Friday, December 03, 2004

The Best Contraceptive Pill is...

an aspirin that the woman holds tightly between her knees. This is not from the curricula of the Federally funded abstinence education programs, but it might as well be. Representative Henry Waxman has published a report on the contents of the teaching material that the abstinence programs use (pdf).

The findings? The curricula lie about the effectiveness of contraceptives, about the risks of abortion and about science. The curricula also blur science and religion by implying that life begins when the wingnuts want it to begin: at conception, and by implying that a forty-eight day old embryo is a thinking person. Finally, the curricula reinforce ancient sex stereotypes.

Eleven of the thirteen curricula contain errors, and some of the most erroneous are the most used ones. The organizations that use these erroneous curricula have received over 90 million in federal funding since 2001. It's nice to know where our tax money goes, isn't it?

Among the most interesting errors or at least ambiguities are the assertion that a child inherits twenty-four chromosomes from each parent, that AIDS can spread via tears and sweat, and that mental health problems in teenagers are a consequence of sexual activity.

The sex stereotyping is heady stuff. We learn that girls are weak and in need of protection:

The curriculum also teaches: "The father gives the bride to the groom because he is the one man who has had the responsibility of protecting her throughout her life. He is now giving his daughter to the only other man who will take over this protective role."

This curriculum also teaches that girls care less about achievement and their futures than boys. Another curriculum agrees, listing financial support as one the major five needs of women and domestic support as one of the main five needs of men. Men are argued to look for physical attractiveness in their partners and to be sexually aggressive while women are argued to be concerned with honesty and openness and family commitment.

Sounds exactly like something that the wingnuts might have ordered, doesn't it? Women are firmly put back to their proper places and men are portrayed as servant-leaders though rather savage ones. Maybe the most fascinating glimpse into this Handmaid's Tale comes from a book in "Choosing the Best" series, a very popular part of the abstinence movement.

This book tells a story about a knight who saves a princess from a dragon. The dragon attacks again and again, and the princess now gives the knight advice on the best methods for killing the dragon (with a noose, with a poison). These methods work, but the knight now feels "ashamed"!!! He eventually decides to marry a village maiden, but "only after making sure she knew nothing about nooses or poisons."

The moral of the story:

Occasional suggestions and assistance may be alright, but too much of it will lessen a man's confidence or even turn him away from his princess.

So this is what we are providing with our tax moneys. Anti-feminist training, intended to reinforce the submissiveness of women who can't show that they're smart lest that scare prospective husbands away. Training that argues men are both savage creatures only interested in sex and good looks, but at the same time so frail and fragile that they can't take advice from a woman without suffering from erectile dysfunctions. The next wingnut that tells me how women are naturally submissive and so on will get this report firmly stuffed down his throat or whatever.