Slate reached new lows of misogyny when it ran Ruth Graham's article on how women are really to blame for the anti-vaxx movement. I'm not exaggerating because the claim is right there in the headline.
You know this is going to be good.
When it comes to making decisions about vaccines, however, women turn out to be likelier than men to place trust in the wrong places. A remarkable 2011 report in the journal Pediatrics found that mothers were more inclined than fathers to trust vaccine-safety information (er, "information") coming from television shows, magazines, and celebrities. Thirty-one percent of mothers said they trusted vaccine information from celebrities "some" or "a lot," compared with 19 percent of fathers.
I don't take issue with any of the studies that Graham references in her article. She's also not telling me anything I don't already know: women tend to be the gatekeepers of their children's health. My problem is with how Graham points the finger without a hint of irony in her Double XX (a so-called forum for women's issues) post.
Unless my sixth grade health class was lying to me, human reproduction requires two individuals. Just because one half of the parents (dads) decides to "lean out" of child-rearing and housework doesn't absolve him from the responsibilities he's shirking. Dads might be throwing up their hands as soon as they cross the threshold, but they still have (and always had) an obligation to care about decisions moms make on stereotypical feminine household duties. Not caring gets you out of nothing.
Similarly, I can't opt out of being a law-abiding citizen and start kicking homeless people, running red lights, and holding up an Arbys because I've ceded my responsibilities as a human being in society. Try telling that one to a judge. "Oh, your honor, I figured other people are just better at being law-abiding citizens than I am, and I'd just screw it up anyway so I'm opting out."
In the end, however, it's possible to have all the sympathy in the world for vaccine-skeptical parents and still conclude that they are dangerously wrong about one of the most important public-health questions of the moment. To move forward, maybe it's time to appeal more directly to the parents who are driving these decisions: mothers.
I'm still shocked that it's 2015 and there are people like Ruth Graham who view children's issues as women's issues. Oh dear Ruth, children's issues are everyone's problem. If legislation ever gets enacted to punish those who do not vaccinate their kids, and I sincerely hope it does, arguments like this will punish women even more because of the underlying assumption that men are off watching a football game and scratching their balls so therefore the Ray Barones of this world have zero liability when their unvaccinated children get sick or infect other children.
Appealing only to mothers on the anti-vaxx issue does nothing but reinforce outdated, gendered stereotypes, while quietly sending dads the message that their opinions are useless. Not only are men's opinions on the anti-vaxx movement welcome, those opinions are downright required not on just this issue but every issue that will affect their own children as well as the rest of the community
I don't blame women for the anti-vaxx movement; I blame every single idiot who bought into it, regardless of gender, no matter how loudly or quietly they behaved. In the words of Rush, "If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice."