As a 31 year old woman, I just tried to tell my Dad about some of the reproductive problems I have been experiencing over the last year. After finally seeing a specialist I thought it was time to share the problem, as after months of pain and years of issues it is looking like Endometriosis. He didn’t even turn down the TV to hear it or look at me, let alone offer sympathy. He simply asked, and have you been diagnosed? And was immediately dismissive when I explained the risk of making the condition worse that comes with keyhole surgery required to do this. And when I explained that the only offer of treatment is the birth control pill he again dismissively said ‘lots of women take that and they are fine.’ Women need to start speaking out about issues and side effects of the pill, as we desperately need to find other ways of treating Endometriosis. I would argue that we are still discouraged from openly discussing our reproductive health and subjects periods are still so stigmatised to the point that Fathers can’t even comfort their daughters. If we don’t speak about how unfair it still is that birth control is seen as a female responsibility or how awful the symptoms of the pill really are then society will not change. There will continue to be Dad’s who mansplain the pill to their 31 year old daughters, opinions based on no evidence in particular. It brought back a really vivid memory of a Saturday when I was about fourteen when he decided to have a go at me for staying home all day, I was having my period and I didn’t feel like leaving the house because it was so painful and heavy. He really became aggressive so I just told him that I had my period and to lay off, he went silent, no sympathy, no apology, because that would be him admitting he had done something wrong. I have been repairing the damage caused by his sexist attitude my entire life and can only really now recognise it defend myself when it occurs. Men with daughters need to try harder, no matter what age they are. Medicine needs to recognise that the pill is not a suitable long term treatment for a chronic illness. Endometriosis is as common as diabetes and because it actually makes women infertile, this is an issue society is facing as a whole, not just a ‘women’s problem’.
As a father, I have struggled with protecting my children from sexism. When my daughter was a newborn (until the age of 2) I had trouble convincing my colleagues, friends, and family, that it did not matter what color her clothes was. She was a baby and did not care what she wore. But they all insisted she needed to wear “pretty dresses.” I work hard to find “dolls” for my daughter that did not promote the sexuality of the female body– and I have worked equally hard to convince my son that his super hero figures are “dolls” as well. But what I have found particularly troubling was that the people who seemed fine with allowing my baby daughter to wear “boy” clothes (or whatever it was) when she was a baby, were not OK when I wanted my baby son to wear those same clothes. This includes my wife.