Everybody’s talking about natural family planning, again. I have gone on the record as having nothing interesting to say about NFP. I do practice NFP every month with “just reason” in accordance with the Church’s teaching, and I intend to keep doing it, but I don’t have much to say.
My friend Mindy did have quite a bit to say, and she said it. She’s promised to say much more. She wrote a well-researched article on the issues she has with the Church’s teaching on contraception, and she’s promising to write a whole book on it. Not having read the book, I can’t say I’ll agree with it, though I plan to read it and give her a fair hearing. That’s really all Mindy is asking for– that we give women a fair hearing. This wasn’t a blog post about her sex life or her own struggle with NFP, it was a presentation of what she’d read and a call to listen to women.
And you know what happened?
Well, for one thing, an NFP instructor commented on a re-sharing of the post to ask if she’d tried the Billings method.
The instructor did not read the whole post, but saw that it was a post by a woman on Natural Family Planning and figured that Mindy was miserable because she just hadn’t found the right NFP method yet.
I am morally certain that if the exact same blog post had been written by somebody named Mitchell Selmys, nobody would ask him if he’d just not used the correct method of NFP yet. They wouldn’t necessarily be nice to him. Some would respectfully refute his points one by one. Some would use good arguments and some would use fallacies. Somebody else would call him a heretic right off the bat and assert that no argumentation was necessary. He would probably get called a cafeteria Catholic. But nobody would insinuate that the only reason he was writing the post was because he was doing natural family planning wrong. They wouldn’t disregard all the points made in the actual post and ask Mitch if he was bad at stretching cervical mucus.
I say this as a Catholic woman blogger, and as someone who was a Catholic woman long before she was a Catholic woman blogger. I say this as a woman who took philosophy and bioethics courses at the graduate level, and sat through many moral theology discussions where men explained to other men about female sexuality in front of me. When men talk about issues that deeply affect women’s bodies, their ideas are considered and criticized. When women talk about the same issues, we get told we’re just doing it wrong. We get told we don’t really know how to practice Natural Family Planning, or that we shouldn’t be practicing Natural Family Planning in the first place. We get asked how many abortions we’ve had. We get lectured on how we ought to have been more submissive and worn a more modest skirt. This is one of the areas in which men get to have ideas, right or wrong, while women are presumed to have made mistakes.
I’m not saying you have to agree with anyone. I’m not even saying you have to be nice.
I am asking that, when you hear a woman telling you about natural family planning, you pretend her name is Mitch and give her a fair hearing.