Disability, Feminism, Other Stuff We Read, Self-Image, Sweet Machine

Quote of the day: Control

Idealizing the body and wanting to control it go hand-in-hand; it is impossible to say whether one causes the other. A physical ideal gives us the goal of our efforts to control the body, and the myth that total control is possible deceives us into striving for the ideal… In a culture which loves the idea that the body can be controlled, those who cannot control their bodies are seen (and may see themselves) as failures.
–Susan Wendell, “Toward a Feminist Theory of Disability” (emphasis added)

My brain’s been whirring too fast to say much about this one, but as soon as I read it I knew I had to share it with y’all.

92 thoughts on “Quote of the day: Control”

  1. Annaham, do you know of a good list of feminist disability resources? I feel under-read and I figure that there are probably all kinds of resources (online or in print) that I am just not tapped into at the moment. This is totally just a friendly request and not a demand that you play Let’s Help the Able-Bodied Person, by the way — you just happened to be the first commenter and I know you’ve got the smarts.

  2. Totally off-topic, but I thought y’all would like to see this bit:


    CHICAGO – You can look great in a swimsuit and still be a heart attack waiting to happen. And you can also be overweight and otherwise healthy.

    A new study suggests that a surprising number of overweight people — about half — have normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels, while an equally startling number of trim people suffer from some of the ills associated with obesity.

    The first national estimate of its kind bolsters the argument that you can be hefty but still healthy, or at least healthier than has been believed.

  3. Tal – great article.

    By the end they really tried to get a “but fat IS more unhealthy” in there, but I think this is a beginning. Of course, if they’d put in anything about how fat people often are told to equate exercise and nutrition with weight loss and so might be operant conditioned away from it, or have the unhealth of self-abuse or self-loathing to contend with as handed to them by society, or any of those things, then we’d actually have a really sane article when looking for causes of unhealth in obese folks from 50 to 64.

    Ah, we’ll get ’em next time. Baby steps, right?

  4. I need this pasted to my forehead today, as it’s one of those days where I’ve taken every pill and done every therapy-thing, and the pain and nausea are still winning. It’s times like this I REALLY want to blame myself for an illness that is, occasionally, completely beyond my control.

    I will contemplate what it means size-wise when my brain comes back online.

  5. I’m in no way trying to equate temporary injury with disability, but after a year plus of fairly significant foot problems, and in the midst of trying to figure out why I feel such deep and severe frustration with myself for failing to respond to treatment more quickly, that quote resonates.

    See, even the language I’m using there is loaded: “failing to respond to treatment” could perhaps be better said as “having not found a successful treatment plan”

    I certainly do feel like a failure at this point, even with my minor problems and even-more-minor successes in overcoming them. None of my medical professionals have had the slightest negative thing to say – they really are an awesome bunch – so that feeling is entirely coming from within.

    Very interesting, and awfully sad.

  6. I think this quote is fascinating. To me, it describes the difficulty of loving your body without wanting it to be the “perfect” image. I think that the ultimatley human struggle is to love ourselves while seeking the approval of others.

  7. CHICAGO – You can look great in a swimsuit and still be a heart attack waiting to happen. And you can also be overweight and otherwise healthy.

    NO SHIT!

    Apologies for my outburst. I had a pre-employment physical today, and the nurse practitioner actually outright told me my BMI and that it meant I was at so much higher risk for blah, blah, blah. I was really tempted to refer her to my endocrinologist, who actually told me at my last visit that my weight was the least of his concerns about my health and treatment. Stupid NP.

  8. Also, you can be fat *and* look awesome in your suit. Whooaaa. I think I just blew my mind.

    Nonetheless, the quote is interesting – the only thing I’d add is that we have very specific markers for what “control” looks like. My body does most of what I want physically, although I’d love to be in shape (whatever the hell that means), but it only partially counts because it’s not thin.

    Actually, most women are out of control, what with our periods and all. Which is why we need that birth control that prevents us from having periods. (Which I’m in favor of personally, but recognize as a theme in ads that sort of squicks me.)

    I’m sure I’m leaving men out somewhere – sorry men. What’s up with your . . . untrained back hair?

  9. Oh, I read that quote and just sighed so deep and so sad. That’s my whole life right there and I’m torn between needing to believe and needing to escape.

  10. I definitely understand this on the level of chronic illness, and it makes sense that it applies to body size and shape just as strongly. The illusion that you can control your body is just SO powerful – and when you temporarily manage to do so, the rush of satisfaction and success is such a high. Especially when that tiny, temporary measure of control took really hard work! And then reality sets in, and the opposite of “success” is, well, you know. It’s just so easy to fall into this way of thinking.

  11. The reason you can’t figure out why birth control is being sold to you as period control is that you are “just a lady…with a simple lady mind” Just ask Sarah.

    And, actually, birth control is a lot about “control” even above and beyond the so-called theory that women go CRAZY once about every 28 days. Yes, yes, I’m for it, of course. But I’ve only taken the time to do some critical thinking about what it means to voluntarily sterilize myself since I hit my mid-30s…18 years after starting the Pill.

  12. Of course women are totally into controlling their body. With every squirt of moisturizer, every swipe of deodorant, every syringe of Botox and the one-less-mouthful of cake, it’s all about thinking that our individual levels of knowledge are wiser than the intellect of the body and whoever gave it to us.

    Intuition and instinct are not factoring much into life at all these days – it’s all about being sold something we don’t actually need but must have or be slovenly letters-down-of-society-and-womenhood. Expectations are raised so high through advertising (oh, those clinical test results on 31 women!) that it MUST BE YOU, NOT THE PRODUCT DUH.

