Waking Up From the Pill

Vanessa Grigoriadis has written a fascinating article in New York Magazine about the consequences of our society’s obsession with The Pill, opening with a surreal description of a gala ball celebrating its 50th anniversary sponsored by, who else, a pharmaceutical company. She describes the ways that the birth control pill revolutionized women’s choices and thereby our society, opening avenues in life for women formerly restricted by unwanted pregnancies and unwanted marriages. However, the pill has facilitated a host of new problems, most significantly, as women emerge from the tunnel of suppressed ovulation lasting a decade or longer, they suddenly realize that they’ve lost their most fertile years of life and are faced with difficulties conceiving, as well as the high costs and uncertain results of fertility treatment (another recent and great article on that here). As a second cost, she points to the ways in which the pill has disconnected us from the intimate biology of our femaleness, which loses its relevance once we no longer have to think about issues of ovulation, fertility, and so on.

Women of what she calls the “wheatgrass and yoga generation” are wary of this distancing and as a result, the Fertility Awareness Method has become increasingly popular. I’ve blogged about FAM before and think it’s great – if you’re in a committed, STD-free/aware monogamous relationship – and the appeal to me is not just about being female and wanting to fully understand that, but that it gives women responsibility for their choices, an intimate awareness of their bodies, and frees them from what I see as the meddling and often heedlessly destructive hand of technology and medication.

I’m not especially familiar with the shifts in feminist thought and theory that have taken place since my mother’s generation, but I regard her feminism, a sort of take-charge, career-driven powering-through the glass ceiling with both admiration and discomfort, particularly as it privileged her career over her family. Similarly, as I support women having a wider array of choices in their lives which includes opportunities to feel good about sex, I find it sad that there’s this attitude of “we have to be equal to men” when equality means being equally sexually detached, equally ‘using’ the other. I am similarly skeptical of sexual liberation in the United States, as growing up female means navigating, often as children, what we say we want, what we really want, and what people tell us to want. It’s sad to see how cheap sex really is in contemporary society, how it is simultaneously the most important thing and the most unimportant.

I find it heartening, however, that we are trending towards if not an understanding of who we are as women, then the desire for such an understanding. I think it requires a healthy disengagement from what women are taught and told, including that the birth control pill is the best thing that’s ever happened to women.

The shift in our mentality, moving into what she calls the “wheatgrass and yoga generation,” is wary of this distancing and as a result, the Fertility Awareness Method has become increasingly popular. I’ve blogged about FAM before and think it’s great – if you’re in a committed, STD-free/aware monogamous relationship – and the appeal to me is not just about being female and wanting to fully understand that, but also not wanting to use technology to regulate my body.

I’m not especially familiar with the shifts in feminist thought and theory that have taken place since my mother’s generation, but I have long regarded her form of feminism, a sort of take-charge, career-driven powering-through the glass ceiling with admiration and discomfort, particularly as it privileged her career over her family. Similarly, as I support women having a wider array of choices in their lives which includes opportunities to feel good about sex, I find it sad that there’s this attitude of “we have to be equal to men” when equality means equally sexually exploitative, equally detached. I am equally wary of sexual liberation, as growing up female means navigating, often as children, what we say we want, what we really want, and what people tell us to want. I believe that The Pill, and if not the pill itself but societal conditions that have emerged around it, has facilitated a culture of “sure” when people mean “no.” Beyond all of that, it’s sad to see how cheap sex really is is contemporary society, how simultaneously the most important thing and the most unimportant.

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