Alexa Petersen | Jeminist: A Jumbo Feminist
The rando relative
Published: Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, September 19, 2012 02:09
Recently, I was at a family gathering where I struck up a chat with a distant family member. Mother always teaches you not to talk about religion or politics at family gatherings — it will always lead to bad things. Following my mother’s rules intently, I nod along and chitchat about nothing in particular until — BOOM — the strange distant family member brings up her love of Mitt Romney. Cue “Jaws” theme.
At first, talking about Mitt is no biggie — the guy is entertaining, this is undeniable. He’s got “oops!-I-did-it-again” political one-liners that are only rivaled by the king of gaffes himself, Vice President Joe Biden. But then the tide turns. She brings up contraception. She brings up how proud she is of Romney for advocating in favor of faith-based organizations’ moral opposition to distributing birth control through their insurance plans — what? We’re Jewish
— and how proud she is of the Republican Party for fighting against government sponsorship of contraceptives. Keep your mouth shut, Alexa, before you get us uninvited to Thanksgiving. Just try to keep your mouth shut.
After surviving this strange conversation with the rando relative, I start trying to put my finger on why it had bothered me so much. Everyone has different political beliefs, and I’m perfectly capable (or at least I try to be) of accepting that. But this was somehow personal, rather than political, and I took offense accordingly.
In the last year, the so-called “War on Women” (or, depending on who you ask, the “War on Caterpillars”) is chock-full of assaults specifically about contraception. And most of those voices are men’s, but a few of these voices are women’s.
Here come the examples. It happened when, according to Slate magazine, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley said on “The View” that, “Women don’t care about contraception, they care about jobs and their families.” Is that true? News to me, Nikki Haley, news to me.
It happened when Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed a law in May relaxing regulations on whether faith-based organizations have to provide birth control through their insurance plans, which further limited contraception access for women in Arizona. According to the Associated Press, she closed with a statement that included this eloquent one-liner: “With this common-sense bill, we can ensure that Arizona women have access to the health services they need.” Bravo Jan Brewer, for getting women the services Jan Brewer thinks they need. I stop at two examples only for lack of space. The list, unfortunately, goes on.
When contraception is a health service that 99 percent of women who have had sexual intercourse will use once or more in a lifetime, according to the Center for Disease Control, it astonishes me that any American politician tries to deny it. But it’s more hurtful to me when a woman tries to deny it. And it is entirely possible that the reason why this concept bothers me so much is because of the solidarity I feel with other women.
Even though I must confront a glass ceiling in certain parts of my life, I know that half of the world’s population is likely to have to confront a glass ceiling at some point in her life too — and that’s unity. I feel connected with the women who fight for the same rights that I do, and whether rightly or wrongly, I trust them because of it. Denying women the health services they need to succeed in their lives is inherently oppressive. And when a woman tries to deny a fellow woman these rights, she both oppresses us and breaches our trust. And this gets me exponentially angrier than Mitt’s dog on his roof ever could. Although I still do feel very bad for the dog.
Alexa Petersen is a senior majoring in political science and peace and justice studies. She can be reached at Alexa.Petersen@tufts.edu.