Feminism Fridays: Death to PMS, Long Live the Pill

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Yesterday The Belle Jar posted her reaction to a Buzzfeed Community post titled We Asked 24 Women Why They Don’t Use Birth Control And These Are Their Answers.* I suggest you read her response. It’s very funny, but it’s also very sad that she needs to write a response at all. Anyway, I thought for today’s Feminism Fridays post I’d give you my take on birth control.

From the time I first got my period, I had the worst PMS symptoms, the kind that perpetuate the stereotype. I became hyperemotional. I cried at everything, overreacted to everything. I knew my emotions were irrational, but I couldn’t help myself. I was a bitch. I broke out all over my face. My breasts were so tender and sore that putting on a bra or sleeping on my stomach was excruciating. I had ovary cramps and back cramps, both of which were sometimes so bad I had to take four Advil at a time and wear an Icy Hot back patch for days. Sometimes the pain was so intense I had to take sleeping pills to relax enough to fall asleep. Occasionally the pain made me vomit.

Finally, after years of these horrible symptoms, I decided to go on the pill. Even then, it took another year before I found one that was right for me. The lower-hormone pills didn’t work. My body is so self-regulated that I would get my period during the week I was on the placebo pills and on my regular 28-day cycle. Yes, that means I got two periods a month. It was horrendous. Finally, though, I ended up taking Reclipsen, a pill with a higher dose of estrogen. It’s strong enough that the artificial hormones override my natural ones. Now I’m back to one period a month, thank God.

My PMS symptoms have also significantly decreased. My emotions are much more in check, and I don’t feel like I’m losing control for two weeks every month. My cramps only last a day or so, and they’re much less noticeable. Although I still get bad days every few months, they’re not nearly as bad as they were before.

That’s just what the pill does for my PMS symptoms. I haven’t even mentioned that whole thing where I have a 99% chance of not getting pregnant while taking the pill. Hello, how awesome is that? I still use condoms, because the pill doesn’t protect against STDs, but in the event that a condom breaks or what have you, I have an excellent safeguard against an unwanted pregnancy.

Birth control is great. It gives women the option to have more control over our bodies than we would normally. Now, I’m all for doing things as naturally and as chemical-free as possible (I mean come on, I make my own shampoo), but in this case, bring on the drugs. Taking something that gives me control over my body is empowering, and no one other than myself should have the right to decide what I do with my body.

There are a lot of birth control naysayers out there, but so many of them are religious zealots or are simply uneducated. I myself am religious, but God needs to stay out of my vagina. As for the uneducated, this is just one more reason why we need more in-depth health and sex education classes. Until that happens, though, I’ll keep fighting the good fight. I just hope that when I do finally decide to get pregnant, my significant other will forgive the raging hormonal beast I will become for nine months.

 

*This post was created by a Buzzfeed user, not by a member of the Buzzfeed staff.

Feminism Fridays: Guys, Learn How to Take a Hint

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For me, one of summer’s quintessential activities is watching Big Brother. Laugh if you like, but I’m shamelessly obsessed. Everyone has their reality TV show achilles heel. Big Brother is mine. As much as I could ramble for hours on the minutia of this show, though, today I just want to cover the fact that one of the houseguests does not seem to understand that most basic principle of “no means no.”

Caleb, or, as he refers to himself, Beast-Mode Cowboy, has a bit of a crush on Amber. At first it was cute. He told all the other guys how beautiful he thought she was, how she was the kind of woman he would take home to his parents. Then it got annoying. He wouldn’t stop talking about her, doing things for her, describing her to the other houseguests as if he’d known her for years when he’d only known her a couple weeks.

Then it got aggravating.

He called her his queen, his girl, as if she belonged to him. He put himself in a position of danger in the house to save her, even though she specifically asked him not to. He continued to ask her out on dates even though she said no every time. And this conversation happened:

Caleb: “There’s a certain way you like at me throughout the day and I’m sure you feel the same way. You look at me a lot. Am I wrong?”

Amber: “I don’t know. I didn’t know I looked at anybody a lot.”