    I want my periods, dammit. I am tired of people telling me that chemicals are necessary for my body to function properly or conveniently. It’s already pretty convenient, what with the breathing and moving, etc.

  13. downtownvenus, mostly I agree with this, but a lot of people *do* benefit from ‘controlling’ things about their body using medications (which is what I think you mean by “chemicals.” The pedantic chemist in me really wants to point out that chemicals ARE really necessary for your body to function properly!!). That doesn’t mean everyone needs to be doing that, and convincing everyone they have something to fix (and that it’s actually fixable) is a huuuuge problem. I completely agree with that point. But sometimes instinct and intuition don’t help much, and medicine does, fwiw.

  14. atiton, that video was the first thing I thought of when birth control came up, but I didn’t have the link! I love it!

  15. And YES, everyone I AM working VERY hard on the talk I’m giving tomorrow, of COURSE, why do you ask? ;-)

  16. Lynne, thank you for that. I have depression and PMDD, and chemicals are necessary in order for me to function normally and to avoid suicidal thoughts.

  17. No problem, FJ! It can be difficult to find stuff on that exact topic. One of my favorite sites is FRiDA (short for Feminist Response in Disability Activism). On the blogging front, I’m a fan of CripChick and the Gimp Parade.

    I’m in academia at present, though, so I read quite a bit of theoretical stuff, too. If you haven’t read Rosemarie Garland-Thompson’s work (her book Extraordinary Bodies is worth a read), I’d recommend checking her stuff out. Susan Wendell also wrote a fantastic book called The Rejected Body, although I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve already read it! Robert McRuer’s book Crip Theory is good, too, and examines the intersections between queer theory and disability theory.

    I hope this helps! ^_^

  18. I am tired of people telling me that chemicals are necessary for my body to function properly or conveniently.

    I imagine the key words there are “properly” and “conveniently.” Obviously if some part of your body is genuinely not working as it should, then medical intervention or chemicals may be a wonderful boon.

    The problem, and I’m sure I’m preachin’ to the choir here, is who decides how to define “should.” And who does the defining.


  19. I get this, in terms of size and disability/illness. I get that you need to avoid the personal blame when the body can’t be controlled. I also agree that “lack of body fat = control” tends to be symbolic or magical thinking.

    However, the feminist in me thinks trying to control the body may not be all bad. If you want to go all natural and embrace Mother Nature’s hold on you, fine. I don’t. I’m comfortable with menstrual blood, but that is a good thing because then I can deal with it and get on with my life.

    Feminism to me is (partly) about allowing women the privilege of being more than nature. Yeah, I did read a lot of Simone de Beauvoir at an impressionable age.

  20. i work with a woman who totally believes this –is a raging fatophobe & allowed to be so..& even agreed with. she is making my m-fri life a living hell. and everytime i am out sick or have a bad back or feeling illl, the unspoken to me (but not to everyone else in authority), is that it is my fault. if i werent such a fatass, id be healthy like her.

    and yes, it is stressing me out more than i wish , & YE, it is only making me feel even more a failure. It’s fucking hard to live FA.

  21. Seconded, Lois! S*RIs keep me functional. :-) But I do agree with trying to keep the optional chemicals to a minimum, for myself…I wouldn’t want to dictate what’s necessary or appropriate for anyone else.

    I’m wondering what it means to give up the idea that my body is within my control. It feels both empowering and scary.

  22. However, the feminist in me thinks trying to control the body may not be all bad.

    Of course it isn’t. Pain relief, birth control, innoculation, strength training – all of these things are forms of body control. The point is that how or to what extent you control your body should be your choice and dictated by what you want, rather than what other people think your body should do or how they think you should feel.

  23. I’m totally on a minor anti anti-persperant crusade. We’re supposed to sweat people. (If only the hippie deodorants didn’t either smell like patchoulli, or nothing.)

  24. Oh shinobi, sadly, not one of those hippie deodorants (including the ones that smell nice) did a thing for deodorizing me, and I prefer not to be stinky (even if I’m “supposed” to be), so I went back to good old anti-perspirant. I’m taking my chances and fully embracing body-control on that one. ;-)

    And ahem, may I be so bold as to suggest that if anyone feels the urge to use the word “chemicals” in a sentence, you first try substituting the word “matter,” to see if it still makes sense? Water, the components of food, and oxygen in the air are all chemicals. We are made of chemicals. Everything you see is chemicals. You need chemicals, you are chemicals. The word really does not only refer to compounds isolated, purified, or grown in a laboratory.

    /chemist’s soapbox

  25. Great quote; thanks for posting it, SM!

    I think the idea of controlling our bodies manifests in lots of different ways, and I think individuals have (or should have) a lot of choice in how they exercise, or don’t exercise, that control. Maybe chemicals are necessary for some folks, maybe some folks prefer alternatives, maybe some people like the smell of sweat, maybe some people think aluminum chloride is the best thing ever….that’s the beauty of choice.

    Provided we actually have that, of course.

  26. Errr….scratch that “chemicals” and maybe put in, er, “manufactured substances” instead? (sorry, Lynne – you make a good point)

  27. The whole no period birth control thing kind of pisses me off, because I spent 15 years having doctors tell me that my periods needed to be MORE regular.

    I wish the medical community would just come out and say: We don’t really know what we are talking about, but this is the best advice we can give you right now.

  28. Oooh this one struck a cord with me! I am physically disabled and because of the accident that caused the disability (well actually the medication given to me post accident) I am about 140 pounds over what the Doctors state should be my ideal weight.

