Controversies Over Choice

I watched a documentary recently, 12th & Delaware, on an intersection in Florida that features a women’s health clinic that provides abortions and an anti-choice center coercing women to maintain their pregnancies. It really irks me that such centers are allowed to exist and deliberately disseminate their blatantly false information.

What it all boils down to is people have a right to make decisions about their own bodies. While, yes, we are capable of critical thinking, we understandably rely on other people to educate us on matters we know little about – not everyone is a neurosurgeon, for example, so we turn to doctors who are qualified to provide us with accurate, helpful information when faced with a situation that necessitates it. I find it difficult to fathom how centers that intentionally misinform women when they are already feeling vulnerable, unsure, and impressionable can escape the level of scrutiny that other professions face when they mislead people under their tutelage.

I have no doubt that at least some of the people staffing and promoting the anti-choice center do care for the well-being of the women they encourage to visit. I do not agree with their primal motive, but hey, it’s ultimately the pregnant woman’s choice whether or not to abort, and whichever path she chooses is irrelevant. It’s the fact that the centers tell lies that I find disgusting – rather than simply being compassionate and offering help, they pursue their agenda of eradicating abortion by telling their “patients” that abortions cause cancer, that all women who have abortions regret it and become incurably depressed, that if they have an abortion they will never be able to have a child in the future, etc. etc. Not a single statement I saw uttered by the practitioners in the center had any measure of truth to it – all of it was meant to invoke fear, disorientation, and doubt in the women they enticed to enter.

On the other hand, the nurses and consultants in the abortion-providing clinic offered genuine support. One of the interviews in the documentary featured a crying patient having her initial consultation with one of the staff, who was also clearly teary-eyed herself. She never once uttered something persuasive or with the intent to influence one decision or another; all she did was listen to the patient’s sob-ridden statements of dismay at her predicament and offer sympathy while she considered her options. As opposed to the center, which incessantly attempted to coerce women to forgo abortion at all costs, the clinic that actually provided abortions explicitly did not attempt to elicit one decision or another from the patient, but rather repeatedly consoled her with the compassionate statement, “No one wants to have to make this choice. No one.” They were sympathetic to her emotional and physical state without trying to push an agenda.

THAT is the key to this whole debate. Unwanted pregnancies are something no one wants to deal with, regardless of their stance on abortion. It’s a personal choice that each individual woman needs to make for herself, and there is simply no excuse for organizations to flat-out lie to women in order to convince them to make the choice the organization thinks is “right.” There is no “right” choice – only the best choice for the woman to make at the time she needs to make it.

Besides, if telling lies is the only way women will be convinced not to have an abortion, if no matter what you say to them they won’t change their mind unless you tell fear-inducing untruths, then how can what you profess to be the only “right” choice truly be that “right”? If their gut instinct is to select one option, how can that possibly be so “wrong”?

There’s nothing terrible with offering support to women handling unplanned pregnancies. Providing financial assistance, supplying goods like diapers and clothes, aiding them with housing and other basic needs: all of those are well-intentioned and generous measures. If lack of those necessities is all that is stopping a woman from going through with a pregnancy and raising a child, then I think it’s excellent for organizations to be so charitable to those women. However, if even with all those resources made available to her, she still doesn’t wish to maintain her pregnancy, then it is absolutely despicable to tell lie after lie until she’s finally convinced that having an abortion would be akin to a death sentence.

It seriously troubles me that such places are allowed to exist – and prosper.

Victim-Blaming and Rape Apologists

I’ve been mulling over this post for a week now, and most of the waffling has been over the fact that posting here is public and much of my opinion on the subject of victim-blaming is grounded in the fact that I am a victim, have subjected myself to internal victim-blaming, and these are things I haven’t ever admitted publicly. In fact, I’ve only admitted them privately to very few people.

I think part of being the victim of anything, though–whether it be rape, emotional abuse, a disease, or anything else–is by not talking about it you allow it to carry far more weight on your life than whatever inflicted the violence on you deserves. You internalize more of the backlash from the event than is healthy.

