Eugene Volokh has issued a blogospheric dare for bloggers who actually menstruate to comment on the new birth control pill that eliminates menstruation. I can't believe that I'm falling for this; Gordon will surely kick me off the blog.
Specifically, Eugene wonders if there is any credibility to the argument that menstruation bonds women together, similarly to the way in which pregnancy and childbirth bond women together. Hmmm. Here are all my thoughts on this off-topic topic. I'll put them below the fold so that corporate law wonks will be spared -- menstruation has been a below the fold kind of topic until recent years, so consider it an homage.
1. Yes, pregnancy and childbirth make women part of a very large club whose members have something very important in common. Consider it like sports for men, or Dungeons and Dragons. Female culture doesn't have a common theme that most girls' youth revolves around that joins generations of women together other than fertility and childbirth. I remember finally having something in common with my grandma when I got pregnant. Menstruation is similar. When girls begin to menstruate, they do join sort of a club, but it's much more underground. Once girls begin to menstruate at school, their other friends want to also. No one wants to be left out of this growing up thing, obviously.
2. Menstruation might be more of a bonding thing in this country if the culture were different. In the U.S., our culture is one of sanitizing and deodorizing must bodily functions. We shave a lot, bathe a lot, shampoo a lot, powder and perfume a lot, etc. Menstruation runs against that. So to some extent, especially among young girls, menstruation is embarrassing. The onset of menses also comes when girls are the most self-conscious they will ever be, adding to the secrecy and embarrassment. I'm not sure it has to be that way, though.
3. Hasn't any one ever read the Red Tent?
4. I do think that the natural end of menstruation usually comes with some sadness. It is an end of an era. Some women may be liberated by the end of that era. However, I think in today's age when many women have pushed their childbearing years much closer to their menopausal years, the end of fertility seems to be fairly salient. When women had their children by 25 or at least 30, menopause 20 or 30 years later may have seemed like a tardy visitor they had been expecting for a long time. (There was actually a Sex and the City episode about this when three of the four women were menstruating at the same time, but Samantha wasn't, making her fear that she was menopausal.) Obviously, it's hard to separate the end of menses with thoughts on the aging process generally.
5. Much conversation has asked "why not" eliminate menstruation, but I'm not sure I've heard a great reason for "why." Although some women have very painful periods and would have a medical reason for eliminating menstruation, I'm not sure why the average woman would. Breakthroughs in menstruation products have substantially decreased the muss and fuss of menstruation. I would suspect that for most American women, their cycles come and go without much thought.
6. I don't think this pill is really about discomfort, hygiene or convenience. I think it's about casual sex. There, I said it. My co-bloggers can kick me off, and I guess my tenure clock is stalled now. Menstruation doesn't get in the way of many daily activities any more, like sports or swimming, but it may get in the way of casual sex with people you don't know well. Who will benefit from this pill? Not the eighth grade girls of the world who suffer supreme embarrassment by Aunt Flo coming on the days they wear white capri pants, but the grown men and women of the world who may meet each other later that night. So let's quit couching this pill as "unchaining women from the bathroom."
TrackBack URL for this entry:
Links to weblogs that reference Thoughts from the Ladies' Section:
1. Posted by Me on May 24, 2007 @ 10:08 | Permalink
Why does it just have to be about sex with someone you don't know very well? Couldn't it also be about sex with someone you do know well?
Also, does the pill merely stop the messy part of a period, or does it stop all the symptoms that many women would like to do without. If it eliminates bloating, bleeding and, at least in some, a temporarily poor attitude, couldn't that also be a reason for a women taking it that has nothing to do with sex?
2. Posted by Fred Tung on May 24, 2007 @ 14:39 | Permalink
Christine, I support you in your off-topic post. It's not so off-topic--you're responding to a specific blogospheric dare from one of our Favorite Law Blogs. Of course, I've read the Red Tent, too.
3. Posted by J.W. Verret on May 24, 2007 @ 15:15 | Permalink
Don't know much about the topic, but I do know that Bainbridge's place in the corporate pantheon is still firmly cemented, even with all the wine, duck l'orange, and more sci-fi than a Star Trek convention. Oh, and Larry hates Ben Stein, but he still knows more about LLCs than anyone I've ever read. So why not dedicate some time on the Glom to necessary social commentary, especially if the quality of the corporate stuff is still spot on? Kudos.
4. Posted by Gordon Smith on May 24, 2007 @ 17:20 | Permalink
On behalf of Conglomerate, I would like to thank Christine for all of her blogging over the years ...
5. Posted by Jeff Lipshaw on May 24, 2007 @ 17:37 | Permalink
Christine, you are always welcome over at our place. Period. End of story.
6. Posted by k on May 24, 2007 @ 17:58 | Permalink
I agree with "Me" above--one of my first thoughts about the no-period-pill was that it could faciliate more frequent sex between committed partners. Perhaps it's my own naivete (or the fact that I am married) that I did not consider the casual sex implications.
So, yes, I agree with point # 6--one very good why for this product is, in fact, that it eliminates a potential sexual limitation.
7. Posted by Gordon Smith on May 24, 2007 @ 17:58 | Permalink
Christine knows I am just joshin' (as she might say).
8. Posted by Nony Mouse on May 24, 2007 @ 22:38 | Permalink
I might not be in 8th grade anymore, but I'm one of those women who just doesn't have a 28 day cycle she can count on (and the pill is contra-indicated).
Which means I never know exactly when I ought to wear dark colors. I'm married, so it's not exactly about 'casual sex' but I'd still be interested in not having a monthly cycle. Particularly when it interups my camping schedule.
9. Posted by z on May 25, 2007 @ 6:14 | Permalink
I think you're really undervaluing how painful and debilitating periods can be for some women.
10. Posted by Daniel on May 25, 2007 @ 7:01 | Permalink
I'm a man. Therefore, I have no real knowledge of how it feels to have menses, only my observations of women.
My first observation came from a discussion of the original birth control pill, which might have had the possibility of eliminating menses (and, apparantly, some women use it to do just that), the (male) doctors felt this wasn't an avenue worth pursuing because "menses made women feel like women." I remember the women criticized this, rolling their eyes that "only a man would think that."
My second observation is that, now that such a pill definitly exists, some women roll their eyes and say "only a man would think women wouldn't want menses" or something similar.
My point is not that one camp or the other is wrong, but that both exist. I happen to know some women who find the very notion of birth control abhorrent, and some women who find the notion of giving birth abhorrent. Biology doesn't determine belief, and the world is a very varied place.
I think this pill has value. Some women will want to eliminate menses for the very reasons stated: casual sex. Some for convenience. Some to eliminate what they feel is messy and disgusting. Some women value and love their menses and would never take this pill. I suspect my girlfriend won't take this particular pill not because she values her menses, but because she feels, inconvenience and all, that it is a part of her.
What I value about all this is that she has a choice. Biology is no longer tyrranical, but optional. IF my girlfriend didn't want menses, then she could choose not to have menses. If she wants menses, but to avoid childbirth, she can do that too. This is a good thing, in my book.