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Sterilization: The Personal and the Political

Ever since I’ve been old enough to ask myself ‘Do I want children?’, my answer has been ‘No’ – a rather emphatic ‘No!’  I consider parenting to be a career, and a very demanding one at that: twenty-four hours a day for at least fourteen years, you are responsible for the physical, emotional, and intellectual development of another human being.  And quite simply, it wasn’t a career I wanted.

So, I went on the pill three or four months before I started having sex (I find it incredible that people find that incredible: ‘You planned even your first time?’  Of course!  That time, most of all, was to be special!) (And it was – though not quite in the way I’d hoped, anticipated …), and eventually chose permanent contraception instead.  I have explained this to quite a few people, over many, many years, and I continue to be amazed at those who are amazed.  When I ask ‘Why did you choose to become a parent?’ (a fair enough question to someone who has just asked me the opposite), they sort of give me a patronizing smile and say something like ‘It wasn’t exactly a choice.’  Yes it was.  YES IT WAS.  Unless you were raped or the contraception didn’t work, it was a choice: you don’t accidentally happen to catch some ejaculate in your vagina.

And not giving that choice much thought is nothing to smile about.  Tell me, between the one who without really thinking about it, without really wanting it, becomes a parent, and the one who deliberately does not become a parent – who is the more responsible?  I ask this question because of the responses by both my own physician and the surgeon to whom he referred me (who then referred me to another surgeon).  One of them actually snickered and said ‘So you want the advantages of sex without the responsibilities?’  I didn’t respond, realizing only later that I was confused because he had asked the question incorrectly: yes I wanted sex, and no I didn’t want the responsibility – of children, not of sex; I did accept the responsibility of sex – that’s why I was sitting in his office asking to be sterilized.  I believe I was also asked why I didn’t want children.  When a woman comes to you pregnant, I said, do you ask her, before agreeing to deliver, why she wants the child?  And would you be asking these questions if I looked older?  If I already had two children, at least one of whom was a male?  If I were a man seeking a vasectomy?

Not surprisingly, the appointments reminded me of a Therapeutic Abortion Committee (TAC) hearing.  Are you married?  Are you employed?  Any congenital disease in your family?  Substance abuse?  Psychiatric hospitalization?  The ‘problem’ is that I am competent and qualified to be a mother.  In every way.  Except one.  I don’t want to be.  On that basis alone, a TAC should grant me an abortion.  On that basis alone, the surgeon should perform the sterilization.  But as always, the woman’s wants, her choices, are irrelevant.  (Do you believe, I wonder, that we’re incapable of having wants, of making choices?) They should be establishing my competence, not my incompetence.  And if I am competent, then my choice, my request, should be granted.  It’s as simple as that. (Of course, if I’m incompetent to be a good parent, my choice should be granted as well.  Which begs the question, why were there TACs in the first place?)  (‘Course, if I were incompetent, irresponsible, I probably wouldn’t be there seeking an abortion.  Can you say ‘Catch 22’?)

The other question I remember clearly is that of the third doctor: ‘Do you want a tubal ligation or a cauterization?’  That’s really about the only question that should have been asked.  I asked him to explain the advantages and disadvantages of each; he did so; I answered his question.  (As for ‘When would you like the surgery?’, how about Mothers’ Day?)

No, I don’t regret it.  I never have, not for one second of one minute of any day.  Sure there’s a possibility that one day I’ll want children.  There’s also a possibility that one day I’ll want to be a waitress at Hooters.  And anyway, I could always adopt.  (But it wouldn’t be your own!  Sure it would; it just wouldn’t have my genes.)  (And if that’s so important, you don’t want a kid – you want a smaller ego.)

It gave me control over my life, my destiny. In fact, it has been one of the best decisions I’ve made, and I wish more people would make it (whether they decide ‘yes’ or ‘no’ is less important than deciding – considering and deciding and not just letting it happen).

In fact, I wish being sterile were our default state: one should have to do something quite intentional in order to become reproductive (like take a pill, with not insignificant side-effects, every day at exactly the same time for six months – men too), rather than the other way around.

In the meantime, I hope those women who do choose permanent contraception can get it without the hassle I went through.  I am thankful, however, that I live in a time and place in which sterilization, especially for a young woman without children, is at least legal.  Had it not been, I may have chosen sexual abstinence.  (If I had to think each time I had intercourse ‘This could change – read “mess up” – the next fifteen years of my life’, I wouldn’t have enjoyed it anyway.)

