Prisoner of The Pill

May 16, 2008 at 8:16 pm (books, feminism, rants) (, )

I just finished reading a wonderful and hilarious book, Bonk by Mary Roach.  As the name may suggest, the book is about sex, well, sex research to be specific.  I’d recommend this book to pretty much anyone who is open to finding humor in the more bawdy and intimate aspects of our lives.  We’re all human, we all do it, and frankly, sometimes its pretty darned funny!  So anyway, after giggling throughout most of the book, I came to a part which nearly made me cry in outrage.  No, it wasn’t about sexual abuse or violence (that would have REALLY made me cry), it was a short section on something that is unfortunately near and dear to me, The Pill.

On the surface, The Pill is a wonder-drug.  No babies, no acne, regular and lighter periods.  For all of these reasons, I, and millions of women like me, are on The Pill and have been for some time. I have personally been on it for about 10 years (and I’m only 27).  I started it because NOTHING else would clear up my skin as a teenager, plus my cycles were infuriatingly irregular and unpredictable.  Little did my 17 year old self know that in 10 years, I would feel like a slave to these tiny pills.  Due to medication that I am on that can cause severe birth defects, I HAVE to be extremely vigilant about not getting pregnant.  My partner and I both feel that condoms are not a reasonable alternative due to their propensity for misuse as well as our simple desire not to have to use them.  And after condoms there are VERY FEW non-hormone based contraceptives.

About a year ago, I got fed up with The Pill and took my grievances to Planned Parenthood for the purpose of getting an IUD (intra-uterine device) – the copper kind, not the one that just sits in your uterus pouring hormones into it.  First of all, the entire visit to PP was unpleasant.  The nurse who took my vitals asked why in the world I wanted to get off The Pill.  She poo-pooed the idea of a diaphram (not that I want one, but she shouldn’t have made that assumption) as being “messy” and hard to use.  In my actual consultation with the doctor, she dismissed my complaint that The Pill was causing bloating and weight gain.  I’ve never been a skinny person, but I know my body and I knew that this constant stream of progesterone – the hormone that pregnant women produce that tells their bodies not to lose fat – was doing nothing good for my weight issues.  This doctor also told me that IUDs are only appropriate for women who have already had children.  While this may be the more standard application, I don’t feel that it is exclusive, this particular doctor just didn’t feel comfortable implanting them in childless women – and she told me as much.  So I left PP feeling demoralized, dejected and without any options.  They practically threw a new prescription for Pills at me.  I got the distinct feeling that PP is being subsidized by Pill-producing companies.  Probably not true, but that was my impression.

So this brings me back to Bonk.  Mary Roach was discussing how a woman’s hormonal cycle normally causes an increase in sexual drive during the time of month while she’s ovulating (makes sense).  But women on The Pill are receiving a constant and steady stream of estrogen and progesterone which levels out their hormones, basically dulling their natural cycle and urges.  Much worse yet, The Pill induces a protein which binds to and inactivates testosterone in the blood.  Why do women need testosterone you may ask?  Well, it is the “hormone of desire”.  Without testosterone, women have greatly lowered sexual drive.  I was enraged by this.  I was NEVER told of this side-effect.  I guess diminished sexual desire is not anything worth discussing as a possible reason women would not want to use a particular drug.  I knew that I was taking estrogen and progesterone and I was already none too happy with the possible and actual side-effects of those two hormones, but now to know that my testosterone levels are also being diminished?  Holy Hell.  Can you even imagine if a birth control medication for men blunted their libido?  There’d be outrage.  No no, there wouldn’t because no drug like that would be taken by millions of men for most of their lives.

I’d love to hear from anyone else interested in this topic as well.  Has anyone heard about the use of copper IUD’s in women who have not been pregnant?  Its still something I am seriously looking into.

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Random Musings…

May 9, 2008 at 4:08 pm (random thoughts)

…from the Mysterybea at work with not enough to do.

On Work:
I officially started my new job last week and so far, its been, well, uneventful.  I hate not having enough to do at work.  In my opinion its far better to have too much to do at work than not enough.  I drives me absolutely crazy to be sitting at work watching the minutes tick by, sucking down coffee just to keep my eyes open.  Thankfully work should pick up next week.  I never thought I’d look forward so much to starting experiments again!

