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Feminism: Sex & gender discussions

Family planning and women's choice

6 replies

fuzzywigsmum · 04/07/2012 16:53

Just wanted to share and see what people though of this new report by ActionAid on Women's choice and family planning it's been released to coincide with a global family planning summit in London next week. What's interesting, though not surprising, is its conclusion that it doesn't matter how many contraceptive pills or condoms are supplied to women across the globe, unless unequal power relations between men and women are tackled, many women won't ever have control over their bodies and their reproductive health.

The report focusses on choices available to women in developing countries but it made me cast my mind back to my younger days and a few times when I let men have sex without a condom even after I'd asked. Makes me want to shout at my younger self, "Kick the fucker out of your bed! March him out of the door! He's not worth it!" It's scary that as an educated, apparently confident, feminist woman, I still backed down to men on something so fundamental.

But at least I wasn't being coerced with violence nor did I get pregnant or contract HIV. The stories of some of the women in this report are quite different and far more impactful.

Have a read and let me know what you think.


OP posts:
EclecticShock · 04/07/2012 19:47

I agree with the premise of the report, I haven't read the whole thing yet. I echo your sentiments about educated women in this country still not feeling comfortable with saying no to sex and yes to contraception, especially when younger. I think part of the issue is that young people do not understand the consequences of not using contraception. I'm not sure where current sex education is going wrong but I think it may in part be down to human nature to live on the moment and be gratified immediately, rather than worry about longer term consequences.

EclecticShock · 04/07/2012 19:48

The whole "it might not happen to me"...

fuzzywigsmum · 05/07/2012 10:03

I agree with you to a point Eclectic, however I do think the dominiant narrative pushed on women and girls by the media etc is that, when it comes to sex, it's their job to be available and to please men even if that means taking risks with their bodies. OK, some people get causght up in the moment sometimes but a lot of women, even in our so called equal society, don't feel empowered enough to retain control over thier own bodies.

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KRITIQ · 05/07/2012 10:15

Fuzzywig, I'd go further and say that the messages to women and girls are often diametrically opposite. On one hand, as you say, popular culture says that it's their primary purpose to be attractive, appealing and available to men.

On the other hand, they have responsibility for "managing" their sexuality and fertility, with even more mixed messages couched within that concept. They shouldn't get pregnant at the "wrong" time or with the wrong person, they can't assume contraception, abortion or fertility treatments will be available to them, they're not "real" women if they don't have children, they're "selfish" if they do so in the "wrong" circumstances, they should only have children if they're financially secure, they shouldn't "freeload" off the children's fathers, but if they work outside the home, they're depriving their children, blah, blah, blah.

Basically, can't win for losing.

rosabud · 05/07/2012 10:45

This report makes very sobering reading! Imagine lving in those circumstances! The overwhelming message was that men are in control and that women are so worthless in their own right; they are there to further the needs of the men. And if they don't like it, violence will be used almost as a matter of course. Horrible.

Although, thanks to access to education and less poverty, attitudes in the West are less extreme, there is still a sense of women being "allowed" to be equal ie we aren't really but luckily for us living in an affluent society we can have the luxury of laws etc which will portect us from violence and allow us to be educated. I can't explain this in a very academic way but I get the strong sense that whenever society talks about men helping with household chores, for example, it is because men are doing women a huge favour by changing their attitude. Thus men should not really be doing household chores. There is no sense that men should be doing household chores because otherwise they would be living in filthy houses - there is the automatic assumption that if men don't do them then, of course, they will be done by someone else - a woman. So the attitude change is thus a concession, a favour to women rather than something that should be happening as a matter of course.

I think the same is true of attitudes towards sex and responsibility for contraception etc.

But whatever the attitudes behind it, at least we are not living like those poor women in the report.

LurkingAndLearningForNow · 06/07/2012 04:28


Your post rings so, so true to me, and hits very close to home.

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