I am against sexism of any kind; I think that in a perfect world, one’s sex would be as relevant as one’s shoe size.  I don’t like any titles, but I like least of all, therefore, ‘Ms.’ and ‘Mr.’ because they differentiate on the basis of sex; being a female has always been near the bottom of my identity list (I’m a person, a dog-lover, a writer, a runner, a music-lover…).  So I love being neutered – it’s a bit of freedom from being sexed.


The 100, Madam Secretary, Code Black

If you haven’t yet discovered it, check out The 100 (available on Netflix).

There are so many female leaders and principals!  Clarke, her mother, Raven, Octavia, the three grounder leaders…

And in one episode, not only does Clarke do something really difficult and really important with Finn, the camera ends with a close-up of her, not Finn.    How often does that happen?  (Men always get the last shot, the last word!  Their reaction is always the most important, the definitive one!)

And that wasn’t an anomaly.  Close-ups often end on Clarke’s mother and Raven instead of the other guy and Bellamy.

(Also enjoying Madam Secretary at the moment!)

(And hating what’s happening on Code Black now that Rob Lowe’s been added to the cast.  Don’t know whether to blame the actor, the writers, or the directors, but my god is he taking over.  As white men do.  Sigh.)


[Note: this piece was written a while ago; hence the low figures!]

For those who think it’s no longer a patriarchal world and women are treated the same as men – you’re wrong.

And I am so tired, so very tired of my sex getting in the way of my life, making every little thing so very difficult.

A while ago, I decided to afford an addition to my cabin.  (Sidenote: A man would say he decided to build an addition – but I didn’t build it, the people I hired did – so I don’t say I did.  I first understood this difference when a man asked how long ago I’d put on my new roof.  I replied that I didn’t put on the roof, I’d hired someone else to do it – unlike the gazebo and the lean-to, both of which I’d built myself.  He looked at me as if I’d made a joke.  I then understood that for men, he who pays for it takes credit for doing it.  This is not a trivial insight.)

Anyway, a while ago I decided to afford an addition.  So I asked around a bit, looked in the yellow pages, then selected and called five contractors to come out, see what I wanted done, and give me an estimate.  One didn’t bother returning my call.  And in this time and place, it’s probably not the case that he didn’t need the work.  A second spoke with me over the phone at some length, arranged a time to come out, but then didn’t show – and I never heard from him again.  The other three did come: they all got the tour and a full explanation of what I wanted done.  Of these three, only two submitted a quote.  The third, once more, I never heard from again.  By now, I’m wondering about this lack of interest, this not-being-taken-seriously.  Were they disconcerted by the absence of a husband, a man in charge, a breadwinner – did the came-out-but-never-heard-from-again contractor think I couldn’t pay for what I wanted done?

(Sidenote: Getting the money from the bank was a pleasure.  The loan officer, a woman, did not even ask about my marital status, let alone request a husband’s signature.  She asked only about the state of my financial affairs – current employment, salary, mortgage, debts, etc.  And when I briefly outlined my projected budget/plan for repaying the loan, she never questioned my ability to do so.)

So, while I’d hoped my options wouldn’t be quite so narrow, I decided between the remaining two contractors: I chose the one with the lower-by-$3,000 estimate who was just a little less formal and business-like; I wanted to retain input into small decisions along the way, so I chose the one who talked with me a little more and would, I thought, listen to what I had to say.

Things were generally fine – I say ‘generally’ because I was a little peeved at the sudden slowdown come September.  Work got done at full speed during the summer but as soon as the walls were up and the roof on, Hank (the contractor) started on another job.  I agreed that the interior stuff at my place could wait a bit – construction’s seasonal, you gotta take what you can get, winter’s coming, I know it’s not pleasant to be putting up walls when it’s so cold your face hurts – but ‘a bit’ turned into four months and I ended up having to prod to get the crawlspace insulated before the snow fell.  (Sidenote: I was also a little peeved that I was paying this builder $20/hour and he was paying his men $18.50/hour, while I, with three degrees, two of which are required for my job, am paid $17.10/hour.)

Anyway, things were generally fine until the new pump that Hank installed didn’t work properly.  First, he spread his four house calls over three weeks.  Clearly, other clients were getting priority – despite the urgency (most people would consider being without running water to be somewhat of an urgency).

