no period? no. period.

The front page of the New York Times on Friday had an article about a new birth control pill that would cause a woman to have no period while she is taking it. The article iss about how many women (as consumers) see the period as a sign of reproductive health and many people (as experts in various fields) are troubled by the idea of eliminating it.

Birth control is a hard thing for me to even write about, because of my negative personal experiences with it. However, easy access to birth control is something I feel very strongly about – as a political issue and an issue of empowerment for women. While I personally will not take it again, I totally support women who do.

What I wonder is how we as women can take control of how we see and use birth control in our current environment. It’s hard for me to even question birth control, because it sends pangs of dread that I will somehow lend support to people who are trying to make it less accessible.

But I do question it – should it be prescribed for reasons other than controlling birth? To balance your hormones, to clear your skin, to have your period less often, and now to not have it at all? [Another issue for another day is whether it can even do these things.]

Politically, the most important thing to me is that every woman should be able to make her own choice about what is best for her own health and her own life. But how can any of us do this independently of societal pressure to perform better? What if having better skin and more balanced hormones caused a certain woman to be more confident and contributed to a promotion at work? Not losing blood might give women more energy for other things – including working more hours with less fatigue. It is impossible to me to separate societal expectation and health.

I think the problem is beyond whether we think our period is necessary for our health. It is that even if we do want to embrace our period, there isn’t enough room for it in our modern lives. And if our period is problematic, as it is for so many women, there is not good access to support to figure out why and what our options are.

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4 responses to “no period? no. period.

  1. sorry if i get a bit rambly here…but I think this is such an important issue because reproductive health is so fundamentally involved in how we define core gender identity, which has a pretty big impact on how we define every other aspect of our identity. Meaning that its so important on the individual person-level because a big part of who we and others think we are is rooted in that femaleness. And because gender identity itself is determined by, and has an influence on, such a complex web of social, political, and economic factors, that controlling this very influential piece of the female identity puzzle (i.e., menstrual cycle) is very powerful on a macro societal level too, obvi, as you pointed out, Sarita. On a very basic level (based both on biology and on historic and current cultural practices), I am defined as woman because I can bear children. Having a period every month is a reminder that the baby-making-machine-ness of our bodies is working properly- like, ‘hey you, we’re ready to start creating little people in here!’ but when you’re on bc its like your body is lying to you, or you’re both lying to each other, cause that babymachine is not ready to start making little people anytime soon. Lots of people have said this, that the big thing about birth control in the second half of the 20th century was that it separated the historically inextricable coupling of sex and children – for WOMEN, where for men there had always been this separation. Unlike condoms, which are a kind of external mechanical apparatus you can slough off like a sock, something separate and apart from YOU, birth control changes the way our bodies literally function. It certainly isn’t natural. If our DNA could talk it would be going BLAST! OUR PLAN WOULD HAVE WORKED TOO IF IT WEREN’T FOR THOSE MEDDLING KIDS I MEAN PILLS. does bc separate us from our “natural” feminity because it allows us to assume a “male” attitude towards sex, physically speaking. does being “unnatural” make it unhealthy, physically and psychologically? does being “unnatural” make it undesirable culturally-does it have a negative impact on a societal level? Is there necessarily a macrocosm/microcosm relationship between the health of the individual and the health of a society? Is it possible that what’s “unnatural” can be healthy for some individuals and not for others, and how does this variation effect our socio-cultural health or the policies we create to try to improve our socio-cultural health? Uh, so I guess I just restated all your questions, sares? Great, leigh, well done. Anyway, I do feel like these questions are extremely relevant to my life, particularly in this lifestage. Having control over my reproductive decisions is one of the single most important ways I feel like I have control over my life. I really feel like bc allows me freedom, autonomy, empowerment. Its interesting though in that I’m not 100% certain that the choices I make because I have that freedom and autonomy are the right ones, for my physical, psychological, and emotional health. In separating sex and children, in reducing the biological consequences of sex (kids not stds of course), does that reduce the importance of sex? if so, do we care? does getting rid of a period altogether remove that last remnant of a reminder of that connection? If so, is that bad, good, or neutral? These questions are important to me. But choice, as you said Sarah, is essential- and I do want the freedom to make the wrong choices(pretty much my mantra about everything).

  2. leigh, you can ramble at me any time. i think you brought up a super important issue: the relationship of fertility to female gender. It kinda blows my mind to think about in an age where we have gender re-assignment surgery, which is also not ‘natural,’ but who am I to judge who is naturally a woman or man? v. interesting, leigh-leigh (thanks for reminding us all why you’re getting a phD;)

  3. Guerilla Gorilla Girl Y

    I can’t imagine feeling like a woman without getting my period. It’s a seminal, individual, communal bonding event in pre-teen, teenhood. It made me feel closer to my mother and my aunts. I finally understood. Also, like childbirth, I like to think that God and/or Mother Nature know/knew that only woman are strong enough to handle getting a period.

    I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that using birth control does not mean that people should not use condoms. Condoms prevent STDs. Condom use sustains a woman’s natural femininity; it does not reduce it.

  4. These are all poignant and relevant questions, and I, for one, have chosen the easy way out: gay. Many menstrual moons ago, when I was playing four square on the middle school blacktop, I decided that if it came down to taking birth control for the rest of my womanhood in order to get jiggy with men or getting in the sack with women, I might as well just suck it up (so to speak) and sack it up with women. This is not to say that I don’t ever get “birth control envy.” I do. Sometimes, when women who take birth control stand around and throw their arms up together shouting, “Fucking birth control! I get mood swings like I were a playground!” I feel a bit left out. I suppose I could take it for adult acne, but I’m just too wimpy. My hat goes off to all of those who brave the monthly seas.

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