Growing up, I was quickly labeled an ana kuzusu – Turkish for “mamma’s boy.”
This came from a love for my parents’ holiday parties. Each year, the gatherings brought promises of leftover turkey, börek, and Rus salatasi – a delightfully creamy potato salad I was only allowed to indulge during the peri-holiday period. They were also occasions for storytelling. While my dad would entertain the men with the latest happenings in Turkish futbol – a constant stream of scandalous player trades, colorful diatribes of overly glorified coaches against crooked referees, and frequently contested league rankings – I often found myself cozying up to my mother and her friends. Their tales had power and emotion, and they meant so much more to me.
Even at that young age, I recognized that it was a privilege to be allowed into their space. Those evenings weren’t to be taken for granted and I was grateful to be included. Still, I wasn’t always sure if I was welcome.
As a feminist man and future obstetrician-gynecologist, I recognize that I am not, and nor will I ever be, in a position to fully understand the myriad factors that women must consider when tackling certain challenges. This does not mean I cannot be present and supportive. It would be arrogant at best and offensively misogynistic at worst to be anything other than an observer, a supporter and a witness to the uniquely difficult decisions that women face. This means that I believe whole-heartedly in the principle of autonomy as it pertains to healthcare and women’s dominion over their bodies and healthcare decisions. It requires having a profound respect for female autonomy, particularly of bodily integrity.
The slogan “Trust Women” is well known in the reproductive rights movement. While I am an ardent supporter of Dr. George Tiller’s dictum, I have recently found myself questioning its relevance. As a pioneer and hero to #FeministMen, Dr. Tiller was steadfast in his commitment to woman-centered care. His clinic in Wichita for decades served as a beacon of hope for women who had no other options – and continues to do so to this day. And yet, I can’t help but wonder – why do we still need to be told to trust women? Why are we still suspicious of a women’s ability to govern her own healthcare decisions?
Unfortunately, across our country we see politicians legislating abortion care from mandating ultrasounds to waiting periods and counseling requirements that often contain scientifically inaccurate information. They find themselves compelled to make decisions on behalf of women about matters that they deem women incapable of resolving on their own.
But really I’d prefer to keep legislators out of the conversation entirely. For me, identifying as a feminist provider means actively rejecting the notion that anyone other than the woman is the expert of her life-defining circumstances.
This means asking a woman how she feels about an unexpected positive pregnancy test without making assumptions about what that test result means to her.
It means being there for her as an objective source of medical information regardless of what birth control method she chooses, if she chooses one at all.
And it means advocating for women on a public policy level to ensure that women have unfettered access to comprehensive reproductive healthcare, including abortion and contraception.
My interest in women’s health sprang from years of working as a teenager at a specialty-maternity hospital in upstate New York – with women, for women. On my first day, an energetic young woman was orienting me to the facilities, my responsibilities, and my colleagues. A couple hours into the day, my supervisor noticed me trailing uncomfortably behind her through the hospital’s hallways. After several attempts to get at the cause of my odd behavior, she finally stopped to ask me what was wrong. With much hesitation I answered:
“I need to use a restroom, but this is a women’s hospital.”
She gave me a reassuring grin, placed her hand on my shoulder, and pointed me down the hall.
“Of course we have a men’s restroom.”
And just as there was room for men in a women’s hospital, there is room for men in the feminist movement. After all, feminism is synonymous with humanism.
About the author: Sarp Aksel is a member of the M.D. Class of 2015 at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and is currently applying for residency training in obstetrics and gynecology. As an advocate for comprehensive medical education, he has developed tools to help students raise awareness and fill curricular gaps in sexual and reproductive health training, including abortion and contraception. He is also the immediate past president of Medical Students for Choice, where he served as chair of the international nonprofit’s board of directors,
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It makes me happy knowing there are men like you fighting for women’s rights and equality between the sexes. We don’t stand a chance unless we get smart, successful, passionate men like you in our corner.
Why do we really need abortion tho? Like unless your raped or going to die from the pregnancy why not just put the baby up for adoption or foster care….or even raise it. I know people say they don’t have the money here in america but i would much rather be alive in a foster care where i have a fighting chance then aborted. This is america… a land where women and men have basically equal rights (unless your are a minority then you have to face much harsher discrimination and lower wages) but come on! let the kids live woman!!!!!!!!
You clearly did not understand the article one bit. Men and women in America do not have “basically” equal rights, and if you believe that you are either blind or brainwashed. You do not have the right to use your moral judgments to tell any women it is wrong to end an unwanted pregnancy for ANY reason. Your beliefs should not affect MY rights. If you are against abortion do not have abortions and teach your future daughters to use contraceptives each and everytime so they dont find themselves in a situation where abortion might be an option, other than that, do not try to dictate what women should and shouldnt do with their bodies.
You honestly could not be any stupider. The human being inside the woman has its own rights as well. Women have the right to do what they want to their bodies. They don’t have the right to harm the body of another human being, whether it is inside them or not. This satanic, progressive “viewpoint” (if you could even call it that) is absolutely wrong and is just one step in ripping apart the moral foundation of our country. How the hell can you fight for “women’s rights” while simultaneously fighting to take away the rights of unborn human beings via murder. This is absolute insanity.
Thank you! The world needs more abortion providers!
“why do we still need to be told to trust women? Why are we still suspicious of a women’s ability to govern her own healthcare decisions?”
Possibly because a girl isn’t even allowed to get the pill without some creepy male gynecologist wanting to know about her sex life and trying to talk her into letting him put is fingers inside her as a ‘checkup’. It’s great that you want to dedicate your professional life into the sexual health of the opposite sex – problem is, it’s not really where you belong. Ever think maybe the fear of having a strange man wanting to do a highly personal and intimate exam on their sexual organs is actually scaring many girls away from important health checks – creating a bigger health problem for women than male gynecologists will ever cure?
Look, I’m sure there’s not a woman out there who doesn’t respect your hard work and dedication, just speaking as a woman, you may consider yourself a feminist but I didn’t ask for you self appoint yourself a champion our rights or guardian of our bodies. While cancer in men is rising rapidly; Prostate & Testicular cancers , as I’m sure you know, affect more men than breast cancer does women… don’t you think they need help too?
As a woman who was, at different times over my life, raped by both a woman and men, I really can’t say I feel comfortable with anyone during an exam. But I actually prefer male ob/gyns. In my vast medical ordeals I’ve had good and bad doctors. The male ob/gyns have almost always been more compassionate and non-judgemental towards me and my experiences and my lifestyle. So I don’t get your vitriol towards some guy saying he wants to become an ob/gyn who provides abortion for women. A girl is perfectly capable of requesting a female ob/gyn if she wants one in most cases. Am I saying we should hail this guy as some feminist savior? No! But I don’t think he deserves attack either.
Excellent article and deepest thanks to you for your support of women’s reproductive medical care and choices and the work you eventually will do!!!
Thank you for your support! Clearly a man to admire….
Can we clone you? My hat goes off to you! And, THANK YOU!
Thank you Dr. Askel. Your humanity, compassion and devotion make you a man to be admired. May you always be safe in your noble mission to help women. You are a perfect example of a man to be followed.
Gratefully. Julie Deschenes.
Stay safe, young man, you’re choices may put you at risk. Stay safe & know that you are needed.
Thank you Dr. Askel! You are exactly the kind of man, and men, needed in the medical community!
The Medical Students for Choice hyperlink doesn’t work. Go to http://www.msfc.org for their website.