The few times I’ve brought up my experiences to people, it was a very stressful decision. Actually admitting the truth took so much effort, so much thought, and every time the result was the same: quiet digestion of what I just said, and acceptance. Part of what makes admitting the truth so difficult is sifting through all of the potential responses I expect; you hope for what I’ve been fortunate to receive, but you fear much worse.

So in an effort to relieve a lot of the internalizing I’ve done and continue to do, I’m going to discuss my thoughts on rape apologizing and victim-blaming here. The first step is admitting that I’ve been raped. Three times, twice by the same person.

The most difficult part of dealing with it is first recognizing the fact that what happened was, in truth, rape. Because of the fact that our culture treats women as instigators of sexual violence and all men as perpetrators just waiting around to be incited by women that are “asking for it,”* my initial reaction to all of the cases of rape I’ve experienced was to blame myself–for not recognizing the potential the situation had for me to be raped, for not putting up enough of a fight in response to the attack, for essentially allowing it to happen. I convinced myself that in some way, shape, or form, I’d been one of those women “asking for it,” and how could it be rape if I was at least partly to blame?

It wasn’t until I had input on a breakdown of the things that have happened from a third party that I was able to realize that under no circumstances was I ever “asking” to be raped. First of all, the very essence of that sort of violence stems from the fact that it is unwanted–how can you be asking for something you vehemently do not want? And in response to my particular set of experiences, the following would have to be made Potential Victims’ Rules for Not Getting Yourself Raped:

  1. Do not fall asleep around your boyfriend. If you do, you’re asking him to rape you.
  2. Do not ever consent to doing anything with your boyfriend. If you do, you’re asking him to take it further, do things to which you are firmly saying “No!”, and then rape you.
  3. Do not ever go someplace alone with a male friend. If you do, he will suddenly and out-of-the-blue pin you down, lift your skirt, and rape you.

I think my anecdotes are perfect examples for refuting the logic that women can actively do things to prevent being raped. This concept is at the heart of victim-blaming; you can’t blame someone for having caused something if there was no way for them to prevent it. As soon as you can come up with supposed means of prevention, then if someone doesn’t follow those rules to a T, they must be to blame for what happened.

As I’ve read elsewhere, the only surefire way to not “get yourself raped” is to not be in the vicinity of rapists. And since last I checked, being a rapist doesn’t go hand-in-hand with having a neon sign above your head flashing “I AM A RAPIST” in big, bold letters for all the world to see, I don’t see how a potential victim is supposed to know they’re in the company of a rapist and subsequently take steps to avoid them.

The men who raped me were a) a boyfriend and b) an acquaintance-type friend; both relationships that have a certain degree of inherent trust. Implied is the simple fact that I am not expecting them to be rapists, and I am trusting them to not rape me. The only way I could possibly avoid the scenario of placing this level of trust in someone who is actually a rapist is to by default assume that every single man is a rapist, and I should never spend time around any of them.

I don’t think it’s a far stretch to say that would be a pretty ridiculous and unfair attitude to have. However, this is what victim-blamers expect women to do: treat all men as though they are rapists, otherwise if you don’t, it’s your fault if you are raped by one.

My experiences clearly illustrate that skimpy clothes, alcohol, and hanging around with strangers have no real correlation with being raped, and directions for women to avoid those things or else accept the fact that they invited the attack are just abhorrent. Every time I was raped I was clothed head-to-toe (the skirt in the one instance was floor-length), completely sober (as were my rapists), and in the company of people I knew (in one case, a boyfriend I was dating for years). This is absolutely not an exception to the rule: most victims of rape are attacked under those same supposedly safe circumstances. And for all the times I have been scantily clad, drunk, and hanging around a bunch of strangers, I was never once the victim of even attempted rape.

The only person to blame for rape is a rapist. The only thing a victim can do to put themselves a risk for being raped is to be in the presence of a rapist. And since as I said, it is not mutually inclusive for someone to be a rapist and simultaneously conduct their lives while announcing that they are a rapist, there is absolutely nothing anyone can do to prevent getting raped. It doesn’t matter if a woman is running around the streets stark naked, drunk, and high, if she never comes across a rapist, she will not be raped. It doesn’t matter if a woman is dressed in full hijab, stone-cold sober, and never leaves her home, if a rapist is in the room with her, there’s a chance he might act on his intentions.

