I can’t remember if I’ve written about this before, but something I’ve read recently brought this back to mind. Something like a year ago, I was on a pro-choice, feminist (there’s no such thing as an anti-choice feminist) blog. I forget why it came up, but I remember mentioning that I was planning on getting sterilized. It was then that I was reminded that not all pro-choice people actually are, but many are only pro-choice to the extent that it is still assumed that every woman will and must eventually have children at some point. For it was in a response to my comment where I received one of the weirdest bingos I’ve ever heard in my life. I have yet to be able to locate the post in question, my comment, or the comment of the bingoer. So, here I can only paraphrase what was said.
“You shouldn’t get sterilized. Maybe you don’t want kids, but what if one of your gay friends needs a surrogate?”
Even after all this time, I’m still just astounded by this particular bingo, and not because it’s sensible or convincing at all, far from it. Whereas other, more common bingos are stupid in predictable ways, this one takes a completely different, yet none-the-less ridiculous , approach to reducing me to a mere person-factory, rather than an actual person.
Well, this person first assumes that I have gay, male friends, which it just so happens that I do, not that this person would have had any way of knowing that. The following assumption is that my gay male friends would, first, want children, and, second, view their female friends as vending machine wombs for such a purpose. Not only am I expect to actually consider such a person as a friend at all, but I, as a woman, a friend to gay males, should agree that I am, indeed, a vending machine, and keep myself open for business just in case. The sexism on display is astounding, and especially so when coming from the keyboard of someone who claimed the title of “feminist” who, evidently, didn’t see the glaring problem with his/her words. That is just sad.
I am no stranger to vending-machine-type bingos. I remember that the first time I spoke with an OB/GYN about getting a tubal ligation, he made a point of asking about my partners. I write “partners” plural because he wanted to speak both about my actual boyfriend, as well as a hypothetical “Mr. Right” who could not have been my boyfriend. I was insulted that any man, real or imaginary, should even be considered at all when it came to my body. Yet, I was asked if I was married, then, when the answer was “no,” if I had a boyfriend, “yes.” “And how does he feel about this?” As it just so happened, by boyfriend doesn’t want children either, not that it matters, as it isn’t his decision what I do. Then the OB/GYN asked “What if you meet the right guy, and he wants kids?” As if someone who wanted kids could ever qualify as “the right guy” for me in the first place.
In these bingos, it’s always what he (whoever such a “he” might be) wants that matters most, and I’m a silly girl for not considering him first. The presumption was that what a man, any man, real or not, wants to do with my body is always more important to consider than what I want with my own body. Worse still, this argument is handed to me smugly, as if I really should agree with such a sexist denial and dismissal of my own autonomy. It’s bad enough when this bingo is offered with the man being a hypothetical partner of mine, but now I’m even expected by the bingo first mentioned to find even a hypothetical man who is only even a friend to have more right to my body than I have myself. As a woman, I am to view what I want for myself as less important than what any man wants to do with me, even in the case of men who aren’t even real.
What an awful, misogynistic world.
Edit: My boyfriend read and shared this post. When he and I discussed it, we talked about how to accompanied me to an appointment with another OB/GYN (not the one spoken about in this post.) He was expecting this doctor to ask him what he thought about me getting a tubal ligation. He supports my decision, but would have firmly told the doctor, had he been asked, that what I do is entirely my own business not his (my boyfriend’s.) Happily, this doctor never did asked and was the one who ultimately provided the tubal ligation procedure for me.
Why is it that I keep getting bingoed through my boyfriend? Well, he was the one getting bingoed, really. The bingo for me was only implied. My BF related this story to me, involving a telephone conversation between him and a relative. As I wasn’t there for the conversation and this is all second-hand, I hope I’m getting all the details right.
I’m saying “relative,” because I think this person is a good guy, and I don’t want to make it seem as though I’m picking on him, so I’m being intentionally non-specific. I’m not writing this post to complain about him, personally, but about the more common attitudes exemplified in the conversation. Here, I can express my thoughts on these attitudes (which I encounter ALL THE TIME in a number of ways) as a childfree person. Maybe I can even use this to explain to non-CF people why it’s not OK to say these kinds of things and why it’s found intrusive and demeaning.
Our beloved dog Molly had some health issues when we first got her, which required a bit of veterinary care and some medicine. Additionally, one day she ate all of her medicine when no one was looking and had to be rushed to the emergency vet. My BF was saying to his relative just how expensive our dog is, to which the relative replied, “Just wait until you have kids.”
“Just wait until you have kids.” That quote just floors me! For one thing, my BF and I are both childfree, and have been since before we ever met each-other. My BF has been telling his family for years that he never wants kids, only to be ignored. Ok, people, seriously. If we say we don’t want kids, support that decision. It’s a valid choice. Assume we mean it.
I’ll assume that the relative has either forgotten or disbelieves that BF doesn’t want kids, otherwise this would seem like a particularly mean-spirited thing to say. Like saying, “just wait until you get fat,” to someone who takes care of their health. It does sound a bit like a threat, doesn’t it?
But childfreedom aside, this is still a nonsensical thing to say. Yes, kids are more expensive than dogs. I wasn’t aware it was a competition. I’m sure a zoo is more expensive than either. Never-mind that though. Why would he think that, as unhappy as BF was about how expensive vet bills are, that he’d want kids on the basis that they’re even more expensive? Oh, kids are extremely costly, you say? Well, in that case, sign me up! This person must be a horrible salesman.