    The Doctors kept telling me I “need to control my weight” whilst giving me medication whose main side effect is weight gain! Finally after talking to a doctor about my food intake (500 kcals on a good day!), they agreed to change, cut down the medication and I have lost 29 pounds in 4 months – I had NO control over what was going on and yet I was penalised for being fat because “I should know better” *grumble*

  29. I’ll leave as chemicals – thanks though for the suggestions -, and if anyone wants to read it as different then they can sub in “things not constructed outside of the body” for chemicals. I know that everything is chemicals at the base level but I’m not that pedantic here, though many others are when they have nothing else to contribute.

    I’m doing okay with what my body is providing and anything in a box can stay there. And for those who feel that medications make their life easier, I am not in your shoes so my viewpoint cannot possibly be viewed as a generalization; please don’t make it one.

  30. er: for the sake of clarity that should be “things constructed outside of the body” but I’m sure you have figured that out already….

  31. but I’m not that pedantic here, though many others are when they have nothing else to contribute.

    Downtownvenus, first off, this is out of line, as Lynne is a regular commenter and friend of the blog. Secondly, her point *does* contribute to the discussion here, which is about what constitutes effective “control” of the body and what is oppressive control. It’s not pedantic to say that there is no bright line between “natural”/”unnatural” in this context.

  32. Love love love Sarah, and the video.
    Regarding the natural/unnatural, things are pretty blurry. Opiates are natural, but come in different concentrations in nature (like most things plant-like, the product surely varies on weather, temperature, soil, harvest time, variety, etc.). Are regulated strength (read:manufactured to some degree) opiates automatically “bad”, even though they might prevent you from overdosing and killing yourself?

    I guess I’d like to see a language shift. I prefer the image of trying to provide for your body, rather than controlling it. This control/punishment/sin language is all over dieting and medication, and I think it’s bad news. My habits and meds should be about providing for my body. I provide it with nourishment, with antibiotics to stave off that “natural” kidney infection, with exercise or no exercise, with sleep and lotion and thousands of things not to punish it’s lack of ability to be a perfect machine, but so that I can function in the ways I desire. My mind and my body *need* and *desire* and *take pleasure in* waffle cone ice cream and mangos, antibiotics and good-smelling shampoo, migraine meds that work (on occasion) and a firm mattress. Mmm, I could use a mango now. And a nap.

  33. though many others are when they have nothing else to contribute.

    Way to try to snark your way out of being called on making generalizations! Because, yeah, you ARE making a generalization. You spent, in your original comment, two paragraphs talking about the way women are forced to embrace chemicals then rejected those self-same chemicals in a pretty sanctimonious fashion.

    And, honestly? Your body makes chemicals. Hormones? Chemicals. You may choose and entirely med-free life and, hey, more power to you, but your attitude about what other people are choosing is pretty condescending and offensive.

  34. Anita, I really like the idea of providing the body with things versus the standard rhetoric of control that our language is full of right now. That’s a really huge shift, for all it seems very simple, and I think it would go a long way toward changing attitudes about what medicine and food and exercise are supposed to accomplish.

  35. I prefer the image of trying to provide for your body, rather than controlling it.

    Oh, a thousand times yes!

  36. Thanks, SM. I was totally being pedantic, because this is a really commonly misused word… and I think it’s misused in a way that’s partly a little lazy and partly REALLY wrapped up in that false dichotomy between natural (good!) and unnatural (bad!).

  37. I have no problems with exerting “control” over my body when it is not working well. I take pain medication for headaches or muscle cramps or take decongestants for my allergies. But I think people put too much effort into controlling body processes or conditions that are essentially self-regulating and not inherently pathological (like levels of body fat)

  38. I think it’s important, too, that Wendell is talking about “the myth that total control is possible.” Anita’s suggestion about providing being an operative model strikes me as one useful way to reframe our thinking about how we handle the day-to-day needs of our bodies.

  39. Lynne, as a fellow scientist, the whole artificial divide between “natural” and “unnatural” really irks me too, not in the least of which because it’s really completely arbitrary. Obviously we are not “naturally” meant to travel at speeds upwards of what our legs are capable of, yet many of these “nature good!” people still drive cars or ride bicycles. We are not “naturally” meant to fly at incredible heights, yet many still ride in planes. Why don’t the naturalists use underground, “natural” icehouses instead of “unnatural” refridgerators to keep their food stored? Why do they have electricity in their house at all? Surely it is “unnatural” to be surrounded by pulsing electrons at all hours of the day. What the heck are they even doing on the internet, instead of having nothing but “natural” face-to-face conversations?

    In much the same sense as certain religious folk, the inconvenient parts which are difficult to follow are often rationalized away, while the parts which are easy for them to follow (and easy to feel sanctimonious about) are kept to lord over other people’s heads, people who may not be able to easily follow those parts, or may not even want to.

    Yes, I think business interests can sometimes supercede human interests when it comes to pharmaceuticals and even doctors. But that’s certainly not good enough reason to do away with the whole enterprise. This whole kneejerk reaction of simply rejecting anything that comes from “outside the body” is simplistic at best, and dangerous at worst.

  40. EntoAggie, I think it’s about the idea that there is something somehow more pure about Returning To Nature. Because things were soooo awesome back when most people died before 50, had lots of parasites, starved when the crops they grew on their own land failed, and used bleeding as a cure-all for pretty much every problem. I mean, I want to go back to that!

  41. Also, where does this “outside the body” idea come from? Our bodies are not actually walls between our deep, internal souls and the hostile outside world.

  42. (That’s largely rhetorical, by the way. I know there’s a crazy lot of history there! The important point is that it’s not TRUE.)

