I Am Mad About A Thing: My Uncomfortably Crowded Vagina
I like my vagina. I think it’s great. I love touching it. I’m better at it than anyone else I’ve ever known, in that Biblical way, if you know what I mean. (Sex. I mean sex.) I love how it looks and feels when it’s perfectly waxed and smooth. It makes sex quite pleasant; it makes a bath fabulous. I’m also quite fond of the no-maintenance, full-on-natural, I’m-not-wearing-a-bathing-suit-for-many-months look.
I also happen to think what happens with my vagina and vagina-adjacent parts (henceforth, for reasons of simplicity and also because it’s fun to say, “vagina”) — what I put into it, take out of it, how I treat and tend to its needs, and so on — is my business. Between me and my vagina. It’s a two-party relationship (although sometimes we bring in a third), and that’s it. Just me and my vagina. And yet …
There is national fascination with my vagina, which the Supreme Court recently decided is a constitutionally protected right. Like, if you are so into my vagina that you actually have strong opinions about what I should and shouldn’t do with it, the Court says you can stand outside my doctor’s office and “counsel” me with your unsolicited opinions, even though you are not a doctor and know nothing about me or my vagina. Even though there is a law called HIPAA that protects my private medical information, including, one would think, my vagina health. All because, despite my belief that it’s just between me and my vagina, the Court says otherwise. The medical treatments women seek for their vaginas are, in fact, “matters of public concern.”
You’d think the oh-so-concerned public would want to take excellent care of this great national treasure I keep between my thighs. Doesn’t the government have a compelling interest in keeping vaginas safe and healthy, like a national park or, I don’t know, the 100 feet surrounding the Supreme Court?
Alas, no. The Supreme Court recognizes the sacred right of the public to opine on the health of my vagina while at the same time insisting that the health of my vagina isn’t really that important.
HHS asserts that the contraceptive mandate serves a variety of important interests, but many of these are couched in very broad terms, such as promoting “public health” and “gender equality.”
Public health isn’t very compelling, but gosh, public opinion sure is. (Except for the opinions of doctors who have gone to medical school and have medical degrees and have used their medical knowledge to determine some basic guidelines to improve and maintain our health. Those opinions don’t count, obviously.)
In their infinite male wisdom (minus Justice Breyer because #NotAllMen), the men of the Supreme Court have decided that because vagina-opining is so very important, my employer — not my doctor, and certainly not me — has the right to arbitrarily restrict my health care options. My employer can decide, for example, that Jesus is just all right with birth control pills, but he is not all right with other methods of birth control, like IUDs, even though they are exactly the same thing: contraception that prevents pregnancy and regulates periods.
(Yeah, I know, I said that icky word. Period. Now you’re thinking about blood and tampons and god knows what else goes on down there, no one wants to talk about that. That, unlike vaginas in general, is definitely a private matter, ew, gross. And what do periods have to do with birth control anyway, right?)
Now, some people who do not understand anything about how women’s bodies work think all this birth control “obsession” is nonsense because women can just pick up a pack of condoms at the local drug store, and voila! While condoms do prevent pregnancy, they don’t do a thing to regulate periods, which is exactly why many women, myself included, use birth control, on the advice of our doctors who are kind of like experts at this sort of thing. With the exception of the proud graduates of Acme Medical School who make up the House GOP Doctors Caucus, it is safe to assume that no doctor has ever told a patient with endometriosis, “Just put a condom on it!”
That’s not science; it’s stupid and wrong, even if you believe it. Even if you believe it sincerely. Even if you believe it sincerely in the name of Jesus. Even if you don’t believe it sincerely — because you had no problem with it until 2012 all of a sudden by total coincidence, and you have no problem making money by investing in companies that produce the very medications to which you so “sincerely” object — but you say that you believe it sincerely. It’s stupid and wrong, and you’d think being stupid and wrong would not be considered a constitutionally protected right that trumps the rights of patients to peacefully and privately go to their doctors to receive medical advice and treatment, even if those patients are women.
You’d think. But the Supreme Court, which is sort of in the business of deciding who is right and who is wrong, cannot possibly make such a determination because “it is not for us to say that their religious beliefs are mistaken or insubstantial.” Naturally, the Court reserves the right to decide mistaken or insubstantial beliefs if they involve real health care, like “the need to combat the spread of infectious diseases,” but not now, not when we’re just conversing about vaginas and the kind of “public health” you put in sarcastic, eye-rolling scare quotes.
Am I surprised that this Court, simultaneously obsessed with and dismissive of my vagina and its health and activities, believes facts don’t really matter? Nope. In the quaint old timey days of 2007, Justice Kennedy explained, in one of the most nauseating Supreme Court decisions since ever, it’s no big deal to make decisions for women about their health care, even if you have no data to support it:
While we find no reliable data to measure the phenomenon, it seems unexceptionable to conclude some women come to regret their choice to abort the infant life they once created and sustained.
Substance. Data. Facts. These things have no place in the public discourse of my vagina. Invoke the safe word “beliefs,” and all that other stuff disappears under a steaming smelly pile of, in the parlance of this very court, “argle-bargle.”
Is it any wonder that I prefer to make my health care decisions just with my doctor, thank you very much, sans the “counseling” of random strangers on the street or “sincerely held beliefs” of people who think being wrong is a religion? Is it any wonder that I question the intentions and judgment of those who think they know my vagina better than I do? Those who are quite sure they know what kind of contraception works best for my body? Those who think if I’m pregnant and want to terminate my pregnancy, I probably just don’t understand what being pregnant means, so I should have it explained to me with illustrations and sound effects, and then I should go home and think about it for 24, or 48, or 72 hours, just to make sure I understand that being pregnant means I am pregnant, and terminating my pregnancy means I am terminating my pregnancy, with which I am pregnant, since I probably didn’t understand that?
Of course I am mad. My vagina is getting uncomfortably crowded, what with all of that compelling government interest to protect me from myself, and those sincerely held religious beliefs, and the counseling, and the men telling me JUST DON’T HAVE SEX. There’s hardly room for my doctor to even get up in there to make sure my oh-so-important vagina is actually in fine working order, which I know is beside the point to everyone else taking up space for freedom and liberty and Jesus. But it’s really the only point that should matter.
You can follow Kaili Joy Gray and her vagina on Twitter.