Caleb: “Everybody sees you.”

Amber: “This is all news to me.”

That was the first time Caleb brought up his so-called “love” for Amber. She was understandably a little flustered and didn’t make herself  very clear. Since then, however, she has done everything she can to make sure Caleb knows she’s not interested. At one point he asked her what else he had to do to get a date. She told him again how she didn’t want him to do any of the things he did in the first place.

Go away, Caleb. I’m tired of you.

What really pissed me off recently, though, was that Amber and Cody have a little thing going, and Caleb is pissed. He confronted Cody about it, demanding that Cody tell him if anything was going on. He also follows Amber around the house, looking especially sullen if she’s with Cody.

There are a lot of guys with Caleb’s problem. None of them seem to realize that women are not possessions, things to be put on pedestals to show off to everyone in the land. You can’t call dibs on one and expect her to be with you because you did so. Women are people with free will, who can decide who, if anyone, we want to be with. We don’t need the help of men to make our decisions. Caleb claims to treat Amber with nothing but respect, but the mere fact that he won’t let go of the idea of them being together says otherwise.

So, just in case anyone missed it earlier in this post, NO MEANS NO. Just because a women is friendly toward you does not mean she wants, or is obligate, to go out with you. Also, we women can stand up for ourselves. If we ask you not to do something on our behalf, listen to us. That’s not to say I don’t want my boyfriend to come to the rescue if I’m being mugged or something. But if it’s a matter of defending my honor or something of a lesser severity, I can handle it myself, thank you very much.

This won’t sway me from my irrational love for Big Brother (trust me, last season was even worse), but it will remind me to make my voice, and the voices of all women, heard. Our voice is one of our most powerful tools.

Now, Caleb, GTFO.

Feminism Fridays: Let’s Talk About Sex

Recently I’ve been watching Masters of Sex, the Showtime show based on the work of William Masters and Virginia Johnson, the pioneers of the science of human sexuality. Needless to say, I’ve been thinking about sex a lot. Most of those thoughts are irrelevant to this blog, but some some of them are relevant. Today I’ll talk about the relevant things. The other stuff I’ll leave to your imagination.

One of the aspects of this show that intrigues me the most is women’s sexuality in the 50s and 60s. Many women (and many men as well) did not understand how their, or their partners’, bodies worked, or that women could take pleasure from sex just as men could. Today sex education is taught in elementary school. We learn early on how our bodies work and what gives us pleasure. What we’re not taught, not really, is that sex should not have to be a tool that you use to affect your relationship.

Growing up, young girls see examples of women’s bodies used as props or rewards for men. They are showed images and videos and ads of women being represented in the context of their bodies rather than their careers or accomplishments. They grow up thinking that one of the biggest measures of success is what men think of them, and the best way to get a positive response from men is by using their bodies.

Women are making strides in this regard, of course. There are women’s education classes at many colleges. Parents can teach their daughters about self image and can teach their sons about how women should be viewed. Popular actresses, authors, musicians and others with a voice can speak out about women’s issues and raise awareness through the very magazines and music videos that are currently part of the problem. But this, in my opinion, is not enough.

To make even bigger advancements in the way young girls view their bodies, I believe a self-image section should be taught during sex education. It is not enough to simply teach young people how their bodies work. We should also be teaching them about the effects of using their bodies for sexual purposes. We tell them that sex is a big deal, but we don’t really tell them why. We should. We should tell them how a woman could think she’s worthless if no one wants to have sex with her, and we should tell them how that is so wrong. We should tell them that women feel the need to use sex to get men to notice or like them and feel rejected and alone when they don’t stay. We should tell them that men should know this by now and should stop the cycle. There is so much we should tell them. Why is no one telling them?

Don’t get me wrong. I think sex is great. I think it’s a way for people to connect on a deeper level. I also think it’s a way for people to have a good time (safely, of course) and not worry about what it means. But I don’t think this is something we should start learning in our 20s, if that. We need to educate young people about sex’s role in society and how it affects sex’s role in individual lives. It will never change if we don’t change it ourselves. Women deserve better than that.