Category Archives: sex

The Pill

by cacophonies

edit as of 10/14/09: Please read the updated post that will appear sometime 10/14/09 evening (US Central time) for a clarification of what I intended to get across with this post before commenting on this thread. Comments from here on out yelling at me about my tone will be deleted. Thank you.

Amanda Marcotte wrote an article about how she’s irritated by all of the criticism of the Pill, and claims of scientific studies proving that hormonal birth control is harming women’s health and the planet. She doesn’t believe the claims, and believes instead that because the Pill symbolizes “female sexual independence,” it should remain on the market, for everyone, no matter what the silly studies say.

I usually really appreciate Amanda Marcotte. She’s an intelligent and insightful writer, her book is hilarious, and I just generally know that if she writes something, I’m likely to enjoy it. But jumping on the bandwagon of feminists who can rant all day about right-wing ass holes not believing in global warming and other proven scientific facts, and 15 minutes later are closing their eyes and sticking their fingers in their ears when someone says they ought to be informed and look for another form of birth control (there are a whole lot of choices out there, ladies and gentlemen) because this one is proven to be detrimental to most women’s mental and physical health, and also fucks with the ecosystem, is not progressive. Not in the slightest. And when they do acknowledge that all of those things can be true, they are very quick to claim that, regardless of all of the known dangers even to people who don’t take the Pill, we would have no right taking it away from the people who wish to continue using it.

Why not? We expect that once it was proven that cigarette smoke not only causes lung cancer in a smoker, but also in non-smokers via second-hand smoke, that cigarette smoking will no longer be allowed in an enclosed public space, in order to protect the people who are not choosing to do something dangerous to their health. In most Western industrialized nations, it is.

We expect that once we learned about the dangers of DDT to the workers who sprayed it, the people who ate what it was sprayed on, and the environment, that it would be banned. It was.

We expect that if it’s discovered that spinach has E.Coli, it’s recalled and stricter safety regulations are enforced. It generally is.

But feminists of the so-called “third wave” or contemporary persuasion, for some reason, love the crap out of Big Pharma. You can’t pry those precious prescriptions for all of their many problems out of their claws. They can’t seem to grasp the idea that many prescription medications are bad for you, and bad for the environment. If they can grasp it, they try as hard as they can to find a reason why it would be wrong, immoral and sexist to ban them. Or, how, Who cares if it’s bad, what you said made me feel fat!

Amanda discusses some study done somewhere that proved that while women were on the Pill, they were attracted to more “domestic” men than they were when they were off the Pill. She blows it off, eventually seeming to call people who are predisposed to consider what anthropologists have to say silly for believing what she clearly thinks is hogwash.

She also finds a way to make sure that it looks like someone is leaving out lesbians: “I’m also sure lesbians in the audience will be amused to hear their hormones direct them to this man or that, depending on their cycle.”

No. While the article is clearly hetero-centric and doesn’t take into account the fact that lesbians ovulate just as much as heterosexual women do, Amanda doesn’t take into account the fact that “domestic” and “rebellious” are not traits that only exist in heterosexual people. If the study is more or less accurate in it’s hypothesis, then lesbian women would be more attracted to more “domestic” women while on the Pill.

There was a thread on Feministe a while back, reviewing a book about all kinds of lefty-natural-green-save-the-planet things. Like how antibiotics in your system will kill fertile soil when it goes from your body to the earth. The author found this out by pooping in his yard regularly, and noted the difference when he pooped while taking antibiotics.

Everyone got mad at me, and the author or the post told me not to comment on that thread again, because I was too snarky for them (I was of the belief that there was nothing too snarky for Feministe commentariat) and “condescending” because of what I said in the comments about the reviewer’s criticism about the author’s claim that the Pill is bad for the planet. I heard all kinds of reasons why I should be just totally fine with toxic chemicals in my drinking water:

also your call for eliminating antidepressants and other drugs “for the good of the planet” is pretty damned ableist. i think my not committing suicide from uncontrolled depression takes priority here.

I think that if I am going to be called an ableist for understanding that many chemicals in anti-depressants are bad for those using them and also, eventually, for those who choose not to use them, then it could be argued that you could be labeled selfish for choosing to save yourself from the magnitude of your depression rather than the health of 6 billion other people.

he is causing MAJOR environmental issues by possibly introducing foreign bacterial colonies to local soil populations. VERY BAD idea to be eating things from ALL OVER the planet and then pooping them out on the surface of the soil.

