April 20, 2007

"We don’t want to confront our bodily functions anymore. We’re too busy."

Do women want a pill that would eliminate our menstrual periods? Whether you're "too busy" to "confront" it or not, isn't it obviously a great idea? Some women don't think so. Some say that it's wrong to purport cure something that is not an illness. A better objection is that there may be side effects. And then there are people deeply invested in promoting the idea that menstrual periods are just wonderful, who are irked at being contradicted:
There has also been a backlash among groups that celebrate the period as a spiritual or natural process, like the California-based Red Web Foundation. “The focus of our group is to create positive attitudes toward the menstrual cycle; suppressing it wouldn’t be positive,” said Anna C. Yang, a holistic nurse and executive director of the organization.
But what a fabulous opportunity for the drug companies! So many women, so many years, so much menstruation to stave off. Here's a drug that all women might want to take for something like 40 years.

34 comments:

Ron said...

It's times like this that I wish I had any cartooning abilities whatsoever, because the idea of "confronting" one's period lends itself to all sorts of imagery...

"Every 28 days...insurgents."

Do you retreat to your Green Zone, try a little diplomacy, lay down a spread of Midol smart bombs, or drop The Big One and try some flattery and wine on the guy in the next apartment? That last one may have consequences that last at least until college, not to mention the blast and the shock!

Jeff said...

More patriarchal science! Feminism demands that science develop a pill that will make men bleed once a month, every month!

Jennifer said...

You can already stave off your period by bookending your birth control pills.

I find it hysterical that there is a group called the Red Web Foundation set up to create positive attitudes toward the menstrual cycle. Ha ha! Can you imagine the answers they give at dinner parties about what they do for a living? :)

Ann Althouse said...

I'm imagining dinner parties where all they talk about is menstruation. And all the food is red.

Jennifer said...

LOL! I'd imagine anything less would cramp the flow of conversation.

Galvanized said...

I'm still chuckling that "bodily fluids" is actually a tag now.

From Always to "never again." to, eventually,eh... Depends. LOL

vet66 said...

Menstruation is not an illness, it is a curse.

Most of the women I know inform me through weepy, clinched teeth that it is my problem and not theirs. They delicately phrase it as;

"Deal with it you bastard!'

It is usually advisable at that point to not ask what is for dinner!

Scott said...

A natural sexual function is viewed as a "problem" to be solved with a drug? Creepy, but there's a logical progression. Compared to 100 years ago, men have been turned into virtual eunichs. Now it's women's turn.

It's as if society is being redrawn by Maxfield Parrish.

Sloanasaurus said...

Ginsberg, in her recent dissent argues that abortion is required to make woman equal to men. Maybe Justice Ginsberg in the future will rule that the government must distribute this drug for free for equality sake.

The Sloanasaurus.

dbp said...

Hi Ann,

Historically, menstruation wasn't that common: In times of famine, body fat would fall below a threshold and menstruation would cease. In times of plenty women who could menstruate were mostly pregnant, or nursing--which suppresses fertility.

The monthly cycle is an artifact of modern times: Plenty of food available and the means to prevent pregnancy.

dbp

reader_iam said...

There was a story last week about researchers in England producing sperm from the bone marrow of women.

Other researchers have been working on developing eggs and sperm from embryonic stem cells, and others are working to create artifical wombs.

It's interesting to contemplate these things, along with the menstrual-suppression pill.

I wonder how clinical the future will be.

Austin said...

I'm rather shocked that anyone would be opposed to this. Large numbers of young women are prescribed birth control at a very young age to reduce the effects of menstruation. Is Red Web out there trying to ensure that girls experience all of the pain and debilitation that can come with periods? They should require girls to pull out of school and suffer for days in blacked out rooms as they try to deal with the migraines and cramps, and enjoy the benefits of anemia thanks to their very heavy periods. Somehow I don't think that Red Web really wants to enforce a "natural" period.

But then there are all those people who use "reusable" sanitary methods.

The other thing is that all birth-control will produce this effect. There's already Seasonale, marketed so that you get quarterly periods. Every doctor and nearly all women know how to use birth control to go without periods for as long as they'd like. Since this just mimics the typical "always pregnant" status of women, there shouldn't be any appreciable side effects.

ALP said...