On Living with One’s Significant Other:
Although I have been with my S.O. for five and a half years, due to my grad school adventures we have just recently begun co-habitating.  It has gone rather smoothly, considering how independent we have both become over the past 5 years.  Until we move into our new house (closing is just 2 weeks away!), we are in his crappy college student-style apartment.  Its spacious enough, but it definitely feels claustrophobic at times.  I truly can’t fathom how people live in studio apartments together in big cities where space is at a premium.  Maybe that’s why there’s more crime in large cities.  I know I’d snap and go homicidal at some point if I had no where in my living area to be by myself.  Hell, I almost took my sweetie’s head off the other day for crunching his chips too loudly.

On being back in the Midwest:
I am absolutely loving Spring time in the Midwest.  Sure I get annoyed that I can’t go running or walking outside whenever I feel like it because it may be cold, windy, rainy or all three…but having the variety once again is so nice.  I am the type of person that gets severely annoyed with places that have too many consecutive days of bright, sunny weather.  I love cloudy and overcast days, they make me feel less guilty for holing up inside all day with the remote control and a good book.  Another thing about the spring that is so lovely is just how GREEN everything is right now.  Its remarkable after living in the desert for the past 5 years just how beautiful the greenery all is.  It’ll all fade to brown in the baking sun of July, but for now it is so refreshing.

So on that note, I’ll finish up and try to find something to keep me busy until the weekend begins in a few hours.  During my month of blissful unemployment I had forgotten just how wonderful the weekend is and how quickly it goes by.

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My Rant on Pseudo-Science

April 23, 2008 at 7:15 pm (Current Events, science)

Alright, so I have admittedly ignored my blog for too long, but I have some good excuses.  I graduated with my PhD, moved across the country, moved in with my fiance (finally) and bought a house.  In the last month.  Wew.  So it was going to take a big kick in the pants to get me to write again, but I just saw the motivation I needed:

Apparently diet can now determine the gender of a child.  And thank god SOME people are being skeptical!  I guess I can throw out everything I learned during my PhD training in cancer research, my B.S. degree in Genetics as well as my high school and junior high biology.  Apparently the father’s contribution of either an X chromosome (for girls) or a Y chromosome (for boys) can be trumped by the mother consuming more calories rich in things like potassium and vitamin C.

Say it with me people:  this is BULLSHIT SCIENCE.  And I’m using the word “science” extremely loosely here.  There is NO WAY that once a woman has conceived and is carrying a developing fetus, that anything she does determines the sex.  Her actions may well determine characteristics of the child, even sexual orientation as some studies suggest, but the GENDER of the child is fully determined by whether it was conceived with a sperm containing and X or a Y sex chromosome.  Plain and Simple, and we have known this for decades.  So number one, why was the “research” even done in the first place and number two, why would ANYONE believe even a word of it?

Try this on for size:  maybe women who are carrying a male child are driven to consume more calories for some reason.  And I even have a semi-plausible explanation – female reproductive organs are the “default” system when babies are developing, so perhaps the influx of hormones (which are lipid based) and the energy expended to produce male organs is more calorically costly.  That took me all of 3 seconds to think up.  You’d think these “researchers” could have come up with a more plausible explanation.  It is also very plausible that women carrying male fetuses crave foods rich in certain minerals and vitamins.

So lets review:  there are ALWAYS multiple ways to correlate two seemingly related events.  For example, studies have shown that kids that play violent video games tend to be more violent and unlawful in real life.  Well, perhaps its not the video games turning them into hulligans, rather, children that have a predisposition towards violence seek out violent video games.  I certainly wouldn’t ever choose to play a violent video game.  So back to this hackneyed bullshit study.  Instead of throwing away decades of knowledge that tell us that the sex chromosome in the sperm determines a fetus’s gender, perhaps we can come up with a different correlation that doesn’t spit in the face of all known genetics and developmental biology.