“Foreign bacterial colonies”… Hmm. I guess hormonal birth control doesn’t count as something foreign to introduce to the local soil populations… I guess soil just evolves happily with synthetic hormones, but not with this guy’s poop?

Why are all of these feminists so reluctant and angry and unwilling to admit that sometimes, these things are bad, and that even if we think they’re bad, we should keep them around all the time for everyone anyway? Ok. Science knows nothing? Then why not let the religious right have what they want, and teach Creationism in schools? That’s a good idea, then, right? If we follow the proposed logic, anyway.

I get the concern about people who are dependent on prescription medication, and I’m not proposing that we make prescription medication illegal. I also think that it’s very important to consider that many people are dependent on prescription medications because of conditions caused by pollution, toxins used in our household cleaners, baby formula, and poor health decisions that didn’t exist 100 years ago. Do we want to eradicate this trend, or perpetuate it? Again, I’m not advocating forbidding medication to those in existence who need them, but there has to be another option. Am I willing to say that having the Pill is an even trade for the slow, inevitable death of our planet, if we keep it up?

No.

It’s time for feminism to get out of bed with the pharmaceutical companies and think about their health, the health of other women, and the health of the rest of the planet that we all claim to care deeply about.

The catch is that there are women who genuinely suffer from excruciating pain when they have their periods, who haven’t been able to find comfort in anything but hormonal contraceptives. This, I understand. I’m not trying to advocate taking your only comfort away from you. But that isn’t the end. “Some people neeeed them” isn’t a good enough reason to ignore the fact that Big Pharma, the FDA, and the rest of the government really don’t care about you or me or anyone else. It isn’t a good enough reason to keep up production and not demand regulations and absolute, 100% safety in these products. That’s what they are: products. Have we forgotten that we, as a users of oral contraceptives, are not people with a problem that you’re taking a pill to treat or “cure,” but a consumer of a product? I think we have. Consider, then, that manufacturers of these products are going to do what they can to manufacture these drugs as cheaply as possible, which will create the highest profit, which means the product will be sub-par in quality. A trend that has always led to adverse effects on our health, and everyone else’s that manages to inadvertently come in contact with it. Under-regulated drug designers are concerned with their profit, and only with their profit. They are in the business they are in, not because they care about increasing the quality of the lives of the people who purchase their products, but because they know that there is a demand for oral contraception, and they want to get in on the profit. Even the religious suppression of the Pill in the United States has never overcome its demand.

I was on The Pill for a few months. I figured I might as well, since I was in a monogamous relationship and it seemed terrifically convenient to pop a pill a day and say goodbye to condoms. I imagine that’s the way most women feel when they go on The Pill for contraceptive reasons.

My experience, however, was less than pleasant I grew incredibly depressed. My breasts hurt constantly, and I had cramps that were worse than the ones I got with my period. My doctor asked me absolutely zero questions and basically just handed me the prescription that she figured would be best, and I therefore had no idea what to expect or what to do, other than take the thing at the same time every day. I didn’t ask her any questions because I trusted that she knew best. When I got to the end of the first 3 weeks, and took the placebo pills, I started to bleed, as though I had my period. From Wikipedia, explaining the placebo pills:

The placebo pills allow the user to take a pill every day; remaining in the daily habit even during the week without hormones. Placebo pills may contain an iron supplement, as iron requirements increase during menstruation.

Failure to take pills during the placebo week does not impact the effectiveness of the pill, provided that daily ingestion of active pills is resumed at the end of the week.

I guess it just didn’t occur to me that I’d need to be reminded to do the thing that stopped me from possibly getting pregnant while I bled. Oh, but I didn’t even need to bleed:

The withdrawal bleeding that occurs during the break from active pills was thought to be comforting, as a physical confirmation of not being pregnant.[55] The 28-day pill package also simulates the average menstrual cycle, though the hormonal events during a pill cycle are significantly different from those of a normal ovulatory menstrual cycle.

So I took a pill so that I didn’t get pregnant. My breasts grew one cup size (permanently) as a result of the extra estrogen that my body didn’t need or want to produce or accomodate; everything hurts; I’m depressed as hell. Fuck this– there are plenty of other ways that I can prevent myself from getting pregnant when I don’t want to be. And don’t even think of telling me that one way to help the depression while still taking The Pill is to start taking an anti-depressant. Just don’t bother.