There is absolutely no excuse for claiming someone instigated a rape. There is no excuse for a man who commits rape. The victim was attacked, and the perpetrator is a rapist–plain and simple, end of story. All of the responsibility for the crime lays with the person who committed it, and people seriously need to get over themselves, stop telling women that things they do “invite” being raped, stop mitigating the crime by giving the men excuses for their dispicable behavior, and start telling men that they shouldn’t be rapists.

* Worth noting: I only refer to adult, male-on-female instances of rape here because that is all I have experienced and what gets the most attention in our culture. I recognize that men can be raped, women can be perpetrators, and not all victims are adults. It doesn’t matter the exact circumstances of the people involved, rape is rape, it is always a terrible crime, and no victim is ever to blame at all.

Chivalry vs. Respect

Yet again, a fantastically entertaining and insightful piece by Jill is serving as the backdrop for some of my own musings. The topic of the day: chivalry, its relationship to feminism, and the ever-hilarious Plight of the Nice Guy™.

At this point in my life, I can say that I’ve had both the pleasure and displeasure of experiencing a great variety of points along the spectrum of male-female interactions. I’ve been subjected to both emotional and physical violence, I’ve been treated with traditional notions of chivalry, and I’ve been the recipient of respect.

Given the choice between all of those, I would hands-down chose respect any day or night.

Why discount chivalry so easily, you ask? After all, isn’t that something women so often go on about as a key lacking quality in today’s men? It’s really quite simple why I have no interest in a man professing his chivalrous ideals to me: inherent in chivalrous acts is the belief that women are intrinsically more fragile and delicate than men, thus requiring exceptional support and protection from the men in their company. Essentially what it boils down to is sugar-coated, low-level misogyny. Chivalrous men espouse a view that women are by nature not equal to men on very fundamental levels and therefore in need of men to stand between them and the rest of the world. Which, don’t get me wrong, does lead to a man behaving “nicely” towards women, and quite obviously that means they would not be inflicting the sorts of emotional and physical violence I’ve experienced in the past. I can’t argue that, superficially, that’s not a good thing.

Jill does present an extension of this hypothesis on chivalry that I don’t entirely agree with, though. Unlike her, I do not believe “[i]t always demands something in return.” Oftentimes, yes, it does operate on the assumption that doing chivalrous things deserves a reward. However, some men do extend chivalry without a constant expectation that they will receive a token of appreciation from the recipients of their gestures. I had an interaction with such a man; I never got a sense of expectation from him that his Knightly behavior warranted something in return from his protected Princess, but I did still feel…small, in some way. As though some quality tied to my pairing of X chromosomes left me wanting for certain aspects of being a fully realized human being, and that all I needed was for him to come along and make up the difference. He could insulate me from the terrible effects of my shortcomings, ensuring I am always safe and comforted, and this was such a “nice” thing to do!

Evidently, “niceness” is not necessarily inclusive of respect. And respect is infinitely more appreciable than simply, say, waiting for a girl to broach the subject of coming home with her instead of just inviting yourself. Ahh, the Nice Guy™…always there to listen when their female friends need a shoulder to cry on after their latest escapade with an eternal jerk of a guy, and then also always there to complain after the fact that their ceaseless openness to the tears never culminates in them getting laid by those same poor, damp-cheeked women. Why, oh, why do those girls never realize what a Nice Guy™ he is? To quote Jill’s incredibly appropriate summation of a good, solid Nice Guy™ whinge:

Dear [friend],

Please touch my penis.


See, he says please! Because, you know, by not point-blank taking what he really wants, that makes him an advocate for all the mistreated women in the world! If he wasn’t a Nice Guy™, that’s exactly what he’d do! And since he didn’t, that clearly means he must be Nice!