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The Light at the End

March 10, 2008 at 10:18 pm (grad school, random thoughts)

It is almost impossibly to believe, but I am nearly at the end of my career as a graduate student.  That seemingly never-ending sequence of failed experiments, mundane daily tasks, dissertation writing…not to mention missing my fiance like crazy – it will all be over in a matter of weeks.  Like so many other long-term life events, graduate school in some regards has flown by, but in others has seemed to take a life time.  I feel that my experiences here have absolutely allowed me to form my adult self – independent, opinionated, informed, and most of all – knowing that I can make my own way in the world.

Living on one’s own in a new city, away from friends and family for the first time, is a unique and indispensable experience…one that I think too few people go through.  There is a sense of empowerment that comes from creating your own life away from the comforts of home.  That being said, I am returning to my undergrad college town (not far from where I grew up) to start a new job and a new life together with my future hubby.  I don’t know yet if I’ll miss any aspects of being a grad student.  Certainly I’ll miss the people here, to whom I have grown so close, and I will miss the perfect weather runs outside in February and March…but the stress, the ‘dreaded Tucson summer’, and the meager stipend?  I think I’ll get over those things pretty quick!

This is my ode to moving on with my life.  I think when the time comes I will write Tucson a going away letter, but I’ve still got about four and a half weeks to enjoy the cacti, wildflowers and crisp morning air.

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The Old White Man Vote is Secure

March 6, 2008 at 2:26 pm (feminism, politics, presidental race)

I was thinking a little more about my last post – how there are women in this country that don’t agree that a woman should be president because they should instead by subservient to men.  It turns out that it probably doesn’t matter all that much politically.  These women most likely hold these 18th century views due to religious beliefs (what else would inspire such self-hatred?) and would never vote for a Democrat anyway.  I highly doubt that I will see anyone other than an old white man running on the Republican ticket in my lifetime.  I’ll be the first to admit that a year or more ago, I questioned whether the U.S. population could rally behind either a woman or an African-American nominee.  I am ecstatic that I was wrong.  If the right wing fundies want to complain about a woman getting out of the kitchen and running for president, then let them.  They were always going to vote for the old white guy on the GOP ticket anyway.

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Breaking the dryspell with a feminist rant

February 29, 2008 at 2:27 am (feminism, NPR, rants)

Oh, I just couldn’t let this one go.  I am currently deeply entrenched in my dissertation which is why I haven’t been feeling especially inspired lately to write much else.  But I heard a couple of things today that made me so incensed it got my creative juices flowing again.  I wake up to NPR in the morning.  I figure as I snooze, the latest news and current events will find their way into my brain.  Often what happens is that I think of something later in the day and wonder if it was a dream or was it actual news that president Bush vetoed another piece of legislation that would have benefited women or kids.

Unfortunately, I was very much awake when I heard an interview of a woman (I think the woman was interviewed at her church) about what presidential candidate she was excited about.  I think she said something about thinking it was nice that a lady could run for president, but that its really just a man’s job because of her strong belief that women hold a submissive place in the world and that she liked the leadership style of men.  I’m just wondering what her point of reference was.  The simple fact is, we have very little evidence of what a world controlled by women would look like.  So lets analyze what a world mostly ruled by men looks like.  Wars, religious fanaticism, dictatorship, genocide…Gee I can see why the status quo is so attractive!  I would have been sickened had a man said this, but to hear a woman say it literally made my skin crawl.  It greatly saddens me to think of a woman being raised in a faith which conveys to her, from infancy no doubt, that she is inferior and limited in what she can do.  Yet another in the list of a million reasons I’m proud to call myself an atheist.

And speaking of religion and discrimination, I had the pleasure on my way home from work of listening to another NPR story about the recent establishment of segregated mass-transit systems in many large cities.  They interviewed Israeli women on both sides of the issue.  The segregation in Israel is religiously based.  The point is apparently to keep men away from the wanton temptation of all of those seductive women.  One woman compared allowing her husband to sit next to another woman to allowing a baby to play with a loaded gun.  Seriously, she said those words…and then my head exploded.

I suppose it shouldn’t, but it continues to shock me when women willingly step backwards in time and give up the status and rights that ambitious and powerful women before them have earned all of us.

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Does Personal Ambition Make Us Less “Fit”?