I know that my experiences are not the same as every woman’s, and I wouldn’t presume to tell other women that they shouldn’t do something simply because I had a bad experience with them. On the other hand, many women report problems with The Pill. Many women need their PIll’s estrogen level increased or decreased because what they’re doing is introducing more of one hormone (actually, two; progesterone is the other active ingredient in The Pill) into the body, that the body doesn’t naturally produce, that the body does not want. Since the body does not produce it and does not want it, it creates negative effects. Like depression, tender breasts, cramping (fooling your body into believing it’s pregnant, so it doesn’t think it needs to let you get that way), blood clots, breast cancer.

Once I realized that my depression was so severe and I couldn’t figure out why, I had a spark of curiosity and Googled The Pill. When I read about the depression, I stopped taking it. When I read about how my “period” while on The Pill was not in any way real (I knew something seemed quite off), I got mad.

It’s time to stop blindly trusting the corporations that produce toxic chemicals and tell us that they symbolize our freedom. It’s absolutely nonsense to allow these corporations to get away with it, just because we can’t think of a better solution. Let’s focus on a different way to help women with reproductive freedom; The Pill is clearly more detrimental than beneficial.

update: Lookie here! I’m already called an ableist because I write a post that dares to discuss the negative side effects of oral contraceptives!

Shocking! Heaven forbid we allow ourselves to consider the larger environmental impact of our rampant pharmaceutical usage.

Such a Nice Guy

by cacophonies

I was at a party the other night, imnotme’s older brother’s girlfriend’s 30th. BirthdayGirl throws many parties and is a fabulous host, and the party was a great time, as usual. There was one guest, however, that didn’t quite jive with the rest of us.

For a little background information, the crowd that typically gathers at BirthdayGirl’s trendy Uptown condo parties are mostly white, mid-to-late twenties and early thirties professionals, with careers in design, advertising, or copy writing. They’re generally fairly comfortable financially and most have bachelor’s degrees, some have continued further in the pursuit of higher education. In fact, if they weren’t all so friendly, welcoming and talkative, I’d feel terribly out of place with my broke-ass, in-and-out of college every couple years self. But alas, I manage not to.

Anyway, as you can imagine based on the nature of my blog and the people that you would assume that I would willingly spend time with, everyone in the group is pretty left-leaning and feminist-friendly. In contrast to this general ideal, though, imnotme’s younger brother brought a friend along with him to this recent bash. “Jake” is not from our neck of the woods (Minneapolis, MN) and hails from Minnetonka, a wealthy suburb of Minneapolis known for… well, rich, bigoted white people, and a fairly large lake.

Jake is known amongst people who meet him as a “nice guy.” Everyone agrees that he’s a bit boisterous, a little too in-your-face sometimes, but you certainly can’t speak ill of a guy who’ll bring over an eighth of kind bud and tell you to help yourself, as he goes into your kitchen and selects a beer to bring to you, beer that he brought over.

In his circles, he’s just a Nice Dude. In ours, we make sure we’re tentative when we agree. But it’s unanimous, right? Dude is just Nice.

The problem lies in the fact that, while he’s generous and overtly (to the point of seeming ingenuine) friendly to you and your friends, he defaults to the lowest common denominator when in a group of people; especially new people, as was the case when YoungerBro brought him to BirthdayGirl’s party.

Lowest common denominator conversations in parties where yuppie-ish, progressive white people are drinking beer and socializing with people they barely know tend to gravitate toward one of two things: sex or sexism. The sexism part, of course, is never hostile or necessarily malicious (or even conscious), but rather a grasp at a common thing that you can safely assume that everyone’s thought about. Differences between men and women, girlfriend/boyfriend problems, what makes guys dump girls and vice versa.

So back to the main point: Jake, he’s kind of a “big dude.” You can tell that the majority of his weight is made up of muscle mass, the deliberate, obsessive kind, where he makes it a point to be as muscular as possible just so he can be as “manly” as possible. Most people probably assume he was a football player in high school and college. He makes a remark to YoungerBro about how skinny he is. YoungerBro, never one to admit that he feels insecure or insulted, pauses briefly and haughtily agrees with him. Jake says, after realizing that his comment could have caused potential uneasiness, hurries to “Hey, it’s a good thing. It’s better than–” (he lowers his voice and even crouches down a bit) “–being fat.” He pauses for a minute as the only people who presumably heard him, imnotme and myself, give no response. YoungerBro also elicits no response. Jake briefly measures the pauses on his Gauge of Social Awkwardness, and quickly attempts to apologize for the remark by muttering half-apologetically, half arrogantly, “Man, that was real shallow of me to say, huh?”

