Today I had my first truly overt experience with sexism/”slut shaming”/birth control shaming. I’ve made it 20 years without ever having experienced truly obvious accounts of these things. And today? Well today blew that record clear out of the water. I’ll set the stage for you:
I’m at the on-campus medical clinic because I suspect that I have an infection of some sort, so obviously I would need a round of antibiotics for an infection, right? Right. So I’m sitting in the room, when my “doctor” (I use this term very lightly) walks into the room. We cover the normal bases, and inform her that I’ve switched from birth control pills to an IUD. She says to me, “You’re not married. You don’t have kids. Why would you need an IUD?”
Pause. What? Yes, this really happened. This isn’t 1950 sweetheart, I don’t need anyone to tell me what kinds of birth control I can and cannot use. I’m entitled to the birth control of my choosing, and I just so happened to choose this one. But wait, there’s more! She tests me for an infection, and determines that I do in fact have one and I’ll need antibiotics. She says to me, “I want to test for pregnancy, because I don’t want any antibiotics harming a baby since I think you could be pregnant. Ok?”
I’m sure the look on my face was a mixture of confusion and utter disbelief for how completely terribly this woman was treating me. First of all, IUD failure rates are extremely low. Less than 1% annually. Second, I….I’m not pregnant. I know this. I’m not even concerned about this. So why are you testing me for something that first of all is super unlikely, and second of all I know I’m not?
So she tests for it. Surprise, surprise, I’m not pregnant. Thanks for telling me something I already know. She walks in saying, “It was negative. Not that you were really concerned about it.” Seriously, lady?
This entire interaction blew my mind. This was the first overt experience of, I guess “birth control shaming” that I’ve ever experienced. Sure, most women get strange looks when they take the Pill in public. Sure, some people think it’s not an acceptable thing to discuss or even acknowledge. That’s a more common form of oppression and silencing the thoughts and opinions of women. But this? I’ve never experienced something like that before, that was so blatantly condemning my choice. Don’t like my choice? Don’t say anything. Didn’t your mother teach you that if you have nothing nice to say then don’t say anything at all? It’s a sad world when a young woman is condemned by a health “professional” for her choice in birth control. There are so many good reasons to be on birth control, so why do people assume that it’s solely for contraceptive purposes? 6/10 women are on birth control for the health benefits. The Pill decreases the likelihood of gynecological cancers, decreases the occurrence of acne, eases the pain of periods and cramps, and so many other things! There is nothing wrong with a woman choosing the Pill, the shot, and IUD, or any other form of birth control that she feel suits her best. Why on earth are we shaming people for making a choice that makes their lives easier? For making a choice that makes their lives easier to plan? For making a choice that practically eliminates consequences of actions that people, by nature, take?
I’ve been upset about it all day. But now I’m just sad for her. Sad that she can’t see past her own judgments and juvenile words that serve no purpose aside from hurting another person. My entire point in life, my main goal, is to perpetuate a culture where people are not devalued for the choices that they make regarding their sexuality. My point is that you cannot impose your morals and thoughts on to other people. If she thinks birth control should be a topic only held between a husband and wife that already have kids, then fine. She’s entitled to believe that. Where she went wrong was imposing those beliefs on me, and hurting me because of those beliefs. My morals and her morals likely differ. Most people have differing morals. That’s what makes life interesting, and keeps diversity alive. It’s perfectly okay to believe differently from another person. In fact, that should be encouraged! The line should be drawn when it begins to impact other people.
Birth control shame is a real thing. I can’t believe that it’s still so prevalent, but it is a real thing. Let’s stop making judgments on women based on their usage of birth control. Let’s stop making assumptions about their lives. Let’s certainly never treat them the way that this “doctor” treated me today. Professionalism is important. She was unprofessional at catastrophic levels. If your health professional ever treats you like this, please, change your doctor! It’s not worth someone denying you something that is fully in the realm of possibility for you to receive. Do your research, know your stuff, and stand your ground. Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re wrong for having your own best interest in mind.