I am pissed off.
Not only am I afflicted with the chapped lips FROM HELL (my already prominent lips have swelled up in different places and cracked so terribly that I look like one of those women with a botched lip job, and I’ve got the temper to match) but I’ve been reading stuff online that’s made my blood boil to the temperature of molten lava.
I’m talking about writer Holly Brockwell, a 30-year-old woman who has only just been granted (and finally received) the right to be sterilised on the NHS.
She was 26 when she first asked doctors to sterilise her because she knew she would never want children. But she was repeatedly told by her GP that she was way too young to take “such drastic action” and was never even granted a referral to see a specialist. One doctor even suggested that her partner should think of a vasectomy even though he is two years younger than Brockwell (can anyone say ‘double standards’?).
Writing in The Mail on Sunday, Brockwell said: “By the time you read this, I will be just waking up – still a little groggy and sore, but euphoric. Because for the first time in my life, today I know for certain that I will never have children.”
Speaking about her four year battle she added: “I’ve been patronised, ignored, harassed, judged and demonised, but I’ve never wavered in my determination to be sterilised.”
Whether you agree with Brockwell or not – some are arguing that, at a time where the NHS is struggling, it should not be funding something that isn’t considered a ‘necessary’ surgery (I am firmly – and vocally – pro her decision and the surgery) – this campaign has highlighted a much wider problem where women are constantly vilified for taking ownership of their own bodies; vilified for asking for what they want and going for it.
Now before anyone starts, this isn’t an anti-male thing. On the contrary, Brockwell’s boyfriend fully supported her decision, and there have been many vocal male proponents of her campaign and her decision.
It’s a societal thing. In a culture of slut-shaming, the desire to police women’s bodies has become worrisome and all too prevalent.
Women who enjoy sex are sluts. Women who don’t take men up on their offers of sex are frigid. Women who don’t marry are ‘spinsters’ and ‘sad’. Women who don’t want children are ‘evil’ and ‘unnatural’. Women who talk about their vaginas/ovaries AT ANY POINT are obviously the anti-christ and must be silenced.
And then there’s the problem of being seen as ‘brave’. Brockwell joked on Twitter: “Some people seem to take me as the Mockingjay of some anti-parent, anti-natalist movement. Nope. I’m for people doing what’s right for them.”
Bravery implies someone is doing something that no-one else thinks is doable. Speaking out against any prejudice – and I am sorry, read the comments on all her articles and social media posts before you argue that many people are not prejudiced towards a woman who doesn’t want to have a child – should be normalised. More people should be doing it.
While we should all take what ‘people on social media’ (for some reason, we are allowed to separate them from the real world) say with a truckload full of salt, it’s odd to think that people are taking time out of their lives to hunt Brockwell down and abuse her.
Because that’s what it is. It’s abuse.
She is being called ‘evil,’ ‘attention seeking’ and, my personal favourite, ‘a gobshite’ (more people need to bring back this word). It’s mind-blowing – and unfathomable – to me that so many people are offended by one woman’s decision regarding her reproductive future. Ridiculous that people are so concerned with this woman’s fallopian tubes.
As I sit here, with my pout covered in Blistex and sipping drinks through a straw, I’m in the right irritated frame of mind to think back to all the times I’ve felt as though my choices and opinions have fallen on judgmental ears.
During harmless conversations with work colleagues I have been laughed at and told I am too young to understand what I want for the future (I am 30). That as a single woman, I may feel differently when I meet ‘the man of my dreams’ (the last time I checked this was NOT a Disney film or else I would have a perfectly lush pout and woodland creatures to clean the house) and will fall over myself to reproduce.
Perhaps this is true. Perhaps.
I have been branded ‘selfish’ for not wanting to have children. “But who’s going to look after you in your old age?’ one objector said in the same breath as calling me self-interested. I stayed quiet, not wanting to begin an argument I knew I couldn’t win. I’ve had having the same dispute umpteen times before and it has always ended the same way.
What I really wanted to say was that creating a child to ensure free healthcare when you’re elderly seems like the ultimate selfish reason to pop out some kids. Or is that just my warped brain?
I was lucky enough to be born to a mum who really wanted me, although she’s been vocal that at times it was difficult having two children. She is fully supportive – as is my father – of my hesitancy towards ever becoming a mother. They do not pressure me for grandchildren, rather they let me make my own decisions and my own mistakes, and for this I am extremely grateful.
I am by no means berating women who choose to have children. Some of my best friends have – or desire – children and I admire their commitment and love in this endeavour. It is truly wonderful to bear witness to such unconditional love and I support these women wholeheartedly. It is, however, not a selfless act to have children. It is a choice.
All I’m saying is, just like crop tops or spicy food, they are not suited to everyone. Just because someone’s life choices or opinions are different to yours, it does not make them any less valid.
It’s really not complicated. We learned this basic human knowledge when we were kids.
It’s Not Grim Up North is Emma Yates-Badley’s blog for Northern Soul. It documents her thoughts and her rekindled love affair with the city of Manchester.