Saturday, January 20, 2018

Yes, Women Should Be In Charge of their Bodies

Today, across our nation, women (and men too!) will be marching. A number of friends will be among them. Because of a longstanding commitment, my wife and I cannot both march. So, I will be home with the kids cleaning the house and cooking for company. I put my elbow grease where my mouth is.

I wanted to write a little bit, however, about a key issue that I have realized over the last couple of is no longer (if it ever was) a matter of common ground in our society:

Women should be in charge of their bodies.

As regular readers know, I spent my teens in a Patriarchist cult led by a sexual predator (as it turned out...big surprise). That school of thought definitely does NOT believe women are fully human, let alone that they own their own bodies. So I at least knew that the radical fringe didn’t agree. But I thought at least that mainstream Evangelicals and Conservatives could agree with this. [Sure, abortion is a difficult issue - I don’t like abortion personally, and have never tried to force one on anyone - but it is a symptom of deeper problems, and thus a difficult problem to solve. Just ask those countries where it is illegal...and yet occurs at higher rates than in countries where it is legal. See footnote...] It turns out, we do not really share those values. 

 Stuff I thought we agreed about. I guess not.
Thanks to a friend for getting me this bumper sticker for my trailer.

I’m a work in progress on this issue. I have not always behaved well when it comes to women. Probably most of us guys, even the decent ones, can look back and wince at what we have said about women, times we have acted entitled in our marriages, and times we have not lived up to these ideals in various ways. But many of us are working to become better men, become better humans, and make the world a better place for our wives, daughters, mothers, and women everywhere.

So, in light of that, and in honor of the women marching today, let me lay out my viewpoint on this.

1. Women have an absolute right to not be raped, assaulted, touched, groped, or harassed without their consent. Period.

This is body ownership 101. Unfortunately, in our society, this is not respected. The problem of predatory and violent male behavior is widespread, and isn’t limited to any one political viewpoint, race, religion, or social status. The #metoo movement has revealed that to be female is pretty much to experience regular violations of one’s body. This is horribly sad, and needs to change.

This stems from a particular belief, in case it wasn’t obvious. In order to treat women this way, you have to, at some level, believe that women, their bodies, their reproductive capacity, exist to gratify males.

In just about every possible way, The Toupee Who Shall Not Be Named exemplifies this attitude better than anyone else I can think of. From his bragging about “grab[bing] them by the pussy,” to his repeated remarks that women are unattractive after childbirth, while menstruating, or after a certain age. Women are there to gratify him, and therefore he can use them and discard them when they no longer suit his preferences.

It isn’t just him, of course. The list is too long to contain on a single post. And, as I noted, it isn’t limited to any one group. It is a global problem.

But how we respond to it does differ. The response to those who refuse to respect women’s bodies should be appropriate to their offense. That means prosecution in many cases. In others, firing or workplace discipline. In others, education. It certainly should never include voting them into office. (WTF, Evangelicalism? After all those years condemning Clinton?)

This includes marriage too. A marriage license is not ownership of a woman. A husband is not entitled to touch his wife without permission any more than he was before he married her. (Sadly, this was not the law until recently - my lifetime.)

Anyway, this is the most basic, elementary level. And I want to be on the record supporting the right to be free from bodily violation. Period.

2. Reproductive care is basic healthcare. Period.

I cannot believe we are actually arguing about this in 2018. What the hell is wrong with people? Reproduction is a function of our bodies, and necessary for our existence. What? You weren’t born? If you were, you received reproductive care at some point. Is it that hard to understand?

By reproductive care, here is what I mean:

Contraception. Prenatal care. Maternity care. Scientifically accurate sex education.

I am astounded that we are still debating this in 2018.

It wasn’t that long ago that women died from excessive pregnancy, really. Take John Donne’s beloved wife: the first 13 children were okay. The 14th killed her - in her 30s. There is no good reason for this to happen in the 21st Century.

Let me address each of these in turn. I believe contraception is basic health care, and it needs to be mandated for all health plans. Period. If you have a problem with that, perhaps it is time for single payer, so you can avoid involvement. I believe that whether a woman (or a man for that matter) uses contraception is not an employer’s business EVER. And that means that they don’t get to decide whether it is covered or make an employee jump through hoops to get it. None of their damn business. If you provide health insurance, then you include all basic fundamental medical care. You don’t get to lecture your employees about their sex life. You don’t get to impose your theological beliefs on them - and that includes your beliefs about when ensoulment occurs. You don’t get to impose your “alternative facts” about science on them either. (No, female-controlled birth control doesn’t cause abortions.) It just isn’t your business. If you aren’t willing to admit that, at least vote for single payer so that it is out of your hands.

One of the most shocking things about the recent GOP health proposal was that it expressly intended to remove prenatal and maternity care from the definition of basic, fundamental health care. It isn’t hard to predict what would happen: only those actively planning children would pay for maternity coverage...if they could afford it. And then, those rates would skyrocket, right? So in essence childbearing would be for those who could pay up front. I’m sure that would work out. Particularly in a country where one half of pregnancies are unplanned. So in reality, that would mean most people would probably end up going without maternity care, and our already high infant mortality rates would skyrocket. And why? So that the “wrong” people wouldn’t have babies, I guess.

Ironically, the same people eager to terminate materity benefits tend to be the same people pearl clutching over falling birth rates. It’s as if they never took Economics 101: make something too expensive, and people won’t do it as often as they did when it was affordable...

