Wednesday, July 20, 2011

For Teens: Why Talking About Birth Control Matters

This post is for a blog carnival called "Birth Control: We've Got You Covered," which is being sponsored by the National Women's Law Center. Soon the Web is going to light up with who-knows-how-many bloggers, each giving their own two cents on no-cost birth control and other related issues. Personally, I want to speak to teens and younger girls about why birth control is so dang important (even if it doesn't figure into all of our lives just yet).

Those ain't no Sweet Tarts!
If you're a relatively new feminist like I am (my glorious "click" moment only came about a year ago), it's easy to get sucked up into the feminist agenda  everything from equal pay to reproductive rights  without thinking too deeply about these issues or considering why they're so pivotal to the women's liberation movement.

New feminists, especially us young'uns, seem to go through a crazed, sugar-rushed phase where we're just so excited to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. We start calling out sexist jokes in the produce department, we start doodling feminist-y things in our school notebooks, and we can't help but pose like Rosie the Riveter each time we catch ourselves in a mirror.
(Tip: Don't do this in public. People will stare.)

Don't get me wrong, this "feminist awakening" phase is zealous and incredibly life-affirming, but it can also hurt us if we begin nodding our heads to every single thing our feminist role models say just for the sake of proving our "feminist-ness." (I was guilty of that when I started calling myself pro-choice just because "all the feminists were doing it." I still call myself pro-choice, but now I've got the understanding to back it up. Yea-yuh.)

Support for birth control is one of those feminist ideals that "comes with the job description," but how many times, as teens, do we sit down and actually talk about it, or think about the implications it will have for our futures?

*cricket chirps*

That's what I thought.

Support for birth control has been synonymous with the feminist movement for decades, but when many of our older feminist allies (and I don't mean "older" in a bad way, just literally "older" than those of us born in the Era of Classic Nicktoons) talk about birth control and contraception, the focus automatically shifts to women in their 20's and 30's. Like birth control doesn't also affect our lives.

If you're a young person today, you know about sex. 

Say NO to virgin-whore dichotomy.
Sex saturates every ounce of media that we soak up: it's in books, movies, video games, steamy vampire dramas, the list goes on and on. Parents need to realize that if we're not getting our information from them (via one of those mythical "sex talks"), we're getting our information from less reliable sources — and many times this misinformation is coupled with ridiculous virgin-whore dichotomy (i.e. "good girls don't do that") which makes us even more confused about what the hell is going on with our bodies, about what's acceptable and what's not.

We get it, parents.

It's weird to think about your "babies" as sexual beings (it's weird for us, too, believe me), but that's no excuse to keep us from the realities of sex, contraception, STDs, and pregnancy. And just because we're not on The Pill now, doesn't mean that someday we won't be. As feminists, teens, girls: we need to know that contraception matters.

Right now, the Department of Health and Human Services is deciding "whether or not prescription contraceptives should be available under new healthcare plans without co-pay or other out-of-pocket costs." If the DHHS comes out with a favorable opinion, that could mean no-cost birth control for countless women nationwide. Considering birth control can cost upward of $100 per month (depending on one's method), many women in today's economy have had to choose between contraception and cancer screenings, between contraception and groceries.

In the 50's and 60's, many women were hearing about their
reproductive options for the first time. (Shock!)
The average woman spends three quarters of her reproductive life trying to prevent pregnancy, so yeah, birth control is a big deal. The National Women's Law Center is hopeful that the DHHS will "see the light" on this issue, and ultimately heed the recommendations given by a non-partisan, independent panel of scientific and medical experts at the Institute of Medicine (the panel's recommendations range from providing "yearly well-woman preventative care visits" to "screening and counseling to detect and prevent interpersonal and domestic violence").

For the millions of women who rely on birth control to keep their options open, and for your future and mine, I really hope the DHHS is able to reach a favorable consensus. In teen lingo: I hope they don't screw the heck up.

But until then, let's place our hands on our chins, act cool, and ponder some random facts birth control . . .
Birth control gives "power to the people," or rather, it gives women the opportunity to make choices that are right for their personal, individual lives. We're all different, life is short, and we should all be given the choice of how we spend our time — raising a family, going to work, or maybe even both. 

Nothing should be off-limits to us.

1 comment:

  1. I think you really hit the problem with the virgin-whore dichotomy and the purity myth that somehow still seems to surround America's youth, especially teenage girls. It's highlighted extra well with celebrities and the fine line that they walk, but the fact of the matter is, as long as we keep clinging to the idea that if we don't TALK about sex with teenagers maybe they won't HAVE sex, we're just delusional and asking to continue our crazy teen pregnancy rate.


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