  43. Just have to second the recommendations for disability studies texts (shamless plug alert: I show up in the acknowledgement section of McRuer’s Crip Theory). You might also check out the special GLQ issue “Desiring Disability” guest edited by Robert McRuer and Abby Wilkinson.

    There’s a great feminist disability anthology out there, and I can’t quite remember the name of it. It arose out of a conference in NJ earlier this decade, and has a plethora of different approaches to the intersection of feminism and disability. It might pop up in Amazon if you plug in Wendell’s or Thomson’s books into the search engine. You might also check out the scholar Shelley Tremain for other interesting disability studies texts.

  44. Hey Lynne and EntoAggie…as someone who prefers alternative to Western medicine in almost every context, for a variety of complex reasons based on my own experiences, I think it’s a bit of an oversimplification to paint anyone who’s skeptical of the medical establishment with the whack-job-naturalist brush. I think scientiffic progress has been a boon to humanity in countless ways, but I also think that progress doesn’t always come without a price, nor do I think it’s always served people or the planet well.

  45. Tari, sorry if it sounded that way, I’m not trying to knock non-allopathic medicine. There is a huge difference between trying different types of medicine and saying anything medicinal is unacceptable because it’s not natural enough (I mean, herbs count as chemicals from outside the body, right?). I fully understand (and empathize with!) skepticism for the medical establishment. It has huge problems, and I’ve had some success with naturopaths myself.

    But that is not the same as saying I’m not going to use “chemicals” from outside my body because they are categorically bad for me, and things I see as “natural” for human bodies are categorically good (and more pure and virtuous and the whole nine yards, which is where that line of reasoning very quickly goes if you try to take it very far).

  46. I think it does go back to the idea of choice rather than control – there’s a difference between mentally saying, “I choose to take medicine or herb x because it seems beneficial” vs. “I should take x to keep my body from doing y because the doctor told me to.” Same thing with food: I choose not to eat x because it seems to interfere with my health vs. I must control my urges to eat x or I will get fat.

    And sometimes I think “I don’t have to!” is a necessary step in the process…that for many of us, rebelling strongly against our social conditioning ends up being step one, and then finding balance is step two.

    I admit to clinging to optimism with this…I’m still in the “I will eat whatever I want, then, so nyeah” stage of my own fat acceptance, and I’m gaining weight, and fighting off the urge to diet. I’m really hoping to reach some equilibrium on this issue on my own…and in the meantime, trying to stay optimistic. And reading SP.

  47. Great quote, SM.

    It is so damn hard to give up control. Especially when you’re a control freak in the first place.

    I’m in the middle of a handful of physical issues (nothing serious; just the same crap I’ve been dealing with for years: tendonitis, sacro-iliac pain from a car accident) and I’m SO MAD at myself for not being able to NOT have these things flare up. Well, guess what: these things happen, and it’s not a reflection on me as a horrible person just because I can’t keep my body under control, or something. It just isn’t. I mean, there are some things I know not to do, but even if I’m perfect and don’t do any of those things, things might still flare up.

    Someday I’ll get over it, I’m sure.

    And, shinobi, I haven’t used anti-perspirant in years. I’m lucky, though, unlike other commenters, in that I don’t smell much (although I do sweat a lot). The sweating doesn’t bother me so much. The deodorant does smell like evergreens or something (a stereotypical ‘guy’ scent), but I’ve gotten to the point where I can ignore it and if someone else notices my deodorant scent, I’m doin’ it wrong. :)

  48. This control/punishment/sin language is all over dieting and medication, ….

    YES. And war metaphors — our immune system is almost always spoken of as if it were a defending army, rather than, say, city sanitation. Or housekeeping.

  49. Stephanie, I have some real ilio-sacral problems, too. And for a long time I was blaming myself for being stupid and falling and hurting myself, and then not getting it checked out properly. And then I got it checked out, and I was determined to control my body and fix it. Neither of these things really helped (or worked).

    After a while my physical therapist said that maybe the accident affected things, but mainly my natural, inherited posture makes that part of my body hurt. And that it probably wouldn’t go away, but with the exercises and stretches I could figure out how to cope on my own from day to day. That was… eye opening. If it’s just the way my bones are built, there’s no blame, and also no “fixing.” Amazing!

  50. Tari, I didn’t want to come across that way, which is why I included the part about understanding that sometimes “the industry” does go to far. And I certainly understand that some people don’t react well to certain medications, or feel pressure to take meds that they might not actually need (or could find an alternative to), and that some people just have really shitty doctors, etc. I definitely agree that there is a compulsion in this society to “fix” that which is considered “wrong” about yourself, whether you feel it is wrong or not.

    I think what Lynne and myself were responding to was more the attitude that downtownvenus was taking, namely, “anybody who uses pharmaceuticals/trusts doctors etc. is fooling themselves/hurting themselves”, compounded with a kneejerk distrust of those things based on an arbitrary distinction between “natural” and “unnatural” which has no basis in actual science.

    Lynne, I absolutely agree that it partially has to do with the assumed “purity” or “innocence” of things from nature. It’s nature-worship, pure and simple, and often based in little more than magical thinking. People are “of the earth”, therefore this other substance which is “of the earth” can’t possibly hurt us, as opposed to this product “of the lab,” which is apparently made of materials shipped in from an alternate dimension or something. Often this type of thinking stems from a poor understanding of evolutionary processes, of thinking anything evolved is “perfect” as opposed to “good enough to get by in the current environment.” And, as someone else noted above, there is little understanding about how even naturally-based products (like aspirin, or opiates) really need to be refined or even recreated in a lab in order to be of a safe, consistent, and effective dosage for widespread human use.

    I think a lot of it is also just resistance to change. But seriously, things are getting better overall. At least to me.

