This comment is by KatyD on the post by Noah Brand “Men Must Be Needed Because We Can’t Be Wanted“:
Two things happened after I read this article: the first is that I called my husband, who is traveling for work right now, and told him (while bawling my eyes out) that he is very much loved and very much wanted, not just “needed.” Thank you Noah for reminding me how much everyone–male and female–needs to hear that.
The second is that I started thinking about this needed/wanted dichotomy, and how it plays out in the anti-abortion movement in the US, which seems to be heavily dominated by men, specifically older, white men (or at least that seems to be the group making the most noise of late.) I am a pro-choice female, albeit one who believes abortion should be a safe, legal and rare last resort, and that the best way to ensure that is universal, comprehensive, science-based sex education and birth control that is as cheap (even free) and widespread as possible. I come from a family of fundamentalist Christians and pro-lifers, including several who are among those who stand outside clinics and scream “Whore!” and “Babykiller!” at the women going inside. One of the most virulent pro-lifers in my family is a male cousin-in-law, raised by a mother who was a raging, mentally ill, alcoholic, abusive piece of work. According to family lore, his mom frequently told him she wished he had “never been born” as she took a belt to his backside for every tiny infraction. He somehow survived to graduate from high school, join the army, eventually get ordained a preacher, and become one of the most militant and outspoken pro-lifers in his community. I’m no psychiatrist, but to me this smacks of “mommy issues,” a man who grew up unwanted and unloved, and deep down fearing that, had abortion been legal at the time, mommie dearest might have carried out her wish that he “never be born,” and thus he would not exist. Such men perhaps are taking out their mommy anger against all other women, fighting to make abortion illegal so that other mommies be forced to have their unwanted sons, and suffer as he did: “you bitch, you don’t want me? I’ll force you to want me! I’ll make you want me!!! I’ll make you have me whether you want me to or not!!!!”
Similar mindsets may also exist in those pro-life men who are angry at girlfriends or even wives who chose to have abortions without consulting them or against their wishes (this despite the reality of the overwhelming numbers of said men who, despite their insistence that they would have raised their children if given the chance, often pressure their girlfriends into sex–”If you love me, you would”–tend to believe birth control is a woman’s problem, refuse to wear condoms during sex because it’s not “macho,” then bail on their partners when the words “I’m pregnant” are uttered.)
On the “need” side, we are not so many years removed from the time when women did “need” men, because society told women that their only purpose in life was to marry, get pregnant, and raise as many children as their bodies could produce. Women were blocked from entering most career fields even if they wanted to, and even in the few fields open to them a woman was expected to quit her job as soon as she married. Women were completely dependent on men to support them abd their children financially, they had no money of their own. A woman had little to no control over when or how often she got pregnant, short of saying “no” to her husband (which did not happen often since women were told from birth, by church and parents, that they must “obey” the men in their lives and do as they were told, or they were sinful, uppity tramps.) Before she got married, a girl was taught that she must maintain her virginity at any cost, despite the pleadings of boyfriends, desperate to prove their own manhood by “making it” with a girl. (No one asked boys to remain virgins any cost; indeed, in the world of boys, virginity was a badge of shame.) If a girl dared to be human, grew tired of her boyfriend’s begging and threats to dump her, and gave in a moment of weakness and became pregnant, then the boy must propose, and she must accept immediately, for there was no more shameful, sinful, filthy creature than an unmarried, pregnant woman. My own family tree is replete with such “shotgun weddings,” which more often than not turned into unhappy, dysfunctional marriages.
With the advent of feminism, birth control, legal abortion and welfare programs in the 60s and 70s, this dynamic began to change, and women no longer needed to depend on men to support them financially.. They could chose to go to school and make careers and support themselves, buoyed by birth control that meant they could control their reproduction and choose when and where–and with whom–to have children. They could even (gasp!) have sex for pleasure and enjoyment, and take their time and choose the right man, instead of being forced to marry the first schmuck that “knocked them up,” as so many of their mothers had to do.
Obviously this changed the game for men as well, and created the “need” dynamic that the author refers to. Men have yet to figure out if they are “needed” anymore in this new paradigm, and they also don’t feel “wanted.” To me, that is why most of the same (male) politicians that want to make abortion illegal also don’t support good sex education, don’t want wider access to birth control (and some would make most birth control illegal as well) and want to dismantle welfare programs, and many of the laws that allowed women access to college and careers. It may seem contradictory, but what it really is, is a desperate attempt to return to the old paradigm. To make women dependent on men again. These (overwhelmingly older, male, and conservative) politicians are trying to force a return to the days when a woman had no choice but to wed the first guy she had sex with, even if he was completely unsuitable. She would have no choice because she was pregnant with his child, and without his income, she and her child would not survive.
I am oversimplifying a bit, of course. But I wish I could get a few of these pro-life politicians to do a little self-introspection, something they seem completely incapable of, and do the hard work of healing their own wounds, rather than trying to punish all women for the sins of the women in their own lives. Or accept that the past is the past, quit trying to bring it back. Grieve and move on. And try to figure out where to go from here.