Wednesday, February 23, 2005

There's a Disenfranchised Father in the "House"

I watched last night’s episode of Fox’s new series, House. In it, a young man whose kidneys are failing needs a transplant, and his wife turns out to be a match. However, she also learns she is pregnant, and thus ineligible for the surgery. She decides to have an abortion so she can save her husband with her kidney, but her husband, desperate to let his child live, tries to commit suicide to prevent it. He threatens to succeed at killing himself if they even try to abort his child. How odd. Do men actually think they have parental rights? Is it possible that we can assume a woman says “Yes” to reproduction when she says “Yes” to reproductive sex, and vice versa? I think so. And I think it is past time that we brought men back into the reproductive fold and allow them to be fathers again. (By the way, kudos to Fox on the way they handled this sensitive subject)

Years ago, I read “If Men Could Menstruate” by Gloria Steinem. At the time, I was pretty young and I thought she was clever. Okay, I was very young, and not at all bright. There is a lot to be said for getting older.

Gloria’s entire premise is that if menstruation was part of male biology, men would make it something sacred. They would boast of it, and design the world to accommodate them during their monthlies.

Suppose she’s right? Well, then, so what? This will get me in trouble, but if Gloria is right, then she is simply proving that men ARE much smarter than women. You see, men are not stupid enough to take what their bodies do biologically and degrade it like women do. We women try to deny our biological role, and say we don’t want to be enslaved by what our bodies do naturally (although strangely enough, many of these same women claim to be slaves to their biological sex drives and don't complain about that). Some women even equate pregnancy with a parasitic relationship, which makes me squirm. These women are saying that by design we are inferior because we are susceptible to invasion, and some people are listening to this as if it is truth.

If we go with Gloria’s premise that male menstruation would be something to be proud of, then it follows that men don’t struggle against their physiology. So I also take issue with Gloria’s statement that if men gave birth, abortion would be a sacrament. It makes no sense when you put it next to her first supposition about menstruation. Logically, if men would make that a beautiful thing in the world, then it follows that they would do the same with pregnancy, not abortion. Men would be smart enough to realize they are responsible for bringing the next generation safely into this world, and it isn’t likely they would subject themselves to medical interference to change that, just as, at least until very recent times, men were the last ones to subject themselves to the plastic surgeon’s knife. Historically, and as Gloria is trying to point out, men don’t seem to feel compelled to change to suit other people.

If men gave birth, they would stand around the water coolers comparing the size of their pregnant bellies. There would be pools for due dates, bragging rights about the size of the baby and the amount of weight gained during pregnancy. Large families would be proof of male virility, and they would be encouraged. It doesn’t follow that abortion would even be in the minds of men because men would be powerful and ingenious enough to manipulate their environments to accommodate pregnancy and childbirth, and not try to manipulate their own bodies to accommodate someone else’s ideal. This isn’t all my supposition. Gloria makes this point herself when she says male menstruation would lead to “…gifts, religious ceremonies, family dinners, and stag parties [that] would mark the day [menstruation begins].” So men make their bodily functions something to be proud of. Well, why wouldn’t women want to do the same?

It is unwise to think we women have liberated ourselves by insisting that only we can decide whether a child will be born. We demand the right to terminate our pregnancies at will and call it reproductive freedom. In actuality, all we have done is limit our ability to produce children at will. We are making ourselves slaves to abortion, because now we can be told all too easily that we cannot be pregnant when it interferes with the desires of others: employers, husbands, boyfriends, parents, you name it. There is no mandate that a pregnancy be brought to term. Abort it and have a child when it suits the world, not when it suits you. This is not reproductive freedom by any means, and it isn’t even control over our own bodies.

We should not be surprised then, when the predominantly male scientific community ultimately creates an entirely artificial environment in which a fetus can grow to “term.” We women will be nothing more than egg farms for the male-dominated society that determines whether, when and how children will come into the world. Perhaps then we will get some idea of what men feel now, since we have relegated them to the role of sperm-donors: “you’ll be a father when I tell you that you will be a father.” Men have become slaves to the will of women when it comes to progeny. They will not remain slaves for long, and when we are cut out of the reproductive process, perhaps we will miss what we once had and should have cherished.

In Gloria’s essay, she makes it clear she thinks men feel superior about everything they do. If so, then we can assume that men feel they know their own minds better than women. As a result, they must not be as susceptible to pressure from other people as we women are. Most abortion testimony points to at least one other person in a woman’s life who wants her to abort the pregnancy. She complies with the wishes of others in this more often than not. A man, on the other hand, would be more likely to make his own decision about his pregnancy. And since he and other men would have had the wisdom to make this world a baby-friendly place in which to live, he wouldn’t even have to consider many of the same social pressures that women face, like whether he has enough money to have a baby or can find someone to care for it.

Gloria says if men menstruated, it would become “…an enviable, worthy, masculine event,” while at the same time saying it is what makes the world perceive women as weak. Her solution to change the way the world looks at women? Well, it isn’t to make female reproduction an enviable, worthy, feminine event. No, her solution is to abort female reproduction instead. Negate it – don’t make it special - and then women won’t be held down by it. Nonsense. Take a page from the group you say has been running the world all this time, Gloria, and you might learn something.

Maybe men don’t feel enslaved by their biology because they are smart enough to realize that it degrades them to feel that way. Gloria thinks men have been holding women down, but I think it’s more likely that we hold ourselves down because we can be so horrified by our own bodies that we demand medical intervention if necessary to make these bodies accommodate the world, at all costs, instead of demanding that the world itself be changed to better accommodate our biology.


At 9:18 AM, Anonymous Peony Moss said...

I saw the ep too and was pleased.

SUPERB commentary. Thanks.

At 9:34 AM, Blogger Annie said...

I was going to blog on this episode too. I'm an avid fan of this show, even though I wouldn't really want House as my own doctor for his brashness.

No one else caught --or at least commented on-- the exchange between House and the wife of the ill ballplayer he's treating, after the man had made it clear to House he really didn't want the baby aborted. It was after he'd accidentally tipped his urine container on House's leg in grabbing him at the bedside.

House is in the hallway, telling the wife her husband will not take the kidney even if SHE wants to give it to him. She asks something like "He'd rather die?" He nods, she finally accepts this and begins to cry. In frustration, she leans on House for comfort. He awkwardly consoles her, saying almost under his breath words to the effect of, "So could you, if you went ahead with it." I took that to mean he was talking about going through with the abortion.I found that fascinating.

At 9:55 AM, Blogger Naaman said...

I don't watch "House", but I found the rest of this post fascinating.

I agree with your conclusions about Steinem's opinions of "male menstruation" and its relevance to abortion "rights" in a male-dominated society. If we men could get pregnant, I truly believe that pregnancy & childbirth would be cherished and abortion would be totally unthinkable.

I especially enjoyed your image of pregnant men standing around the water cooler and comparing the size of their big preggo bellies. Just think about how proud some men are of our beer bellies, for heaven's sake!

Have you seen "Junior"? That was a fun flick....

At 2:09 PM, Blogger Emily said...

Julie, the only criticism I have to make about you is that you don't write OFTEN enough. More! More!

I'm so glad you've embarked on this ministry, and look forward to meeting you some day.

At 9:12 AM, Blogger Silent Rain Drops said...

Aw shucks, Em. I'm blushing...

Thank you so much for your comments. I have an incredible example to follow in you and Annie.

I also hope we will meet someday - if it's still necessary, I pray it's at a March for Life. I look forward to standing shoulder to shoulder with you and other P.A. women with my own sign, "I Regret My Abortion."


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