  51. I hope I can get there, Lynne! It’s encouraging to know that you’re dealing with similar issues. Does yours switch sides? Like, this time it’s my right hip, but I’m sure it’s been my left hip before.

    I did discover that, of all things, a full hour-and-a-half Ashtanga yoga session will reduce the pain from the tendonitis in my wrist for a while (if I’m not overly stupid), but I haven’t had much luck with finding something to help my hips much yet. I’m still trying, though!

  52. Stephanie: I’ve been dealing with something very much like that today, because I’m in a fibro flare. I spent most of the morning telling myself that whatever I did to wind up like this was @(*&@ing stupid and I *(&@ing suck for being home sick when it’s only my second week of my new job.

    Eventually, I asked myself “what could you have done differently that would have prevented this?” And the answer is: nothing. My body does this once a month, it has for as long as I can remember, and it will for as long as I can reasonably predict.

    Which in turn made me realize that the Myth of Body Control is only half the reason I’m so hard on myself. The other half is that I think of non-flare me as “normal” and flare me as an “aberration.” Despite the fact that it’s happened every month for as long as I can remember, going from fully functional to almost fully disabled within 24 hours always shocks me. And I’m starting to realize (thanks in part to Annaham’s helpful blog links, which I have time to read today, being all bedridden) that I’m pulling some kind of ableist stunt on myself. There’s no reason that fully-functional me should be “normal” and in pain/exhausted/nauseated me should be “abnormal.” BOTH are “normal”, for me.

    I’m hoping this helps me deal with the flare more constructively – I figure I’ve still got a day or two to go, and if I’m going to get back to the office tomorrow it’s going to be with a cane and a pile of blankets, so I get to have the “what happened to you?!” conversation with everyone there. At least I only have to have it once.

  53. I don’t have any deep thoughts right now…Just woke up. But the quote reminded me of one of my own private pet peeves. If I’m off topic, please delete this!

    One of the incarnations of the “women must control their bodies because the actual body is grooosss” that pisses me off most is scented pads and tampons. Because, apparently, vagina is icky and should smell like flowers and mountain fresh kittens (or whatever they’re hyping nowadays), and who cares if they give you yeast infections and UTIs and vaginitis…. Of course, I’m not bitter.

    I’m of a split mind on the BCP that stops your period. On one hand, I know how much a pain in the ass bleeding can be so YAY for meds! On the other hand, I am skeptical of the long-term results. I wonder how much of the funding R&D received is not just because there’s a market for it (convenient for women) but because menstruation is considered icky, um, period. It’s a problem to be dealt with. Men AND women are given that message. And most men don’t want to get it on with a lady on the rag…so, presto! No more periods.

    (Though I have also just finished reading about the saga of a male BCP and why the freaking hell we don’t have one yet, so that’s probably influencing my feelings right now. I mean, no-period BCP: it’s a product that will increase the potential sexing opportunities of [period-shy men] that women will buy themselves! Bonanza!*)

    I am also trying to figure out if I am a hypocrite because I recently discovered the Mooncup… Since it coincidentally prevents the aforementioned smells associated with menstruation, doesn’t give me YIs, and lets me ignore the fact that I’m bleeding for a week, it seems like the ultimate menstrual product. And does, in fact, give me a hell of a lot more control over my periods. I love love love love love it, almost as much as I do baby doughnuts.

    *Also for period sick women, but given the typical breakdown of corporate pharma-giants, I would hesitate to say that womens’ needs are THE primary issue in the minds in R&D.

  54. I’m of a split mind on the BCP that stops your period.

    Me too, although I’m more of a 90% for/10% against, with the 10% being my natural skeptism. I must say it does seem very convenient to me–don’t have to worry about packing bulky tampons/pads for that vacation, don’t have to search for the dark towel when you want to have sex, don’t have to deal with cramps and other symptoms of PMS as often, etc. I can definitely see where the market would be for something like this.

    Also, there is no proven medical reason why the body “needs” to have a period once a month. Traditionally, in a male-centered patriarchal society drawing on magical thinking about the mysterious, scary women’s body, this has been pushed as a necessary period of cleansing of the body, both physically and spiritually–because, you know, all that icky bad stuff just builds up inside and not letting it out would mean you’re unpure! But there’s nothing toxic or unhealthy about your uteral lining, and keeping it in there a bit longer isn’t going to hurt anything.*

    I’m not saying any of this to rebut anything you said, I just think it’s an interesting topic and wanted to blab about it.

    I too am frustrated at the (lack of) development of the male BCP. I do wonder how something like that would play out on the cultural stage–with birth control being so long the territory of women, would men be more relieved, or angry, about being expected to take more control?

    *Generally, and of course YMMV, as specific medical conditions obviously lead to specific needs.

  55. Rosie, is that the rubber cup thing? I’m in love with mine, too, although I still hate my periods, because I prefer to not have to think about my body. Ever.
    I’m struggling because diabetes runs in the side of the family that I got my body type from (thanks, Dad!), and I don’t *want* diabetes, dammit. I want to be one of those fatties that has no health problems associated with fatness. And why do I want to be one of those fatties? Because they’re somehow more virtuous than sick ones, and people would judge me as just another lazy overeater (thanks, Mom!). Only secondarily do I not want to be sick because diabetes can be unpleasant, and I don’t need more food hang-ups than I already have.

  56. Also, I wish a vasectomy was more of an option on the table for men. There’s some good reasons for women to avoid sterilization – things going wrong in the abdomen can be very very bad, and the chances are higher than with men, and it’s more reversible these days. I wouldn’t do it if you 100% wanted kids, but otherwise . . . consider it.

