In 1995, the (New) Outer Limits television show broadcast “Lithia.” Here are the five video segments that make up this episode, for those who are interested in a science fiction allegory of the differences between men and women. Of course it’s simplistic (it’s television), but there is some food here for thought.
My mother-in-law found out last week that she has breast cancer and she was operated on yesterday. She’s the closest person to me who has had it. I guess I’ve been fortunate–or the women I know have been. It’s especially tough on my husband because his family is German and lives in northwestern Germany. We haven’t even seen them for four years and it’s been almost eight since my husband left there. It’s time, especially now, for us to plan a visit. My husband’s father and sister are there for moral support, but we wish we could be, too.
All indications are that it has been caught early. Fortunately my mother-in-law is good about regular check-ups and this was found when she last saw her doctor. Which reminds me, I’m way overdue for a mammogram. I shouldn’t take my body for granted that way. Things do happen, and they can happen to people you know, even yourself. There was one case of breast cancer in my family: my mother’s mother. But that’s it. We run more to heart disease. If I remember right, heart disease is the leading cause of death among women but breast cancer is second. Taking time out for check-ups, preventative care and screenings is a must if you don’t want to become a statistic.
Some women don’t want to go to the doctor unless they think something is wrong. That may be too late. Get a check-up and talk to your doctor about what tests you should have and when. And then get them! Don’t hold back because you’re afraid that people will think you’re a hypochondriac. Taking care of yourself is smart, not sick. And if you are having symptoms, don’t suffer in silence. And don’t be afraid that you’re tempting fate by having tests and check-ups; that’s like saying that your car might fall apart just because you had it checked out by a mechanic. The check-up itself won’t cause anything, and if there is something wrong, it can’t be fixed unless the doctor knows about it.
I have a friend who had breast cancer years ago when she was a young mother. She’s now my age (or thereabouts–I won’t put her on the spot) and she’s fine. When I walked in the Race for the Cure in May, survivors were everywhere and many people had survivors’ names written on their backs. But they also had names of those who didn’t make it. And every one of those is a story that would break your heart.
Don’t let yours become one of them. Get a mammogram! Do a self-exam! Visit your doctor! Remember, there’s always someone whose world would fall apart if you weren’t in it anymore.
Enough said (I hope!) .Now I just have to take my own advice.
From the Feminist Weekly News Digest- July 21, 2009
(put out by the Feminist Majority Foundation)
Representatives Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Judy Biggert (R-IL), and more than 50 co-sponsors reintroduced the Equal Rights Amendment today in the House of Representatives. The amendment would add the following sentence to the US Constitution: “Equality of Rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of sex”.
In a press conference this morning, Congresswoman Maloney stated, “Women have made incredible progress in the past few decades. But laws can change, government regulations can be weakened, and judicial attitudes can shift. The only way for women to achieve equality in the United States is to write it into the Constitution”.
Feminist Majority President Eleanor Smeal said, “Although women in the United States have made considerable gains in the last 40 years, we are now lagging behind the rest of the world in closing the gender gap. According to the World Economic Forum, the US ranks 31st of 128 countries overall, but 76th in educational attainment, 36th in health and survival, 69th in political empowerment, and 70th for wage equality for similar work. In the representation of women in our Congress, we rank 71st. Clearly, the US needs an Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution to help women overcome systemic sex discrimination in our nation”.
First introduced by Lucretia Mott in 1923, the Equal Rights Amendment passed through Congress in 1972 but ultimately fell just three states short of the 38 needed for ratification in 1982.
Media Resources: Feminist Daily Newswire 3/28/07, Feminist Daily Newswire 4/24/03, Congresswoman Maloney Press Release 7/21/09
Yesterday I wrote about women who put having children first or at least on an equal basis with their careers (or plain old jobs). Today I want to write about women who put off having children until it’s almost too late (or definitely too late in some people’s opinions). These are the women who are known as “elderly,” which medically means any women over 35. (What does that make women who are having children in their fifties and sixties? Senile?)
