Like almost every other woman I know, my experience with hormonal contraceptives began in high school, and like every other one of my girlfriends, taking the pill had nothing whatsoever to do with preventing pregnancy. We all swallowed down our daily doses for one reason and one reason only:
Taking the pill allows you to predict, pretty much down to the hour, when Aunt Flo will be making her monthly appearance.
If there is anything more horrifying to your average high school girl (at least in my day) than the thought of a bleed out in chemistry class, I don’t know what that would be. Why are those damn coats white?
We all knew the pill had certain side effects, and some of those were very much desired. The kind of pill that completely prevents a woman’s natural production of testosterone leads to nice clear skin, so naturally we all wanted that kind of pill.
Of course, YAZ has also been implicated in thousands of deaths due to blood clots and other nasty side effects, but if that was ever mentioned, it wasn’t done in a way that made any impression on me or any other girl I knew. According to drugnews.net pulmonary embolism is also listed as another nasty yasmin side effect.
We all understood that the pill would also prevent pregnancy, but that was not the primary motivation to take it as a teenager. God, guess I’m really old! I must be the last generation that came of age when sexuality was something you discovered with a boyfriend you had been dating for a really long time. Going steady. When I was in highschool, there was no such thing as Google, the internet was something geeky kids were really into and porn came in magazines you had to be 18 to buy.
Things have changed.
But the idea that the pill was liberating, that it had changed women’s lives was very much alive and kicking. The birth control pill was what set women free and the act of taking it was highly symbolic. Popping those pills made us free women.
Turns out the pill has some interesting side effects, which are probably quite positive for very young women, but have some pretty far-reaching consequences for older women and society in general. For one thing, by interfering with natural cycles of ovulation and fertility, the pill actually works to dampen women’s desire. The natural lust most women experience at the peak of their fertility cycle is dulled, often to the point of non-existence. And women’s desire for effeminate men becomes more or less their permanent state of being.
A study of 85 couples who met when the woman was already taking oral contraceptives, and the same number of couples who met when the woman was not on the pill, found that the women in the first set picked men with more feminine features.
What’s the science behind this? By stopping ovulation and replacing the ebbs and flows of our normal monthly hormone cycle with a constant, fixed stream of synthetic hormones, the pill messes with the biological signals we send to and receive from guys.
In highschool, that’s great! In the grown-up world, that’s a little bit disconcerting. Grown women who are not experiencing natural hormonal cycles and who have a strong preference for effeminate men have become the new normal. Four out of five sexually experienced women are taking hormonal birth control pills, and in doing so, they are changing the definition of what it means to be a woman.
Holly Grigg-Spall’s new book, Sweetening the Pill: Or How We Got Hooked on Hormonal Birth Control, available in the US on September 7, investigates our complex relationship with human alteration, pharmaceutical interests, and the benefit of a “natural” state of femaleness.
…the author is proposing the idea that oral hormonal contraceptives are actually a tool of a capitalist patriarchy intent on altering and suppressing femininity, and that women’s unquestioning acceptance these powerful medications is, at best, an uneducated recalibration of the brain and body, and at worst, an acquiescence to a culture steeped in hatred of the feminine.
The pill affects women in some fairly profound ways. A 2011 study found that being on the pill made women recall events in terms of emotional impacts and feelings, while those women NOT taking the pill were able to recall facts and details from the same event.
Women who use contraceptives like birth control pills experience memory changes, according to new UC Irvine research. Their ability to remember the gist of an emotional event improves, while women not using the contraceptives better retain details.
How we remember the world we live in and the experiences we have had will obviously have a huge impact on how we understand that world. If women on birth control pills are more likely to recall the emotional impact of any given experience and fail to recall the actual details and circumstances, might that not be an explanation of why so many of them think how they FEEL about certain events trumps any actual facts?
Could that explain rape? Women FEEL they have been raped, therefore they have been? The actual circumstances do not count as evidence?
Grigg-Spall argues that if memory contextualises our past experiences and governs our future behaviour and understanding of the world, then a drug that alters it in even a slight way might have far-reaching consequences.
Rather fascinating. I think Griggs-Spall is on to something when she talks about a world that hates the feminine, and I will be curious to read her book and see if she lays the genesis of that hate where it belongs: modern feminism. No other ideology hates traditional femininity as much as the Andrea Dworkin/Lindy West brigade. And have you seen those ladies? Not too difficult to take a stab at just why they can’t stand women who look and act like …. women.
There are even self-avowed feminists who see that when feminism sneers at women who prefer to actually be feminine, they are in fact practising outright misogyny.
Antifemininity is misogynist. What you are saying when you engage in this type of rhetoric is that you think things traditionally associated with women are wrong. Which is misogynist. By telling feminine women that they don’t belong in the feminist movement, you are reinforcing the idea that to be feminine and a woman is wrong, that women who want to be taken seriously need to be more masculine, because most people view gender presentation in binary ways.
Griggs-Spall thinks the birth control pill is a capitalist conspiracy to get women to buy a product they do not absolutely require for most of their adult lives. Loyal customers indeed. But I disagree. First of all, the fact that capitalism would like to create products and have you buy them is not exactly secret information. We would all be living in grass huts and trading dried berries for handspun wool if it were not for capitalists continuously creating products and improving on them and trying to get us to buy them.
Who really benefits from women who are completely out of touch with their natural hormonal cycles, and who prefer feminine men? Who would like to see BOTH masculinity and femininity destroyed? Who wants to see gender eradicated as a meaningful distinction? Griggs-Spall throws the word “patriarchy” in as if that means something, but the patriarchy has never, ever hated the feminine. You can accuse the so-called patriarchy of many things, but hating the feminine isn’t one of them.
If the goal is to eradicate the feminine by disrupting women’s fertility cycles and to destroy the masculine by making certain only feminine men are able to eventually reproduce, the pill looks to be an excellent way to go about it. No wonder Sandra Fluke is so adamant that her birth control prescriptions be covered by her healthcare policy.
I’ll bet her boyfriend is very pretty, too.
Lots of love,