitable, you should just lie back and enjoy it.’”

As the father of daughters indeed.

With this comment, whether earnest or not, Regan is using his daughters as political props in the most grotesque way. He’s using the specter of sexual violence — a real and constant threat to his daughters as it is to all women — to make a bad point. And while no one knows whether this was intentional, it does seem meaningful that Regan’s rape comment was in response to a woman, as though the gendered horror would reinforce his argument. It doesn’t matter whether this is real advice he gave to his children or not. Using the imagined rape of his daughters to draw a glib comparison to Joe Biden’s 2020 election win is violently sexist.

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Men — often Republican men in the act of apologizing — constantly cite their own daughters as evidence of their empathy for women, as though fathers cannot be sexist toward their daughters; as though fatherhood itself precludes misogyny. The phrase, “As the father of daughters…” is so ubiquitous as to have become a cliché. Yet the relationship between a parent and child may be where misogyny is felt first and most acutely. The domineering dad seeking to control his teen daughter’s sexuality is a pop culture stock joke, while favoring sons over daughters is an ancient global tradition. But not every daughter has the courage or means to push back publicly, as Regan’s daughters did.

Regan attempted to clarify his statement to The Grand Rapids Press on Monday, saying he was just trying to say you should never stop fighting, even when the outcome seems inevitable, and he wasn’t trying to make a rape joke. “Most people that feel like the election was stolen from them, that’s similar to what they feel like,” he said. “And I don’t want to equate a stolen election with being raped – that’s not my point – but they feel very violated with trust right now. Very violated.”

Men making poor rape analogies isn’t exactly a new phenomenon either. Pennsylvania state representative Russ Diamond compared vaccine mandates to rape. Donald Trump in 2016 accused China of “raping” our country. Rush Limbaugh once made a lengthy rape analogy to argue against filibuster reform.

What makes Regan special is that he’s managed to combine two sexist tropes into one, using the violence of rape as a rhetorical tool while reasserting himself as “the father of daughters.”

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Luckily for Regan’s daughters, they now seem well beyond his advice or his control. In his response to her 2020 tweet, Regan suggested his daughter had been indoctrinated by her “socialist” university. But in her own follow-up tweet, Stephanie said the real indoctrination had been at home. “This is what i was raised with!!” she wrote. “Took YEARS to educate myself and feel proud to have diff beliefs, it’s still hard… ask yourself if ur beliefs are truly urs, or if they were implemented by an authoritative figure?”

Regan’s misogynistic comments don’t appear to be in spite of his daughters. Rather, he treats his daughters as tools to prop these comments up — which is, ironically, the essence of misogyny itself.

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