August 15, 2012 by Ish
So… the Huffington Post. This is a thing that happened.
I just returned from the summer Olympics wishing this: If only a female U.S. medalist had appeared on TV and said, “I want to thank Mom, Dad, my coach… and my IUD.”
I’m kidding. Sort of.
Ermahgerd. This is going to be one of those articles, isn’t it HuffPo? Bugger all to do with sports, or even politics really… just a few hundred words to signal how much you care about women… or, at least, how much more you care about women than men do.
American female athletes gave an amazing performance in this year’s Games. They outnumbered American men and competed in all women’s events for the first time. They won more medals than the men, including more gold medals (women-29, men-17). They also drew large television audiences, especially among 12- to 17-year-old girls.
I don’t know about television ratings — and don’t care — so I’ll take that last bit as given. My quick research shows the first bit is true as well, making this perhaps the most honest paragraph in the whole article. The year, the United States sent a total of 539 athletes to the Olympic Games to compete in 25 sports. The oldest team member was 54-year-old equestrian Karen O’Connor, while the youngest was 15-year-old swimmer Katie Ledecky. Of the 539 athletes sent, 208 won at least one medal. That’s some nifty trivia, but what’s that got to do with IUDs?
Watching U.S. soccer goalie Hope Solo throw herself horizontally in order to rebuff Japan’s goal attempts, I was reminded in a glorious way of two milestones that help account for the Americans’ success.
The most obvious is Title IX, the 1972 law requiring schools to provide girls access to sports they hadn’t enjoyed before. The second development, being challenged in this election season by vocal, conservative Republicans, is the increased availability of birth control.
Ermahgerd. Wert der ferk. I had to read this paragraph three times to really let it sink in. Laura Stepp, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, is seriously arguing that birth control is responsible for gold medals. Okay… Oh, before we go on, I should clarify that this is Laura Sessions Stepp, author of a book that goes to great lengths to explain that women, ages 15 to 21, are ruining their lives by having consensual sex with the men in their lives. This is not the Laura Step who played Seven-of-Nine’s mom on Star Trek: Voyager. But, wow, that’s another weird connection between this one former Borg and America’s liberal elite… best not to dwell on it.
Without the IUD, implant, pill and other methods, many of our athletic heroines might have been home changing diapers or packing school lunches instead of scoring soccer goals and setting swimming records. Yes, there were 13 mothers among the 268 American women. The others were able to delay childbearing to pursue their dreams (and I suspect after seeing their mom-colleagues, enormously grateful.)
Contraception in this country can be costly — especially the most reliable methods. You have to wonder how many more U.S. women would have been able to train and qualify for Olympic competition were all methods of contraception completely covered by insurance, as is the case in some other Western countries.
I’ll admit that I am no expert on how costly contraception in this country can be. Not that it is anyone’s business, but when my ex-wife and I were using contraception she used an injectable hormonal contraceptive… I don’t recall the brand name. Our insurance carrier covered it and she handled most of our finances, from health insurance to car insurance to the cable bill. So, I decided to turn an expert source that no liberal reading this can accuse of Republican bias: Planned Parenthood. according to their FAQs, an “IUD is the most inexpensive long-term and reversible form of birth control you can get.” Since IUD’s were the specific form of contraception mentioned by Ms. Stepp, this was the only kind I’m checking on costs on… and Planned Parenthood seems to they’re pretty cheap. Planned Parenthood doesn’t give exact prices, but says IUDs “can range from $500 to $1,000. That cost pays for protection that can last from 5 to 12 years, depending on which IUD you choose.”
Young women who grow up in middle- and upper-income homes, who acquire good jobs and find partners with good jobs, will always be able to afford — and have access to — the most effective methods of contraception. Those from low-income and working-class families aren’t always that fortunate. Were Romney and Ryan to win the election and succeed in their efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, less-privileged girls with lots of athletic potential talent might find themselves shopping for baby food instead of practicing their high jumps.
That would be unfortunate. In what we like to call our “land of opportunity,” every qualified, aspiring young athlete, if she or he so desires, should be able to train for a shot at the gold. Coaches in this country continue to search for a diverse group of female athletes who show promise. Some have even provided financial assistance out of their own bank accounts. They know that enlarging the pool of contenders is good for the athletes, the teams and Americans who want to see their country remain competitive.
