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The author, Jesse, with his sister

Lia matters to men, too

Come Springtime, summer plans dominate conversations on any college campus. Join a table in any dining hall and you’ll see for yourself. You’re bound to learn who’s doing what research, who’s vacationing where, and who’s landed what internship. You’ll also hear the occasional grouch lamenting three months of eating pretzels and watching daytime television on their parents’ couch. Hey, maybe you’ll hear someone eagerly anticipating the same thing.

While students’ summer plans run the gamut, internships seem to take precedence. This news is always front page, above the fold. It signals—or so students tend to think—who’s going to thrive after graduation and who will be submitting last-minute applications to grad school. A student’s internship implies something about their skills, interests, priorities.

So when I landed my internship with Lia Diagnostics, I had many occasions to talk about it. And when I told people I’d be helping sell flushable pregnancy tests, I got many responses, most of which were surprised and confused. I am, after all, a twenty-year-old male with no—I mean NO—intentions of baby-making, and optimal pregnancy tests have never been much of a concern for me. And to many people I’ve spoken to (especially some of my buddies from school and sports), working for Lia sounded a bit, in a word, feminine.

I’ve long considered my response to such incredulity and 20th-century stereotypes, and now I can finally post it to the Lia blog. Let’s get rolling.

I’ll begin by giving you my best understanding of what Lia is, in layers. On the surface, Lia is a flushable and biodegradable pregnancy test which enables women to dictate who knows they’re testing and who knows their results. Slender, nondescript packaging keeps the bathroom snoopers at bay, and flushability ends the need to roll pregnancy tests in toilet paper and bury them in trash cans (in any bathroom). Plus, Lia’s plastic-free composition eliminates waste, allowing the planet to take a break from its bout with pollution (this topic deserves its own post). With all this in mind, you have to admit that Lia’s a cool product, no matter your age or gender. Any college student would be drawn to work with such innovation.

But as I’ve said, that’s just the superficial stuff. It’s a cool product—so what? There are plenty out there. Now I’ll explain the real reason why Lia matters to me, and why I jumped on this internship the moment I could.

The explicit endorsement of public misogynists tells women like my mother and sister—like all women—“Hey, you’re still second-class.” I find this unacceptable.

I was raised by a single mother and an older sister, and my relationship with them drew me to Lia. They made me who I am today. I’ve watched them work for everything my family has ever had; I’ve watched my mom play the role of both mother and father. Their grit and industry have always illustrated competency, and have relentlessly debunked the archaic gender stereotypes perpetuated in this country. They instilled my lifelong belief that all people, of any gender and sex, are entitled to the same rights. I’m talking about the right to privacy, the right to live free from shame and the urge to hide. When it comes to their bodies and bodily functions, men hide little, and feel shame over less. Even a twenty-year-old male can conclude that women deserve the same peace of mind.

Unfortunately, as today’s political climate proves, all such sentiments are still up for debate. Campaign vitriol, existential threats to Planned Parenthood, and the explicit (and implicit) endorsement of public misogynists tells women like my mother and sister—like all women—“Hey, you’re still second-class.” I find this unacceptable.

Yes, Lia is a very innovative and technologically compelling company. Yes, any motivated college student would strive to join such a team. But, to over half of our population, Lia embodies much more than cool. Lia embodies agency, respect, equality, and confidence. Lia represents an example of the current movement to fight against our country’s antiquated social norms and to make the mundane facets of a woman’s life as easy as any man’s. As a son and a brother, I feel compelled to join this movement, and in this respect, pregnancy tests matter to me.

So there’s my summer internship, with all the whats and whys, in more words than could fit into a dining hall.

Jesse Atkins is a senior at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania. 

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