  57. Also, there is no proven medical reason why the body “needs” to have a period once a month.

    See, I know this; I also know that getting your period while on the pill doesn’t ACTUALLY mean you’re not pregnant . . . and yet still, I (like at least a few other women in the world) really like getting my period each month because it signifies to me that I’m not pregnant and that I don’t have cancer (which, frankly, I’m just as worried about). Symbolism keeps me sane!

  58. I want to be one of those fatties that has no health problems associated with fatness. And why do I want to be one of those fatties? Because they’re somehow more virtuous than sick ones, and people would judge me as just another lazy overeater (thanks, Mom!). Only secondarily do I not want to be sick because diabetes can be unpleasant, and I don’t need more food hang-ups than I already have.

    Oh, man, Anita, I think that’s such a common feeling, and I might just use that as the basis of a whole post.

    And Stephanie, I’m with you on wanting the periods to know (sort of) I’m not pregnant. I suppose I could take a test once a month, but it would still feel so weird.

  59. Symbolism keeps me sane!

    lol, well, there is that. ;) Like I said, YMMV. I guess I’m (once again, and kind of off-topically) reacting to those who like to say “But it’s not naaaatuuuraaaal not to have your period for several months! Therefore it’s baaaaadddd…..” All I’m saying is there is no scientific reason to believe that. But certainly there are other reasons women may like to continue to have their periods. It’s nice to have choices, isn’t it? ;)

  60. Anita: Yep, that’s what I’m talking about! There are rubber ones, but I think mine is silicon.

    EntoAggie: Oh, fer sure on the 90% /10% split. I was initially like, ‘OH MAN I need to get me some of them!’ But then realized that it took me years to find a BCP that works for me, and I’m not sure I want to screw around with it more. In general, w00t options.

    Though :”…don’t have to deal with cramps and other symptoms of PMS as often, etc.”
    I remember hearing that some women who use the no period pill, even though they didn’t get their period, still got the monthly PMS. Obviously, that’s completely anecdotal and to be taken with a huge pail of salt, but…maybe merits more research for women who want to take it…? I, personally, do not know.

    re: Male BPC–
    I remember reading on one of the threads either at Pandagon (http://pandagon.net/index.php/site/the_man_with_the_death_ray_eyes/) or on BitchPhD that both a benefit and a potential roadblock in marketing the male pill is that it is definitely for no-baby sex. So it’d be easy to market to the frat dudes: (“No-baby sex! She can’t blame you for being preggers! Potentially less condoms! [I know these are problematic, stereotypical, MRA style advert ideas, and I certainly do not advocate less condoms–but it would certainly cater to that particular market.])
    The difficulty in marketing is that it can’t be disguised as anything else. Certainly not for control of a masculine monthly condition…0.o

  61. Oh, Shinobi! I am SOOOooo with you on the anti anti-perspirant thing!!!!!1!!one! They make me break out and get all itchy.

    I spend a lot of time in the drug-store deodorant aisle sniffing menz deodorant because plain ol’ deodorant does not seem to exist for us females. I have found that the (dreaded) Axe brand has a scent that is cedar-based (mmmmm, cedar!) So that’s what I use. Because I loves me some cedar!

    But I would totally love to try some of that mountain-fresh kitten scent, only it would probably be too girly for Axe. Maybe if they called it mountain-fresh cougar cub scent instead…

    I’d love to go with what they sell at the natural food store, but that herbal-based stuff simply does not control my pit-stench through a whole day at work. :(

  62. I’m sorry, SM, I was writing rather late last night, beset by pain/fatigue, and got you and FJ confused (WTF, brain?!). Blargh. I hope those sources help, anyway.

  63. Me too, although I’m more of a 90% for/10% against, with the 10% being my natural skeptism.

    Hugely off topic, but I just had a horrible set of symptoms based on the Merina IUD which I put in in part to have fewer periods; and none of us, not me, my doctor, the consult, my gyno, anyone but my mom linked them to the IUD. GERD, Migraines, weight gain( that at least lead me to FA and so is a real plus!), worse insulin/glucose issues (holy low blood sugar batman), zits, water retention, weird joint issues … it was heinous and I thought I was just falling apart.

    And at least three of those symptoms were attributed to my weight, and I sort of bought it, too. Even WITH all my new Junkfood Science/FA skepticism. They suggested the heartburn and the joints are weight related and I thought they were probably right.

    The symptoms started long enough after I’d started the meds that I didn’t put them together, and I fretted I was going nuts, until my mom piped up that it might be the coil. I suggested it to the doctor, and he agreed, and we took it out, and I went home and by the next week many of the symptoms had stopped cold. Thank GOD.


    Just be aware it’s a possibility. The very constant synthetic progesterone ended up being a bad scene for me. I’m for sure a non-majority case, but I didn’t recognize the onset of symptoms for what they were, and my fat was a good scapegoat for many of them.

  64. Oh wow, Arwen, I’ve never heard of that. My acne got significantly worse with the Mirena (which isn’t a coil, I don’t think), from the levonorgestrin, but otherwise I’ve had no side effects. Except for almost no period or PMS now. I’m in love with the thing and am sad to have to deal with getting it out and, presumably, getting a new one in a year. But it’s good to know that can happen! How scary!

  65. I wasn’t snarking, I was also not being specific to anyone person’s response. I do however take objection with people rephrasing what I said for their own satisfaction.

  66. Downtownvenus, if you didn’t mean to sound like you were snarking other commenters, I suggest you reread your problematic comment to see why it came across that way, instead of taking umbrage.