January 26, 2008 at 1:20 am (evolution, feminism)

Evolutionarily speaking – Does ambition to seek higher education and a prestigious career go against our innate drive to procreate?  A conversation I had with a friend today got me thinking about this.  He mentioned to me how many Western European countries and China currently have birth rates that are to low to keep pace with the death rates.  The trend isn’t quite that dramatic in the U.S. (go figure), but it seems that countries with more educated and “professional” populations are the ones with declining birth rates.  Aren’t we always hearing news-fluff stories about how women are waiting until they are older and more professionally established to have children – often with negative repercussions for her fertility?
Putting political correctness aside, let’s face it – its not the women that are seeking masters, PhD’s and upwardly mobile careers that are popping out 4, 5 or more children.  And of course, of course, of course, there are exceptions to every rule!  Speaking in evolutionary terms, women that choose to wait until they have achieved their educational and career goals, until they have put away some money and established a home, until they have been married for a couple years – these women are less fit than women who start having children in their early 20’s and have a herd of them.  Taking myself and my friends as examples, I will not graduate until I’m 27, I’ll marry when I’m 27 and if I have a child – and that’s a big IF – it won’t be until I’m nearly 30.  At that point, I’d be lucky to have one or two, three at the most (god-forbid).

If this is truly the case, then in order to perpetuate one’s own personal blood line, wouldn’t we encourage our own children against seeking out ambitious goals, thus ensuring the continuation of our lineage?  Well, at least with my parents, this was certainly NOT the case, and it is not the case with most parents.  We are always hearing that children are encouraged above all else to get the most education they possibly can and to achieve their own goals in life.  Have we, as humans, evolved beyond the point of the blind urge to pass on our own genes?  It is now culturally acceptable and encouraged for one to find their own true happiness before settling down with a spouse and kids.  It seems that we have surpassed pure species perpetuation and moved onto self-gratification.  And I’m not saying that either is better, but it is truly interesting.

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The Blackhole of Laziness

January 8, 2008 at 3:42 pm (grad school, random thoughts)

I have officially fallen into the black hole of laziness.  I have been away from the lab for a while now, a thousand miles away in fact, and I’m supposed to be writing my dissertation.  The trouble is, I’m having some major motivational issues.  First were the holidays.  Who would possibly expect me to work on my dissertation over the holidays?  There was the pre-Christmas weekend out with my family, then the actual Christmas holiday with my sweetie’s family.  Then he had the week off so I again couldn’t force myself to work when we were both at home all day relaxing and being lazy.  Then New Year’s came and went and I have felt myself doing the back-slide into total slackerdome.

What many of you non-slackers out there may not realize is that laziness really does build on itself.  Once you take a week or more off, getting up any time before 10 am really seems like an insurmountable task.  Then once you do get up you’ve gotten used to eating a leisurely breakfast and watching your morning trash on TV, so working before lunch time becomes harder and harder.  So the sweet spot for me has become those couple hours between lunch and when my sweetie gets home from work.  Well, that is unless I feel tired and need to take a nap sometime before 5.  I know what you’re thinking, and yes, I do know how very pathetic that all sounds.

For me, another factor that feeds the laziness downward spiral is that when you have so many things on your plate (for me its the dissertation, wedding planning and job hunting), it is overwhelming to start on any of the projects so I choose to do none.  That makes sense, right?

Jeez, I really need to break the cycle!  And I’m gonna do it this week.  No yearly resolution for me, just a goal for today.  Get my butt in gear at the gym this morning and then get a few pages done on the Beast (what I will henceforth call my dissertation).  No more whining, complaining or procrastinating…although I won’t rule out that afternoon nap!

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Jesus: Its what’s for dinner

December 17, 2007 at 6:17 pm (opinions, religion)

Oh, I love the sacrilege, and I have to thank my honey for this brilliant title.  It came to us as we were driving across this great country of ours, specifically, across northern Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas, and we kept seeing either Jesus-lovin’ billboards or Beef-lovin’ billboards.  No, not professional advertisements, but the kind that are written on plywood with black paint by some god-fearing, beef-selling farmer.  Here are our favorites:

  • “Jesus is lord” – a real classic
  • Created in his image” – a Kansas specialty, and yes, Created was emphasized on the sign with bold fancy script.
  • “Righteousness makes a great nation, sin is a cancer to people” – well, in my opinion being righteous is one of the nastiest sins out there.
  • “Accept Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.  Or regret it forever.”

