Saturday, May 26, 2007

On Being Natural: Ending Menstruation

Bloodless Revolution: The Abolition of Menstruation gives an interesting breakdown of the division among women regarding ending menstruation with Lybrel: crunchy feminists think it's unnatural and techno feminists think it's liberating. So, Ms. Kitty would fall into the crunchy category (feel free to dispute, Ms. Kitty), and most of feministing would fall into the techno category.

Just about all dichotomies, such as crunchy feminists v. techno feminists, are inherently false. They help illustrate a division, but tend to polarize and leave out everyone who isn't polarized. And I'm somewhere in between. Recently I tried to obtain a tampon at a party of women (a baby shower). There was not a tampon among us. Most women I know don't menstruate at all. They have entered menopause, or they take their pill packs continuously, without the sugar pills, in order to suppress ovulation. Oh, and then some are pregnant and some are breastfeeding and haven't resumed menstruation. So there is a lot of Not Menstruating going on. None of that is particularly unnatural to me. Or manly, I might add.

I honestly don't find menstruation natural. Or liberating. I don't connect to the earth. I don't particularly connect to my body. And I can remember many a cycle where, given the option, and given the pain, I'd just as soon curled up and died. Ann on Feministing describes it this way, "Actually, when I menstruate I feel like a small animal with very large claws is trying to escape from my lower abdomen." Yes, indeed. So long live naturalness.

While I'm not an astronaut, I can still remember more than a few experiences at work where my period was not only unpleasant, inconvenient, embarrassing, and weirdly out of place. Like being a junior counselor at Aqua Camp. Or doing field work in Glacier National Park, grizzly country where you don't want to smell of blood. Or any field work, for that matter. Even working in an office when I couldn't actually sit upright because of the pain. I hesitate to call that much pain "natural." But, then again, childbirth is "natural."

So then what is natural? I bet you can't define it. We don't know what natural is anymore. I'm not sure we ever did. We have constructed our world in ways that are natural, given technological advances, but perhaps unnatural, if you took away all technology.

The problem for me, as with just about any drug, is I don't think we ever understand the long-term effects on humans before the FDA approves of it. So, in this case, we choose to use a generation of women as guinea pigs. The true problem isn't about what's natural, but that the government and drug companies don't have women's (or men's) health as a priority.