The only guy to ever openly profess his Nice Guy™ status (along with the requisite whining about how they always finish last and never get girlfriends) is the same guy to whittle me down with extreme emotional abuse to the point that it took me years to recover any semblance of self-respect and to this day has left me with a certain fear of asserting myself in relationships. Thinking about his sense of entitlement thoroughly disgusts me now; by simple virtue of the fact that he asked instead of outright taking, I was obligated to comply. While he didn’t qualify as chivalrous for the fact that after belittling me enough, he nurtured a tolerance in me of blatant abuse and disrespect, he still attested to his membership in the Nice Guy™ Club because of his lack of stereotypical Bad Boy behavior. He never cheated on me, and he didn’t pretend to want a relationship or string me along in that vein. And so, apparently, a Nice Guy™ is defined by virtue of his non-participation in a specific assemblage of negative qualities. Not, you know, by virtue of actually being nice.

Now, this isn’t to say that I don’t believe there are genuine nice guys out there. I wholeheartedly insist that there are, and I have the pleasure of being able to name a few I have in my current circle of acquaintances and friends. For me, the distinguishing mark of a truly nice guy is this all-important respect I keep bringing up.

My second relationship was loaded with it. He was both respectful and decidedly nice. While he would open doors for me if I happened to linger in the car gathering my things long enough for him to get to my side before I got out or if he reached a door before I did, it was always motivated by veritable politeness, and he likewise didn’t think twice of leaving me to my own devices quite confident I could look after myself just fine without his ever-protective presence. He was so entirely respectful, in fact, he was 100% honest with me: the end of our relationship came about when he truthfully acknowledged he didn’t miss me when we were apart. While I wouldn’t say that’s exactly a nice thing to say to someone, it’s actually far better than merely being nice. Rather than sparing me the hurtful truth, knowing that withholding the information was a surefire way to maintain the relationship and all the benefits of it, he gave me the honor of respectful honesty.

If it wasn’t for that fact, I’m certain that after recovering from the pain of that loss, I wouldn’t have been able to move on to consider him a friend as I do now.

To illustrate the nice/chivalrous vs. respect dichotomy quite plainly, I have an anecdote concerning riding as a passenger on motorcycles. For a certain amount of time after first getting a motorcycle license, the licensee is prohibited from carrying a passenger with them. Quite reasonably so, as it isn’t terribly prudent while the new motorcyclist is him- or herself still getting used to riding.

Aware of my penchant for being a passenger, a guy offered to take me along on his motorcycle a few times. While exhibiting a certain level of concern for my safety by ensuring I had a helmet and proper jacket and clothing to wear, I found out by coincidence that he was still on his Provisional license and thus not actually permitted to have me on the bike with him, but only after I had pillioned on more than one occasion. He is quite positively a victim of being a Nice Guy™: under the banner of treating me to something I enjoy, while simultaneously impressing me (*hint hint wink wink* chicks dig dudes with motorcycles!), he also broke the law–discounting my safety while also putting himself at risk of at least getting a ticket and at worst losing his license altogether.

In direct contrast, I recently was discussing riding with another male friend who was completely transparent about not yet having an unrestricted license. In light of the opportunity to take me riding, despite an opportunity to Impress a Chick, he was honest with me about not actually being allowed.

And that is the difference between niceness and respect. It would have been perfectly nice of him to offer the chance for me to do something I enjoy. To take a chick for a ride on a motorcycle, such a stereotype of Bad Boy impressiveness professed to be a surefire way to Get the Girl. But no. He respected my right as a passenger–as another person–to know what I’d be getting myself into. Morever, he paid me this honor so nonchalantly, so naturally, that it carried even more weight; not only was I fundamentally deserving of this respect, it was so patently obvious that responding in any other way just wasn’t an apparent option. That’s simply the only manner in which you behave with another person.

And that feeling like a person thing? It’s a really damn good feeling, and it’s exactly why I think respect is worth entire universes more than chivalry (or supposed niceness).

Tipping in Restaurants

I stumbled upon a blog post by a waitress with regular contributions to Slashfood over the past few days. After perusing the comments on that entry, I was inspired to read the entirety of Hanna’s “What Can I Get You Folks?” series along with most of the comments, and as a result I’ve been left extremely disillusioned with restaurant servers.