Just when I thought that I had found jesus, but wait, I was still pro-choice, this gem came up:

  • “Adoption=Life,  Abortion:Death,  Millions are waiting to adopt” – yes, that is the punctuation directly from the billboard.

Between those inspirational signs and the two gigantor crosses, one of which is officially the “largest cross in the western hemisphere”, I felt the power of jesus coursing through my veins.  I mean, in all honesty, people can practice whatever religion they want to, but what really chaps my hide is how Christians think these superficial and trite advertisements for their religion will sway even one person.  Frankly, I wouldn’t want anyone as weak-minded and easily persuaded to identify with my personal belief system.

I find it hard to imagine seeing cheesy advertisements like these in Saudi Arabia or Israel touting the benefits of believing in Islam or Judaism.  Maybe this is not a uniquely Christian thing, maybe its a uniquely American thing.  That would be par for the course in a country where our Congress would take the time to acknowledge the importance of celebrating a solely Christian holiday, as if we could ever forget with the spirit of Christmas and every other Christian belief being jammed down our throats by every media outlet within sight.

So if you’re ever feeling your faith waning, wipe your mind clear of deep thoughts, scientific knowledge and personal opinions and take a drive through rural America.  Its truly an inspiration!

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Putting My Money Where My Mouth Is

December 8, 2007 at 2:44 pm (books, environment, food)

I finally finished Michael Pollan’s “Ominvore’s Dilemma”, it was brilliant and inspirational.  I said in my last post that I was convincing myself not to eat meat.  Well, that’s true to an extent.  I have been sufficiently convinced not to eat grain-fed meat from feed lot operations, including anything from fish to chicken to beef.  Not only does it go against nature and evolution, which must be respected, but it is just not sustainable.  We humans have evolved to eat food that has been nourished by the sun and the soil, and we are currently being fed by food nourished by petrochemicals and and artificially fixed nitrogen.  Why have we allowed this to happen?  The all mighty bottom line of course.  While we are willing to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on luxury SUVs, video game systems, gargantuan televisions (take your pick), we scoff at spending an extra $1/pound to buy quality meat to nourish our family.  And no, I’m not buying into the Whole Foods philosophy of only eating “organic”.  I am buying into sustainability.  Because while it is surely better to buy “organic” food free of hormones, antibiotics and pesticides, the farms that produce organic products are nearly as unsustainable as traditional industrial farms.  When I refer to sustainability, I mean how much damage it does to the land, the surrounding water resources and the consumers who ingest the food.

One of the most interesting facts highlighted in Pollan’s book is how industrially produced food is actually much worse for humans than meat and produce grown in more natural circumstances.  For instance, we all hear that we should eat fish for the health benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids.  Those Omega-3 acids come from fish raised on krill and kelp (their natural diet), not corn.  Gee, isn’t it surprising that corn weren’t naturally evolved to eat corn?  Farm raised salmon raised on corn actually contain less Omega-3 and more Omega-6 (an unhealthy alternative).  Same goes for beef.  Grass fed beef contains Omega-3 and Omega-6 in a 1:1 ratio – not so bad, right?  Well, grain fed beef has Omega-6 fatty acids over Omega-3 in a ratio of 10:1.  Amazing.  Humans clearly evolved to eat meat higher in Omega-3’s, which is why we have such rampant health problems associated with the consumption of feed-lot beef.

OK, so clearly I could go on and on, but overall I would just recommend that if you are concerned about where your food comes from, read Pollan’s “Omnivore’s Dilemma”.

I guess it doesn’t matter how inspired I am by a book if I don’t practice what I preach, right?  So I have decided to change my consuming behaviors, especially where meat is concerned.  Anyone can go online and find local grass-fed beef suppliers in their area.  It may cost more and be much less convenient, but I feel its worth it.  We need to get back into the mind-set that meat is a “special occasion” food and not our god-given right for daily consumption.  I’ve been a vegetarian before, and I’m not going to go all the way back to that extreme.  After all, there is nothing more natural than humans eating meat.  However, there’s nothing less natural than how we go about mass producing our meat.

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