Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Identity Theft

No, nobody's been digging through my trash to find out how to steal me blind (I don't think). What I'm thinking about today is the latest way to steal a human identity trait: the new menses-suppression drug.

Now, it does sound like a blessing, at first blush. No more PMS, no more cramps, no more embarrassing moments wearing white skirts and britches. But at what cost? (And can you imagine an adult male wanting to buy a semen-suppression drug? I can't, though perhaps some of my readers can change my mind.)

Do I sound like an old fuddy duddy when I wonder what is being lost in female identity if women suppress their menstrual periods for convenience' sake? Not that periods are such a prize-------of course they're not. But they are a benchmark of female biology. As nocturnal emissions, semen, and so on are of male biology.

What would be the good, sound, indisputable reason for tinkering with one's evolved biological functioning in this way? We have plenty of birth control methods already available; this one seems superfluous and designed more to accommodate an already too-busy lifestyle. And it does one more thing to make being female look like a terrible inconvenience.

I'm not against examination of the female reproductive system to make women's lives more comfortable. But I do wonder about the effects on women's psyches if they do not have this regular reminder of their biology.

There are certainly instances of a woman's truly needing to suppress her menses temporarily, I don't argue that. But if women can evade this biological factor voluntarily and without real need, how will it affect her sense of being a woman?

It makes sense for a transgender FTM to suppress periods. It makes sense for an astronaut to suppress periods while in space. I'm sure there are other logical uses for the drug and maybe that's all that will happen.

But having seen the wholesale (ab)use of prescription drugs to make problems go away without being examined and real healing offered, I'm dubious.

There are many ways essential human identity is in danger: violence, racism, agism, ableism, heterosexism, and all the other isms which cause humans to doubt their inherent worth and dignity. Let's not encourage another one.


juffie said...

What a Godsend, many young women must be thinking, as do the pharma cos hearing the cash rattle into their banks. But the side effects of such basic tinkering with our inner physical processes? Eliminating entirely one of our female body's methods of eliminating waste? Jeez, Louise, I'd probably have lined up to take it 50 years ago, no, I *would* have, no probably about it. Now I wouldn't touch it with a barge pole. With the latest info re drug side effects, how do we think we can take things without any cost?

ms. kitty said...

Amen, sister Juffie!

Ms. Theologian said...

Yeah, I wouldn't touch it either because of my paranoia about the drug industry.

It doesn't strike me as much different than regular birth control pills, which many women use not to bleed at all (by skipping the sugar pills at the end of the cycle).

I wonder about the increase in inferility and the prevalence of birth control pills. It's research that probably won't be done any time soon (because it sure won't be funded by the drug industry), but I just wonder what is really going on with women's endocrine and reproductive systems....

Lizard Eater said...

Sounds a little too "The Handmaid's Tale" to me. I mean, if a period is too much of a hassle, Lord Knows gestating is.

I avoid periods the old-fashioned way. By staying knocked-up or lactating.


Jane R said...

I'm with you! Gives me the creeps.

Robin Edgar said...

Fly me to the moon. . .

kim said...

How well has it been tested for side effects? Especially long-term side effects? I don't have much faith in the industry to do that, or to do it honestly.

ms. kitty said...

It isn't so much the physical danger for me, though that is a concern; it's the identity issue. I think the earth needs women to be firmly identified with their biological nature; I think this identity enhances our human connection with the biological earth. Without that strong sense of identity, can we humans relate to the earth and understand its biological identity?

ms. kitty said...

Robin's reference to Red Moon Rising reminds me of the mythic link menstruation has to the moon. We need these identity markers! Thanks, Robin, for the reminder.

Jess said...

Something to remember - this isn't a new substance, or even a new formulation. It's just new packaging of an already existing birth control pill, without the placebos that simulate a period. It's a lower, constant dose of the same hormones.

Interesting sites to read for more information:

As someone who struggles continually with irregular, painful, and downright miserable cycles, I'm glad there are options like these, and more research being done. I find the outcry about "menstruation=female power" to be overly strident and obnoxious, personally - it's more like "menstruation=pain and misery" for me!

Anonymous said...

Just playing devil's advocate here.
As I understand it, the pill that you are talking about is one option for women who are already on, or are considering taking, birth control pills which chemically suppress ovulation but allow menstruation. Somehow I feel that your argument for the importance of the experience of menses is somewhat patronizing. For the segment of the population that chooses to take pharmacologic control of their female cycle I doubt that the cramps, bloating, and bleeding will be missed, either physically or psychologically. I hardly think that the sloughing phase of our menstrual cycle is the defining portion of our womanhood. (Unless you count feeling part of a sisterhood-of-suffering by airing our complaints regarding our periods). If you were a man and made this statement regarding the psychological impact of "no periods" I'd be completely insulted and outraged. The fact that you are a woman and made this statement just makes me think that we have different ideas about what helps us identify ourselves as female.
I do believe that the ebb and flow of our hormones and the emotions and experiences that go along with those changes do affect who we are as individuals and as women. I believe that respecting our hormonal selves is an important part understanding ourselves. But it's not just about the period....the folks that are on "the pill" have already lost touch with their natural hormonal tides and the period is just a bit of a nuisance at the end of a very controlled month. If you're going as far as taking the pill, you may as well skip the period.
That being said, I am neither for or against this particular pill. As with abortion, I feel that it is a woman's right to choose how to handle her reproductive and psychological health.
Thank you for a very thought provoking post!

PeaceBang said...

Sorry, Ms. Kitty, but I hardly think that bleeding every month brings me, or any other woman, closer to the earth. In fact, what with disposal of feminine products -- or even just the laundering of cotton pads, a woman like me, who has been menstruating for over thirty years with NO pregnancies, that's an awful lot of waste.

Women's bodies were designed for pregnancies, not for thirty-plus years of monthly menses with no pregnancies. If I follow your argument, then I must conclude that "cheating" my body of menstrual periods would be analogous to "cheating" my body of pregnancies, since I've used birth control all of my sexually active adult life.

I don't see it as cheating. I see it as choice, and progress.

I hope all the women who applaud your sentiments, by the way, assiduously avoid bleached tampons and sanitary pads, and also eschew Advil for cramps, not to mention any other medical treatments that might interfere with "nature."


ms. kitty said...

Wowee, what a great bunch of feedback! I'm going to post on it again because I realized later where my sense of concern comes from. I mentioned it on Ms. T's page, but I need to mention it here too.