By Naomi Lakritz, Calgary Herald
Anyone looking for a medieval mindset towards women needn’t seek as far afield as the radical Muslim cultures which are usually held up as exemplars of same. The mindset exists right here in Canada, among those who would deny the Gardasil vaccine to young girls, to prevent cervical cancer. The double standard towards girls is sickening. The attitude seems to translate thus: If a girl is given the vaccine, then OMG! She might do IT. And if she does IT outside the confines of what is prescribed as proper behaviour for females, but which, of course, applies in no way to males, then she risks getting cancer. Too bad. That’ll teach her. Be a “good” girl–or die.
Why is this a double standard? Because the hepatitis B vaccine is administered in schools and nary a peep is heard about how boys shouldn’t receive it lest it cause them to rush out and do drugs, share dirty needles and have sex with drug addicts who could pass the disease on to them. Nope, not a word about any of that. Apparently, boys can be trusted to understand that immunization is just good public health practice. Or else they don’t deserve to be punished by disease and death for their follies. But girls are mindless twits with zero personhood, no thoughts, no values, no higher aspirations and no interest beyond hurrying off to get laid, thanks to the blessings of modern medicine. Others (read:men) must make decisions for women’s sexuality and wellbeing, and protect the silly geese from themselves.
Yet, it’s still OK for girls to get the hepatitis B shot without fear that it will make them promiscuous. Why is this particular vaccine not an issue? Because boys are also immunized and the vaccine can’t very well be denied to one gender. So nothing is said about it. However, a vaccine that prevents a disease exclusive to females is nothing short of licentious, and turns a girl’s private choice to have sex into the public business of pontificating, controlling middle-aged males. A boy is not subject to such control or such a prurient interest in his behaviour.
Gardasil is a public health measure. Cervical cancer is a killer disease. No disease should ever carry a moral or judgmental label. If there were a vaccine for syphilis, chlamydia or gonorrhea, would it be withheld from people so as to control them, too? If sexual behaviour caused testicular cancer, would anyone argue that boys shouldn’t enjoy a vaccine’s protection? I doubt it.
Here’s one more aspect of the double standard. While the boy is out sowing his wild oats (to use the Victorian lingo), he picks up the human papilloma virus. Then he marries a girl who is not promiscuous and has never been vaccinated. She gets cervical cancer and dies. Oh, and she goes through agonies before she dies. She is twice victimized, first by the medieval hysteria that the idea of her having sex engenders, and second by the man who passes the virus on to her and kills her.
Comment from Leslie
Agree with the social/political premise of the victimization of women – but not the support of the HPV vaccine.