I complain about the signs of the times more often than not. Thus the basis of this blog, I suppose. But when I’m trying to pick myself back up again, I often casually offer to myself the reminder that I’m lucky to live somewhere that at least women are treated (mostly) as equals to men. I’m so glad that I have the right to vote, work all the same jobs as a man and could even run for parliament if I wanted to. Hell, we even have a female Prime Minister! Only, there’s one tiny, little thing that’s blown all of that out of the water: hormonal birth control.
Let’s backtrack a minute to catch you up with where I’m at now, shall we? I’ve recently stuck the middle finger up to the hormonal birth control pill. It’s been in the pipeline for a while. I knew something was wrong when I was noticing the same pattern. Month after month I’d have my seven-day break between packets and suddenly feel alive again; see things in colour, if you will. But come Monday morning, I’d be on a new packet and then within a few days back to feeling like cotton wool was shoved between my ears. I’d start the day with rage and end it with hopeless despair. I pointed the finger at every single aspect of my life, other than the pill. That is, until I had nowhere else to go but 6 feet under.
And we all do it. All of us! If our doctors are giving us medication, we believe that we can trust it. And with time, we grow loyal to it, even. Surely it can’t be our hormonal birth control that’s the root of all our problems? Only, when you realise that it’s the only medication dished out to healthy people to make them ill, you’ve got to stop and ask yourself: how did it get to this?
Women’s bodies, from puberty through to menopause, function cyclically. Every month our body does a delicate dance with a handful of different hormones, ebbing and flowing as an egg is released and – if unfertilised – causes a monthly bleed. With these changes in hormones comes changes in mood and energy levels. Like the turn of the tide, we have a rhythm that we live by. Although some studies indicate men too experience their own type of cycle each month, generally speaking they are linear – at least when it comes to their fertility. No matter the day of the month, a normal, healthy male produces sperm that are able to fertilise an egg.
These two ways of existing – of doing life – are vastly different. The linear route hints at reliability. Unless illness gets in the way or some other anomaly, every day you can assume that a man will wake up and be just as he was the day before. With women, it’s different. Women have changing needs and strengths as the different stages of their cycle roll into one another and they simply can’t be expected to be the same every day. That is, unless you take hormonal birth control. My arguement is that it’s the greatest oppressor we have in our society against females. If we are given the pill, implant, injection, IUD or any other form of hormonal birth control, we are essentially telling ourselves, our sisters, our daughters and wives that a female in her natural state is ill, isn’t good enough, isn’t capable of survival in what is essentially a man’s world.
Yes, hormonal birth control is used as a contraceptive, sure, but it’s also given to girls as young as 13 to ‘treat’ heavy periods and acne. Let’s look at these in some more detail.
Consider the cycle that I mentioned earlier and – without going into too much detail – you might know that this includes an ovulatory phase amongst other things. This is the phase where an egg is released from an ovary, makes its way down the fallopian tube and arrives in the uterus. It hangs around for about 24 hours before disintegrating if no sperm appear. A little while later, the uterus lining shreds and is expelled in the form of a period.
So, that being said, what I’d like to know is how it’s fair that although women are only fertile for a short part of each monthly cycle, we are somehow expected – en masse – to take sole responsibility for birth control? Not the man who is fertile all month long, but the woman. Make sense to you?
And then onto the second reason that I mentioned earlier – the pill given to young girls who have recently started their cycles. Hormonal birth control is not a cure. It is not a solution. It is a mask. By bringing your menstrual cycle to a halt and stopping ovulation, along with pumping your body full of synthetic hormones, you are suppressing any problems that might be there. This may seem all good and well, only the day that that woman decides to come off the pill for whatever reason, all of those symptoms will come right back again. The pill is not a cure like diet and lifestyle are. It is a virtual reality.
Hormonal birth control is doing a mixture of different things. It’s suppressing our menstrual cycles, causing side effects like increasing our risk of breast cancer, giving us depression and anxiety, killing our sex drive and rendering us infertile in many cases when we finally come off it after decades of regular use. And it’s dished out like candy by medical professionals that we are told we can trust. Our entire society is built upon the notion.
What’s most shocking of all…what’s shaken my world and got my lying awake at night reading every publication I can get my feisty claws on, what’s got me shouting this information across my office, down the phone and across the dinner table is that what we’ve been doing this whole time is telling women that in order to be successful in this society, we need to exist like men. We need to be as close to men as we possibly can. After all, without a menstrual cycle can you really call yourself a woman? This is what I wonder.
If society and in particular our emphasis on long work weeks continues as it is, we are operating in a linear fashion where there’s no room for cyclical people (aka normal, healthy females). We’ve been misleading our women into thinking that they’re being free of the burden of their menstrual cycles by adopting hormonal birth control. To the point where many defend their choice saying that it allows them to not have to experience the ‘inconvenience’ of a period 12 or 13 times a year. But what we’re missing is that a truly equal society where women are liberated is one that moulds itself into a model that plays to womens cyclical strengths; not one that tells them that what they are in their natural form is not good enough.
You might be saying, “But Kennedy, I’m not depressed. I don’t have any negative symptoms from my pill.” Sure, you might not have any of the negative mental health symptoms that unfortunately so many of us are plagued with and believe me, I am extremely happy for you (genuinely!), but did you know that taking the pill before the age of 20 doubles your risk of getting breast cancer? Pill use also reduces your uptake of vitamins and minerals thus by default renders you malnourished unless extreme care and planning goes into your diet. It also thins your bones and disrupts every organ in your body in one way or another. You might not have any obvious symptoms, but a closer look would say otherwise.
When will we wake up and realise that the pill is no longer applicable to today’s modern woman?