  67. *cough*shameless*cough*

    People who get on their high horse about “chemicals” and “natural” and “Big Business”/”Big Pharma”/etc. are operating from a frankly ableist pov. It is nice that YOUR body functions how society says it should without any “unnatural” intervention (which, as pointed out, is a crock) but not everyone is so fortunate as to be like you.

    And, yes, when you say that YOU want to do things that way, but oh no I’m not generalizing — well, you are. You are placing a value judgment on natural/unnatural/chemical/organic which in turn places a negative value judgment on people who do not operate the way you say is ideal.

    If you really want to get the same effect without the ableism, you can say, simply, my body works how I want it to. And leave it at that.

    Simple, no?

  68. As for the subject of the post, yes, yes, yes. There is an illusion of control over the body in our society that simply does not pan out in reality. Whether it is the Weight Watchers game or the “natural” game.

    Most of all, people who are already fully-abled, or not-fat, use this illusion (delusion?) of control as a rationalization for their moral superiority. They don’t really value that control as control: they value it because it is a convention explanation for why they are better people than “old tubby next door.” (I’m not saying they don’t put some value in control, but the reason they do).

    It’s not a conscious, malicious thought most of the time, but it is there regardless.

  69. I wish I could charge people for every time they ask me what is wrong, after I tell them I have horrible debilitating period cramps and they says “why don’t you just take THE PILL” with a tone of voice that says “if you wanted to get better you could”

    And I feel obligated to defend myself by telling them that “THE PILL” makes things worse, and causes even more issues.

    And whats with the term “THE PILL” anyway, like there is only one magic pill that works for everyone. Do most people not realize that they all work differently and have different side effects? I would expect males to be out of the loop because they don’t have to know if they don’t want to, but shouldn’t females know its harder than walking into a Dr’s office and just asking for “THE PILL”?

  70. I have a lot of random thoughts that this post and comment thread started off in me…

    One was part of a larger process (along with amandaw’s posts on feministe! –and amandaw, I am so thankful you linked to the spoons theory…) led to my latest blog post, which I don’t really want to repeat here :) Summary: I have no obligation to society to be “healthy”.

    This ties in directly to the ‘total control’ myth.

    Another thought: having been indoctrinated with this idea that we have to control our bodies, and then trying to let go of it, I find it really scary, giving up on that control.

    About the fewer-periods-BCP: I was given two specific reasons by my doctors about why I should be regulating my periods so that I had them (they ranged from six weeks apart to… well, never between going off the pill and going back on it): a higher risk of endometriosis, and a higher risk of endometrial cancer. If someone can point me at studies that refute those assertions, let me know. Mind you, I might still not want to change my medication at this point, for the same reason as Rosie.

    About non-anti-persperant deoderants: I use Tom’s of Maine “natural deoderant sticks”. I used to use the rose/honeysuckle smell because I liked it, but when I couldn’t find that to buy, I bought the “unscented” (which still has a smell from the ingredients, but the smell doesn’t bother me –and I have a sneeze and itch (and sometimes swell or rash) response to a LOT of smelly things, both natural (lavender!) and man-made (artificial citrus scent)).

  71. TBS, I use the Tom’s of Maine ones too, although the one I’m currently using is some sort of evergreen scent since it was the only one the store had when I sent out whoever I sent out (maybe my mom?) to buy me one. So I smell manly, right? ;) The honeysuckle one is nice.

  72. amandaw: your comments made sense to me.

    Stephanie: One of the things I like about the Tom’s deoderants is that they don’t seem to me to be really gendered. :) Now, if only they were available over here…

  73. TBS, I don’t think they’re that gendered either. Either that, or I’ve gotten used to the idea of myself scented like evergreen for so long that I no longer associate it with a specific gender. Which is strange, since I present (and am genetically) female. Huh.

  74. The forgotten word in the original quote is “ideal.” An excellent quote in which I read some thoughts about the illusion of control over one’s body in order to meet this external ideal, and the punishment/criticism meted out for failure to exercise the (illusory) control necessary to meet the (externally selected) ideal.

    This means in practice that the imperative of power to “divide and conquer” has succeded in driving a wedge straight through the centre of our brains. We are internally divided against our own selves and thus conquered. (whether we “succeed” or “fail” at such control).

  75. Stephanie: By gendered, I meant marketed as gendered. You know, “Secret: Strong enough for a man, pH balanced for a woman”, and pink flowery packaging, vs. dark colors etc. (randomly, I know a guy who uses Secret –he claims to like its non-scentedness (!) –huh. I just asked him, and it’s the only non-scented deodorant he’s found.)

  76. TBS: Ah, yes. They’re sort of . . . tan-colored. I think the honeysuckle one has yellowy-orange on the front, and the others are blue or green . . .

    I know a guy who buys women’s razors, because he thinks they’re sharper. I buy men’s razors (well, razor heads anymore) because I think they’re sharper.

    Marketing? Is teh weird.

  77. @amandaw – You made sense to me too. I just reread the comment and it makes good sense. If that’s your “bad brain” I can’t imagine how good your
    “good brain” must be!

  78. First, agreed on Tom’s of Maine. Totally awesome. And this is coming from someone who actually likes normal body odor.

