I was interested to learn from Libby's post that the Gardasil shot can be used on men and help prevent some cancers, as well as cut down on women's vulnerability to HPV-related diseases. Yet I think the suggestion that there's something sexist or sinister about the targeting of Gardasil to women is misplaced.
Those for whom the vaccine is most effective—those most vulnerable to getting the disease that the vaccine helps prevent—are clearly the logical target audience for a treatment. And yes, it would be nice if men would get vaccinate on women's behalf (as well as their own), but it's no surprise that the focus is on getting women vaccinated rather than convincing men to act out of altruism to future female partners.
This is the same reason why the idea of a male birth control pill is nice, and would no doubt be useful to some, but most don't see it as a real solution to the larger birth control issue. Women bear the biggest consequences from an unintended pregnancy, and therefore, many women who don't want to get pregnant are unlikely to accept assurances from a man that he's taking a pill.
This frustrates many, but the simply fact is that women are generally more vulnerable to a host of sexually transmitted diseases. This isn't sexism. It's basic biology. And it's a reason why women are likely to be more pro-active in taking action that reduces their vulnerability to such diseases.
Would we really think that women would be as likely to get vaccinated for a STD that only impacts males? Of course not.
And I worry that the suggestion that it takes a “men's health threat to take women's health threat seriously” buys into a feminist trope with no bearing on reality.
The United States certainly takes women's health as seriously as it takes men (let's remember the big picture, on average, women outlive men by several years). This month is Women's Breast Cancer month, and you can see pink ribbons just about everywhere and all sorts of efforts, public and private, to raise awareness of the disease and the need for prevention. That's great. But it's worth noting that more men get prostrate cancer than women get breast cancer (though breast cancer claims about 20 percent more lives), and obviously there's no similar push to prevent prostrate cancer. In fact, prostrate research receives less than half the research dollars that breast cancer does.
I don't think that it does anyone favors to see health issues from the sexism-grievance lens. We should expect people to act in their own self-interest, while encouraging them to consider how their actions affect others, to create better health outcomes across the board.