Next time you’re wondering about the cutting edge technology of women’s heath care procedures, just ask Vito Barbieri.
The Idaho State Representative seemed to be under the impression that women can swallow a tiny camera as part of a gynaecological exam. Imagine his surprise when it was pointed out to him by Dr. Julie Madsen that, in fact, swallowed items do not end up in the vagina.
I’ll admit that, in the boredom of writing two midterm papers, this piece of unintentional humour gave me a good chuckle. A great many thoughts filled my head, including ones such as “I wonder if he has a wife…if he does then I feel pretty bad for her, as he clearly doesn’t know anything about a vagina” and “#lol #virgin”.
What’s no laughing matter is the fact that Barbieri is a known opponent of abortion, and the banter that took place was during a hearing on a bill that would “ban doctors from prescribing abortion-inducing medication through telemedicine”. In layman’s terms, it is a bill that works to restrict abortion rights, being supported by a man who obviously has no conception of the female autonomy (Barbieri later said that the question was, in fact, rhetorical, and intended to make a point…if the point was that you have no idea what you’re doing, then it was very well made).
Barbieri isn’t the only politician who is unacquainted with the female anatomy. I’m sure many people remember in 2012, when Senate candidate Todd Akin made the claim that women couldn’t get pregnant after a “legitimate rape” because “the female body has ways to try and shut the whole thing down”. Texas Representative Jodie Laubenberg was also under the impression that having access to a legal abortion was unnecessary in cases of rape because women could use rape kits, which were apparently able to “clean out” a woman (Laubenberg sponsored a bill to ban abortions after 20 weeks in Texas, because apparently rape kits are able to get the job done instead).
What’s horrifying about all these cases is that the people who are attempting to regulate women’s bodies are people who don’t have the first clue as to how they actually work. And what’s even more horrifying is that there is no reason why they shouldn’t, especially Texas Rep Laubenberg.
Laubenberg is a woman.
For men to not fully understand how a woman’s body works is one thing, but for a woman to not understand is another. This is an issue that is completely separate from the abortion debate. This has now become an issue of sex education. If we have reached a point where women can’t even conceptualize how their own bodies work, then something within our sex education system is awry.
Now I know for a lot of people, sex education was one of the more uncomfortable parts of an already awkward adolescence. However, it is something that is becoming increasingly necessary and important for kids to learn and understand. At a very basic level, it’s important for all genders to understand what genitalia is and how it works. This will lead to an understanding of safe and healthy sexual practises, which become engrained and create habits that will stay with kids as they develop. What’s unfortunate is that not everyone recognizes the value of a healthy sexual education. Over half of the states do not require sex education to be taught in schools, and many of these states also don’t provide information about HIV. In some states, if this kind of education is provided, there are no regulations that measure the accuracy of the curriculum being taught, and worse still, some states are required to include information about abstinence, but not about contraception. Perhaps the saddest statistic of all is that there are 3 states where, if education is provided, it must include only negative information on same-sex relationships. It’s also not too hard to imagine that these schools would ignore the issue of gender vs sex and what it means to be transgender. With such a rocky foundation to base their understanding upon, it’s no wonder so many people fall victim to negative facets of sexuality, or grow up with such grossly misconstrued views.
In Ontario, my home province, the sexual education curriculum has undergone an overhaul, and has been transformed for all students attending school from 2015 onwards. While parents seem to have rather mixed reviews as to the early age (Grade 1) that the program is set to start at, this facelift to a nearly 20-year old curriculum represents a step in the right direction. It is working to keep topics about sexuality current with greater emphasis on the online aspects of sexuality, as well as around the topic of consent. This curriculum also extends the sexual education process right through until grade 12.
Yes, it’s going to be awkward at first. Yes, people get uncomfortable when talking about anything to do with sex education. However I’m sure we can agree that spending a few hours every year in discomfort is slightly more appealing than having to swallow a camera to determine whether you can qualify for an abortion. As long as it’s done properly, sex education offers tremendous benefits, and can provide a foundation of knowledge, understanding, and (stemming from this) respect for all genders and people of all sexualities.