The vast majority of industry commenters, and the author herself, express a level of entitlement to a minimum 20% tip that I find absolutely disgusting. While I acknowledge that a vast number of states in the US are permitted to pay their employees below minimum wage (often as low as $2-and-change per hour) and subsequently do literally live off of the tips they receive, there are plenty of states that are required to pay at least minimum wage and those servers still seem to feel they deserve a 20% tip for simply showing up and doing their job. A quick calculation puts their earned income then above my most well-paid job in the States–a job that required of me a level of responsibility holding me accountable for government records and the possibility of testifying in Federal Court. While waiting tables is admittedly no easy feat, it certainly doesn’t impose anywhere near that degree of accountability, and it deeply peeves me that a waiter or waitress would feel entitled to that standard of salary based on tips.

When I worked in a bakery, I would say the level of physical and mental demand of the job was very similar to that of a waitperson, and I made just a bit over minimum wage with no tipping–it was flat out not permitted by our owner to have a tip jar on the counter. Even if it was allowed, I would never have expected tips because my job was to provide a service, and that is exactly what a waiter or waitress’s job at a restaurant is to do. The fact that so many apparently feel entitled to at least 20%–even in the cases where they are already paid the same wage as any other “unskilled” labor–is absolutely abhorrent.

It is an entirely different attitude to view tips as exactly what they are: a gratuity given as a token of appreciation and thanks for a level of service that goes beyond what is expected of the employees at an establishment. There were occasional times when I was handed a dollar bill or other relatively small amount (compared to this expected 20%) as thanks for carrying a heavy cake out to a customer’s car at the bakery; this task was not part of my job, and the customer chose to acknowledge their thanks for my added service with a tip. I always viewed that as a truly genuine gesture, and I never had a problem with helping a customer out by offering the same service of carrying products without receipt of a tip. I did my job because that was expected of me, and I would go beyond the expectation because I enjoyed my work and helping people. I expressly did not show up for work because I expected customers to pay me extra for providing them with the service I was there to provide and more specifically felt entitled to a particular percentage of their total purchase.

Tips should not be an expectation. They are not something a customer service provider is entitled to receive. Waiters and waitresses do not have a right to 20% of my bill simply for showing up for work and doing the job they are paid to do. While I will happily entertain the idea of a 15% tip as a starting point in states like NY where waitstaff are not paid minimum wage (something completely inhuman and worthy of discussion in its own right), that is a baseline for simply doing one’s job there. After being enlightened to the attitude it seems most servers possess, I’m completely disinclined to ever consider leaving a 20% tip anywhere. I’m now also inclined to start at a 0% baseline in states like Oregon and California where the servers are in fact paid at least minimum wage. They can earn a tip by doing more than what is expected of them at their job.

It’s particularly astounding because it is quite clear when one is hired what the wage will be. These people are fully informed and choose to take the job at the rate of pay that is offered. They then expect to be paid more. At what other job is this considered reasonable behavior? Where else can one have the luxury of feeling entitled to more than their offered salary? Nowhere.

Tips are not an entitlement. They are a gift. It would be nice to see these servers treat them as such.

Indefinitely After Un-Relationships

In the course of my usual morning blog-reading on Saturday, I was led to this post by Jill on the winding path of dating when it’s complicated by the fact that you’re a very vocal feminist. While I will be the first to admit I’m (generally, in person) not a vocal feminist in the slightest and quite probably do nothing to help feminist causes at times, there was a particular section that really inspired reflection upon my own path through the world of romantic relationships:

It would be nice to be in a long-term stable relationship, but only in the sense that I would like to find someone with whom I am actually motivated to build such a relationship. In reality, though, I’ve kind of settled into the idea that I will probably not end up creating such a relationship; I feel like maybe that reads as sad or depressing, but it doesn’t feel like that at all. I mean, I’ve never been the person to fantasize about My Ideal Wedding, but I have fantasized about My First Published Book since before I could actually write. … I read all these stories about women my age who are totally anxious about finding The One and getting married, and I keep hearing that women my age have this biological clock thing ticking quite loudly, and even a lot of my friends seem to be feeling like they should be locating their person right about now, and I often wonder if there isn’t something seriously deeply wrong with me not only because I don’t feel any of that anxiety but also because I don’t at all fear A Life Alone. Maybe that will change in a decade — my mother says it will, and then she reminds me that she would be a really great grandmother. But it means that in the meantime, I can get to know a lot of different people without feeling like I’m auditioning them for the role of Jill’s Perfect Mate.

