by Stephanie Cole
Women’s health is one of these issues. Bring up menstruation, female sexuality, and female anatomy anywhere without a guaranteed population of feminists, and prepare to hear something infuriating. Get politics into the mess, and expect even worse. I was delighted when news regarding new legislation regarding women’s health broke this week, and while some of the political and media reactions were expected, I still feel the need to point them out so that we can continue to be aware of the opinions that we are up against.
To summarize, it was recently announced that as part of national health care reform, insurance companies will be required to completely cover expenses for birth control and other women-specific health expenses. This being a component of so called “Obama-care,” of course Fox news was heavily intent on discrediting it.
I am not trying to be too partisan here, but I am hoping that no matter where you fall on the political spectrum, you can recognize sexism when it appears and agree that it has no place in any political discourse. And many arguments presented reeked of old, offensive stereotypes. Do yourself a favor, and catch up on some examples through the lens of Stephen Colbert, whose perfect commentary will at least keep you from getting too upset.
In the excerpted arguments, we have examples of almost every ugly stereotype regarding a woman’s sexual health. Rep. Steve King of Iowa expresses the good old-fashioned idea that contraception is the equivalent of generational genocide–as if women have sex for no reason other than to have children. Well, I guess that’s us, with our naïve, impressionable lady brains. Wave a free Nuva Ring in front of our face, and we will immediately forget that we may actually want a family someday. And of course every woman who takes birth control is committed for life.
And then, there is the opinion expressed by a pundit who is, illogically, herself a woman. She gets all anti-female sexuality with the common argument that birth control is a moral threat because it encourages a woman’s sexual freedom. Colbert does a good job highlighting that her insinuation that contraception turns an otherwise normal woman into a sex crazed maniac is ridiculous. But I have something I would like to add: The pundit asks “Why in the world would you want to encourage your daughters, your granddaughters….to have unrestricted, unlimited sex.” My answer: Why not? All that this describes is a women having sex on her own terms, but of course, it is presented as the height of immorality. The reality is that birth control does allow women to freely express their sexuality, and there is NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT.
I would happily call this legislation a victory for women’s health, and I look forward to when it goes into effect next year. But I also hope that some of these reactions will remind us that stereotypes about women’s health and sexuality still prevail. We need to always be reminded that women are still patronized and that sexist views of our health still go unquestioned. If we do not continue to call out sexist attitudes–however predictable they may be–then we are unlikely to ever see positive change.