Health / Politics / Reproductive Rights / Women and Gender

HPV Day and How Bachmann & Perry HPV Vaccine Debate Proves Neither Candidate Gives a Shit About Women’s Health

While I’m a novice political wonk, I’ve been resisting writing about the presidential campaigns of conservative douchebags Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and Governor Rick Perry. Listening to their sexist, racist, ignorant rants makes me want to claw my ear drums out. But hiding my head in the sand isn’t going to make them go away. Although I wish to god it would. But I can’t keep silent about this.

On Monday night, Bachmann lambasted Perry at the GOP presidential debate for his surprising support of the HPV vaccine Gardasil. In 2007, Perry issued an “executive order mandating that female students in Texas be vaccinated against human papillomavirus (HPV) before entering the sixth grade.”

Bachmann sanctimoniously declared:

“I’m a mom. And I’m a mom of three children. To have innocent little 12-year-old girls be forced to have a government injection thru an executive order is just flat out wrong.”

Um, yeah no. Trying to protect young women’s health and save lives isn’t wrong.

While this certainly wasn’t her intent, Bachmann’s disapproval sheds light on the fact that Perry didn’t (and doesn’t) really give a shit about women’s health. More than likely, Perry supported the HPV vaccine to garner campaign donations from pharmaceutical company Merck, who happen to be the makers of Gardasil. A dude who supports Ohio’s “Heartbeat Bill,” abstinence-only education, forced sonograms and stripping access to abortion is no friend to women and no reproductive rights ally.

Social conservatives,’ like Bachmann (and now Perry as he seems to have backpedaled on his earlier decision), condemnation of an HPV vaccine reeks of the same misogynistic bullshit that accompanies attacks on birth control, abortion and women’s healthcare. Too many asshats compulsively obsess over controlling women’s sexuality and reproduction, and punishing those for their sexuality.

HPV, which has no cure, can lead to cervical cancer. People usually contract the virus through sexual contact, part of the ridiculous reason detractors of the HPV vaccine got up in arms about administering it to girls as they claim it would condone sexual activity. But it’s to PREVENT the virus BEFORE they’re sexually active. And I seriously doubt these same people claiming to care about children would freak out about flu shots or tetanus, measles and polio vaccines. A medical condition is a medical condition.

The majority of the population has or will have HPV. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC),

“HPV is so common that at least 50% of sexually active men and women get it at some point in their lives.”

Jill Filipovic at Feministe pointed out that writer Ayelet Waldman (one of my friend Sarah H.’s fave authors) faced ridicule and scorn for tweeting about her own experience contracting HPV from her husband, writer Michael Chabon. Foster Kamer at the New York Observer said Waldman’s revelation was “oversharing.” I say fuck that. This is a real disease that happens to real people. No one should be made to feel mortified for a medical condition.

I’m a firm believer in speaking up about our experiences. We shouldn’t be silent about our health or our choices. Jen Doll at The Village Voice proclaimed today HPV Day. Share your experiences if you’ve had or have HPV. Blog, tweet and post on Facebook. Speak out about this sexist nonsense. Oh, men can incessantly chatter on and on about their erectile dysfunction and that’s not TMI but women talking about HPV is?! Spare me.

Let’s speak out; it’s time we made our voices heard. Our health shouldn’t be a source of shame. Those opposed to HPV vaccines and reproductive healthcare are the ones who should hide their hides in shame.

Follow the HPV Day tweets at #HPVDay.

Rick Perry’s HPV Vaccine Mandate – The Colbert …, posted with vodpod

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7 thoughts on “HPV Day and How Bachmann & Perry HPV Vaccine Debate Proves Neither Candidate Gives a Shit About Women’s Health

  1. “Oh, men can incessantly chatter on and on about their erectile dysfunction and that’s not TMI but women talking about HPV is?! Spare me.”

    I object to the way you are making this point. Men are already shamed for talking about their health issues and this is this sort of shaming that you rail against in your article.

    That said I am a strong supporter of the HPV vaccine. Even if you just look at as a simple utility argument it make so much sense for everybody (male and female) to have the vaccine. The risk and investment is low, the risk if the investment is not made is high. We have wiped out so many diseases in the last 100 years by vaccination lets try adding HPV to the list.

    • Thank you for pointing out that men face stigma in sharing their health problems. I apologize if I offended you. My intention was not to shame men but rather to illuminate the glaring patriarchal sexism prevalent in health debates, which pisses me off. Viagra is covered by health insurance and yet people have fought tooth and nail to get reproductive health services and medications insured. Many male politicians have supported men’s health yet have had no compunctions defunding women’s heath services.

  2. “it’s to PREVENT the virus BEFORE they’re sexually active”

    HPV is a virus that the majority of the population harbors in their body. Certain types of HPV are sexually transmitted. A comparitively small number of those types are “high risk” for the development of cervical cancer. Your statement should be corrected to read, It is to prevent the transmission of HPV WHEN THEY BECOME sexually active, since that is the only route of transmission of the types of HPV that cause cervical cancer. Your erroneous statement could lead an adolescent into a false sense of security that they won’t contract sexually transmitted HPV if they are vaccinated, which is not the case. It also gives them one less reason to be discriminating about sexual partners, and to consider the benefits of monogamy when discussed in terms of STD’s.

    Too many people worship at the alter of vaccinations, and believe that the eradication of most disease is due to their widespread use. Careful research would indicate that advances in sanitation and medical technology were primarily responsible for the disappearance of many diseases, even before vaccinations were developed for them.

    Also – you are so adamant that choice be preserved. Why would you infringe on someone’s individual right to choose whether or not they want a vaccination? HPV is not comparable to diseases that are contracted by unwitting, unknown exposure to viruses/bacteria. Sexual intercourse is typically a conscious decision, that should involve personal responsibility. If someone knows they are not going to engage in sexual relations with at risk partners, or engage in sexual relations period, why should they be forced to be vaccinated for a sexually transmitted disease? Keep my hands off your uterus? Keep your needles out of my skin.

  3. Many people, both liberal and conservative, have found me to be one of the more open-minded people they have encountered throughout the course of their lives. That being said, I have little tolerance for extremism and your blatant use of emotional terminology to shame a group of people who don’t agree with you. I am an independent concerning some situations, but very conservative in most. Some subjects take me to libertarianism, as well. Regardless, a mature adult discusses and criticizes. They don’t shame, insult and damn the very names of others.

    I am inclined to agree with you, concerning the issues with women’s health. I find it to be a very necessary action to vaccinate young woman against a potentially deadly disease, as needed. It’s the right thing to do.

    However, this vaccine should not be given at the expense of taxpayer money. It is the responsibility of the mother and father to build a life for their families through hard work and financial balance, and ensuring that they are covered in the necessary healthcare to provide for their children is part of that.

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