In reality, ALL of us are born. And in order for us to have a good shot at life, we need a good start. Preferably, good prenatal and maternity care, parents that aren’t dead, and enough food, health care, and education to enable us to be full participants in society as adults. So why IS this so controversial.

One reason (but not the only one) is that too many don’t consider women’s reproductive systems to belong to them. Instead, they belong to wealthy men, and a woman who dares have sex without first being owned married to a man with enough money needs to be punished, along with her children.

My viewpoint is that women own their reproductive organs every bit as much as we men own ours. And since reproduction is a much more involved process for them, they get to control a lot more of it. I have the right to use birth control of whatever sort I wish - and so do they. I have no right to have a child - that’s something I negotiate with my partner.

Let me touch on the last one too: scientifically accurate sex ed. I am grateful to my parents that I received such education from an early age. (I demanded graphic detail at age 5 - my poor mom.) I never felt like I couldn’t talk with them about it, which is why, despite being homeschooled, I had a pretty darn good understanding of contraception, STDs, and the realities of sex by the time I turned 18. Not all kids have that experience, to say the least.

I believe women have two rights here. First is accurate information about their own bodies. And that needs to include information about their pleasure too, not just the man’s. Second is that women have a right to live in a society where men are educated properly. About consent, about mutual pleasure, and about the fundamental equality of women. The world would be a much better place if this actually happened.

3. Women are as fully human as men, and are thus entitled to political, social, and economic equality.

Yes, this goes to women owning their bodies. The work their bodies do should be traded for an equal amount of pay as that men receive. This should not be debatable. Likewise, women should not be pressured to take on uncompensated work, such as housework and child care, in greater amounts than men. And it certainly should not be required of them. If any couple choose to negotiate unequal arrangements, fine, but it shouldn’t be assumed.

BTW, that is the definition of Feminism above. I didn’t realize I was a feminist until my late 20s, when I realized that I did believe in the political, social, and economic equality of women - and that people objected to Feminism precisely because they objected to equality.

4. Men are not entitled to rule over women.

Not in the home. Not in marriage. Not in society. Not in church. Period.

There is nothing about having a penis that makes one better or more suited to make one’s own decisions than someone who doesn’t. One of the greatest problems in our (still) patriarchal society is that men feel entitled to make decisions without sharing equal power with women. Witness, just as one example, the fact that the Congressional committee on health care was composed exclusively of white males. Because, clearly, they know better than women...particularly about what health care women should receive.

I have stated before that I have an egalitarian marriage. My parents have what appears to me to be a functionally egalitarian marriage, whatever they may claim to believe about female submission. Decisions are made mutually, and nobody has a trump card.

Until this understanding of equal, shared power becomes the norm, men will continue to control women’s bodies.


So there you have it.

I believe women should be in charge of their own bodies.

I am not ashamed to say it, even though I understand it puts me at odds with a number of friends and relatives these days. And even though it cost me my connection with my religious tradition last year.

And, I am committed to fighting the forces that are opposed to that idea.


Just a footnote here: If we actually put these ideas into action on a nationwide scale, there is strong evidence that the abortion rate would go down significantly. Actually, it already has in the last few decades. That change has been part of a greater trend of much lower rates of teen pregnancy, and is directly attributable to three factors: 1. Accurate sex education. 2. Availability of contraception, and 3. Education on consent. Hmm, turns out bad male behavior is a significant factor in teen pregnancy. Who knew?

Anyway, the evidence indicates that abortion rates are lowest in countries that actually address the underlying causes of which abortion is a symptom. First, education and contraception so that women (and men too!) are able to avoid unplanned pregnancy, particularly during the crucial teen years, when pregnancy has the most negative consequences for the parents and society. Second, policies that keep pregnancy from being a financial catastrophe. Things like universal health care - pregnancy is expensive, parental leave without fear of losing one’s job, wages that allow for addition of a child without starvation for the ones you already have, and so on. The main reason my wife and I were able to have five kids without hardship is that we had the resources - including maternity leave for my wife - to make it work. In other words, we had the economic privilege to do so.

Of course, taking these actions means giving up the fun of morally lecturing the poor (and particularly the brown-skinned poor) for having the nerve to want kids and sex and intimacy. Which is what I have come to believe is what the Abortion Wars™ are really about.


  1. "I don’t like abortion personally"

    I don't think ANYBODY likes abortion, to be honest. It's one of those things that no one likes, but most people recognize is currently necessary to allow women to have control over their bodies. And it would be LESS necessary if people were taught proper sex education and had easy access to contraceptives, but the Religious Right is hellbent on stopping those too...

    1. Sorry, but Blogspot won't let me edit my comment, so a bit of an add-on here...

      "WTF, Evangelicalism? After all those years condemning Clinton?"

      And now wackos like Tony Perkins are out there trying to defend Prez Numbnuts for HAVING SEX WITH MULTIPLE PORN STARS WHILE HIS WIFE WAS PREGNANT. And then while he was campaigning for President, someone told him that might be used as a weapon, so he tossed them each over $100,000 to keep quiet, along with forced NDA's (because of course). Apparently, according to the Religious Right, there's nothing wrong with any of this. After spending years going after Bill Clinton for a blowjob.

      The hypocrisy is so large you can see it from space...