I know a grandmother who says that if men could have babies, “universal access to birth control wouldn’t just exist; it would be a consecrated rite.” I’ve always felt it would go further than that. If men could give birth — and consequently menstruate — the necessary hygiene products would be available everywhere. There would be no hiding a tiny — usually empty or broken — vending machine in the back of a restroom. No, all the necessary products would be prominently and proudly displayed at grocery checkouts, movie theater entrances, even at interstate highway tollbooths.
We would have the easy pass lane, the cash lane and the “that time of the month” lane. There’s no way in the world men would have to drive 20 miles out of their way on a busy workday or long trip to get the items necessary to keep them looking and feeling fresh!
I can prove it. Look at condoms. Condoms, you could argue, are equally helpful to men and women. And it seems because of that added advantage of benefiting men, they are right up front at the pharmacy. They aren’t buried down some aisle requiring a gent to pace back and forth in order to find them. No, condoms are right there in front of your face no matter what you are actually at the pharmacy to buy.
We could view this prominent display of personal hygiene products as a step in the right direction because maybe, one day, the tampon will be set beside the condom on the front shelf. Regardless of whether or not you use a condom for birth control, they most certainly are the first line of defense for sexually transmitted diseases. If that isn’t a hygiene product, I don’t know what is. And as you know — condoms aren’t just hygiene products for men.
But you don’t have to take my word for it; you can ask the pope.
I must admit, I have spent a fair number of column inches criticizing the governing arm of the Roman Catholic Church for interfering in matters of secular government. But if I were one of the fortunate few who will meet with the pope today, I would gladly kiss his ring.
It all started Nov. 20 when the Vatican released comments from Pope Benedict XVI stating that condoms would be OK if used by male prostitutes to prevent the spread of AIDS. Well, a whole bunch of us folks who think women are just as important as men gasped in horror that the papacy could once again speak as though only men mattered — so much so that protecting men’s lives was worth bending the rules for — but protecting women’s lives was not.
Remember, the Catholic Church acts as if women have a defect. It’s against cannon law for a priest to marry a woman and it likewise prohibits women from becoming priests. To most of us out here in the real world, that is sexist. But, it’s a religious law and as individuals, we can decide for ourselves whether or not we want to be part of a church that discriminates this way.
But issuing a statement that places the lives of men ahead of women really went too far. Especially because that message was put out to more than a half a billion Catholic women — many of whom live in AIDS-ravaged countries. And sadly, most women contract AIDS the same way they get pregnant which affords women the added lethal potential of infecting their babies.
Then, yesterday, Vatican spokesman the Rev. Fedrico Lombardi said that he checked with the pope about his meaning because so many people were horrified by this presumed deadly double standard, and Lombardi reported that the pope said he actually meant male and female prostitutes could use protection. Turns out his holiness was concerned that both sexes might put another life at risk.
The Rev. Lombardi explained that the pontiff believes using condoms is important if you risk transmitting disease, “It’s the first step of taking responsibility, of taking into consideration the risk of the life of another with whom you have a relationship.”
So hurray for Pope Benedict XVI! He took a giant papal step not only toward saving lives but also toward advancing equality.
Pat LaMarche of Yarmouth is the author of “Left Out In America: The State of Homelessness in the United States.” She may be reached at PatLaMarche@hotmail.com.