This seemingly second-class treatment was true too of the plumber I eventually called (four tries in three weeks and I still had no water): it took him two days to make his first appearance and another two days to make the second.  (At $25/hour.)  It felt very much like they were coming out only when they had the time – as if they were doing me a favour.  (Is it because they’re so used to doing favours for women they can’t see us as paying customers?  Where does that come from, the chivalry tradition?  The history of women not having money of their own – with which to pay people?  The man’s blatant misunderstanding – like doing the dishes is doing a favour for the wife?)  This is just speculation, but I think that if I were a man, I wouldn’t’ve been put on the back burner like that.

More annoying was that each of Hank’s house calls seemed to last just a little longer.  I tried not to be rude, but I really didn’t want to chat with him all evening.  He’d linger, not taking the hint of me sitting at my desk with work spread out in front of me (it’s not like I was just sitting on the couch, let alone offering him a cup of coffee).

Then one evening, he asked, rather out of the blue in the course of a conversation I was trying politely to end (“…so I’ll call you tomorrow then if it’s still not working – “), if I’d heard about the Gwen Jacobs decision and what did I think.  I was a little surprised at this (Hank broaching a philosophical issue), but it’s a small community and he knows the guy who lives and fishes on this lake, who knows I don’t bother with a bathing suit, it’s no big deal, so maybe that’s why he asked.  Part of me really didn’t want to get into a discussion about this with someone who was bound to need a lot of explanation before he really understood the points I’d make (“I’m wondering about sexual assault,” he’d said, with a grin) (with a grin) – but part of me wanted to kill any undercurrent leer in mentioning the topic.  So I spent a minute outlining what I thought.

It wasn’t until later that I connected the dots: he had, on a previous visit, suggested that I put something (the pump line he thought was frozen?) wherever it was warmest – “what’s the hottest place in your cabin – your bed?”  I had responded that ten years of celibacy does not a hot bed make, hoping to indicate that I was not a sexual possibility.  (Did he take my response as a sexual challenge?  Or worse, did he not even consider that my celibacy might be my choice – did he think my comment was therefore a veiled ‘asking for it’?  Amazing.)  On another occasion, after a few inconsequential elbow or knee brushes, he actually did the bum-pat thing.

After the second protracted evening visit, I called when I thought his wife would answer.  If something was going on in his mind, I wanted not to encourage it; so I decided to leave a message with his wife rather than get into yet another conversation with him.  I swear I heard ice in her voice.  Unbelievable.  I thoroughly included her in the loop then, explaining in great detail the plumbing situation.  I even told her to tell Hank that the next house call could wait until Saturday, if he was available then, because I didn’t want another evening’s work disturbed that week.

Well.  Saturday he arrived.  He hadn’t called to confirm that he was coming, so I didn’t exactly expect him.  I certainly didn’t expect him to just open my door and walk in at eight o’clock in the morning.  My bed is right by the door; I was still in it.

I was, of course, enraged.  The nerve, the assumption of familiarity, the proprietariness – this is my house, you knock before you enter, and you wait until I answer the door; even friends usually do that, and we are not friends, you are my contractor, I hired you, you work for me!

Did I say any of that?  Of course not.  When you’re a woman, in a male-dominant society, and you find yourself still in bed, just awake, and a man is standing a mere two feet away, probably with a pipe wrench in his hand (hopefully he has come to fix the pump), you don’t tell him off.  (Not then.  But, alas, not later either.  And that’s what makes me really angry – I’ll never be able to set him straight.  Telling him what I really think would no doubt make him angry.  Angry men are to be feared.  He knows where I live.  One ‘accidental’ shot at Chessie (my canine companion) from the hunting rifle he no doubt owns and she’ll be dead.  So I let it go.  I smile it off.  And he carries on, oblivious to the damage he’s done, the danger he is.)

Now the question is this: would he have done this if I’d been a man?  I think not.  Nor would he have done it if I’d been in bed with my husband.  In fact, it’s probable that none of this — the casual touches, the sexual innuendo talk, even the extended house calls (not to mention the second-class client treatment) — would’ve happened if I’d been a married woman, and it’s almost certain that none of it would have happened if I’d been a man.  (I suspect that if I’d been a man, he wouldn’t’ve left all the clean-up work he left either – piles of sawdust for me to sweep up, handprints on the walls for me to wash off, etc.  Why is it guys always think cleaning up means cleaning up only the big stuff?)  (Men=big.  Women=small.  WTF?)

