The One Where Victoria Gets Super Personal and Super Pissed About Birth Control
There is not one moment in my life that hasn’t been influenced by birth control. That might sound like a strange exaggeration to some of you, but I mean it. I won’t go into the exact personal details, but I have lived in the poverty brought on when married women have no way to limit their pregnancies. I’ve lived in the desperation that infuses every minute of a day when a man abandons his wife and children. I’ve seen first-hand the position that women are put in when they are poor, helpless, trying to support children, and subject to the whims of an employer’s scorn and judgment or, worse yet, opportunistic lechery.
From a very young age, birth control was on my radar. It was on my mind. I was told that I wasn’t going to let my decisions be taken away from me, and I KNEW that to be true. It was made clear I lived in an age where women had more rights and opportunities and it was my duty to embrace them. I did. I was told I was going to have a better life because I could. And I have.
When I was eleven, I watched it happening yet again in my own household, pregnancy and poverty and hopelessness and hunger. The reality of unintended pregnancy is seared into my brain. If you haven’t been there, if you haven’t seen the fear, you can’t know it. You can’t understand it. It’s not about stepping up and living with your choices. It’s about seeing, clear-eyed, that the rest of your life is going to be so much harder than you ever wanted. It’s about knowing that you will ask for help and food and charity, because you have a child now and pride has nothing to do with it anymore. You will take help from people who treat you badly. You don’t have much choice. You are now a poor single mother.
When you grow up poor, you grow up fast. Once you hit puberty, you’re not allowed to be just a girl any more. I was subjected more than a few times to grown men in my neighborhood offering to “teach me how it’s done,” and boys my own age trying to shame me into getting rid of my virginity and stop acting like I’m better than anyone else. When shaming failed, the next step for some boys is sexual assault, of course.
There were only girls in my household, so we had to put up with years of Peeping Toms, and the occasional guy who would openly masturbate when he saw you or your sisters walking down the alley. Everybody knows you’re vulnerable. It’s not a secret. Everyone knows and you know it, too. One instance of a man calling your house to tell you he watched you through your window that morning is creepy enough. Having that happen more than once when your mom is working late at night is life changing.
I woke up once to find a man standing over my bed in the dark. Someone had broken into our apartment. I was sixteen, and my mom and I lived alone then. If there hadn’t been a male friend staying with us for that ONE NIGHT, if he hadn’t chased the guy off, I’m pretty sure I know what would’ve happened. And you know what? If you think I wouldn’t have had the right to the morning after pill, you can just go somewhere and fucking die. Really. Just never look at me again. If you think I should’ve been forced to have a baby at sixteen if i was raped in my own bed in the middle of the night by an intruder, do not ever speak to me again. There is no talking it out with me. You disgust me. My life is worth more than that and always has been.
Poor women do not live with safety. No one cares if you’re being harassed. No one cares if you’re assaulted. You’re the one who got yourself into this situation, after all. Did you think that living with the consequences of sex would be fun, woman? You should’ve made a better life for yourself. Take some responsibility.
(Consensual) sex without birth control was never, ever an option for me. Ever. Thanks to Planned Parenthood, it didn’t have to be. I took the bus to Planned Parenthood before I ever had sex. I was determined. I was going to make a better life for myself, and I have. I had plans and dreams and they were not up for negotiation. I graduated high school, I went to college, I bought a house—the first actual house I ever lived in. I got married. And I used birth control the whole time. It was The Thing that improved my life. There is no stressing that enough. There was not one month, and for many years of my life, not one DAY that went by that I didn’t think of pregnancy and how that would affect my world. If the only time you think about birth control is during an election, I don’t need to explain myself to you. You know nothing about it. You have no idea.
When I was ready, I had the number of kids I wanted at the time I wanted them. I have control of my life only because I have control over my reproduction. I live in a place where a man masturbating around young girls would be pursued in a county-wide manhunt. I live among people who have no idea that other world even exists. That world where women are subjected to sexual pursuit and aggression from a very young age and then blamed when they let their guard down/buy into it/are assaulted/or just live the only damn life they’ve ever known. How can you support laws that affect those lives when those women are invisible to you? How can you tell them anything?
Poor women are the ones devastated by the war on women. When you have money, there are options, no matter what the laws are. Every new step that restricts women’s rights is a punishment for poor women. The shutting down of low cost health clinics. The defunding of Planned Parenthood. Restricting access to birth control. Making abortion—which is a legal right—impossible to get. Making it illegal. Making it illegal even in the case of rape or incest. Treating the right to birth control as if it’s a luxury and not a necessity.
You have no idea. There are so many gaping holes in the so-called safety net, a woman just has to hope she finds a handhold. You have no right to make it worse. Reproductive rights are not a luxury. They are hope and opportunity. They are everything. I don’t give a damn about your religious beliefs or the religious beliefs of my employer or my congressman. I have my own beliefs. My OWN. Do I get to have those respected? I’d damn well better, or there will be war and I will fucking win it. I get the feeling a lot of other women feel the same. I wouldn’t ignore that if I were you. Because You. Have. No. Idea.
An amazing & important article about how birth control affects society & women’s lives: http://www.alternet.org/visions/154144/?page=entire
Low cost women’s clinics being shut down: http://www.empowher.com/reproductive-system/content/states-slash-birth-control-subsidies-federal-debate-rages
Abortion rates fall for all except poor: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/WomensHealth/abortion-rate-poor-women/story?id=13665925#.ULj6lKBpuTc
The truth about abortion rates and access to birth control. By a Republican: http://www.cnn.com/2012/10/29/opinion/frum-abortion-reality/index.html
High costs of unintended pregnancy vs. cost of contraception: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/sep/11/cost-contraception-unplanned-pregnancy
War on women, a list of laws: http://www.politicususa.com/proof-war-women-2
My first(ish)rant on the subject: http://victoriadahl.tumblr.com/post/18907150396/a-troll-primer-on-birth-control
ETA: Fetal personhood and criminalizing abortion from a prosecutor’s perspective. So important. http://thedeadauthorsclub.wordpress.com/2012/10/26/fetal-personhood-and-criminalizing-abortion-a-prosecutors-perspective/
I’d love for the rest of you to share your thoughts. :-) I know you have lots of them, you awesome women, you.
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