The Vagenda

A Hard Pill to Swallow

Hormones: it’s almost as if men don’t have them, isn’t it? When was the last time you heard ‘one of the guys’ accused of being ‘hormonal’, or a father warning his son that sometimes he might feel ‘hormonal’ during his teenage years? How many times have you had the vague cultural assumption that your hormones go ‘haywire’ during your period thrown in your face during an impassioned debate, undermining your argument in one fell swoop with its assertion that if you’re a woman, you may as well not be taken seriously for one quarter of every month? And how much obsession has been poured into women’s media about the minute fluctuations of oestrogen and progesterone every few weeks, suggesting that your tastes and aspirations are basically governed by them – one week of ovulation and all you want is nonstop steamy sex with a construction worker from Essex, then a tip of the menstrual cycle later and you’re gooey-eyed over Harry from One Direction, who you want lots and lots of babies with at that very moment to boot?

Yes, hormones are a buzzword where women are concerned – and they’ve been storming the pages of your most cherished newspapers and loathed magazines for the past couple of weeks. Last week, The Daily Fail told us to ‘ditch the Pill to find out if you really fancy him’ – because, you know, women on the Pill are basically star-crossed idiots wandering around society and getting endlessly engaged without really knowing what they want. This isn’t exactly new ground for the Fail, who have peppered the last few years with their various, usually unqualified thoughts on the Pill: in 2009, they claimed that ‘the contraceptive Pill has put women off masculine men’; in 2010, they blamed ‘the death of passion’ in relationships on women taking the Pill; and only one month before their most recent article, a contributing journalist wrote that the Pill has damaged the British workforce, contributed to a national dependence on immigration, and ‘played a key role in contributing to a culture of sexual licentiousness.’

Hot on the heels of a good scaremongering, the women’s lifestyle press have reported on effects of the Pill in their droves. This bizarre contraceptive backlash hasn’t wasted any time suggesting that minor things like migraines and polyps might happen to you if you keep popping oestrogen – instead, they’ve gone right to the heart of the matter and suggested that taking the Pill will probably result in your choosing the wrong lifestyle, the wrong partner, becoming hella broody, and then not being able to have children. Awesome.

There’s no big mystery about the Pill. It uses hormonal therapy to stop sperm getting to eggs. Some women love it; some women hate it; some women use it because they’re in a long-term monogamous relationship where they don’t want children and know they’re not at risk for STDs; some women use it because their periods are too heavy; some women use it for their skin; some women use it so they can sleep with loads of cool people with the reassurance that, if the condom breaks, there’s still a very low likelihood of pregnancy. What the Fail terms a ‘culture of sexual licentiousness’ – and they just would, wouldn’t they? – is actually a culture where some of the contraceptive control has finally been put in the hands of the people who would actually have to carry the babies inside their bodies if the shit hit the fan.

Fundamentally, the Pill is just a great idea. My mother remembers it as one of the most liberating tools of the sixties – barriers against STDs are obviously more important than ever now, and nothing can as yet replace the condom in that vein, but knowing the exact day of your next period? Feeling confident that you’re not running a high risk of putting your body through the much more traumatic hormonal onslaught of the ‘morning after pill’ or a chemical abortion? Little packets with days written on them in teeny tiny writing? The media might be having a hissy fit for want of anything better to write at the moment, but it all sounds good to me.

As always, it’s too damn easy to criticise the ‘clearly more unhinged’ sex. The podium of judgement belongs to The Man Who Says Stuff, and ideally, women cower before him and are judged. But just as I cyber-complained last week that ‘doughnuts making women depressed’ was the most ridiculous study of the year, and openly complained to friends this week that Stylist magazine’s report into ‘women self-medicating at work’ was unnecessarily focussed on the gals, I’d like to reiterate that we’re seeing a glut of how everything from food to coffee to medication affects the delicate emotions of women, which seems to implicitly back up the idea that the men – the default humans – are all essentially OK. We’ve just got to deal with this endless woman problem, and how they’re going to cope with going to work and choosing their own food and picking out their own relationships, so they can be like us one day. How will we ever shape them into normal people?

