Today’s the day, ironically enough on Mother’s day, that marks half a century since the FDA approved the pill for contraceptive use in the USA. And, for better or for worse, it’s become part of the fabric of our culture, and allowed women to have both family and a career by providing reliable family planning. Although, as many have commented, the pill may get more credit than it deserves, it serves as a powerful symbol of women’s liberation and sexual freedom.
Recently, in the Vancouver Art Gallery, I learned that, around this time, feminist painters were bringing the body back into art, challenging the largely male trends of abstractionism. Ironically, at the same time, feminist psychologists were working to remove the body from the psychology of women, challenging the prevailing wisdom that the narrative of woman is the narrative of her womb, and that when it ceases to be productive, so does she. How does the pill, with its chemical silencing of women’s reproductive endocrinology, fit with this interplay between owning and disowning our female bodies? And how can we own our bodies without allowing them to be our only defining features?