Earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new guidelines telling women who are sexually active that they shouldn’t drink alcohol unless they’re on birth control, in order to reduce the incidents of fetal alcohol syndrome. Outraged feminists fired back, calling the CDC “sexist” and “paternalistic.” One writer at Mic accused the CDC of “policing women’s bodies and shaming them for their choices.”
They’re right. The CDC guidelines create unrealistic expectations for women of childbearing age. Women should be trusted to know when they may or may not be pregnant and don’t need to follow pregnancy protocols during their entire fertile lives.
We applaud feminists standing up against the CDC and its nanny-in-chief Tom Frieden, who has quite the bona fides when it comes to telling people how to behave. Friedan was the commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and led Mayor Bloomberg’s “war on soda.”
Yet, these incensed feminists should realize they created this monster — a federal agency that thinks it has a duty to cajole people into what it sees as healthy behavior and shame people for actions that entail any health risks. Feminists are crowing now about the CDC recommendations being out-of-line, but they have spent an equal number of calories jumping up and down, demanding greater government involvement in every other aspect of women’s lives. They simply can’t have it both ways.
Consider Obamacare, a law that massively expanded the size and scope of government into the lives of all Americans. President Obama relied on the organized women’s movement to help push the legislation through Congress. Sandra Fluke was masterful at presenting herself as a poor student who, while attending an Ivy League law school, couldn’t afford birth control. The solution? A complete overhaul of our health-care system, which included federal guidelines requiring all entities — including Catholic colleges — to cover the cost of her birth control. For Fluke, many feminists, and the Obama White House, government has such an interest in women’s personal health decisions that it trumps First Amendment rights to religious liberty.
The National Organization for Women called Obamacare’s passage an “important milestone for women.” The National Women’s Law Center said it was a “huge victory for women.” The Feminist Majority called the Affordable Care Act a “historic advance for women and the most important advance in nearly 40 years.”
Some feminists want government participation in the smallest, most intimate aspects of our lives. Well known feminist Jessica Valenti, for example, has demanded a taxpayer-funded tampon-giveaway program. Valenti claims tampons are a human right and therefore government must step up to make them available to all, free of charge.
With all this extra responsibility comes even more power. A government charged with overseeing its citizens’ health feels free to meddle in our personal decisions and monitor our behavior. According to a notice in the Federal Register last year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture plans to begin collecting health and weight data on kids in daycare. And state-level agencies regularly use taxpayer dollars to fund fat-shaming advertisements directed at overweight kids — a program that raised the hackles of ultra-liberal feminist Lindy West, who loves big government programs until they offend her personally. What West and many other feminists miss is that Uncle Sam has a big stake in all of us staying fit.
Feminists ought to have recognized that once government was in the business of overseeing — and paying for — all aspects of our health care, it would also try to control our behavior. They can count on more fat-shaming, more puritanical anti-drinking crusades, and — heaven forbid — maybe even abstinence and safe-sex lectures from our government minders.
The CDC’s alcohol guidance isn’t part of the supposed “war on women” feminists are always decrying, but it’s definitely a war on fun and happiness and a life well-lived. We’re generations away from a mainstream feminist movement that prioritizes women’s real freedoms. Let’s hope this incident is a wakeup call that encourages feminists to reconsider the agenda that they’ve now spent decades advancing — less freedom and more interference from nosey, know-it-all bureaucrats.
— Julie Gunlock is a senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum. Carrie Lukas is the managing director of the Independent Women’s Forum and vice president for policy of the Independent Women’s Voice.