Sometimes it seems futile to try and separate the wheat from the douche from week to week in politics. You just want to give up. I mean why even bother? But persevere, everyone, because this week we really got one. We found someone who’s douchetastic, factually inaccurate intrusion into women’s health actually made Rick Perry look reasonable. Her flagrant douchery even inspired an auxiliary wave of Internet slut-shaming. That’s right, it’s Michele Bachmann.
Bachmann lambasted Texas governor Rick Perry over his support of Texas’ administering the HPV vaccine to middle-school aged women during the debates on Monday. Following the debate on CNN, Bachmann spoke with Fox News about the HPV vaccine, which can help prevent cervical cancer, among other things. Bachmann related a story from after the debate where a mother spoke of her daughter’s mental retardation resulting from the HPV vaccine. The Republican candidate went to great lengths to remind the interviewer of the “very dangerous side effects.” To make sure everyone heard her loud and clear, she went on the Today Show and noted “there is no second chance for these little girls if there’s any dangerous consequences to their bodies.”
The dangerous consequences like cervical cancer? Because that’s what can happen to a woman infected with HPV. Oh, and mental retardation? The vaccine doesn’t cause it. According to whom? Just about everybody. Even Bachmann’s former adviser is hanging her out to dry.
Suggesting that women risk the chance of contracting cervical cancer because of an ages-old vaccine scare story is dangerous. Perpetuating these myths causes women, and more crucially, parents and their daughters, to hesitate to protect themselves from an easily preventable disease. Spreading misinformation in such a bullheaded manner endangers those prone to believe Bachmann. Twelve thousand women contract cervical cancer every year, and HPV lies at the root of almost every instance. Not to mention the thousands of women that develop other HPV-related cancers.
This is not what Bachmann calls “crony capitalism.” The HPV shot isn’t the “sex shot” it’s been labeled by the mainstream discourse, though Bachmann has yet to realize it. The HPV vaccine doesn’t spontaneously make kids think it’s okay to go have sex everywhere now. The sex-vaccine connection is just about as tenuous as the retardation-vaccine connection. Yet Twitter and some in the blogosphere, highlighted in this Feministe article, seem to feel like shame is the natural way to feel about contracting HPV. Novelist Ayalet Waldman tweeted about her experience of her husband passing HPV to her from a former partner, prompting a Twitter backlash along the lines of “gross, sex, stop!” HPV is a preventable virus in many cases, and we should be educating people on how to stop it (vaccine) and what the risks are (not much, if you get the vaccine).
This is what it all boils down to, here: Know your facts, kids. The HPV vaccine is not dangerous. Michele Bachmann thinks she can scare everyone away from protecting themselves. That’s why she is a douchebag.