Saturday, May 21, 2005

Moral High Ground?

Dan Savage weighs in on the fight against HPV vaccinations: "While the religious right's war on gay rights gets all the headlines, their war on straight rights gains ground daily. They've destroyed sex education in this country, undermined abortion rights, and successfully prevented emergency contraception from being made available over the counter. Now they're going to block the HPV vaccine. Why? Because the American Taliban would rather see sexually active women dead than vaccinated."

Go read the rest, I'll wait. Really, go read this week's column...

What I like is that Dan charges folks who usually take their sexual freedom for granted with taking action: this isn't about abortion, this is about folks not being allowed vaccinations against one of the most common STDs because of the (still faulty!) logic that teaching safe sex encourages kids to have sex (n.b. we don't assume that teaching kids to wear oven mitts when making dinner causes them to learn to cook; there are hundreds of ways every day that we say "should you find yourself in this situation, here's your safest bet."). Because really, folks, the worst thing you can do is teach your kids that women have any kind of sexual agency. From there it's a slippery slope to a world where everyone can sleep with whomever they choose without answering to the government somewhere along the way. There will be orgies in the streets; your daughters will suddenly give up men and fuck each other. Your sons will stop beating the shit out of each other trying to impress girls and start trying to impress one another. It'll be ANARCHY!

Yeah, OK, I haven't had much sleep.

What I didn't like about Dan this week: Sweet Jesus Christ on Toast, get your activism the fuck off my body. I am sick to death of the repeated, rehearsed statistics that say "If you're a sexually active woman, assume you have HPV and get annual Pap tests." Excuse the fuck out of me, I will NOT assume that I am diseased. Don't give me that shit about preventative health care -- I have perpetual sinus infections, and yet no doctor has ever told me to "assume I have a sinus infection and get tested yearly." And don't even try to tell me that it can't have the same effects: any prolonged, untreated infection can create abmormalities in surrounding tissue (n.b. this is the main reason I had my wisdom teeth pulled: they came in straight, but one was very slow and the surrounding tissue was infected for most of the seven years that they left it in my mouth. When they finally sent me to an Oral Surgeon, he looked at it and said it needed to come out ASAP).

I'm disappointed that Dan didn't specifically associate the need to vocalize against the "American Taliban" with those who promote this pathology assumption. It seems to me that the Cult of Women's Health can be nearly as demeaning as the Religious Right in the way it treats women's bodies as contested territory; while the latter treats "morality" as superior to agency, the other gives primacy to "health."

I've taken a personal stand on this one, and it's an unpopular one all around: I will let neither the Religious Right nor the Activist* Left colonize my reproductive system. So long as every time I visit a doctor I am asked three times (at least) if there's any chance I could be preggers or have an STD, so long as I am unable to visit old friends at the sexual assault crisis center where I used to volunteer without some obnoxious fundie decidint to physically block my entry to the building because the top floor houses a clinic that performs abortions, so long as both sides imply that I am a less than ideal woman because I do not stringently follow their edicts, I will ignore all of them. I will see a doctor if I feel ill or if I need a physical for some reason (lord knows I'm bound to need more joints repaired). Because if I end up aborting a fetus (fat fucking chance, what with the vow of celibacy I seem to have accidentally taken) or becoming one of the 4100 women who die from cervical cancer every year (do they even realize how riciculous that sounds? why aren't we all routinely screened for lung cancer, if those are the kinds of state that move us to action? or for shitty driving records?), I'll at least know that I did so on my own terms, without The Experts or The Moral Authority breathing down my neck.

Yeah, so, I'm a little opinionated about this. You should have seen me bite my tongue when my shrink ordered me to make my OB/GYN my primary care physicianwho looks after all of my health care issues. Did I mention I don't see thhat therapist any more?

*I couldn't find a more descriptive term than the Freirian use of the word "Activism." Freire writes that true praxis is a combination of action with philosophical reflection; remove this reflection, and praxis becomes simply activism: action without reason, practice without theory. He also writes a lot of good stuff about different models of education and their effectiveness in perpetuating and/or disrupting existing heirarchies of oppression.

And now it's REALLY late, so I'm going to bed.


Blogger Jon said...

Should we be "praxivists" then?

7:49 PM  
Blogger Turtle said...

Don't be, man... just do:-)

(I feel like I just walked out of a Dharma and Greg script.)

7:54 PM  

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