May 19, 2012

In My Opinion: Cultural issues need attention

Amid the various issues debated as we approach the next elections, two are important to all individuals here, as in the rest of the country: debates over birth control and over interest owed on student loans.

Most people know the surface issues. But I think that, underlying the explicit motivations for the debate are broader cultural issues that need our attention.

Beneath the direct issues of control of reproduction are issues that relate much more broadly to the roles and identities of women. "Keep 'em barefoot and pregnant" is a well-known phrase that refers to the proposed status of women among the men who largely want to control them. In other words, use frequent pregnancy as a means to keep women ignorant, subservient and purely domestic.

Availability of birth control has not only permitted women to feel and express their sexuality, it has given them the means to make their own reproductive choices and, by doing so, take control of their own lives: make time for careers, education, leadership positions, sports and any kind of free expression of their own identities.

As a result, it has also afforded men a wider perception of their potential roles — i.e., it has broadened men's identities, at least among men willing to embrace the new reality.

Limiting access to birth control has a lot to do with attempts to put women back "in their place." In other words, it relates to attempts to restrict the freedoms that women have enjoyed since the birth-control revolution of the 1960s with the introduction of the pill. It also threatens the benefits that men (and non-reproductive women) have all enjoyed from the broader range of thought and experience that women have contributed to our society. (Note the number of positions of power held by women in corporations — obviously reflecting recognition of their contributions — despite remaining prejudices about women's "limitations" producing a "glass ceiling" on women's careers, artificially limiting their opportunities. The later acts as affirmative action for white males.)

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