I can distinctly remember declaring to my dad at the age of four that I was never getting married and never having children. Once I got a little older and it became apparent to me that getting married wasn’t the act that created children and it was indeed possible to have one without the other, I began to entertain the idea of getting married as a potential activity in my life someday, but like Jill, I was still never one of those girls who planned out these wonderful, elaborate weddings, dreaming of the day they would walk down the aisle in a gorgeous white dress and recite vows asserting eternal love and devotion.

Instead, I spent hours upon hours going through my dad’s old books of house plans (he at one time owned and operated an incredibly successful construction business), picking out which ones I would someday love to live in: tremendous, extravagant, luxurious homes that would be a testament to my infinite success at whatever occupation I currently saw fit for myself “when I grew up.” I empasize the I in that statement because I honestly only ever pictured myself living in those grand homes. Whenever I imagined days spent in the library reading and writing, hours working out in the dedicated gym room, cooking in the professional-grade kitchen, and lounging on the vast patio by the in-ground swimming pool and landscaped gardens, there was no one else residing in the home with me, partaking of these various luxuries. It was only me, single-handedly enjoying the material fruits of my impressive talents and labors.

While I still entertain the possibility of someday finding someone that is so thoroughly Awesome I can’t not want to share my life with them, just as when I was dreaming of my single life in mansions, I’m not at all put off by the idea of going about my existence “alone.” And like Jill, in the face of supposedly knowing, patronizing remarks about how it’s only because I’m young and doubtless one day I’ll be driven to get married and settle down, just give it about ten years and my biological clock will run rampant and all-consuming, I find myself questioning my lifelong lack of such an interest. Is there something wrong with me that it has never once been an intensely motivating factor and I quite positively don’t ever see it becoming an issue? Is there something terrifyingly strange and powerful that will suddenly turn on out of the blue in about five or so years that will completely change the mindset I’ve had for the past 26?

That last thought frightens me considerably more than the idea of never marrying. I’m quite proud of where my life experiences have led me and the person they have created. I like who I am the way I am now, and I find it absolutely mortifying to think that overnight I’ll turn into one of all the other irrational, unreasonable, and quite certifiably insane women out there intent upon having ridiculously convoluted relationships, marriages, and families. I may not have always been able to articulate exactly what I am after in a potential relationship, but I can assert that the common, expected course of a relationship has always felt artificial and unnecessarily complicated to navigate.

It really disturbs me to think that some Unknown will completely change me. Hell, beyond the whole dreaming of single life in a mansion, even when I played with dolls it wasn’t the traditional Barbie-marries-Ken-and-here-is-their-happily-ever-after. No, I had one Ken doll and about a dozen Barbies. Naturally he never got married, had affairs with all of the Barbies, and–SHOCKER!–sometimes there were threesomes, and some of the Barbies were lesbian! Having children was always a categorically negative thing, and none of my Barbies (or Ken) ever wanted to upset their exciting lives by having to buckle down and raise a child.

And of course, every Barbie had their own expansive, lavish mansion they lived in on their own, but occasionally with whoever was their current fling (or flings!).

These sort of childhood behaviors are what convince me that my lack of a drive to get married and settle down is an inherent, consistent part of me. That the fact that I’m not after any sort of “traditional” relationship is never going to change–it’s not just a phase I’m going through if I’ve been declaring my distinct dearth of interest in it all since I was four! It’s frustrating when people don’t understand how much thought I’ve put into it all, and how if I bring up having a relationship or getting married it is most definitely not because I’ve been bitten by the Insanity Bug and now suddenly want a fairy-tale ending.