Things really made sense when my neighbour told me that when I’d hired a ‘handyman’ to fix the bathroom floor and put in a shower stall several years prior, his wife had called this neighbour to ask about me – did she have cause for concern?  I was flabbergasted to find out about this.  As with Hank, I had asked Bob to do the work, if possible, on the days I wasn’t there (I really don’t like the solitude of my days off to be invaded, so I usually arrange to be there the first time, to make sure Chessie is okay with the guy, and then schedule subsequent visits for the days I have to work).

Both wives seemed to think that a woman living alone would automatically be sexually encouraging.  As did Hank.  (Perhaps he thought my friendliness was an invitation.  Sad, isn’t it – you can’t even talk to a man without him thinking you’re coming on to him.  Why is that?  Because men don’t chat with each other?  Because in the man’s world, chatting is not considered part of normal friendly interaction, so when chatting does occur, it’s taken to indicate extraordinary friendliness?)  (No maybe that’s not what was happening at all.  That’s a woman’s take on the situation.  At one point in one conversation, I realized that he was giving me all this advice, about how to get business – I’m a disc jockey too –  and I thought ‘Wait a minute, did I ask you for advice?’   I had merely said that business was poor.  Why is it that when you say something’s difficult, women will empathize but men will advise?  So maybe what was happening was that he was seeing himself more and more in a ‘superior’ position and seeing me more and more in a subordinate position and that’s what led to the sexual stuff, sex being connected to power for men.  Downplaying my degrees as I did, so as not to appear elitist (or rich), wouldn’t have helped in this regard.)  At the very least, Hank and the others considered my sex to be primary instead of irrelevant.

And that’s how it gets in the way. I just wanted to hire someone to fix my bathroom, to build an addition, to fix my pump.  But being female got in the way: it restricted my choices, it affected the quality of the work I got, it limited my actions. And it made such ordinary stuff so very, very difficult: I had to deal with all this other shit – shit a man wouldn’t have had to deal with.

Making misogyny a hate crime — It’s about time!

Take a look: “Police in England and Wales consider making misogyny a hate crime”

It’s about time! Let’s see this WORLD-WIDE!!!

Boy Books

Boy books. You’re thinking The Boys’ Book of Trains and The Hardy Boys, right? I’m thinking most of the books I took in high school English.

Consider Knowles’ A Separate Peace. Separate indeed. It’s set at a boys’ boarding school. The boys are obsessed with jumping out of a tree. This involves considerable risk of crippling injury. And yet they do it, for no other reason than ‘to prove themselves’. Now my question is ‘What are they proving themselves to be – other than complete idiots?’ We don’t get it.

They are also obsessed with going off to war. While this again involves risk of injury, it could, at least, be done for some lofty and heroic reason. But the reasons for the war are not once discussed. So it seems to be just another peer pressured ego thing: ‘My dick’s as big as yours.’ Again, we don’t get it.

Consider also Golding’s Lord of the Flies and Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. In all three, a major theme is the loss of innocence – not through the discovery of evil in the world, but through the discovery of evil within. The boys discover their heart of darkness, their capacity for cruelty. Well, we can’t identify with that – after all, we didn’t spend our childhoods tearing the legs off harmless flies and putting fish hooks through live frogs.

We especially can’t identify with the feelings of pride, which lie just beneath the pretensions of horror, that accompany this discovery. For make no mistake, in forests and on farms, and on foreign battlefields, killing is still the rite of passage, the test of maturity, for boys to real men. Hands up, does anyone else see this as sick?

Let’s go back to Lord of the Flies for a minute. Again, all boys. Plane-crashed on an island, their task is simple: co-exist. They must figure out how to live with each other. They can’t do this. Instead, they figure out how to kill each other.

Would girls have done any better? Well, yes, I think they would have. Would they have splintered into rival groups? Probably. Would they have picked on the fat ugly girl? Sigh. Probably. But they would not have killed the pig, especially like that, laughing about its squeals of pain. (Especially not with all that fruit around.) And the little ‘uns would’ve had lots of mommies to look after them. And at the end, they would not have been discovered smeared with blood and war paint. Instead, they probably would have been found on the beach singing and doing the Macarena. (And the really horrible thing is that many men reading this won’t see that as unquestionably better.)

