Friday, October 9, 2009

For men

Could the birth control pill be the secret behind Zack Efron's success? I'm away for just a few days and another big pill story hits the news, and one that despite its slant fits in particularly well with my theorising. The Daily Mail published a piece with the headline 'Taking the pill for the past forty years has put women off masculine men.' The Daily Mail bizarrely seems to be leading the way in changing attitudes towards the pill. I'm not sure of its 'agenda' - I'd guess it's more conservative than my own -but this is a dramatic story. It takes a holistic approach to the pill's history, the reach of its popularity and the potential impact. It's putting the pill into context.

I've been getting a real kick lately out of reading culturally analytical books with a feminist slant and considering how factoring in the birth control pill could change their conclusions. I've noticed hardly any of these fem studies publications even note the pill's existence. In the US alone 80% of women have taken the pill at some point in their lives. I'm beginning to think you really can't discuss the progress or position of women as a whole since 1960 without looking at the possible impact of the pill. Taking the pill to prevent pregnancy has been described as 'using a cannon to shoot a sparrow' - at the risk of repeating myself, this is a powerful drug that is being taken by millions of women every day for years. And yet hardly any books taking on women's issues - even sexuality or body image - have the background presence of the pill in mind. Women are 50% of the world's population, but when the pill is discussed it is usually either taken completely out of context, or only talked of in terms of the initial positive social impact on women's lives.

The Daily Mail piece is pretty much the same old story which is being recycled every so often to show different sides. That is, it states that women's moods and responses change across the menstrual cycle and these changes are wiped out by the pill. Therefore the pill effects the natural changes that have a knock on effect in relationships and reproduction. This story is similar to the stripper story and the smell story discussed previously. Dr Alexandra Alverge suggests that the pill's effect on how women perceive men has 'long term implications for society.' She also says that, 'the Pill has psychological side effects we are only just discovering' Interestingly the Mail article, and most of the articles on this topic, do not emphasise what this could mean for individual women, or even women generally, but are more concerned with the impact of the findings on the evolution of the human race. Barbara Seaman suggested in her late 1960s book, 'The Doctor's Case Against The Pill' that the pill has 'diplomatic immunity' because of it's use in curbing the problems caused by overpopulation. Well, however the papers want to paint this research is fine by me at this point, at least the idea is getting out there.

Meanwhile they're getting ready to medicate the other 50% of the population - the WHO is looking for men to try out a contraceptive injection. It will contain testosterone and progesterone, the combination of which is meant to reduce sperm count. 400 men will be receiving the injections for one year. If this ever actually gets released, and I suspect the side effects along with the social reaction will make it seem very un-marketable, I can't wait to see how it effects attitudes towards the birth control pill. I suspect if something similar is made available to men, there will be an increase in discussion and analysis of hormone based birth control methods that could lead to some real progress.

1 comment:

  1. I can't wait either - it'll be fascinating! A long discussion about the pill is well overdue. I'm happy to say I've been off it for four years and will never go back. Though it's worth noting the Daily Mail is known for its health 'scare stories'. I used to talk to a lot of GPs for news pieces, who condemned the paper as irresponsible for worrying their patients unecessarily. They'd print something about a drug/condition and patients would get anxious (bad in itself), then flock to the surgery when they didn't need to, hence using up appointments for people who had more serious problems. Keep blogging! Eleanor