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A Particulary Egregious Example of the Double Standard

Thursday, December 15, 2011
In case you haven't heard, Andrew Sullivan recently linked to the story of a woman who, both for health reasons and through lack of inclination to reproduce, decided to make herself infertile. Outrageously, this adult, well-educated, fully-informed woman's decision was not treated as an adequate justification for carrying out the procedure - at least as far as her doctors were concerned. Deciding that she just couldn't possibly know what she was doing, they refused to perform the surgery. Evidently her doctors - all male - just couldn't comprehend that a person would want to have children, even at the risk of their lives. It was only when she found a female surgeon that she got the help she needed.

My first reaction upon reading this story was stunned disbelief, then outrage, and finally outright disgust at this oh-so-typical example of condescending patriarchy. You see, I know for a fact that when men decide to forego children they don't encounter anything like the sort of obstacles bedeviling the woman in this situation.

And now for a bit of personal history. My wonderful spouse and I decided some time ago not to have children. When we first got married, I was leaning in the direction of wanting them, and she was leaning in the direction of not wanting them. As the years progressed she became more convinced than ever that she wished to remain child-free, and I gradually realized that I wasn't all that thrilled about having children after all. Yes, I like children. I just like giving them back when I'm done playing with them, much like I do with the neighbor's puppy. Upon reflection I think many people simply assume that they will have children, in no small part through social conditioning, and the notion that someone chooses not to reproduce just doesn't seem possible. That is until one day you realize "Hey wait, this is the 21st century! I don't have to have babies if I don't want them." And when coupled with the fact that if I was the one expected to carry a child to term I would politely deline (eww!), I was quite content to remain child-free.

My spouse and I decided to wait until we turned 35, and if that point neither of us had experienced the oft-referenced biological clock, then I would get a vasectomy. There is some fear that long-term use of female birth control among women over 35 can have undesirable health effects, and a vasectomy is a far simpler and less invasive procedure than comparable surgery a woman would have to endure. I've had abdominal surgery, and it was no fun - no point on inflicting it on BH for no good reason.

I asked my (female) doctor for a referral, and soon had an appointment with a specialist. At first they just assumed that I already had children and was done, but even when I explained that I had no children and didn't want any, the most I had to endure were a few irritating questions about how sure I was. However annoying these trifling notes of concern were, not for an instant did I fear that they wouldn't perform the procedure. In fact, if memory serves, the total time from the referral to the operation was something less than a month. I had a day of bedrest afterwards, and then returned to my regularly scheduled life. It was no big deal, and the only time I think about it is when I get the delight of shamelessly dropping it into casual conversation. Of regrets I have none.

My decision was one of pure choice, with no considerations of personal health, such as the anonymous woman in the story. Yet still no one tried to stop me from going through with it. When a woman tries to make the same decision she gets nothing but shit for it.

Which tells you all you need to know about the supposed end of sexism in America.

Posted by Arbitrista @ 6:47 PM
  • "It was no big deal, and the only time I think about it is when I get the delight of shamelessly dropping it into casual conversation". I know someone who likes doing the same thing! In addition to be annoyed about this, how she described doctors talking about adoption being "a distant second" and what is a family was also disturbing, because it's so true (at least in everyday life), that whether it's no child or one child, it's still the same, we're not seen as real "families" (because a family, apparently, it's daddy, mommy, older brother, and little sister). Thank goodness some of us don't live to please others! :)

    By Blogger Super Babe, at 8:32 AM  
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