Does anybody remember from U.S. History class the Comstock Laws that Congress passed in 1873, which outlawed importing, mailing, or even disseminating information about contraception? Of course, using contraception was out, and even talking about effective birth control methods was considered “obscene.” Where were the women on the issue? Oh wait, I remember, that was before women had the right to vote. Do you realize that women haven’t even been voting for 100 years? The Titanic sunk before we could mark a ballot. Do you realize what a short time it’s been?
Women’s ability to control their fertility has been met with historical barriers, as men in America held patriarchal power, legitimized by religious doctrine used to justify inequality. In truth, women’s history has been essentially wiped from the books, because as they say, “the winner writes the history.”
They say we can look to the past to predict the future. If this is the case, I assert that women’s “stronghold” in exercising their power and autonomy is only a blip in our timeline that can be easily wiped away by legislation riddled with “traditional” values. The FDA only approved the first birth control pill in 1957, around the time my grandmother was getting married. There are women around us who remember what it was like before we had the reproductive freedoms we do now. Just last week, in 2012, Rep. Issa’s hearing on birth control was like a childhood boy’s club: no girls allowed! They’ve oppressed us before, they’re trying to do it again.
Ninety-six years after Margaret Sanger was arrested for opening the nation’s first contraceptive clinic, I have an IUD that allows me to enjoy intimacy and intercourse without pregnancy and I think it scares the hell out of those old patriarchal cronies. Think about it – they’re losing their power to control women. Historically, when women were unable to control their fertility, they were burdened to an existence of constant pregnancy and child-rearing. While I’m in no way blanketing all pregnancies to be burdensome, I’m really terrified of the notion that my uterus could one day become an unwilling conveyor belt.
If I’m left without contraception, how can I plan my pregnancies? If I can’t plan my pregnancies, how can I plan my life? If I can’t plan my life, how can I own my life? If I don’t own my life, who does? Riddle me that one, Newt, Rick, Mitt.
But my speculation is that these anti-women’s health extremists realize exactly what they’re doing. We are in a war over power and autonomy, and of women’s roles and value within our society (i.e., get back in the kitchen, have some babies and listen to/serve your husband).
Yeah, I’m not going to stand for that.
Our “traditional” patriarchal model shames the pleasure of sex, especially women’s pleasure: male has intercourse = pleasure/sport/assertion of masculine dominance/orgasm (for example, Catholic bishops and insurance companies cover Viagra). Female has intercourse = slut/shame/pregnancy and the “natural” role of motherhood (for example, Catholic bishops reject contraception and insurance companies don’t cover contraception). Not exactly equal outcomes.
So, I’m a sex-positive individual. I love having sex, and I have the luxury of thinking about it independently from pregnancy or motherhood because I use an effective birth control method. Because I’ve been using contraception consistently since I became sexually active, I’ve been able to have an infinite amount of pleasurable intercourse AND obtain a formal education AND travel the world AND have a career AND my freedom! I’ve been able to live the life that many men on the “Birth Control Witness Panel” would be proud of their sons for. But since I have a uterus, I must give up my freedoms to serve my one and only purpose in life: being a caretaker to my husband and children?
Grrls and bois, friends and foes, they’re calling it a “war on religion,” and I’m calling it a “war on women.” As history repeats itself, we must remain vigilant in this fight.