I must post to say "What dbp said" and to furhter add:

1. There are theories out there in the cancer research community (sorry, I can look up links later if requested, just a quickie now) stating that the incessant ovulation of the modern female may be contributing to the rates of cancer in female reproductive organs (all that constant cell division);

2. While periods themselves are not a disease, dysfuntional periods are fairly common. I suffer from PMS of homicidal proportions. I'm lucky to have never been arrested for assault before I discovered stopping my period completely for 100% relief from losing my mind once a month;

3. To further describe a common dysfunction I suffer from - a full week of nausea and cramps that has me on the couch for nearly a week;

4. Finally, period "worship" cracks me up to no end. If we are going to add spiritual dimensions to bodily functions, why stop there? Plaque formation on teeth is natural too - where is the web site for that? How about toe jam? Ear wax formation? Farting?

Der Hahn said...

To Do list...

Drop off anti-GM food flyer at Kinko's

Pick up a box of tofuburgers at Whole Foods

Refill no-menstruation prescription

---------------------------

Jeff... ever heard of a razor? I'm lucky if I don't bleed once a week.

Revenant said...

A natural sexual function is viewed as a "problem" to be solved with a drug?

Just because something is natural doesn't mean it isn't a problem. Cancer's natural.

Beth said...

My only concern would be whether absent a period, would it be difficult to notice a problem? If one's cycle is generally regular, then disruption can indicate the need for a checkup. Otherwise, my other objection is why the heck didn't this come up 20 years ago?

blake said...

Man’s World

Welcome to the jungle, baby, you’ve been in the dungeon
You look cute in that 3-piece suite , at the 2 Martini luncheon
It’s a mans world and we all know for it you been itchin’
If you can’t stand the heat out here, slip back into the kitchen

All that sweat and muscle tone stiffens my libido
Now you’re on that Nautilus, whoa, you’re a crazy Capt. Nemo
Feel the burn, you powerhouse, experience elation
One day you might stumble on a cure for menstruation

--Loudon wainwright III

Revenant, while I basically agree with your premise (natural<>good), I don't see how cancer is "natural", at least not for the afflicted body.

The other argument that seems to be raised basically sounds like "Well, menstruation only happens in well-fed, healthy women." That would not seem to be a strike against it.

Revenant said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Revenant said...

Revenant, while I basically agree with your premise (natural<>good), I don't see how cancer is "natural", at least not for the afflicted body.

It is natural in that it happens (or can happen, at least) without being caused by some outside force. Similarly, I naturally have asthma and allergies. If someone would like to cure these things I'm all for it. The way my respiratory system "naturally" works, sucks.

Evolution's nice, but sometimes humans can do a better job.

Radish said...

"In times of plenty women who could menstruate were mostly pregnant, or nursing--which suppresses fertility."

In the second half of the 19th century, approximately a quarter of women in America never married (that whole pesky "so many men were killed in the war" thing). Given the times, it's almost certain they weren't pregnant or nursing. But there weren't any weird "epidemics" of spinsters dying of "lady diseases" or cancer in their private parts.

I'm just not buying this whole "the body working as designed is a problem" thing.

And Der Hahn's comment cracks me up, because it's so true.

(I've also spent the last twenty years watching women be encouraged to use "Oh, it's my week" as an excuse to be Class A bitches and engage in other unhealthy behaviors, so I'm really curious to see what effect widespread use of this pill will have on the popular culture. Somehow, I don't think most women will like the change.)

dbp said...

"In the second half of the 19th century, approximately a quarter of women in America never married (that whole pesky "so many men were killed in the war" thing). Given the times, it's almost certain they weren't pregnant or nursing. But there weren't any weird "epidemics" of spinsters dying of "lady diseases" or cancer in their private parts."

First, it wasn't my point to make the claim that frequent menstruation was harmfull (although it may be) but rather that from the perspective of human history it was rare for a woman to spend years and years having periods every month. One could argue that it is more natural to take a drug which makes women have few periods than to not do so when it is known that natural selection hasn't had to deal with any potential problems which could be caused by having more than 300 menstruations in one lifetime.

Second, since life expectancy at the end of the 19th century was only like 47 and being that cancer is a disease of old age; it is hardly shocking that we didn't see a spate of "lady diseases" back then. Not to mention that diagnostic medicine has come a long ways since then, as has concern for older-childless women. In addition, it is fairly likely that caloric levels in the 1800's were low enough, often enough that these spinsters missed more than a few periods.

dbp

Mr. B. said...

nuns used to live for a long time, as I recall...