So don’t tell me these novels are universal. They’re not. They’re boy books. By boys about boys. And I’m a girl. Was a girl. I can’t tell you the effect Lord of the Flies had on me. First of all, I had to change sex to even be a part of the world. Read that sentence again. Then I saw myself as seven parts Simon, two parts Ralph, and one part Piggy. And I saw my options: insanity or death. Quite the education.

But even when the theme is universal, we get boy books. Consider Richler’s The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz. Duddy wants to buy some land. As a person, I can identify with that. Unlike much of the previously-mentioned novels, this is not a boy thing. But still, Duddy is a boy. Very much a boy. So there’s not much else I can identify with.

However, also unlike the previously-mentioned novels, this one has a few female characters in it. Actually, so does A Separate Peace: one is Leper’s mother and she is just that – Leper’s mother; the other is Hazel Brewster – the ‘town belle’, a mere object to be observed and perhaps used by the boys. Yvette, in Duddy Kravitz, is seen, by both Richler and Duddy, as either sexual or secretarial. Am I supposed to identify with that?

Consider Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. Now I can really identify with saving books, with perpetuating the intellectual heritage of civilization. But the five men Montag meets at the end who are doing just that are just that – five men. So are the thousands of others: “Each man had a book he wanted to remember…” Where am I? What was I supposed to be wanting? (Another television wall – recall Mildred, Montag’s wife.)

I’m so thankful for Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. For Scout. She’s one of the two main kid characters. She’s a girl. A spunky girl. A girl who runs, and thinks, and feels. There I am!

(But, alas, she doesn’t have a mom. She has a father and a brother; if she had a mom, if there were an adult woman like her, like her dad, that would even it up a bit – Scout wouldn’t be the female minority in her world. But that would be too much, I guess. Equal representation is going too far.)

And I’m thankful for Laurence’s The Stone Angel. It’s about a woman. An old woman. A feisty, sarcastic old woman who embraces her inner bitch. I wanna be Hagar when I grow old.

But what do I want to be when I grow up? There’s this huge void between Scout and Hagar. Why? What the hell happens to girls when they turn thirteen? I’m an adolescent, was an adolescent, presumably discovering and creating my identity. If I stay within the boundaries of the familiar, the apparently possible, I – Where are the girl books? Where are the books set at girls’ boarding schools? Where are the books about ‘girls only’ islands?

And what would happen if boys read them – what would happen if adolescent boys experienced Gilman’s Herland and Tepper’s The Gate to Woman’s Country instead of Golding’s Lord of the Flies? (and Fitzhugh’s Harriet the Spy, and Newman’s A Share of the World and McCarthy’s The Group and…)

Maybe, eventually, instead of boys and girls, we could have kids, and then people; kids, and people, would read kids’ books, and people’s books.



[Hell Yeah, I’m a Feminist is a feminist blog, often radical feminist (radfem), always anti-gender and anti-sexism.]

What if it were convention …

What if it were convention for men at the workplace to wear their shirts with the sleeves rolled up and the top few buttons undone, and to wear make-up that accentuated their jaw and cheek lines?

Would they start obsessing about the muscularity of their forearms? Would they get chest hair implants? Would they consider facial reconstruction surgery?

And would women ever take them seriously?

“The Adult Market”

What’s adult about humiliating another person?

What’s adult about hurting another person?

What’s adult about forcing someone to do something she doesn’t really want to do?

What’s adult about doing sexual things to children?

We should call it what it is. The psychopathic sociopathic misogynist market. The sick fucks market.

(I’d intended to be more specific, but I’m concerned that the psychopathic sociopathic misogynist dudes would like that. Plus, merely describing these things repulses me.)

How many times?

Men are incredibly selfish and irresponsible. Every time they have sexual intercourse without a condom, they prove it.

Because every time they have sex without a condom, they risk making someone else’s life a living hell for twenty years (that’s what it’s like to be a parent against one’s will). All for ten minutes of their own pleasure/relief/whatever.

And every time they have sex without a condom, they risk creating a new human being. That will require food and water, and a computer and a car, and so on and so on. (All for ten minutes of their own pleasure/relief/whatever.)

How many times does a man have sex without a condom?

I rest my case.

Speaking Up

Women’s problem is that they never speak up. They never ask for what they want. Well, if you don’t tell people what you want, how do you expect to get it? Are they supposed to read your mind? You’ll spend your whole life waiting for someone to offer you, to invite you to, whatever it is. I know.

Men’s problem is that they do tell people what they want. Because they expect others to give it to them. And the mere expectation — you’ve heard of ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’?

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