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The Pill and Female Chauvinism: Part II
July 14, 2004
by K. C. Wilson

Last week I wrote about a fairly good "American Experience" program on PBS on the introduction of The (birth control) Pill in the 1950s. But I am using the fact it was a good representation of basic American experience and attitudes, and not particularly driven by gender politics, to highlight common, underlying female chauvinisms.

It began by covering the existing opposition to any contraception and the consequential oppression to mothers in having no choice but to bear and raise an endless stream of babies, and the many who died giving birth. No mention was made of the equal strain upon fathers, nor the larger numbers of fathers killed every day on the job, many working beyond their abilities exactly because of the financial demands of the same endless stream.

It was not couples and families who were oppressed. Only women. It was not couples and families who were liberated by greater control over the number and timing of children. Only women. Pregnancy and children are about women and have nothing to do with men.

It didn't end with female self-centeredness.

This was supposed to be a program on the social changes wrought by The Pill. How did they miss the sudden increase of women's power over men? "Is my wife still taking the pill?" All men are now at the mercy of whatever their wife or girlfriend wants, with or without regard for them. Birth control is no longer joint, but entirely in one partner's hands.

Is the number of victims insignificant? Perhaps the producers never heard of the Office of Child Support Enforcement, whose job is exactly to hound men for what, in many cases, are unwanted or unplanned children. Unplanned by the fathers, however much by the mothers.

(Interesting how, now, men are punished for what only women control.)

There may not have been much reduction in unwanted children, only those unwanted by women.

How could one of the most profound social impacts have been ignored? Talk about female chauvinism. If PBS wishes to cover the American Experience, I believe America still consists of some men.

Finally, the inevitable, ultimate howler.

"With the pill, women were finally free to have sex without fear of pregnancy, just like men always had."

Just like men always had? Men have sex without regard for pregnancy and have no stake in children?

Women have always been able to "walk away" via adoption and abortion. Men have never been able to unless willing to live as a criminal. Now, women have even more choices; men, even fewer.

You say men can walk out on their family, and many have? So have many women, probably in equal numbers, and I know of cases where she gets child support while having nothing to do with the children. There is no difference in options here, only in one gender's stereotype of the other.

This female notion that men have no stake in nor regard for pregnancy and never have -- that men have always been able to "walk away," and "it's not men who get pregnant" -- not only shows a shocking lack of knowledge of men and society, even a belief that men are not human, but is the still pervasive female mentality of keeping children to themselves. Only women have children, not men. Men have no stake in pregnancy and children; those are women's issues. And to reinforce our self-serving beliefs, we'll insist they have sex without regard for pregnancy whether they really do, ever have, or not.

We know how self-fulfilling this is. It is a woman's perception (or desire), not a man's, and not even all women are this selfish.

But PBS is.

PBS usually rightly prides itself in open and fair mindedness. I think it would be worthwhile for everyone inclined to write a polite letter to one or both of the parties involved in producing this program. A letter could point out that The Pill had both similar and different impacts upon men, which they failed to mention, and address their buttressing of Victorian notions that pregnancy and children belong only to women, which has acted as a terrible barrier and life-destroyer for millions of men and children.

Steward / Gazit Productions of NYC created and produced the program (and many for PBS), and WGBH, the Boston PBS, puts the American Experience series together. It was aired throughout most of the US on March 22, 2004, but your local PBS may re-broadcast it at any time.

American Experience
125 Western Ave.
Boston, MA 02134
Executive Producer: Mark Samels
Series Editor: Sharon Grimberge

Steward / Gazit Productions Inc.
245 W 107th St.
New York, NY 10025
Producer: Chana Gazit
Co-producer: David Steward

Copyright © 2004 K.C.Wilson. K.C. Wilson is the author of Co-parenting for Everyone, Male Nurturing, and other books on family and men's issues, available as e-books at http://harbpress.com.

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