Melissa Holzberg, a sophomore majoring in political communication, is The Hatchet’s contributing opinions editor.
Dear Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
When I saw my Facebook feed blow up with your logo on Wednesday, I at first thought it must be about something in relation to the Zika virus spreading into the United States. That would make sense, since that’s a public health crisis. But instead, I watched my friends share your announcement that women of reproductive age should not consume alcohol unless they’re on birth control.
Later that day, I saw the handy infographic you distributed that stated drinking too much for any women could result in injuries or violence, heart disease, cancer, sexually transmitted diseases, fertility problems and unintended pregnancy.
First and foremost, arguing that women drinking too much can lead to unintended pregnancy and injuries or violence is an inaccurate and sexist statistic. The CDC defined drinking too much as “eight or more drinks per week, four or more drinks in two to three hours and any alcohol use under the age of 21.” But if a woman drinking in a social environment is not the cause of sexual violence or pregnancy. Rather, sex leads to pregnancy, and non-consensual sex is rape – a form of sexual violence. Your report also does not acknowledge that there are ways to prevent sexually transmitted diseases, like condoms.
But the sake of argument, let’s assume that you meant for this announcement to remind women that drinking alcohol while pregnant can cause birth defects. You say that more than 3 million women between the ages of 15 and 44 risk exposing a fetus to alcohol because they drink, are sexually active and do not use birth control. But still, your argument is sexist, demeaning and ignores the struggles women face in society – especially college-aged women.
First of all, your infographic and report fail to acknowledge that before there’s a fetus, there has to be sex. But you still do not address men at all. That’s sexist.
Saying that sexually active women are putting their would-be children at risk by drinking without using birth control shows a general lack of understanding of contraception. Some women cannot take birth control pills for medical, religious or downright personal reasons. Many uninsured women don’t have access to affordable birth control or an intrauterine device. Plus condoms aren’t always effective, and women shouldn’t be the only party responsible for providing contraception.
Alcohol and planned sexual activity are not mutually exclusive. When I go to a party on my college campus, my first thoughts are not, “Did I take my birth control today?” or “I’m going to have sex tonight.”
This report could begin the slide down a slippery slope. Imagine a young woman going to a restaurant and ordering a glass of wine. If a waiter sees that woman is of reproductive age, or at least assumes her to be, could he ask for proof that she is on birth control?
CDC, your report isn’t wrong. Drinking during the first month of pregnancy can cause harm to the fetus. However, your messaging shifts the blame solely onto women. By implying that women should be on birth control and ignoring men, you have ignorantly furthered the argument that a woman has one purpose in life: to carry and birth a healthy child.
An offended woman who has more to offer than a womb
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