Revenant said...

Second, since life expectancy at the end of the 19th century was only like 47 and being that cancer is a disease of old age; it is hardly shocking that we didn't see a spate of "lady diseases" back then.

Life expectancy was that low primarily because childhood deaths were common. If you lived to reproductive age your odds of living into your cancer-prone years were very good.

Joan said...

Connie Willis wrote an award-winning short story Even the Queen, which I read years ago when it was first published in Asimov's sf magazine. The setting is a future in which menstruation is entirely optional, thanks to drug therapies that have been in use for some time when the story is set. One of the characters relates how she always used to hate her hair during her period, and I could so relate!

I think all the menstrual problems we're seeing now are just another side effect of the poor nutrition and insulin resistance that is prevalent in our society today. I hope over time that improved nutrition will help alleviate our problems. But in the meantime, if there are drugs that can safely address the various disorders that accompany menstruation, I'm all for 'em. (As for me, I'm out of that loop; a benign condition required surgical intervention a few years ago -- blessed relief!)

Nadine said...

Periods are hell. Let's see - extraordinary crankiness and debilitating back pain followed by days of blood, cramps, nausea, and general discomfort - just because it's natural, I'm supposed to endure it? Even though there are ways to avoid it? Oh, puh-leeeeze!

I was on Depo-provera a few years ago and it was wonderful to not have any periods for a couple of years.

Who cares what's natural?! We live in the modern age of medicine and technology that allows us to lead happier lives. If you're a happier woman because you bleed every month, good for you. But please don't tell me (or little girls!) that we should go through a monthly nightmare just because it's natural!

Death is natural, but most people avoid it.

blake said...

Death is natural, but most people avoid it.

The success of avoidance is as close to 0% as makes no never mind.

Revenant said...

The success of avoidance is as close to 0% as makes no never mind.

Well on a positive note, the 20th century population boom means that a fairly large percentage of all the humans who've ever lived at thus far managed to avoid dying -- the people on Earth today represent a substantial chunk of all the people ever.

And personally, I'm still holding out hope for a cure for most causes of mortality sometime within the next couple of decades. :)

dbp said...

Mr. B. said...
nuns used to live for a long time, as I recall...

They may well have, I can't easily find any statistics on that so I will concede that they may have had longer lifespans than lay-women.

I would suggest though that, given the number of pregnancies most women had and the mortality associated with pregnancy and delivery, this could easily account for all of that difference.

I still recall an ecology class project which involved noting age of death and sex information from headstones in a 19th century graveyard. Shockingly often one would see a female name with an age at death usually between 20 and 30 and right next to it a boy or girl with the same last name and no age given.

Scott said...

Just because something is natural doesn't mean it isn't a problem. Cancer's natural.

Revenant, that's idiotic. It's too bad you missed the larger point.

David said...

I was about to mention the Connie Willis story, but I see Joan already did. I thought it was hilarious, and women would probably find it even funnier.

The story even included the emergence of a group very similar to the RedWeb thing.

rhhardin said...

I hope this does not drive up the price of maxipads. I use them as sweat pads in bicycle helmets. They spent a zillion dollars on research to get those things to work, as opposed to the zero that helmet manufacturers spent on their stupid sponge pads.

Revenant said...

I use them as sweat pads in bicycle helmets.

Huh -- that's a great idea. Thanks for the tip. :)

Revenant said...

Revenant, that's idiotic. It's too bad you missed the larger point.

I got the larger point just fine -- you're one of those morons who equates "natural" with "not a problem".

Fortunately, more intelligent people actually run the world.

Sally said...

No topic can raise so many hackles, nor cause such friction between genders, as menstruation.
Some women have horrific experiences, some don't - I rarely had major problems, until a few years ago. I was diagnosed with MS, and now, depending on the course of my disease, my menstruation can resemble what others know as PMS/PMT.
Every woman is different, and instilling in pubescent or prepubescent girls the belief that horrific menstrual experiences are *inevitable* is as counterproductive IMO as you feel "spiritualizing" the experience to be.
And dismissing those who disagree with you or whose experiences are different as less intelligent or less genuine is hardly helpful either.
As far as I am concerned, "Red Web," and similar sites, offer a reasonable attempt to present menstruation as a normal - since the group seems to dislike "natural" - part of being a woman and to counter the negative feelings that young women acquire from so many other sources.
- Sally