Last week two related issues came out that are making waves in the cybersphere and causing a surge of antagonistic Facebook posts and blog comments. A journalist named Holly Grigg-Spall has written a book, Sweetening the Pill, in which she chronicles the health risks of hormonal birth control and also explores why criticizing the pill is so taboo. The book hasn’t been officially released yet, but some people are already so up-in-arms about the subject matter that a petition has been started requesting that the publisher retract the book. Huh? Seriously? What year are we living in?
What’s worse? The people who want to ban the book aren’t right-wing fanatical religious types… they are self-proclaimed feminists who are arguing that the book is inherently anti-feminist. To which we again have to say?
Since when is women sharing their concerns about their health, their birth control options and their bodies anti-feminist?!?
The book prompted an article about withdrawal (a.k.a. the pull-out method) and the many women who (often secretly) use the method either as their primary or back-up method of contraception. Women, including self-proclaimed “sex educators”, have been posting and commenting on the internet about how “stupid” these people must be, even going so far as to say that it is not a valid choice for birth control.
Set aside just temporarily (yes, truly temporarily because we plan to blog about each of these issues separately at a later date) the fact that withdrawal has been shown in some studies to have typical use effectiveness comparable to condoms, and the fact that there are legitimate deaths and health implications of taking hormonal contraceptives. For us there is something even more important at stake here.
Isn’t feminism supposed to be about women’s needs and desires having a voice?
Isn’t feminism supposed to be about women being able to CHOOSE?
If so, and if we want to honour the work of the women who have gone before us, don’t we have the responsibility to speak and listen with compassion? Even if only one woman found the pill was unbearable for her, or even one woman in the world found withdrawal to be her best birth control option, should she not be allowed to speak?
We look forward to a day when people no longer feel the need to debate the “rightness” of someone’s experience or personal choices. It’s not really relevant whether a story is valid for all people. That’s not the point. What matters is that it’s the valid truth for that individual. If the story doesn’t resonate with you, or me, that’s okay! That doesn’t make our story any less valid. In fact, it is a wonderful invitation to share our own story and perspective with others who may be feeling the same way.
One of the guiding principles of Red Tent Sisters is that every woman should feel safe to speak their own truth. Today we want to honour that when it comes to contraception there are many truths.
We know women who have gotten pregnant from using condoms and women who have not.
We know women who have gotten pregnant from withdrawal and others who have used it effectively for years.
We know women for whom the pill has made them so crazy their relationships were nearly ended by it. And we know women who have nearly died from the physical side effects. And, we know women for whom the pill is the best choice.
We know women who love the IUD and women who hate it.
We know women whose lives have been positively transformed because of learning fertility awareness and women for whom it was not a good choice.
What makes us individuals is that we are individual. No one choice will ever be right for everyone.