LETTER TO WOMEN
I heard indirectly from one of the doctor’s that his wife felt that World Vasectomy Day was not communicating to women. My first reaction,‘it is a movement that celebrates responsible men, so what would one expect?’ was admittedly defensive.
While I never heard what she thought was offensive, her opinion deserved more than a flip answer. The fact is WVD has to figure out better ways to include women if we are to achieve our potential. Furthermore, to the extent that what we have created or said has offended any woman, or man for that matter, I apologize. WVD is nothing if not a work in progress so feedback is always appreciated.
Certainly, my initial motivation for WVD was based on years making films in conflict zones – about wars, child soldiers, prisoners, and crime victims. In witnessing a growing crisis of masculinity amongst frustrated, angry, unemployed and alienated young men, i chose to launch a movement that would focus on empowering positive male behavior.
Since 2013, we have spent a lot of time talking with men, listening to them and trying to figure out what we can do to make positive changes together. I’m not claiming that men as a whole are open to a radical shift in behavior, but everywhere we go we meet many good ones who want to be part of the solution, not the cause of the problem.
World Vasectomy Day was conceived as an energetic force to attract positive male behavior, a place where we choose not to focus on our failures, but to highlight the best of who we are. WVD has been at times accused of being overly optimistic or simply over the top, but be assured that it is not because we don’t know the ‘truth’ about men. It is because we are trying to help redefine and expand what that truth is.
Of course, we also spend a lot of time talking with women. Perhaps, not surprisingly, there are many places where women fear, as do men that a vasectomy will make their spouse less than. That’s not as uncommon an attitude as you may think. I remember asking a friend, half jokingly, if she would still consider me an alpha male if I got a vasectomy. She hesitated, ‘maybe alpha lite’. It didn’t feel that way at the time, but perhaps she meant it as a compliment.
Let’s be clear, most women have no patience for men’s incapacity to endure the discomfort of a vasectomy. Why should you? A period is more uncomfortable and that lasts decades. A pregnancy is infinitely more challenging physically. And compared to child birth, a vasectomy is not worthy of the word pain. Women have also expressed that simply doing the right thing isn’t sufficient to earn the title hero. Maybe they’re right, but getting men to feel good about ourselves, increases the likelihood that we’ll do more good, so even if WVD’s language at times can be a ‘bit’ overblown, I’m okay with it.
That said, there are a tiny percentage of men who suffer long-term pain and that is a terrible outcome for a man or his partner. Some of them have expressed anger about our movement, and I understand that too. Yet, not taking a risk doesn’t make the pain go away. It just passes all of the pain on to women.
I believe that men, like women, should be free to make the ultimate decision about their own body. At the end of the day, that’s a basic human right. That said, I also believe World Vasectomy Day needs to do a much better job of including women in our conversation. For one, family planning is family choice so making decisions with one’s partner is crucial. Frankly, if you can figure out how to talk about family planning with your partner (which also means talking about sexuality), then your life will be much less conflicted, not to mention more pleasurable.
In the past years, I’ve pushed, but obviously not hard enough, to get a consistent woman’s voice included in our communication. To that end, I’d like to propose once again a ‘Female space’. The world is a complex place with a wide range of beliefs and perspectives, including, of course, about gender. World Vasectomy Day should reflect this.
Jonathan Stack, Co Founder
World Vasectomy Day, Inc.