Monday, September 01, 2008

shame? what shame?!

My friends say I don't have enough empathy; they say that because I live a certain way (a way that makes logical sense to me) that I am confounded and impatient when others apparently don't.

They have a point.

I was reading this piece about a young woman's quest to buy Plan B contraception and I found myself becoming frustrated. In her piece, she's given the runaround by clueless pharmacists, nurses and doctors - people who should know better, who should know what Plan B is, that it's available over the counter and does NOT require a prescription unless you're under 18. And in the comments, other women tell of the same runaround as well as the shame they felt in having to explain that they had sex, their regular contraception failed and they needed Plan B immediately.

My frustration has two objects:

Object 1: the medical profession who clearly didn't get the effing memo that Plan B went OTC one year ago. How the frak do you call yourself a professional when you don't know this? And how do you feel about giving women the wrong information, delaying their ability to use Plan B effectively? Really. I want to know. If there are nurses or pharmacists out there who have told women they need a prescription for Plan B, please tell me why you don't know how to do your job.

(Yes, I'm angry. Professional sloppiness makes me angry. It's a pet peeve of mine and it's not reserved for folks who don't know that Plan B is available to women over the age of 18 over the frakking counter!!)

Object 2: women who had no clue about Plan B (that it existed, where to get it and thought the whole thing was befuddling - where have you been for the past year? Why haven't you been paying attention to issues that affect your body's liberty??) and those who felt shame even if they did nothing to deserve the shaming. You are a GROWN WOMAN. You have a basic frakking human right to have sex, have accidents happen and you have no business feeling ashamed for needing, asking for, Plan B.

(Why do I call it a right? Because it's the frakking basic human condition - we humans have sex, have accidents and shit happens.)

Don't get me wrong. I know the feeling. When I first got my period and I had to go into a grocery store and ask for tampons and sanitary napkins, the grocery dude smirked and I wanted to die.

But I was 11 years old.

I'm 39 now. Someone tries to make me ashamed of my sexuality, or my body's requirements, and I will verbally punch them in the scrotal sac. We are Western women living in the most privileged country on earth. And we still feel shame for asking about birth control?? We feel shame in the face of someone's unprofessional ignorance?? Lord on a stick!

Sometimes I think our foremothers look at us and roll their eyes in disgust.

I know there are real issues about access and pharmacist's refusals to dispense. I know that. But this isn't about that - I'm talking about middle class women who should know better! My frustration is about a certain kind of woman who feels shame first, rather than anger that she's getting pushed around by an ignorant nurse!

I know. Pillory me. My attitude is intolerant, arrogant and maybe bordering on sexist.

But FRAK if I don't feel that women should get angry first and feel shame later. When it comes to sex or our bodies why is our default emotion shame? What patriarchal bullshit is that? Aargh!

(taking calming breath)

Now. Where to get emergency contraception/Plan B (Plan B is the brand sold in the US) if you aren't blessed with a Walgreens or CVS in your neighborhood, or if you suspect your local pharmacist might be a Bible banger who thinks contraception kills babies:

You can start here. It has a helpful zip code finder for emergency contraception providers as well as tip sheets for how to explain what you need, how to answer the questions they may ask and what usual costs are. (I paid $50 at CVS.)

Rant over. Carry on!


Steph said...

I hear you! When I was a law student in South Bend, Indiana, I went to pick up my birth control prescription and while waiting, was subjected to a conversation between a male and female pharmacist wherein the male (older) shared his views on birth control with the woman and said he would not let his daughter go on birth control, even if she needed it for a medical reason other than contraception. I was furious. I later had the unfortunate experience of trying to obtain Plan B, which was not available over the counter at the time. I had my own guilt going on and I was turned down at a Urgent Treatment Center, called numerous doctor's office and clinics that wouldn't help me, and eventually had to ask the woman who I babysat for to call her OB (she was nine months pregnant at the time and had other things to worry about) and see if she could fit me in.

ding said...

That kind of thing makes me soooo angry. 'Let' his daughter go on birth control. It's amazing to me that some men still think women's reproductive organs belong to them!

I'm so sorry you had to go through all that - all for contraception, something that should be readily available at all times to men and women.

I'll know there's been a serious dent in patriarchy when I can get my birth control as easily as a man can get a condom or a scrip for Viagra.

Laura said...

I would be angry first to be honest. lol.

ding said...

maybe i'm just shorter tempered. but i am not going to allow some neanderthal to make me feel shame for something that i need or want.

frak that patriarchal crap.