Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Womanly virues Wednesday: Do you really want someone else paying for your birth control?

Back in the 1980s there was a meme that got going in some feminist circles that men should be helping women pay for their birth control. It was one of those ideas that sounded really good in the abstract. A funny thing happened, however, when guys I knew started to actually make the offer.

Guys talked about that funny reaction they got from their girlfriends a lot. The result was inevitably the same. They'd be talking with their girlfriend and others and the comment would be made—usually something along the lines of men get the benefit but don't help pay—and the guy would think that was fair comment and, next time he and his girlfriend were alone, he'd offer to pay his share.

The tone of the reaction varied but the basic thrust was always the same. The gesture would be acknowledged but then deflected if not outright refused. And there would be much discomfort all around.

The problem that arose is one of those things that seems pretty obvious when you think about it: If he was paying his half then he had some "ownership". A certain level of entitlement and a presumed exclusivity right would go with payment. She would still be able to say "no" when she felt like it but the act of refusing sex because she didn't feel like it was going to be a very different thing if he was paying for half the birth control. Nobody had the courage to spell this out loud but everyone felt it. And some guys were a little miffed when the offer was refused and they grasped that their girlfriend was holding on to her autonomy. And there were girls who "felt uncomfortable" accepting the offer but didn't want to try explaining.

Freedom isn't free
When I was a social worker, and anyone who has worked in the field can tell you this, one of the worst insults single mothers in the projects hurl at one another is "welfare". If you ask them what "welfare" is, you quickly figure out they don't have a clue. Why do you quickly figure that out? Because each and every one of these women relies on welfare for all or most of her income. But they don't see it that way. They see what they are getting as "assistance".

Don't look down on them for this. You'd do the exact same thing if you were in their situation. No matter what euphemisms the government tries to couch it in, it's not social assistance they are getting for they are absolutely dependent on it and the feelings of helplessness that go with that are crushing. So it becomes something else in their minds.

That is what is will happen to all women if birth control becomes a medical service paid for by the others through some sort of universal health care. Yes, Limbaugh should not have said what he did about one individual woman but the general thrust of his criticism was correct. For birth control to become a medical necessity there has to be a tacit assumption that women exist "for sex" and that their birth control is being paid for because they provide sex. Accept this and you are giving up ownership.

Men, all men, will be paying for half the cost of birth control and you can be damn sure that a lot of them are going to start thinking they are entitled to half the benefits. That will change the way men think about women and the way they treat women. They will start thinking, "Hey, I'm paying half the cost of this, I'm entitled to get some."

And be prepared for the government to start thinking it can dictate what forms of birth control women use.

And the way society in general sees women and their sexuality will change too. It has too. Once your sexuality becomes a matter of public interest you begin to lose control over it.

No comments:

Post a Comment