Tuesday, March 6, 2012

On Owning Who You Are

There are many things I am (in no particular order): A woman. A mother. A wife. A daughter. A sister. A friend. A Christian. A singer. Funny. Intelligent. Caring. Sensitive. Strong. Assertive. Human. Selfish. Weak in the face of popcorn or a good piece of carmel and chocolate candy.

I could go on, but the point is there are a lot of things that I KNOW I am, and I am willing to own all of these things, good and bad. No one is perfect, no one is all bad. At least I choose to HOPE that no one is all bad. Let's say we do not have to be defined by only the good or the bad in ourselves. We can always rise above the very worst thing we have ever done or thought, and we will always fall below the very best thing that we have ever done or thought. It is the way of being a human. We are flawed creatures, and if we are doing our jobs, we are on a never ending quest to be better than we were yesterday. Or even earlier today. We will fail, but we cannot let that define us. We need to accept that we will fail miserably sometimes, but also revel in that we will succeed spectacularly too.

The flip side to knowing who you are is being aware of the messages that we are given by others, whether that is delivered by an individual, an organization, or some subset of society. Some of these messages are positive, but unfortunately more often than not it is negative in its connotation.

Messages I have received over my life from others:

- The most important person in my life should be me. Delivered by my viola teacher of a few years, who was an ancient, small Italian man. He was also the first person to suggest that I needed to FEEL the music as much as know the notes.

- "You are a know it all." Delivered by the mother of a boyfriend. Not surprisingly that relationship did not last.

- "Men need to feel needed in a practical sense. You are too self sufficient, men won't feel needed by you so it will be harder for you to find a man." Delivered by a male VP of Student Services at my first full time job after grad school.

- As a woman the most important things I can hope to accomplish is becoming a wife and mother. Delivered in a variety of ways, by a variety of people in college as an undergrad, and in various churches I have attended in my life.

- "You are doing a good job." Delivered by my dad, to me, as he was saying goodbye to me the last time we visited my parents. He was referring mostly to how I am doing with Cooper. And I appreciated the unsolicited feedback!

There have been many other, positive messaged, delivered to me over time by a variety of people. My mother is a constant source of positive reinforcement, as are many of my friends. Many times it is not what a person says, but how they treat you that sends the message. And often the message is not about YOU, but about themselves, and the values THEY hold. When that guy that cheated on me, I realized much later that it had nothing to do with how he felt about me, or even my value as a person. It spoke volumes though about his own self esteem, his own value system.

You cannot make a person believe something, you cannot make them feel something. You can however, live your life according to your own values, bearing witness to your own belief system and own your own power. If people get who you are and value that, BONUS. If they don't, it is their loss. But mostly, we need to own who we are and be proud of what we have accomplished.

Recently we have been hearing a lot about the debate around whether or not certain organizations should be required to offer coverage for contraception when it is in direct contrast to their religious belief system to use contraception. The current administration in the oval office has mandated that all insurance companies must either carry it as a covered expense, or make it available to women free of charge if the company for whom the woman works refuses to offer it as a covered medication.

In 2012 we are actually having this conversation. It baffles me. Back in 1992, when I was working for the state of New York at a college, contraception was not a covered prescription. Not because the state of NY had any religious or moral stand against it. I perceived it as one of those medications that society was only beginning to acknowledge as medically necessary, not an arbitrary, whimsical choice made by only loose women looking to satiate their carnal instincts. As an employee of the state, I was also a member of a bargaining unit, or union. I would attend the meetings for the staff union, and one day the meeting involved discussing medical coverage. The gentleman who was our union rep said if anyone had any questions or concerns about what our insurance did or did not cover, to let him know and it would be taken to the higher ups and possibly negotiated into our coverage.

In looking back, I feel a little badly for this guy, who was my senior by easily 30 years and who most assuredly did not want to have a conversation about birth control with this 24 year old woman. But to his credit, he did have that conversation. I did not bring it up in the meeting, I caught him afterward, and explained that I felt very strongly that he advocate on behalf of all of the female employees that oral contraception be added to the prescription coverage. I explained that the cost to the insurance company, and consequently to the state and college was far less for the medication than it would be to deal with unexpected pregnancies or other physical ramifications of not being on the pill. I explained that I took this medication for reasons other than pregnancy prevention, which were legitimate and medically diagnosed reasons. My doctor prescribes this medication for me, it should be covered.

He did his job as a union rep, and before my 3.5 years were over at that particular job, oral contraception was added to the prescription medication coverage. TWENTY YEARS LATER I cannot for the life of me understand how we have come back full circle to this conversation.

I understand that from a religious stand point, some organizations, like the Catholic church, do not condone the use of contraception. But that should have nothing to do with whether or not an insurance company covers it. If you as a priest believe that your flock should not be using contraception, it is your job to preach that message, to counsel and advise your community. And then it is up to the individual to decide what to do based on their own relationship with their God. It is not something that should be regulated via the insurance company.

This discussion is disturbing to me because it says a lot about how far we have NOT come as a society with regard to how we view women and women's health concerns. The Catholic church does not have any problem covering Viagra as a prescription, but won't cover contraception. Men get to have their medically induced, church sanctioned hard on, but women are not allowed to have a medication that will allow them to prevent pregnancies after having to deal with those hard ons. Women are being told that if you need to be on oral contraception to prevent ovulation so that you reduce the risk of ovarian cancer, too bad. Ovarian cysts, so what. PMS? It is all in your head anyway. Oh, you might die from the HELLP syndrome or pre-eclampsia? TOO BAD.

As women we should be PISSED OFF. We should be raging mad. We should be demanding equal and fair consideration for all of our medical and health concerns. And above all, we should not tolerate people suggesting that the only reason a woman would want contraception is because she is a slut and a prostitute. People also need to be clear on the kinds of contraception available. Most that are used regularly prevent ovulation, which means that fertilization is not possible because eggs are never released. Taking oral contraception is not akin to abortion. We are not baby killers.

It is astounding to me the anger and hostility this conversation brings out in people. But we cannot stop the fight because people get nasty. We know who we are. We know that we deserve equal and fair treatment. We need to own that.


Bob Tanski said...


Pish Posh said...


Okay so I had a long thoughtful comment last week to post on this but I couldn't figure out how to comment.

I agree that no matter the beliefs and values involved - the insurance companies should provide health coverage to EVERYONE. I'm really upset about this issue.