Here is the first part of a shocking, to me, editorial in the NY Times today. It is by Karen Houppert. It seems we have a new pill being introduced so that women need never have a period. Amazing! Maybe we should eliminate male and female, just as we have eliminated night and day. Now, we can work 24 hours a day, and with this pill, women can function, by the pillmaker's reckoning, impartially and fully every day of the month. What could be better? After all, who needs seasons, moods, change?
The glaciers are retreating and water in India may be at serious risk as the rivers decrease, and what do we have? Pharmaceutical companies working to ensure women are on an even keel 365 days a year so they can produce and work, work, work. Ack!
The words of Karen Houppert:
In May the Food and Drug Administration approved a new birth control pill, Lybrel. It is as effective at preventing pregnancy as the other pills already out there (about 98 percent) but boasts one advantage: Women who take it will never get their periods.
Lybrel is landing on pharmacy shelves this month. And now war has been declared on menstruation.
Already the first few volleys in this battle have been exchanged. Gird yourselves, women, for a barrage of advertising and research highlighting the debilitating effects of periods and the joys of menstrual suppression.
After all, periods and their mood swings are bad for family values (who wants to have a stay-at-home mom when she’s so darn cranky?), bad for women’s health (women were never meant to menstruate so much; natural selection designed their bodies for back-to-back pregnancies and breast-feeding), bad for the fashion industry (how can beige be the new black if women won’t wear it all month?) and bad for the economy (everybody knows women take to their beds at the merest whisper of “cramps,” fueling the nation’s employee-absentee rate). Western civilization, it seems, hinges on our ability to wrangle our messy cycles to the ground and stomp ’em out once and for all.
In a presentation by Lybrel’s maker, Wyeth, to investors and analysts last October, Dr. Ginger D. Constantine, the company’s therapeutic director for women’s health, laid the groundwork. Citing company-backed studies, she reported that menstruating women feel less effective at work and take more sick days. Not only that, but they don’t exercise and they wear dark clothes more often, she said.
Suddenly, news articles are weighing the pros and cons of our monthly cycles. And while it’s great that the American news media are, for a moment, challenging the culture of concealment that typically surrounds the topic of menstruation, history shows that such debates are, well, cyclical.
It seems every time women start demanding access to this or that, there is a rash of studies “proving” that menstrual cycles render them unsuitable. In the 1870s and 1880s, when Americans were debating the value of higher education for women, a flurry of research asserted that women’s cycling constitutions made them unfit for sustained mental and physical labor. Henry Maudsley, a British doctor, reflected popular opinion — dressed up as “scientific truth” — when he observed that menstruation doomed girls to failure in college.
Comparing boys and girls, Maudsley insisted in an article, was “not a question of two bodies and minds that are in equal physical condition, but of one body and mind capable of sustained and regular hard labor, and of another body and mind which one quarter of each month, during the best years of life, is more or less sick and unfit for hard work.” Maudsley’s definition of “hard work” was unclear: no one worried that the fragile cook, servant girl or farmer’s wife was being overtaxed during any time of the month.
After women pressed ahead, attended college and excelled in the halls of learning, the debate about menstrual cycles shifted from their suitability for higher education to their suitability for public life in general. When the suffragists asked to participate in the political process, experts retaliated with more research proving that women belonged in the domestic sphere; menstruation figured prominently among the reasons.
The article continues but this gives you a taste.