I’m all for a woman’s right to reproduce when and if she wants to. But I admit even I raised my eyebrows when I heard about the women who got pregnant (usually with their first and only child) and gave birth when they were in their late sixties. How is that even possible? Well, I found out that it’s possible with the addition of a younger woman’s egg to the brew, making the woman who gives birth totally unrelated to her child genetically. If that’s true, then why not just adopt?
Ironically, few adoption agencies would allow a woman in her late sixties to adopt a child (unless the child is also older, like 17) , but clinics (primarily in the Ukraine) will perform IVF (in vitro fertilization) for her. Some women lie about their ages, but many clinics require only willingness and good health for a woman to be considered for IVF (although most consider 50 to be a reasonable cut-off point.)
When I first heard about women in their fifties giving birth, I was amazed. When I married my husband at the age of 49, I still hadn’t gone through menopause but had had my tubes tied since I was 34. Reversal alone made it cost-prohibitive for us. Although my husband has never had children, we decided that we would let things lie the way they were.
Now I’m 57 and the thought that I could have a new baby is horrifying. My other children are all grown (and between the ages of 29 and 35) and I even have a ten-year-old grandson; would I really want to have a child who is younger than my grandchild? But what if I’d never had children? Would I feel differently then? (I might feel differently but the cost would still make it a non-option. I would rather spend the money on an adoption–there are plenty of children in the world who need loving parents.)
And yet, if a woman wants to give birth at an advanced age, who am I to say that she can’t? The argument that she may not live that long after giving birth should be a non-issue as long as we deem it okay for sixty-year-old (or older) men to father children. They are congratulated for proving that they’re still virile; women are castigated for being selfish. Again, as in so many things, the double standard.
At any rate, I have more things that I want to do with my life than spend my last years raising another child. Does that sound selfish? If it does, what does that say about what is expected of women? That they are meant to be perpetual baby-factories? That they are still supposed to be devoting themselves to their children even when those children have kids of their own? I feel that I’ve paid my motherhood dues. I will always have membership in that club, but I don’t have to be an active member anymore.
It’s my turn to grow up.
People who berate women for trying to “have it all” (as if they’re selfish and greedy) are ignoring the fact that women don’t really have as many choices as it would appear. If they put off their careers while they bear and raise children they may never get ahead. If they put off having children until they’ve established their careers, they may find that they can’t get pregnant. The obvious solution is also the most difficult: doing both at the same time.
So while it would appear that women have at least three choices, in reality society makes it hard for them to choose any of them. A childless career woman is criticized for not being maternal. A stay-at-home mom is seen as out-of-touch and unambitious. And the woman who combines care and career finds little societal support. Working mothers face the most discrimination, even more than single and childless working women. Just by virtue of being a mother, a woman is more discriminated against than any other segment of society. And if you’re a minority and a mother, forget it.
If our society truly honored mothers it would make it easier for them to do their jobs, not harder. Some would argue that no one is stopping her from staying home with her kids, but if she wants or needs to work, what good does that do her? She needs support in all areas of life: flexible working conditions, quality and affordable child care, comprehensive health coverage (for her and her children), opportunities and pay commensurate to that of men and childless women, being able to take off work to care for others without being penalized and equal leave provisions (with pay) for either parent when a child is added to the family.
And if a woman is a single mother, she has a much harder road to walk. She may not even get health insurance because she works in a low-paying, no-benefit job. She may find it difficult to find housing that is safe and clean. She has no one with which to share child-rearing and housekeeping duties. (Although even married mothers complain that they do most of the child-rearing and housekeeping anyway.) And she has no one to care about her.
According to an article (“Cyberhood is Powerful”) in the Summer 2009 issue of Ms. Magazine, mothers are beginning to band together, through blogs and political action, to seek mutual and societal support for motherhood issues. And it isn’t only working mothers who feel the need to make their voices heard. Married stay-at-home-moms are equally concerned about getting their husbands to help with the children and home, with educational and social opportunities for their children (like early childhood education), with health care coverage and with training for jobs they can do out of the home.
A society that doesn’t support mothers is a society that doesn’t care about children, because they are the ones who suffer when mothers can’t do their jobs properly, whatever those jobs might be. We need to make sure that our children are protected and encouraged so that they can grow up to be healthy, productive, caring adults. And the best way to do that is to protect and encourage their mothers.