I suppose that would be the one thing I am displeased about–the way most women operate has unfortunately set a stage that makes it impossible for me to have an intelligent, reasonable conversation about what I would actually want in a relationship and for what reasons I would actually consider the idea of getting married without the expectation being imposed on me that I’m going to be just as fanatical as every other woman, saying one thing when I really mean the complete opposite. This is probably the main reason I’m not terrified of being alone: I’ve learned it’s much more simple, pleasant, and enjoyable to just never bring any of it up. Why would I bother with the difficulties of trying to convince someone I’m not like all the other chicks when I can enjoy what I have with them without saying anything at all?

Again, I’m sure I’d be thrilled if I met someone who was equally uninterested in all the complicated nonsense people introduce to relationships when they want them to fit a certain timeline and array of specific qualities. Who was so thoroughly, unbelievably Fantastic that my independent, adventurous life would feel somehow less independent and adventurous if they weren’t included. I have the funny feeling, though, that I will wind up quite thoroughly happy with a string of all manner of entertaining, inspiring interactions while I work my way towards that mansion I’ve always wanted…

Reproductive Rights

When all is said and done, the biggest issue facing any developed nation today with respect to what is referred to as “reproductive rights” is shaming. Regardless of whether a country instates policies and laws that protect the ability of a person to choose how they are going to approach their reproduction, or lack thereof, the fact is people will attempt to shame them for whatever choice they make.

Seriously people, it’s none of your business what choices people (male or female) make about what to do with their own bodies. As far as I’m concerned, if you would like to avoid birth control for whatever reason, go for it. If you want to try every method of birth control known to man, have fun. If at some point you decide to have an abortion, I hope it’s a simple adventure for you. If you decide not to, again, I hope all goes well. If you then decide you want to have a “traditional” hospital birth, have at it. If you’d rather try a home birth, fabulous. If you want to be sterilized and not have to deal with any of that business, I wish you all the best.

From experience, though, I know that this is not the stance most people take. Whatever decisions I’ve made for whatever reason, people–sometimes complete and utter strangers–have felt the need to voice their opinions on how whatever I’ve done at times is WRONG, EVIL, ATROCIOUS, and otherwise not the decision I should be making. It goes well beyond the whole babies aspect of things–I have a need to take hormonal birth control for medical reasons. At a completely healthy weight and body fat percentage, my body doesn’t produce enough estrogen. Any time I’ve gone off hormones for any length of time, I really feel it. I get more aggressive and testy, my hair gets thinner, I have less ability to concentrate, and so on.

Even in light of a valid medical reason, seemingly sensible people have expressed disdain over my choice to be prescribed and use hormones that happen to have a side effect of preventing ovulation and other reproductive changes, thereby making pregnancy an unlikely event. Furthermore, regardless of a genuine medical need, it’s my choice. You have absolutely no reason or right to impose your shame over personal health choices on me. You choose whatever works for you, for whatever reasons you like, but in no way does that extend to me.

The fact that this whole aspect of existence as a human in 2010 is even an issue is testament to how (the ultimately patriarchal) Western society has determined that people (especially women) can’t be trusted to make decisions about their own bodies. The fact that there even needs to be legislation written and enacted in order to (marginally, depending on where) enable access to various reproductive options is absolutely ridiculous. It shouldn’t be a question–the options should just be there for people to take advantage of as they see fit for themselves. If any legislation should exist it should be to have unbiased information on all options a mandatory part of education curricula in order to allow everyone to make these personal decisions on their own in an intelligent, informed manner.

Fortunately, I’m a self-assured person. People can shame and degrade me all the livelong day for making certain choices and it won’t change the fact that I’m going to do what I think is right for me. When I was accosted by a woman outside a clinic who mistakenly assumed I was there for an abortion pleaded with me, “Don’t kill your baby!” I proudly responded with, “I don’t have a baby,” which is about the most fabulous response anyone could have to such abuse–even if I was there for an abortion, I still wouldn’t have had a baby, let alone be “killing” it.

And honestly, I’m glad I’m able to keep it that way if the possibility is something I have to consider, and I’d appreciate it if you’d mind your own business and let me continue to confidently make decisions on my own about my life.