Clueless w/ Alexis
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Clueless w/ Alexis

Keyword Analysis on Access: The Great Equalizer for White Women

Me (age 11) in a Yankees Box

My entire life has been defined by the word access. Access is make or break. Access is the key to the entire universe, but also the thing that can shut you out from everything completely. Access determines the lives we live and how comfortable we get to be. Access can revolutionize or it can further stratify groups of people to standards of living that look alien to each other. Access is determined by a myriad of factors and components, but is almost entirely out of our own hands. Access is determined by our government, wealth, level of education, gender, race, and so much more. The crazy thing about access is that there are entire institutions built to debate whether or not I deserve it. Maybe it’s the same for you too, or maybe you have no idea what it’s like to be told that its something you don’t deserve.

After the market crash of 2008 I lost access to a lot of things, healthcare being one of them. My consciousness of the fragility of life came when I couldn’t breathe and I could no longer turn to my medicine cabinet with the certainty that Albuterol would be there. I’m sure my parents lost breath and nights of sleep over medications and thousand-dollar asthma attacks that sent me from school to the hospital in one of the most expensive chariots in the country.

Me age 7 (left), Sister age 5 (right)

When my family got access to healthcare again, I was a little older with a completely new set of medical problems at the time. I was in and out of hospitals meeting with specialists and having surgery and procedures for a mystery illness (still a mystery to this day) while suffering from crippling Menorrhagia. The kind of Menorrhagia where the pain was so much greater than what I could tolerate, that I’d simply pass out. My body was also depleted of essential vitamins and the ability to function like a normal human being for one week each month.

Because of that, I’ve developed a sort of fear over having my period, so along with the drainage that comes with the process itself my anxieties are through the roof just thinking about it. But, birth control changed my life in the crazy prophetic way radical new wave feminists rave about it. I went from spending sixty days a year passed out on the ground to none. Living every day so rigorously aware of the lack of pain I’m in. In a society that requires you to beg those with opposing views to see all angles of a particular case with humanity, I’m your shining example that birth control is a tool that can unshackle you quite literally.

“Menstruation: Facts, Statistics, and You” by Heathline

I don’t know what it’s like to be shaken with fear over the cost of healthcare. When I lost it the first time I was seven; aware we didn’t have it but unaware of how much emergencies could cost. I almost feel guilty for each trip I took to Overlook Medical Center during the time. Now, I’m almost twenty and have struggled with my reproductive health in a way that knocks air from my lungs every time I think about it. The day that I’ll lose healthcare again rings in my ear with its overwhelming presence. The day will come in four years at best, and just under two at worst and I’m terrified.

Nov 2nd, 2020 visiting the OB-GYN immediately after Amy Coney Barrett’s October 26th Supreme Court confirmation

Our discourse about the birth control pill is almost entirely about it’s economic triumphs. Like most polarizing political innovations these days, the media covers its praise of capitalism and fiscal gains as some revolutionary success for social justice. For some people, I think the word access serves a similar purpose. Opening doors for more groups to join in on our nation’s exploitation of most other people in the name of equity; cut to Amy Coney Barrett and Kamala Harris. In CNN’s “What ‘The Pill’ Did” they note, “ The Pill had made it easier for a woman to delay having children until after she established herself in a career,” which is a note that echoes in any conversation I’ve ever read or heard about birth control (“What ‘The Pill’ Did”, Pogrebin). This has been, and remains to be the main pillar of the pro-birth control argument, and I find it to be so reductive.

Access in the case of birth control has been about financial liberation. Perhaps on a personal level when thinking about family planning, but most impactful on a national level. Planned Parenthood cites that, “Bloomberg Businessweek recently listed contraception as one of the most transformational developments in the business sector in the last 85 years. Fully one-third of the wage gains women have made since the 1960s are the result of access to oral contraceptives,” (“Birth Control Has Expanded Opportunity for Women”, Planned Parenthood). As a High School graduate of AP Econ, the one thing I retained is that there is a relationship between GDP, one marker of national economic progress, and increasing wages. Further, even our discussions about birth control on an international level has surrounded economics by stressing its ability to pull developing nations from their “developing” status by delaying the age at which women around the world stop their education or work to have children.

Who’s Most Impacted by Attacks on Birth Control”, Planned Parenthood

Thinking about access in terms of economic liberation or thinking about access in such simplicity is destructive and exclusive. For so many, access is about being alive. Access is about absolving a condition of life that can be so debilitating that most days you can’t breathe. In a world where “39% of Black women have less than ten dollars to spend on Birth control,” (“Who’s Most Impacted by Attacks on Birth Control”, Planned Parenthood), yet the pill costing up to $800 annually depending on coverage and physician fees is not financial liberation, or liberation of any kind when Black women are “243% more likely to die from pregnancy or child-birth related causes,” (“Black Mothers Keep Dying After Giving Birth”, Martin and Montagne). For some, the blockade in front access is a death sentence.

“Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Pregnancy-Related Deaths — United States”, CDC

Another gut punch in society’s hyper-fixation on access to birth control as a means of financial mobility is the fact that nearly a quarter of African American women live in poverty, a rate greater than any other racial group (“National Snapshot: Poverty Among Women and Families”, Tucker and Lowell). So when we read headlines like, “The tiny pill which gave birth to an economic revolution,” (“The Tiny Pill Which Gave Birth to an Economic Revolution”, Harford) I ask myself, “an economic revolution for who?” Our entire culture around access to the birth control pill has solely surrounded one socioeconomic group whilst manufacturing the facade that it has been made available to, and elevated us all. With this, the harsh realities of lack of access has been crushed by the weight of dishonest white feminism.

“The Tiny Pill Which Gave Birth to an Economic Revolution”, BBC
“How the Pill Made the American Economy Great”, TNR

“Opinion: Birth Control Gives Women the Power to Decide”, NBC

The way we have defined access, especially in terms of the birth control pill, has surrounded mobility and financial success while blatantly ignoring the fatal consequences of its limitations to minority groups. So is it really accessible in the way that the word is defined? “The ability, right, or permission to approach, enter, speak with, or use;” (“Access”, Dictionary.com). The right to use. Or is the very definition of the word, like most things, only inclusive if you’re white? My healthcare clock is ticking, and one day someday soon I’ll join the Black women with limited access to reproductive health resources while our media continues to tout the birth control pill as the great equalizer for women (“What ‘The Pill’ Did”, Pogrebin). But, the misrepresentation of the word access comes as no surprise in a country that sees its white population as the whole in every corner of life.

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