Archive for the ‘gender’ Category

The “morning-after” birth control pill prevents ovulation; it does not cause abortion of an embryo. This is the news, this morning, in a New York Times editorial :  How Morning-After Pills Really Work. This fact removes one of the final blocks to access (other than cost, a problem in some cases) to a significant advance in birth control pharmacology, that block being the presumption that the pill was killing something. As the editorial points out, this belief was never more than speculation, and in fact there is NO evidence for it whatsoever.

To the contrary, as another recent article in the Times points out, “Studies have not established that emergency contraceptive pills prevent fertilized eggs from implanting in the womb…” What they do establish is that medications like “Plan B”, the most widely known “morning after pill”, delay ovulation, which essentially places a time barrier between sperm and egg. This works because, contrary to common belief, sperm and egg to do not unit at time of intercourse, but rather days later. Sperm require time to travel and position themselves, and will die in a mere few days if no egg is available to act upon.

Such a “time barrier” will still be objectionable to those conservatives who believe that all interference with what they stipulate to be the sole legitimate purpose of sex – reproduction – is immoral. I find such objections to be unreasonably arbitrary. They are made primarily by men who want to control the behavior of women.

I was a young man when the birth control pill for women became easily available. It appeared revolutionary at the time, and that appearance has been confirmed over the years. Rejection of the pill as “immoral” seemed presumptive and poorly argued at the time, and that, to me, has not changed either, with the passage of time.

The world does not need more babies, much as I love them. Nor does it need more pregnancies – which, after all, have enormous physical, financial, and social implications in each and every case. I sometimes think that the solution to human beings who think and breed like rabbits might be to provide them with a lifetime supply of rabbit feed, and a large, solitary cage. (OK, that’s absurd…but something needs to be done about the thoughtless, or witless, who just keep having large families without regard for the implications of their act.)

It’s worth recalling that the birth control movement came about because of the problem of poor women having babies they could not afford. Women were dying, from pregnancies they didn’t want which went bad, and from dangerous attempts at inducing abortions. Where affordable birth control is not available, this is still happening. I’ve never heard cultural conservatives express moral outrage about that, sadly – nor about the unfairness of being born female and being compelled by biology to become pregnant as a result of acting on ones sexuality.

There are two arguments in favor of birth control (and more in support of the birth control pill, which in some cases has clear medical benefits not at all related to birth control): one has to do with moderating human breeding, and the other with empowering women relative to whether or not they become pregnant. Both are critical considerations, but today, for me, I’m impressed mostly by the latter. Pregnancies impact women far, far more than they do men. Women should be the decision makers regarding whether or not they become pregnant.

We now need to see that “Plan B” type birth control becomes available to all who want it.

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[UPDATE: Amnesty International tells Egypt to probe mob attacks on women (Question: Why do they have to be told?)]

This is hard news:

Egyptian women protesters sexually assaulted in Tahrir Square – Mob attacks small group calling for an end to sexual harassment as women continue to demand a ‘new Egypt’ post-Mubarak

Before I was a psychotherapist, I was (and still am) an anthropologist. I understand the evolutionary heritage of our particular branch of the primate family tree. I understand that our species has a social adaptation (we survive as a social unit, unlike, say orangutans), and that critical to that adaptation is that males have organized “military” power, while females have charge of rearing our highly vulnerable young. There is a power imbalance inherent in this, and one sees this in all places, at all times, in our history. Those who rail against our “patriarchy” do well to understand how deep lie its roots in our species. It is not an ideology (though ideology may be used to justify it at times), it a biologically derived social adaptation.

That said, it has long been time for change, and it surely IS happening, though hardly overnight. For example, women are becoming the majority at many institutions of higher education, throughout the “developed” world, and in many other places as well (I heard today that this is the case already in Libya). Yet there are still many issues to resolve, and many, many places where they need resolution.

Consider, in my country – the U.S., “…40 years ago doctors in America were prosecuted for providing women with birth control, and women risked jail for using it”[1] And to this day, there are very significant forces in my country who would deny women access to birth control. One of the two major US political parties regularly fields candidates who oppose any kind of public funding for birth control, and who in fact would be fine with making it illegal. Backward leap anyone?

New version of “All Your Base Are Belong to Us” – All your uterus are belong to us!

Kind of catchy, don’t you think? Certainly reflects the mindset of those guys in the US – not mention those cultural conservatives in Egypt who regularly grope women in public. Their message is clear:  women are for their control and use.

So…take note – of the ongoing struggle in Egypt, and the courageous women at its center (read the article above to learn to what I am referring). The last paragraph of that article:

“Women activists are at the core of the revolution,” said Ahmed Hawary, who attended Friday’s protest. “They are the courage of this movement. If you break them, you break the spirit of the revolution.”

I’m no authority on gender and names in Egypt, but I believe that’s a male speaking – the women are hardly alone in their struggle. And I’ll wager that those women won’t break.

Let me close by giving the highest praise to the cordon of men who put themselves between the female core of the protest march and the mob around them, and who continued to attempt protection when their cordon was shattered and they were significantly outnumbered. It must have been a fearful melee.

Real men do not assault women. Real men appreciate and protect them, and all who need protection (and that includes other men), against those who would do them harm without justification. Let us pray that the veil of ignorance obscuring the vision of the male perpetrators of the assaults reported in the article above will be lifted sooner rather than later. It is only right, and the only outcome that can be acceptable to all of us.


[1] Griswold, Privacy, and the Right of Women to Religious Liberty, downloaded 2012.06.09

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