Well, no shit. The thing is, not one outside on that patio was “fat.” Plenty of people were “skinny,” including a few guys, and no one had anything affirming to say in response to his assertion that being skinny is better than being fat. Imnotme and myself were the only ones that presumably heard him, but the fact that no one even bothered to affirm his assertion seemed to spark his Gauge. Perhaps it had something to do with the underlying implication that, in order to be compared to fat people in the way that Jake did it to YoungerBro, you’d have to be what he (and his peers) would deem to be too skinny. You know, for a dude. Dudes can be big, chicks can be skinny. Dudes don’t get (relevant) shit for being big, chicks don’t get (genuinely negative) shit for being skinny.

One more glaring, obnoxious example of ridiculous expectations that men and women are faced with, perpetuated by someone that everyone thinks is such a goddamn Nice Fucking Dude.

There were other examples of the ways that Jake occasionally stuck out like a sore thumb at this party, but I can no longer remember them all. The point remains, though, that someone may be extra nice to you, and a real asshat to everyone else, and in Jake’s case, it likely has everything to do with where he grew up, and his privileged background. It’s really easy to grow up white, rich, and sheltered. It’s really easy to quickly pass judgment on the people you see every day who don’t look exactly like you. It’s really easy to assume that because someone isn’t like you, that they are somehow defective, unreasonable, or lazy. It’s really easy to be known as a Nice Dude when you don’t even notice what a dick you are otherwise. It’s so easily forgivable, right?

It’s hard to be in a situation like that, for me personally, and listen to people like him, voice booming, about things like how being “too” skinny is better than being fat. It’s hard for me to stay quiet, but it’s even harder for me to say something confrontational or to correct his arrogance. At least there’s a bright side. The bright side is that, 5 years ago, if I were to have gone to a similar party and a Jake showed up and started running his mouth, 90% of the other partygoers would have joined in. My social circles haven’t changed much– they include different individual people, but the ideologies shared in the various groups remained the same– so it’s not necessarily that I just started hanging around better people. Maybe we’re all just growing up, realizing that things aren’t as black and white as we thought they were before, and now, 90% of the people at the party will, at the very minimum, cringe.

I don’t think that Jake is not a nice guy; I will willingly allow him that label, but I will not feel comfortable allowing him the grace of being ignorant when it’s avoidable. Maybe that is the distinction; if a person is aware of their ignorance or arrogance, then they have enough sense to change their ways, and only pride or stubbornness is standing in their way. That is a choice, and therefore, in my mind, unforgivable. If one has the mental capacity to consider whether or not they are in the right or wrong about an opinion or statement that they made, then one has the sense to be a progressive and respectable individual. If they are not a progressive and respectable individual upon realizing that they have the choice, then in my mind, they are no longer eligible for my social forgiveness or good graces. That does, of course, mean that I am declaring that I have the “right answers”; otherwise, how would I even be capable of making a decision about this person’s societal worth? The problem is that I am perpetually annoyed by people or groups that declare, or at least believe, that what they think, feel, believe, etc., is superior to other ideologies, so naturally, I do not want to be one of those people.

I’m not sure that I believe that people can change who they are and what they believe in a matter of minutes, or based on a class or a conversation with someone who holds a different perspective than theirs’… but, I do believe that people can change their minds and I believe that anytime someone changes their mind, it’s probably a good idea.

A Question for Men

by cacophonies

This is really meant to be more light-hearted than anything, mostly because I doubt that any of the men reading this post would fall into the category of people that I’m really addressing, but:

Men, adolescent males, etc., what, exactly, are you thinking to yourself when you whistle at a girl and say something to the effect of, “hey baby, lookin’ good!”?

After work today, I went on a short errand to pick up some beer and smokes for myself and imnotme. What happened in that 20-minute span of time was this:

I walked into the convenience store, walked up to the counter, where the young-ish male working behind the counter greeted me by name (he always does; he remembered from my card, or ID, I guess) and lamented about how I never come in anymore. This interaction, in and of itself, is not necessarily problematic. It’s more innocently flirtatious than the others, but still irritating when it happens… every single time… that I go into this store without imnotme. When he’s with me, dude says nothing.

I leave with my cigarettes, and I head next door to the liquor store, where the group of 20-something men in an idling car whistle at me. I keep looking down, knowing from experience that eye contact only invites more obnoxious comments, propositions, or whistles. The guy who left the car to go inside looks at me, and I can’t tell if it’s a glare, or somehow “appreciative.” It wasn’t a casual glance. I go inside and I buy my beer.