After being reminded by my BF that neither one of us wants kids, the relative replied something to the effect of, “You say that, but sometimes kids just happen.” Where have I heard something like that before?
I absolutely detest this attitude. Unless they were dropped off on your stoup by a stork, no, kids do not just happen. Children exist as a direct result of the actions of their parents and can be avoided in a number of ways. Avoiding sex. Using contraception. Having an abortion. Getting sterilized as I have been! No. Kids not not “just happen.”
I think it takes a very irresponsible not take control of or responsibility for the direction one’s life takes by having the attitude that kids “just happen.” Having kids is a choice, and one (most) people have control over. Take ownership of your choices, and their outcomes.
Tactfully, my dear BF reminded his relative that I’m sterile (sure, BF could leave me, if he wanted, but…,) which was an action my BF fully supported (not that I wouldn’t have gotten myself fixed anyway if he didn’t.) I thought that this relative was already aware of this fact, but apparently not.
Ok, so we’re both stubbornly childfree, my BF has been telling these relative for years that he never wants kids, and one of us is sterile. Surely, we must be serious about never wanting kids, right? The relative then went on to mumble about adoption.
Really? Really?! What part of no kids is so hard to understand? How much clearer does someone need to be?
Dear world, not everyone has kids. That’s OK. Accept it. We’ll all be much happier. Thank you.
I hate it when people tell me that I don’t know that I don’t want kids. It’s so stupid, but it happens all the time. Yes, I do know.
As I’ve mentioned here before, I finally got a tubal ligation last week. As a result, I got a week of convalescent leave to recover. Outside the barracks yesterday, I ran into someone from my company and we had a bit of small talk. She asked me how I was enjoying being on leave, and I told her I’ve mostly been in my room as I’m not up to much. She thought I was on normal leave, vacation, when really I was recovering from surgery. She asked me what I had done. I said I had a tubal ligation. Then I had to explain what that was. Then I had to explain what the word “sterile” meant. (Really, US Army?)
“It means I can never have babies.” I finally said.
“Why would you do that?”
“Because I never want kids.”
“You don’t know that!”
“Yes, I certainly do.”
My BF and I recently found a lovely townhome to move into. Yesterday, we met with an agent to sign the lease. The agent was going through the terms of our lease, and brought up children. It’s part of the rules, so that was fair enough. We mostly just sort of tuned it out.
He started to say something like “You guys don’t have kids yet but when you do…” I don’t remember what he said next, because I was looking at the face my BF was making (ever see a smile that’s not actually a smile? That’s the face. BF looked like he was going to bite.) The agent noticed too and quickly said, “or not.” Kids came up a few more times, but got an irritated, disinterested facial reactions from us. The agent started feeling awkward, I guess, since we didn’t appear to be interested in anything to do with kids. “You two are together, right?” He eventually asked, obviously confused.
Kids came up again as he was recapping the basic rules of the lease. My BF finally spoke up and said. “We’re not having kids.” The agent was trying to be professional, but didn’t really know how to respond.
“Ok, so you don’t plan to, but you never know. Accidents do happen. I know one guy who-”
“My medical insurance company paid a lot of money to make sure there will be no accidents.” I interrupted, referring to my recent tubal ligation. He must have felt very awkward as the matter was immediately dropped.
19 days left before my tubal ligation!
Apparently, I don’t even have to be present to be bingo-ed. Yesterday, my boyfriend told me about a conversation he’d had with an employee of a video game store. He’d gone in to return Duke Nukem Forever, on account of it being a crappy game. He must have used his store card, because the woman noticed that his birthday was coming up, and asked him what he was doing for it. He answered her that he’d be taking his girlfriend (me, of course) to the hospital.
Drawing her own conclusions, the woman asked if I was having a baby. My boyfriend answered that the truth was just the opposite, he was taking me to be sterilized. Right about at this point, as my boyfriend first told me about this story, I really wished I’d been present for the conversation. I also feel that I should point out that I don’t know this woman and she doesn’t know me.
The woman was scandalized when, after asking, she was told that I was 22 and had no kids. Her reaction was accusing my boyfriend of making me do this. “You shouldn’t make her do that!” Of course, he must be making me get sterilized. Because he can totally do that, right? I’ve seen this crap before. It’s a common cliché for anti-choice misogynists (but I repeat myself) to insist that men make their girlfriends/wives/whatever else get abortions. I mean, that has to be the case since women aren’t capable of independent thought, right?
My boyfriend pointed out the obvious, that he has nothing to do with influencing my decision to be sterilized and that it’s something I’ve wanted since before I’d even met him. Then the woman insisted that I’d regret it someday, and went on about how she didn’t want kids and then went on to have four, blah, blah, blah. I’ve heard it all before. It seems that I wasn’t the only one. I wasn’t present, but I’m sure by boyfriend was trying to be polite, as that’s his nature. Another employee saw no need to be subtle, telling his co-worker to stop trying to make everyone have kids.
His business done, my boyfriend turned to leave. The woman, however, wasn’t quite finished. “Good luck with the sterilization!” she yelled across the store, eliciting a WTF response from bystanders who weren’t in on the conversation.