* There is no such thing as tabboo.

I didn’t want a period, why is that so difficult to understand?

Written by Verity, for Issue 01
Printed in February 2017. Posted online September 2018.

I have a complex experience with the pill and female contraceptive, which is filled with bittersweet irony and aggression from a male dictated society.

Ok so… Everyday millions of women will reach for their packet and swallow a small pill, which prevents them from becoming pregnant. I used to be one of these women, and maybe at some point I will be again. I used to take the pill everyday - I didn’t have a time of day I would take it, I also wouldn’t give myself the 7 day ‘break’, just continuing pack to pack. I wasn’t using the contraception as birth control; I used it to control the hormones you get from the monthly cycle to avoid the emotional and physical drain it has on my body due to my depression not being able to  take the hormone change my natural cycle took.

This is something a lot of people don’t talk about. The discussion about how the pill can influence or even cause depression is well know, and I don't dispute it. I’ve experienced that side of it, but I’ve also experience the benefits of the pill, which is to help control depression.

I was first diagnosed with depression when I was 10 years old, looking at my life, depression was /is inevitable. I was brought up by a white cis-man who unfortunately played into all the stereotypes.

He placed on me the ideals that society places on young girls. I was to be innocent, I wasn’t allowed my own thoughts. Although this idea of innocence and the need to be ‘perfect’ were pushed on me, I was still sexualised like most girls from an early age. I was sexually and mentally abused as a child starting when I was about 4 years old (I was having a bath).

Following this I started my period young, I was only 9. Then when I was 16 my depression had reached an all time high, that was when I was raped. I needed to forget that I was a woman. I needed to not have my period anymore because not only were my hormones heightened at that time of the month, but I despised myself for being biologically ‘ready’ for sex. The pill was a way out.

Here’s were the irony comes in. I needed the pill because of everything a male dominated society had pushed on me. But my only out was something largely developed by men, produced by men, marketed by men, prescribed by men, and is written about by men and is also a benefited by men.

Which is pretty fucking shit.

The history of the pill and how it is prescribed though an intrusive and judgemental manner takes away a women’s control over her own body. A man simply walks into a shop and buys a condom or gets it free of the NHS. A women has to prove she deserves contraception (a traumatic experience in itself), that will biologically alter her body. The pill acts as a biotechnology in how it controls women’s hormonal cycle, and so, at a social and ethical scale, how it works is a bio-political device. [1] If we take the definition of objectification as “seeing or treating a person as an object”, [2] how the pill is governed can be described as objectifying to women.

It’s even worst when you say ‘I’m not using this for contraception, I just can’t deal with my period’. A doctor won’t prescribe it to you, they will want you the explain why. If you don’t explain, you don’t get the pill and you’re silence; they have spoken for you. If your doctor prescribes you a pill, but it causes depression and so you wish to change and they don’t - this is an act of silencing. They have taken control of your body, and decided what is best for it.

They control who gets to use contraception and why they deserve it. When I explain to a new GP why I take the pill, they can’t understand that it’s not for birth control and are reluctant to give it to me. They can’t identify with what a women’s body goes through in her monthly cycle, or how the hormones effect her mind. When a man calls a women ‘hysterical’ or says ‘it must be her time of the month’ they can’t contemplate the biology that is happening inside her body, and so they degrade it and joke about it.

When the pill was first created women took a tablet everyday of the month and had no break. They had no ‘fake’ period. This was later adapted so that women take 21 tablets a month and a ‘fake’ period is induced. This was changed because they believed women not having a period will make the women feel un-womanly. This change was made without any consultation with women.

This alteration to the pill and the lack of change since 1960, regardless of women’s true needs is objectification through silencing - much like when I protested to a change in my pill a few years ago to my GP, he did it anyway. He took away my capacity to speak while simultaneously reducing me to a body that lacks feelings, emotions or thoughts. I take the pill to avoid my period, and yet because the views of the men who made it believe it will make me ‘un-womanly’, I still have to experience it every month. This is extremely ironic since my reason for not wanting a period is to avoid the ideals / conventions and sexual connotations that the male gaze and men within it place on me in the first place.

I think that the discussion on female contraception needs to broadened; we need to discuss the people out there who simply don’t want a period because it doesn’t align well with their body. Whether they are survivors, trans, depressed, or whatever its is, it is their body, and if they don't want a period that should be valid enough. The discussion also needs to talk more about how the pill is governed; at the moment any person wanting to take female contraception or is already, their body becomes a political space in terms of the male gaze, the bio-politics and the objectification behind the pill. This needs to change. There needs to be more empathy, less silencing, more trust in the knowledge that a person knows themselves and their body more than any other. How the pill is currently governed shows a denial of subjectivity. The developers of the pill and many of the doctors who prescribe the pill are men, and this generally means they don’t have a clear understanding of what the experiences or feelings of a women are, and so don’t consider them. “The act of representing others almost always involves violence to the subject of representation.” [3]

I was eventually allowed to have the implant when I was 17, I had this for 3 years. By that point I had worked through my depression. I then changed to the pill as I then needed it for contraception, but after 4 months my depression came back with a vengeance, and my mum suggested I stopped taking the pill. It worked I haven’t needed any medical aid to control my depression for the past year. I’ve experienced both sides of the pill in terms of helping and influencing depression. But how it is viewed / approached in the medical industry and society, as well as someone’s reasoning behind wanting to stop their periods, are the key thoughts I’m interested in bringing into the conversation.


Direct Text References:

[1] Conqueringlife.wordpress.com, (2015). pill ; contraceptive ; alienation ; biopolitics ; life ; death ; sex ; homeotechnics ; biotechnology | Conquering Life?. [online] Available at: https://conqueringlife.wordpress.com/tag/pill-contraceptive-alienation-biopolitics-life-death-sex-homeotechnics-biotechnology/ [Accessed 26 Feb. 2017].
[2] Oxforddictionaries.com, (2015). objectification - definition of objectification in English from the Oxford dictionary. [online] Available at: http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/objectification [Accessed 26 Feb. 2017].

[3] Commonsenseatheism.com, (2015). Seven Types of Objectification (part 2). [online] Available at: http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=10323 [Accessed 26 Feb. 2017].

Other References:

Nhs.uk, (2015). Contraception - Contraception guide - NHS Choices. [online] Available at: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/contraception-guide/Pages/contraception.aspx [Accessed 26 Feb. 2017].
M, B. (2015). A feminist analysis of the theories of etiology of depression in women.  - PubMed - NCBI. [online] Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10458848 [Accessed 26 Feb, 2017].