Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Save this for when you're much older, Darling Daughter

I wonder if, years from now, when you're studying American history in high school or political science or gender studies in college, if this year will really seem as hostile toward women as it does currently, while we live in it.  I won't clutter this with links to what's gone on, but suffice to say, it seems like an insane number of voters are extraordinarily concerned with possible abortions and promiscuous women above all other concerns like the economy, national security, poverty, or the environment.  It's a bit of a scary time, frankly.

A lot of this came to a head a few weeks ago when a popular, loud-mouthed "shock jock" (oh I hope that term is unfamiliar to you in 15 years time), jokingly (he claims) called a young woman who testified to a congressional panel about access to birth control a "slut" and a "prostitute."  (Oh I hope those terms are unfamiliar to you in 15 years as well).

Let me pause here and tell your Nana to skip the next part. Nana, skip the next part. I think our views might diverge.

This young woman who testified was addressing concerns that have arisen since President Obama, through his administration of health care reform measures, said that all employers who provide health coverage must have that coverage pay for contraception for women. Some employers, like the Catholic Church - of which you are a member - run schools and hospitals and they don't want to pay for contraception because it is against their - our - faith to use it.

This young woman's testimony, like many counterarguments, focused on the reasons women use hormonal contraceptive medication that have nothing to do with preventing pregnancy.  These pills can also help alleviate menstrual pain, various uterine issues, etc. You often here these concerns raised as a way to refocus attention away from the sexual implications of The Pill.

So this is what mommy wants to tell you: it is not wrong to use the pill or other forms of contraception because you want to enjoy sexual activity without becoming pregnant.  You don't need to come up with another excuse. If you do, medically, need to take the pill, that's fine, too. But forcing women to sanitize their decision to use contraception, to veil themselves in chastity, dials back the feminist clock in a way that mommy isn't okay with and hopes you won't be okay with either, when the time comes that you are concerned about such things.

Now, don't mistake this message as approval of sexual activity before you are ready.  Our faith says marriage. You are Catholic. You should follow that faith. Lots of women don't. Lots of Catholic women don't (and they also use contraception). I hope you will wait until you are really ready and that the decision will be entirely yours, free from coercion or pressure of any kind.

For the record, your mom made it through both high school and college before worrying about this stuff directly.  I think I was able to wait that long because I had wonderful adult support in my life from your grandparents and from my church youth group.  I decided to wait. I'm glad I did.  When I finally was ready, I embraced my sexuality in a way that was safe - taking appropriate steps to avoid any negative, or negatively timed, consequences of sexual activity.

You also might not want to talk about this with me when you are at an age where these questions loom large in your mind. I hope that when they are looming, you have non-parental, positive adult influences in  your life in whom you are comfortable confiding. That's essential to life, I think. I had those adults. I promise to remember that if you confide in someone but not me, it's not because you don't love or respect me, but because you needed a non-parental person, and that's okay.

In the end, I hope that you will value your body and your sexuality. For some people, that means waiting until marriage. For many others, it means waiting for "the one."  Maybe you marry that one. Maybe you don't.  But if you're sufficiently mature and ready to take that step then you better do it responsibly because there are many, many ways to prevent pregnancy or catching a disease and I already know you'll be too smart not to employ them.

I fear that even when you are grown up, a woman's sexuality and role in society will be far from a settled matter. It will feel unfair that so many people will be concerned with what you do with yourself. Know that your mother will always been in  your corner to help you navigate the waters if you need my help, to make sure you are safe, and to make sure that you feel loved and in control of your autonomy, always.

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