15 January 2015

Once You See it...

Basically the more I learn about feminism, or perhaps more specifically, the more I learn about the vernacular and mechanisms of feminism (I have always been a self-identified feminist) the more I see the anti-feminist rhetoric in every. damn. thing.   While this is a really good thing, the more I see it, the more I can work to break it down, even if only in my tiny little corner of the world, but green goddess on a pony, it is exhausting.  I just feel like I spend all day in a non-stop gale-force wind of anti-woman, anti-fat, anti-equality, anti-choice rhetoric.  Now I am seeing things that maybe I would have never noticed before.

Now, before I move onto today's example of my "Humorless Hysterical Feminism" (maybe that will be my new weekly installment) there are two things you need to know about me:

  1. Before being a SAHM and displaced military spouse, I was in grad school for epidemiology.  I am huge nerd, I know lots of generally useless stuff about diseases and I have a big,big love for statistics. I am my doctor's worst nightmare, I am not even a little bit apologetic about this fact.
  2. I have recently had to work my way through (soon to be completed!) treatment for uterine fibroids. This has just tossed me head first into the awful, murky and generally ineffective world of  "women's medicine." (Or "medicine" as it would be called if we didn't live in a health culture entirely defined by white-male-hetero-normativity.)
So today in my Twitter feed, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly (see fact #1) had a little gem about it being Folic Acid Awareness Week because it is National Birth Defects Prevention Month. Awesome.  I am 100% for good maternal and child health care.  I think we can be doing so much better by women and children.  An ounce of prevention sometimes really is worth a pound of cure.  Being 100% percent supportive of women having access to everything they need for healthy, wanted pregnancies is a pro-choice priority.

However, there is a slight tone to this type of public service announcement.  A tone that is also pervasive throughout any health care women may (try) to receive. That tone is one of "always being careful to ensure your position as an incubator is secure." 

The sentences:

CDC urges all women of childbearing age who can 
become pregnant to get 400 ยตg of folic acid every 
day to help reduce the risk for neural tube defects 
(major birth defects of the brain and spine).


Health care providers should also discuss with 
women any medications they might be taking, 
both prescription and over-the-counter, to 
ensure they are taking only what is necessary.

[emphasis mine]

 send a very clear message that all women who could possibly get pregnant (anyone from puberty to menopause presumably) should always treat their bodies as the perfect host for a pregnancy.  Even if pregnancy is in no way desired.  The second sentence is especially galling because I would like to believe that all doctors are only prescribing treatments that are strictly necessary regardless of that patient's gender or reproductive plans. The paternalistic overtone is that really, sweetie, let your doctor decide if  treating your problem is necessary as compared, of course, to being 100% primed for pregnancy at every second.  

Seeing this statement, and finally identifying what about it I find so problematic also really helped me identify my root frustration with getting treatment for my own gynecological issues (see fact #2).  No one seemed willing to believe me that I wanted to prioritize treating my symptoms over maintaining fertility that I have no plans to use.  I do not want to have more babies.  I do not want to preserve my uterus at all costs.  I do not want the option to "change my mind."  I want to not be running daily 50/50 odds of waking up in a pool of my own blood.  I want to not be house-bound because there has not yet been invented a feminine hygiene product that can staunch the deluge. I think I should be in charge of my life, not my uterus. Heaven forbid I escape diagnosis: FAT, I can just be lumped into diagnosis: baby factory.

You can imagine my relief, my feeling of overwhelming joy, when I saw my new gynecologist yesterday and had him respect these wishes.  When I said "I am not planning any more pregnancies" and he said "great, lets do this highly effective treatment because it is the best choice when fertility is not an issue"...well, I could have wept with joy. 

So yes, I am the most humorless feminist of all.  I am willing to critique the phrasing of well-intentioned public service announcements in the name of better health care for women. Having been up to my eyeballs in trying to get medical care in a culture that prioritizes fertility and treats women's health issues as secondary to men's health....well, something has to give.