I leave without incident, drive home, and park in the garage. I walk through the backyard to get to my porch. Next door, a group of maybe 5 20- or 30-something men who live there and hang out there are talking and joking. When I get to the middle of my yard, conversation comes to a halt. I’m not exaggerating; the deadening silence was noticeable and incredibly awkward. I walk faster to get to my door, looking down. One guy says, “hey baby girl…” I glance up and wave with my free hand, not saying anything. He continues, “with your fiiiine self…”

I couldn’t help but chuckle a little bit at that, because it kind of seems completely fucking ludicrous for anyone to think that someone talking like that to a perfect stranger will yield anything but uncomfortable responses and quick exits.

My point, and question, is this:

Why do (some) men do this? I know this is not a universal trait that men share; please don’t read this and think I’m accusing anyone male of being guilty of this annoying and uncomfortable habit. It’s only a certain breed of weird men that do it. But I also know that, for the men who do this, it’s not because they actually think that the woman is necessarily super attractive, or because they actually want to “get with” her.

I don’t know any woman who has ever answered any such advance positively and formed a relationship, or hell, even a one-night-stand with the guy. Do men actually think that this is an effective way to meet women? I can’t possibly say that I think that to be the case. So what is it, then? If it’s not legitimate attraction, then the next motivation in line has got to be intimidation. Objectification. Etc. Most males who engage in this behavior can tell how uncomfortable it often makes the woman, and I think that eggs them on. Rarely, if ever, do I see women behave toward men in the same manner.

I challenge you to actually find a woman who is consistently appreciative of this kind of behavior. I cannot speak for all women, but it does not make me feel flattered. I know that they say the same thing to every other woman that crosses their path, unless they say something outright mean, instead. What, exactly, is with this behavior?

Anyone have any light to shed on this?

Gendered Language, Part II

by cacophonies

The recent post about gendered language and the common defaulting to male got on quite a tangent. I’d like to raise a few points to maybe clarify, or expand on, what I was saying.

My annoyance at being defaulted to male, like when a customer sends a letter to me, a female, addressed to “Sirs,” is based less on historical context or its relevance to current societal problems or legal issues, and more to do with what the words or phrases mean in modern society.

No, discontinuing the official use of gendered language is not stopping women from “facing legal penalty for being raped in misogynistic cultures,” but it is holding onto, and perpetuating, the idea that women are not equal to men. Whether the person who writes the letter or defaults to male pronouns in speech realizes it or not, or whether or not s/he is actively sexist.

I readily acknowledge the fact that meanings of words have changed with time, and the root of any one word may mean something completely different in a different time than its modified version does now. I agree that gendered language is slowly evolving and becoming more inclusive. I’m also not denying that, 50 years ago, when the same elderly person that called me a sir in their letter to me wrote their first letter to her bank, it was 100% expected that a man would receive that letter and handle the person’s problem. Maybe more women were accepting of that then, and they aren’t now. Times have changed, and I understand that.

My post was, ultimately, touching on a small annoyance that I, as a female, have to deal with in my professional life. Defaulting to male when addressing or describing people is now outdated and, because of the fact that women occupy nearly all positions in the corporate world, sexist, whether intended or not.

Gendered language does, however, grow into larger problems. The little boy who learns that it is expected to assume everyone is male when addressing an audience, a letter, or telling a story, will grow accustomed to the idea that he is the default, and therefore, the most important or most valuable. The little girl that learns the same thing will grow accustomed to believing that she is an afterthought, or not as important, and that she will always have to struggle to be recognized– more so than her male counterparts.

The subliminal messages (whether intended or not) that we get and process as a result of gendered language can, in fact, be problematic on a larger scale. Maybe, if the 20-year old college guy hadn’t been assuming that everyone defaults to male, therefore not realizing that he sees himself as more valuable than women, or sees women as a people who exist for him, he would have listened when the girl that went to the frat party he threw said no, because he would see her as a peer, someone who had the same ability to make decisions for herself as he had.

That’s a bit of an out-there example, but I think it fits. Acquaintance/date rape is a huge problem, and the victims are more often women than men, and gendered language that defaults to men is only aiding in the mindset that that’s expected, or acceptable behavior. Like it’s just another part of being a female that we have to live with, comparable to our periods.

That’s not how it actually is, and that’s not the idea that we should perpetuate with something so easily changed and modified as our language.