Male Privilege and the Birth Control Debate

"Excuse me, your male privilege is showing." This is what I've been screaming at the TV in the past few days of this debate over providing no-cost contraceptive coverage to women. I've seen argument after argument talking about how this ruling infringes on religious liberty, and how the Catholic Church is very much against this rule. And most of the talking heads I've seen making these arguments have been men.

I'm not going to get into an argument about religious liberty. Suffice to say that I think the initial rule issued by the administration addressed this topic sufficiently. But what I want to discuss is how the thoughts of a few men are not representative of the general population. My Think Progress colleagues just released a report showing that my perceptions were indeed reality. The majority of people speaking about this rule have been men; they made up 60 percent of MSNBC's guests and 65 percent of Fox News Channel's guests on this topic. It was painful to watch hosts like Joe Scarborough go on and on about the rule with his panel of mostly men, getting many of their facts wrong. Also, the last time I checked, men cannot give birth. That's not to say that they don't have a vested interest in the issue, because obviously they do. But they don't get to speak with absolute authority about something they never personally experience.

But most infuriating to me has been the callous way people say this isn't really that much of an issue. There is this perception out there that birth control is easily available and affordable to all women, so why is this even an issue of importance? And that's what makes me want to throw a brick through the television. Please please, try to hide your privilege a little bit. Yes, maybe to you, me and our peers, birth control is pretty affordable. Chances are that it's covered under your plans just like mine. And chances are, Mr. Doubter, that you aren't struggling to make ends meet or working minimum wage somewhere. It's pretty damned arrogant for you to assume that everyone out there has the same access to care that you do, so therefore, this isn't important. I'm sure no members of congress would say something like this... OH WAIT. Republican Tom Price (GA), the 5th highest ranking Republican in the house, said just that, claiming that "not one woman" has been left behind because they weren't able to afford birth control when in fact more than half of women 18-34 have struggled to pay for birth control.

Is he really that ignorant? Either way, it's ridiculous and illustrates the difficulty of having a real dialogue about this issue. If people can't get the basic facts right because they can't see beyond their own circumstances, debating them is less fun than banging your head against the wall.

Daniella Gibbs Leger is the Vice President for New American Communities Initiatives at the Center for American Progress.