In 2012, women’s emotions, birth control remain controversial

Apparently, women’s emotions may not be in the “best interest” of combat missions, according to Rick Santorum.

Politico has a transcript of what Santorum responded to when CNN’s John King asked him how he feels about women on the front lines of combat missions.

“Look, I want to create every opportunity for women to be able to serve this country, and they do so in an amazing and wonderful way. They’re a great addition to the – and have been for a long time – to the armed services of our country,” Santorum said. “But I do have concerns about women in frontline combat.”

He added, “I think that can be a very compromising situation, where people naturally may do things that may not be in the interests of the mission because of other types of emotions that are involved. And I think that’s probably – you know, it already happens, of course, with the camaraderie of men in combat. But I think it would be even more unique if women were in combat. I think that’s probably not in the best interests of men, women or the mission.”

*Sigh*

This comes on the heels of the U.S. Department of Defense unveiling a plan to allow thousands of women to serve in roles closer to the front lines.

Defense officials say the new rules will still mean that woman are barred from serving as infantry, armor and special operations forces — considered the most dangerous combat jobs. But the changes will open the door for more opportunities and promotions for women by allowing them to perform jobs they are already performing, but in battalions, which are closer to the fighting and once considered too dangerous for women.

A 1994 combat exclusion policy bans women from being assigned to ground combat units below the brigade level. A brigade is roughly 3,500 troops split into several battalions of about 800 soldiers each. Historically, brigades were based farther from the front lines and often include top command and support staff, while the battalions are usually in closer contact with the enemy.

In the past decade, the necessities of war propelled women into jobs such as medics, military police and intelligence officers, and they were sometimes attached — but not formally assigned — to battalions. So while a woman couldn’t be assigned as an infantryman in a battalion going out on patrol, she could fly the helicopter supporting the unit, or move in to provide medical aid if troops were injured.

I can’t help but to wonder if Santorum believes women are inherently incapable of serving on the front lines in active combat due to his belief that our roller coaster emotions make us more susceptible to making decisions that aren’t in the best interest of the military.  I guess by stability he means having soldiers who think before photographing themselves urinating on dead Taliban soldiers, pillaging Iraqi villages and raping Iraqi women before killing them.

Santorum’s comments got me thinking, though, about how women in general continue to be viewed as the weaker, less capable gender. Women’s emotions and our priorities when it comes to health care are debated and analyzed by Santorum and politicians like him as if we are the red-headed step children of real, meaty, pressing issues that plague the country.

It’s baffling that we are in the 21st century and people remain stifled in 19th and 20th century ideals and misconceptions about women, our emotions and whether or not we should have access to affordable contraception.

The very notion that a mandate is needed for women to receive health coverage for contraception demonstrates how women’s sexuality has been portrayed as immoral and how foreign women’s reproductive health has remained over the last 300 years. The idea that there are still questions from military officials and politicians on whether women possess enough control over our emotions long enough to toss a grenade behind enemy lines indicates how far we have to go to convince our male counterparts how the equal treatment and protection of women go hand-in-hand with the advancement of people as a whole.

Despite many women taking some form of birth control at one point in their lives, the controversy surrounding contraception–and whether or not health care companies should cover it–continues to wrangle politicians, religious zealots and talking heads. While these same “controversial” birth control mandates President Barack Obama ordered were in place during the Bush II years, conservative religious folks and opportunistic Republican politicians continue to raise hell about an issue one thought was settled during the 1960s and 1970s.

Women’s bodies, issues and health continue to remain in the closet for the most part, only to be dusted off and toyed with when it’s time for conservative politicos to score points with their reactionary base.

Think about the placement in stores of feminine hygiene (the fuck does that even mean) and other products that cater to women. Similar to the placement of products promoting safer sex, tampons, treatments for yeast infections, panty liners and sanitary napkins are tucked away in the far back corner of stores as if the general public should not see or reminded of their existence until, of course, women bring them into their homes. In the medical field, it’s taken doctors and cardiologists decades to finally understand that women present different symptoms of heart attacks than men, which often hindered women from receiving adequate preventative care. That lack of research and knowledge of heart disease in women has led to it being the number one killer of women.

Women serving in combat are not some foreign concept. Tens of thousands of women soldiers are risking their lives on a daily basis because they believe in protecting Americans from the threat of attacks by terrorists or other nation-states. They are not characters from a movie conjured up by fiction writers to make military service sound sexy and appetizing. Women are just as patriotic and willing to die for this country and deserve every opportunity as their male counterparts to serve equally if they so choose.

Any health care company that refuses to cover contraception is actively participating in gender discrimination. Any government bureaucrat, politician or grassroots activist who believes health care companies and religious institutions should have the right to discriminate against women by refusing to cover contraception are complicit in barring women from obtaining equal access to health services.

As someone who has taken birth control off and on for the past nine years, I can tell you I would have no way to pay for my birth control if it weren’t covered under my health insurance plan. Furthermore, certain contraceptive methods aren’t even available in generic forms, meaning many women pay up to $60 per month for certain birth control methods (I was on Loestrin 24 FE for two years and I spent $30 per month AFTER I met my yearly deductible, which took 3-4 months to do).

The right to affordable contraception isn’t some luxury add-on for women; for some, contraception actually acts as a mechanism to control painful and uncomfortable symptoms women experience throughout their menstrual cycles. For many women, access to affordable contraception allows them to control how many children they want, thus reducing the financial and emotional stress an unwanted children can introduce in a woman’s life.

It’s high time we cease with segregating women’s health, access to contraception, our bodies and hearts from the realities of the world. In a world where we teach little girls they can be whatever they choose when they reach adulthood, it’s time for society to start treating adult women as if we are not just flies on a wall in a room full of men discussing our uteri and brains.