Psst: I take the Pill, eat doughnuts, and ingest copious amounts of caffeine daily. And guess what? I do the same job as the man next to me, who takes protein supplements, eats Oreos, and loves a cappuccino. How about you pick on him for a change, eh? Or better still, fuck off out of my sex life and my fridge, and give me some real advice that isn’t built on the assumption I’m a maniac.

Image credit to Ambro

9 thoughts on “A Hard Pill to Swallow

  1. I turn into a totally mad hormonally depressive bitch around once a month. But hey, that’s biology. An ex once turned up to see me, jittering and incoherent, after consuming 16 (yes, really) cups of coffee that day. And they call US crazy?

  2. I agree with the idea of the Pill, but after taking it and experiencing mega horrible side-effects, and then talking to my doctor in depth I found out that there are actually a lot of things we do not know about the Pill. And I think it also contributes to the idea that contraception is for the women to sort out, and not the equal responsibility of men. Much as I love the idea of women not having to worry about who they sleep with, or getting pregnant when they don’t want to, the Pill is marketed by big conglomerates who are money hungry, and as a result they do not tell you all of the long term negative effects of the pill.

  3. I agree with Maddle Paddle.

    Whilst I fully support any woman choosing to take the pill, it just isn’t for me. I don’t like thinking that all of these mass produced, man made hormones are being pumped into me daily. I’d rather just let my body get on with it. It actually gave me awful side effects and I spent about a year in and out of hospital having tests.

    It also really annoys me when doctors and parents just shove their 16 year old daughters on the pill as an automatic reflex. There isn’t enough discussion about the side effects, and I think that without proper discussion about how it works, and whether it’s right for them, that just giving every 16 year old girl a pill to swallow every day might even lead to more unwanted pregnancies, as it reduces actual discussion about healthy attitudes to sex and contraception, and like maddle paddle said, gives the girls (and boys) the impression that it’s all her responsibility.

    AND when I was at school (and I’m only 22 so not that long ago!) lots of boys thought you were a freak if you weren’t on the pill, like it was some kind of turn off that they had to think about contraception.

    It is a good tool for female emancipation, but that doesn’t mean that it’s right for everyone.

  4. As with all medication, the Pill doesn’t suit everyone (in fact, the writer of this article just came off the Pill for that very reason.) This article advocates open and honest choice-making, pointing out that there’s an especially big ‘free-for-all’ in the media on medication targeted at women. The actual contraceptive debate, however, is a big one, and certainly wouldn’t fit in to 700 words!

  5. Maybe, if you didn’t read magazines that were purely directed for the female market you might, just might, find information about the males in the world. Why the fuck would a women’s magazine write (all be it absolute rubbish) directed at men??? it may also be, something to do with the fact the vast majority of men don’t give a fuck about their coffee making them put on weight, yet it appears that a health proportion of women would take that advice in an stop drinking the deadly coffee immediately. Some of the stuff you say I agree with, but your attack against women’s magazines not targeting men as well is ridiculous.

  6. Thanks for your comments, maleist. We don’t mind women’s magazines having women’s interests as their content – we argue that the content encourages and targets insecurities. This particular article is about the Daily Mail, which is a national newspaper, not a women’s magazine.

  7. Erm, perhaps you should look into the scientific research behind the daily mail’s twisted takes on the findings? There is real biological and psychological evidence on attraction and the pill. You are changing your hormone levels so of course there is going to be an effect. A wee bit more research before ranting might be warranted.

  8. Just wanted to say that my mum used to dismiss me for all of my teens as being “hormonal” whenever I was being a moody knobhead. Probably quite rightly. It’s infuriating, but sometimes you look back and wonder what else exactly it could have been to make you act so unlike yourself (if that concept even makes sense).

    Not that I’m supporting gagging women with the hormone line, but I just wanted you to know that sometimes we boys do in fact get hit with it.

    Love the site, by the way!