For reasons I still do not fully understand, women’s health quite often takes center stage in many discussions (both politically and more casually) in our society. It is a very controversial issue, with many people feeling extremely passionately one way or the other. But what is so fascinating about women’s health in the 19th and 20th century western world, is how very often men end up making critical decisions regarding a woman’s body . For example, as chronicled by Ehrenreich & English in their book For Her Own Good: 150 Years of the Experts’ Advice to Women; the banishing of midwives in the United States during the early 20th century was, at it’s core, because male doctors decided they wanted to have full control over the birth process. Although today, given the choice, many woman would still probably pick giving birth in a doctors office over giving birth at home with a midwife, the important word to note is choice. Seeing as it is a woman’s body, it then should follow that is the woman’s choice of how and when she wants to give birth. Choice, and the ability of a person to decide what they want in regards to their own body is a basic right that should be afforded to all our citizens.
Today the most controversial and most often discussed woman’s health issue is abortion. On either side, there are people who feel incredibly passionate about the subject, and it has become a key political issue. Regardless of what side you take on abortion, it is still interesting to see groups of men debating over what women should or should not be allowed to do. Because an issue like abortion as crossed over the woman’s health line and become a social and moral issue, it has taken on a new attitude. This is why abortion can so often be discussed by male politicians without once mentioning a woman at all. Here is a link to a video of Mitt Romney on the Bill O’Reilly show. Please note, that regardless of what stance you take on abortion, that neither Romney nor O’Reilly ever mention a woman at all in their conversation. I simply am showing this to prove, that to many, abortion is no longer a woman’s health issue, but at the end of the day, the people who will most be affected by legislature regarding abortion will be and always has been women.
But what is even more disturbing than the current debates on abortion that leave the woman out, is the new, and very casual, “discussion” (if you can even call it that) that is forming about rape. Often, at least in terms of politics, rape is brought up in terms of abortion. Most recently, Representative Todd Akin of Missouri, become the focus of nation wide attention for his use of the phrase “legitimate rape,” which, simply put, implies that there are often cases of “illegitimate” rape. But this was not the first time in the last few months there has been outcry about the language used around the word rape. Comedian Daniel Tosh was pushed into the limelight earlier this summer because of a joke he made during a show about a female heckler in the audience being gang raped. And here, something pretty amazing happened. A post was made on tumblr by a friend of the girl who was at the center of the joke, and social media picked up on it. Pretty soon, women everywhere were tweeting and blogging their own opinions about this matter. Not everyone agreed with each others opinion, but it was wonderful to see a resistance forming through social media. That virally, women were able to come together to have an open discussion about, not only Tosh’s joke not being funny, but also why it wasn’t funny. And this tweeting and blogging got the attention of celebrities and major news outlets, so that a comment that would have gone unknown and unchecked at a comedy club, became news.
This is an amazing age we live in, where resistance can come swiftly and quickly over the Internet. Thanks to the digital age, we can now bring to light issues or events that would often stay tucked away, hidden from the public eye. One final note, however. There is no doubt in my mind that rape is a serious and important health issue, but it is fascinating that it is so often discussed simply as a woman’s issue, and not a men’s, since men are often the victims of rape as well. But that is a discussion for another time. Until then, we will all have to take comfort in our cyberworld, and hope that the power of the internet will bring a new wave of discussions on rape, that, unlike to words of Todd Akin, don’t blame the victims.
An article from the Daily Beast about Daniel Tosh’s “joke”: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/07/11/why-daniel-tosh-s-rape-joke-at-the-laugh-factory-wasn-t-funny.html
An article from the Washington Post about Todd Akin, and the language of rape :http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/in-wake-of-todd-akins-remarks-renewed-clashes-over-language-around-rape/2012/08/23/ab150370-ec74-11e1-9ddc-340d5efb1e9c_story.html
Although not discussed in my post, this is a very interesting article about Bloomberg, and his attempt to persuade women in NYC to breast feed their babies: http://www.ourbodiesourblog.org/blog/2012/08/mayor-bloomberg-and-the-debate-and-truth-over-breastfeeding-and-formula