Wait. What? Planned Parenthood just told me that IUDs cost between $500 to $1,000. But Ms. Stepp wants me to believe that “less-privileged girls with lots of athletic potential talent” will never become Olympians without birth control. Okay, well, let’s ignore for the moment that not having sex doesn’t cost a dime and is 100% effective at preventing pregnancy. It’s sort of an open secret that Olympic athletes fuck like crazy. (during the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, 100,000 condoms were distributed to about 6,500 athletes… and halfway through the games, an emergency shipment of condoms had to be brought in. “Oh, Canada.” indeed.) So, we’re not going to be able to stop the Olympians from knocking boots once they’re at the games. I’ll even take it as a given that teenagers and twenty-somethings (the age range for most of these athletes) at peak of their physical perfection and often travelling across the country for completions outside the supervision of their parents are also horny little devils. They’re gettin’ their freak on. Got it.
But why would a $1,000 IUD be impossible for them? Did Laura Stepp, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, bother to research or even ponder for a moment the other costs involved in a potential future Olympian’s training? Look, my eldest daughter is only six years old, but she has begun taking skating lessons at the Detroit Skating Club. Neither me nor my ex-wife wanted to become a “stage dad” or “soccer mom,” but when your five year old hears about ice skating lessons from another girl in kindergarten, you sign her up.
We knew the Detroit Skating Club was considered a good place to learn, but neither of us had ever given much of a care to figure skating beyond watching it every four years during the Winter Games… mostly, `cause nothing else is ever on for those two weeks. Holy hell, were we in for a surprise.
Look, I’m not saying my daughter is ever going to be in the Olympics, but the DSC is where past Olympic Gold Medalist Tara Lipinski trained. Charlie White and Meryl Davis, 2011 World champion and 2010 Olympic silver medalist ice dancers, train there now. Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, the 2012 U.S. bronze medalist ice dancers, train there now. Adam Rippon, the 2010 Four Continents champion, the 2012 U.S. silver medalist, trains there and is one of the coaches for my daughter. Jeremy Abbott placed ninth at the 2010 Winter Olympics, and trains here. Elladj Baldé, 2008 Canadian Junior champion, trains here. Satō Yuka, 1994 World Champion and 5th place at the 1994 Winter Olympics, is a coach and choreographer at the Detroit Skating Club… basically, there are about two dozen current or former Olympic skaters at this club. If my daughter was going to ever have a shot at becoming an Olympic figure skater, this would be the best possible place in the country for her to get her star.
Chances are that come the 2028 Winter Olympics, I’ll be able to remember a time when some young woman winning a Gold Medal was once a pig-tailled kindergartener playing My Lil Pony in the bleachers with my kid. Yeah, my daughter will probably never be an Olympian… but she really likes skating and has been asked to join their junior competitive synchronized skating team. Which brings me to that $1,000 barrier to “less-privileged girls with lots of athletic potential talent.”
Weekly skating lessons at DSC cost north of $200 each month; the four-day summer program costs north of $250; basic skates cost $100; costumes, practice clothes, gloves, bags, and other gear can range between $50 to $300 per item. This is for a six-year old getting an hour of practice per week. A sixteen year old — with no aspirations other than team competition at the state level — is probably dropping $1000 a month just on coaching and ice fees. Someone like Elladj Baldé — who I promise you will be winning an Olympic medal in the near future — probably spent more on his skates than I have on my last car. I don’t know how much money it costs to become an Olympic sprinter, or swimmer, or equestrian… but, I’m going to guess it costs a hell of a lot more than the money I’m spending getting my first-grader ice dancing lessons. But Laura Stepp, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, doesn’t want to bother with such trivial matters as IUDs being cheaper than most athletic equipment… She and HuffPo just want signal their position this Important Social Issue. “I’m concerned about women’s choice! I am a good liberal! Let’s all have our Two Minutes Hate of the doubleplusungood Conservatives!”
We here at MININERD have decided to turn to a special guest contributor for help with this article. What are your thoughts on HuffPo’s column, Michael?