BY RILEY FANNING
In 2016, the notion that women are people with inherent value and the cognitive ability to make individual life choices is seemingly elusive. A recent report done by the Center for Disease Control ignited controversy through its somewhat condescending suggestion that women should not consume alcohol when not using birth control.
The report displayed a helpful little infographic depicting the scary consequences alcohol could have on women including, “injuries/violence, heart disease, cancer, sexually transmitted diseases, fertility problems and unintended pregnancy.”
While some of these are valid medical points, very few people are not aware that drinking alcohol gave women STD’s. Oh right, because it does not. The infographic is actually referring to a completely hypothetical situation in which the woman in question gets drunk, has a sexual encounter with a stranger and ends up in need of some prescription antibiotics.
The report also warned about the dangers of fetal alcohol syndrome, a disorder that occurs when a fetus sustains physical and mental damage due alcohol exposure while in the womb. This information is not what was inflammatory, rather it was the patronizing tone of the advice. What the CDC suggests is that women who are not on birth control, and who are sexually active should completely refrain from drinking on the off chance they are possibly pregnant and unaware.
The idea of basing one’s life choices around theoretical babies is absurd. Women are not vessels waiting for their true purpose of motherhood. In fact, they are actually individual human beings with complex lives and the ability to make decisions about their own rate of alcohol consumption.
Another confusing aspect of this report is its necessity in the first place- none of this information is new or revolutionary. The fact that alcohol is harmful to a fetus is well known and widely supported which means the CDC should absolutely recommend that women stop drinking when they are “actually” pregnant.
What becomes an issue is when the government patronizes women with extremist rhetoric based on dated ideology. The notion that sexually active woman should not drink because it could possibly lead to her being unknowingly pregnant, and then accidentally giving the unknown hypothetical child fetal alcohol syndrome is quite a stretch.
The logic is flimsy and could be compared to almost any risk in life. No one avoids crossing the street because a speeding car could potentially hit them. Basing all your decisions in life off of the conceivable bad outcomes is unreasonable.
Where is the male equivalent CDC report chastising men about the dangers of alcohol and how it could lead to violence and assault? Women surely cannot be the only members of the human race negatively impacted by alcohol, and yet they are the ones being targeted.
The CDC most definitely did not intend to cause such dispute, but gender specific issues are volatile in nature. It is always best to tread lightly and consider the implications of gendered statements. Both men and women drink, and it takes two to conceive a child, yet we still see a shaming of only women and their behaviors.
The undue proclamation that women cannot drink when not using birth control is completely archaic, dripping with the same old patriarchal nonsense wrapped up in shiny new packaging.