As we watch the all-male commentary on television news that comes to us from the campaign trail, from Congressional hearings on sexual violence, or Sunday sermons from the fundamentalist preachers, almost any woman is moved to ask -- "Whaaaat?"
The truth is slowly dawning on American women that those dear men, perhaps husbands, fathers, or grandfathers, are demonstrating a lack in their education, specifically in their sex-ed, whether it was taught to them by their own fathers, older brothers, or the big boys who stood out on the street corners of their home towns. The poor fellows simply don't know any better! However, they are more than happy to display their ignorance at every opportunity. All one has to do is to stick a microphone in their faces and start asking them questions about some of the foremost debates of the day.
Thus, this old lady, being immune to the fear of death and too jaded to worry about any retaliation, will undertake the task of informing them of those lessons they missed. First, they are not to blame. Traditionally, the sex education of boys has fallen to either fathers or gym coaches -- most of whom suffered from the same ignorance of the subject or were too embarrassed to discuss the topic with the wide-open and expectant faces of the pubescent boys who were so eager to learn. I'm not talking about the "how-to" of the subect. That comes naturally and few boys require any assistance in mastering it.
Where these informal lessons in human sexuality fall short is in the area of the internal mechanisms where all the important stuff happens. The basics of their knowledge is that girls and women possess eggs which grow into babies whenever they have sex with boys. That, too, is too basic to create any real understanding between the sexes and so, I shall follow the KISS method to explain in words they can fully understand -- Keeping It Simple, Stupid...
Let's start with the egg. And let's make it an egg that we all understand, the chicken egg which so many enjoy for breakfast. In the body of the tiniest baby female chicken, there are, perhaps, thousands of eggs which mature in sufficient order that one is expelled every day. Now, if not fertilized, an egg is just an egg. You may keep it, or warm it up, put it in an incubator and it will turn into nothing but a rotten egg! There is no life in there!
If there is a rooster in the flock, he will work overtime to be sure that every egg has been treated to a visit by one of the little "wrigglers" that live in his sperm. If the next egg in line is in the right stage of development, the little wriggler will penetrate the egg and it will become fertile. Voila! There is now "life" in it!
If kept warm, as in a nest or incubator, it will grow until it is strong enough to break the shell and emerge as a baby chicken! But, if it is kept cool, even after a few days, it will still be breakfast. True, once it has been fertilized, there is life in there. Are we "sinning" if eat that egg for breakfast or are we just eating chicken?
Similarly, every baby girl is born with every egg she will ever have, already in her tiny body, and these eggs are programmed to be released every 28 days once the girl gains puberty. If something is wrong and she doesn't have an adequate supply of eggs or if she is exposed to radiation or another element which can destroy the eggs, she will never be able to produce children. Otherwise, she can give birth to child after child so long as the supply remains constant until well into her middle years. In years gone by, families in which the number of children reached the teens was not uncommon.
This process is inexorable and there is not, anywhere, an "off" button which will stop it short of major surgery. The first little wriggler to get there wins the honor of making the egg his home for a time and being expelled as a living human being. Thus, the only "life" to be found in a human egg is that which is put there by a male of the species. It matters not if the sex itself is consensual or forced, with a legal husband, a stranger or, even, a father.
In the last half century, immense strides have been taken in developing methods to control this whole process without having reached perfection in those areas that can be controlled by women. Initially, there was the condom which is under the total conrol of men, and many men do not like them or refuse to be bothered with them at all. To date, the only method with perfect results is the surgical vasectomy which removes the pathway to the outside world and keeps the little wrigglers from escaping in search of a new home. This not popular with men because they fear that it "endangers their manhood," an idea that is no more true than that menopause or hysterectomy makes a woman no longer female. (Huh?)
The other methods that are available are those which attempt to strengthen the resistance of the egg to the sperm or to prevent the fertilized egg from attaching to the uterine wall, thus allowing it to be expelled with the next menstrual flow. However, science is still struggling with the problem and will one day conquer it. None of these methods are foolproof and none of them will be unless used religiously and so there are times when a woman may be vulnerable to pregnancy. This could be due to failure to follow the chosen birth control regimen or -- and more likely -- having un-planned sex with or without their consent.
For a woman, pregnancy is a life-altering condition, whereas a man can simply walk away unfettered should he choose to do so. But decisions for a woman are limited. In most cases, the woman is involved in or anticipaing a happy marriage where a child is welcomed and well cared for as she defers her other ambitions in order to give her child the care it needs. This is not necessarily true for a young woman who is persuaded by a passionate boyfriend to submit to his sexual desires, much less for one who has been violently confronted by a rapist or for a little girl who is victimized be a trusted "uncle" or a "loving" father.
What is a woman -- or even a girl -- to do to care for a child that is handicapped due to in-breeding or even one whose father she doesn't even know and who has vanished into the wind, leaving her to deal with the interruption of her education and to be condemned to a lifetime of poverty due to her inability to support that child due to her lack of resources? She will be ostracized by a society composed of the opinions of those same Old Graybeards who are so willing to limit her choices according to their own moral code. In the event that she cannot provide sufficient support for herself and her child, she may be forced to apply for public welfare. Perhaps, after disclosing everything about herself to an unsympathetic worker, she will receive a puny stipend. Then, when she listens to the news, she will hear herself being blamed for "excessive government spending."
As a "senior woman" who has spent a lifetime in service to the truy needy, I would love to have those men in a classrom or, better still, in a one-on-one conversation where their questions could be answered and their objections revealed as the junk science that they are.
I am sure of one thing: these men would never again be seen in Congressional hearings or on the campaign trail making comments that have no basis in fact and which so blatantly declare their own ignorance.
This writer is eighty years old and has spent a half century working with handicapped and deprived people and advocating on their behalf while caring for her own workung-class family. She spends her "Sunset Years" in writing and struggling with The (more...