- Although it’s well known that weight affects dosing of many medications, including birth control pills, new warnings about effectiveness of Plan B and similar morning-after pills made headlines this week when the European manufacturer of a similar drug announced that they will begin warning consumers that the drug is completely ineffective for women who weigh more than 176 pounds and begins to lose effectiveness in women who weigh more than 165 pounds. The FDA is evaluating whether to require US emergency contraceptive pill makers to change their labels. (The average weight of a woman in the US is 166.2 pounds.)
- The new label of Norlevo, the European morning-after pill, also says it “cannot stop a fertilized egg from attaching to the womb”. While US brands say they work mostly by blocking the release of eggs before fertilization, they also say the drugs may inhibit fertilized eggs from implanting in the uterus. Court watchers are speculating about whether this could affect the current case before the US Supreme Court, involving corporations that object on religious grounds to the health care law’s requirement that employers provide insurance coverage for contraception, including emergency contraception.
- Could old-school menstrual gear be the solution for VPL (visible panty lines)? Nah, we didn’t think so either, and neither do our Twitter and Facebook followers.
- The Act of Gender Equality in Employment in Taiwan has been modified, adding three extra days of menstruation leave that will not be deducted from half-pay common sick leave.
- Vaginal discharge is part of the magic of the vagina’s self-cleaning function, but it can still stain your unders, maybe even more than menstrual fluid. If that bothers you, Jezebel‘s Jolie Kerr has some advice for you.
- Gynecologists who treat men are not common, but some do treat men with anal cancer. It is rare, and usually caused by the human papillomavirus, or HPV, which is sexually transmitted. But these doctors risk losing their certification from the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology if they don’t limit their practice to female-bodied patients.
- This article has been making the rounds on the #Menstruation Twitters this week: Men don’t like to talk about menstruation because they’re men.
It’s Throwback Thursday on social media, and we’re joining in with this ad for Pursettes tampons that ran in Cosmpolitan (U.S.) magazine in 1966. Nearly 50 years on, little has changed in femcare marketing: Look at the familiar themes of medicalization of menstruation, secrecy, fearmongering, and the dreaded scourge of odor problems.
The idea that tampons can steal virginity isn’t quite as pervasive today, but one can still find it in tampon ads as recently as 1990 in teen magazines.
It’s been more than 20 years since Susan Faludi first published Backlash (with the provocative subtitle, The Undeclared War Against American Women), her thorough documentation of the ways women and feminism were under attack in the U.S. The War Against Women has been now been openly declared in American politics, and there is a backlash among women in online feminism.
I’m referring to discussions of hormonal birth control; specifically, how and with whom we can criticize the birth control pill. Before she joined the re:Cycling team, Holly Grigg-Spall wrote a guest post for us titled, Why Can’t We Criticize the Pill? At the time, the title may have seemed a little overwrought, but now that her book criticizing the pill has reached the market and been reviewed in several online publications (including by some reviewers who refused to even read it), the question is more than apt. Lindsay Beyerstein’s review for Slate prompted some readers to start a petition asking the publisher to cease publication. Amanda Marcotte has written two posts on her blog slamming the book without reading it, and refused offers of a free copy so that she could respond accurately. Dr. Jen Gunter is also uninterested in reading it, labeling the book “that atrocious pill book” on Twitter and suspecting “a pro-life agenda”.
The criticisms of the book are many and inconsistent: (1) an assertion that Grigg-Spall claims the pill is bad because it is not ‘natural’, (2) since the pill was bad for Grgg-Spall, no one should take it; (3) the pill is sexist and therefore dangerous; (4) the pill is anti-feminist; and furthermore, (5) Holly advances all of these claims in service of a anti-feminist, anti-woman, anti-choice, pro-life, Christian right-wing agenda. That last one is particularly galling, as every time she speaks or writes about these issues, Holly prefaces her talk or mentions in her writing that she is atheist, feminist, and pro-choice. (She often also mentions that she’s British, and was raised with a very different health care system than those of us in the U.S., and thus held different assumptions about access.)
All of these criticisms are either factually incorrect, or exaggerated or deliberate misinterpretations of Holly’s actual arguments. For instance, while she does question what ‘natural’ cycles would be like if women didn’t take the pill, she does not assert that pill = unnatural = bad. Nor does she advocate banning or restricting the pill. She does locate the pill in a complex matrix of capitalist and patriarchal social structures that do not benefit women, which is not exactly the same as saying “the pill is sexist”.
As a feminist, a scholar, and as a reader of books, I’m both fascinated and frustrated by the criticism Sweetening the Pill has received. I’m appalled that reviewers would write and publish reviews completely panning a book they haven’t read, and then refuse to read it. As a feminist, I’m frustrated by apparent efforts to shut down dissent. The pill has never been more politicized in American life, and as I’ve asserted elsewhere, we cannot be so focused on preserving access that we’re willing to ignore questions of safety. Furthermore, it is not anti-feminist to disagree with one another. Feminism has a long history of proliferating and becoming more powerful by listening to dissent from within. Anyone remember the “Lavender Menace“? The emergence of intersectionality? As a commenter on one of the hack pieces eloquently put it,
The feminist critique of reproductive technology (including the pill’s discontents) are well established going back before the existence of the pill itself as debates with Sanger and colleagues. I’m sure this is widely taught in the Women’s Studies programmes you mention, it was to us even in A-level sociology.
I just don’t understand why you are pretending this is a new thing or that anyone taking these positions is a non-feminist. Are genuinely unaware of the history of your own movement or is this a crude rhetorical move against people you don’t agree with? Feminists (Seaman and Wolfson) provided critical testimony in the 1970 Senate Hearings, this is not some sort of obscure or secret fact, Wolfson’s outburst as to the constitution of the hearings and why drug companies were better represented than women is surely famous?
It seems to be the case you want to retro-actively kick Barbara Seaman out of feminism. You know, the woman that Gloria Steinem said was the prophet of the women’s health movement… with respect I don’t think you have the power and you don’t have an argument.
Feminism has always supported counter-intuitive critiques given that problems are multi-valenced. While Sanger held that reproductive control was an essential pre-condition of liberation, “who controls the control”, why and how are far more provocative questions.
Agree or disagree with Sweetening the Pill, or any other book, but read it for yourself, and form an opinion based on what the book actually says — not what a reviewer says or a 140-character criticism on Twitter suspects it might say. And think very carefully, and perhaps read it again, before you decide that it’s not feminism just because it doesn’t match exactly your feminism.