    Amandaw, when I first read your comment about natural vs unnatural as an ableist move, I started to do the classic defensive, No no no! (Here begins the TMI section.) But then I went to the bathroom. I am having my period for the first time since my son’s birth almost 4 months ago (Lucky me, breast feeding has never given me that long gap in periods that many women get. Last baby was 6 weeks post partum before I had one!). I have terrible, horrible periods. Cramps that knock me on my ass – they are like giving birth, no joke. And the bleeding – it keeps me in my house for 2 or 3 days. It is profuse, to say the least. So I was thinking about your comment, and wondering how this section:

    places a negative value judgment on people who do not operate the way you say is ideal.
    If you really want to get the same effect without the ableism, you can say, simply, my body works how I want it to.

    related to me. Because it’s a game I play in my head all the time. I like to use as many natural products as I can, both because I think that they can be better for me and the environment. Not always, and I rely on medication when the “natural” route isn’t feasible. I also face the financial barrier. Like with organic food, natural remedies and treatments are VERY expensive. I have used cloth menstrual pads, sea sponges, and the Diva Cup. I love each of them, but because of my periods, I can’t use them. It is beyond messy. I feel such guilt at disposing of so many products. Also, the pads burn my skin – it is miserably uncomfortable. (We cloth diaper for the same reasons.) I could use more “natural” pads, but we run into 2 problems. First, the cost, and second, the size. I wear 3 – 4 overnight pads during the day, and more at night.

    So I get stuck with NOT being able to say “my body works how I want it to.” Because it doesn’t, and on top of that, I can’t “control” it the way that I would like to. I had never thought of natural product use/shunning of “non-natural” things as ableist. Classist, yes. Absolutely. But this really made me stop and look at my beliefs in a way that I had never considered before.

  79. I’m also allergic to antiperspirant. Mineral salts work for me, as in Crystal body deodorant spray. Completely unscented!

    I am finally in menopause but I had heavy periods that got heavier during perimenopause. It really bothers me that it is defined as a disease simply to be more than two standard deviations from the norm. Given my willingness to tough it out, my doctor suggested treatment if I couldn’t avoid anemia or it limited my activities.

    Slightly related to feminist disability theory, can anyone steer me to a feminist theory of caregiving? My husband has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s and dementia and I am struggling to reconcile my new role with my feminism. And also to come to terms with something that I can’t control the way I have been able to control my diabetes by food choices and exercise alone (with the help of: http://www.bloodsugar101.com/ )

  80. I’m reminded of this article I was reading. It was about having big boobs and how hard that makes it to find clothes and bras, especially if you have a small back and a large cup (34G, sup?).

    I was completely with the article until I got to one sentence. I don’t remember it verbatim but it was something along the lines of, unlike big fat women who got that way by eating too much and sitting around, I can’t control the fact that I have big boobs. I guess this woman never heard of fat women who, you know, exercise and eat right but are still fat. omg, they can’t control what their body did either.

    I know that’s not disability theory, but it has to do with not being able to control something about your body.

  81. Pam: – “My husband has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s and dementia and I am struggling to reconcile my new role with my feminism.”

    Pam, I can’t give you any ready answer with this, although I do understand what may lie ahead in relation to caring, having spent ten years helping to care for my husband’s uncle, who suffered from all of the worst manifestations of Alzheimer’s among other things. It is extremely difficult to bear sometimes. Not being recognised is par for the course, and it is hard enough, but Paddy, for example, came to fear things like taking a meal I had prepared in case I was trying to poison him…well, you can imagine.

    What kept me going through the hard times, and also through the strange times when people kept saying “aren’t you good to him” (which I read as code for “I can’t imagine why you would even bother,”), was this. I spent much of my feminist youth arguing for independence for women (from our caring roles, among others). But as I grew older, had children, and acquired dependent relatives by other means, I have come to appreciate the value of “family,” small “f,” as opposed to Family, capital “F,” which is what homophobic, patriarchal defenders seek to protect.

    In “families” – that is, the real life close-knit connections that people build for themselves within their closest circle – whether by choice, by birth, by adoption, by fostoring, or simply by close contact, each individual matters, not because they can contribute any material benefit, but because every person has a value and a place of their very own. Interdependence, rather than independence, defines how we operate within “families.”

    To me, my role as a carer in a small-f “family” falls between two strong tendencies which powerful interests emphasise – but in opposite directions. The capital-F “Family,” that I learned in my Christian childhood was part of God’s plan, is a pre-determined set of rigid roles – “wife” “husband” “son” “daughter” – which lays out rules about who can participate (not lesbians or other homosexual folk), who is in charge (the father), and what the role consists in (wife=caring/nurturing).

    On the other hand, the apparent liberation of being “independent,” is in some ways the capitalist trap, which says that people only have value as producers and consumers – if they are dependent on others they no longer have any value. That striving for independence can doom us to living each on our own island without being able to reach out to one another in care and/or in need.

    But no one person can spend their life without needing – in childhood we need our parents or care-givers, and in age we will again (should we be so lucky to see it), and in between, some smaller proportion of us will always need some degree of care from others. And, as I see it, during the mid-adult years, those of us who are both strong and able do owe a duty of care to those within our reach who are in need – we owe it indirectly to those who have cared for us in the past, and those who will care for us in the future.

    And, although it breaks my heart to say it, because I know for some avoiding this is for all practical purposes impossible, I do feel we relegate this duty of care to the state at our very great peril.

    Those are the thoughts I’ve come to at this stage of my experience – they may change, no doubt will change. And I don’t know if it is any help, so “take with pinch of salt” My very best empathy is with you in this situation.

  82. Pam – that is no problem, but in my book, ideas are for sharing. Is your blog under your link? I’ll check it out.

  83. What I meant was – no need to “quote” me – just work away on whatever springboard you’ve got – I’ll be interested in your thoughts. Take care.

  84. Well, that’s ok then. Anyway, I have one more thought which relates back to the original quote that started this thread (learn to relevance:-)), as well, which is that, to me, the word “choice” also has some of those capitalist trap overtones. Capitalist market theory is about providing endless “choices,” from which ideally free agents can “choose,” but in real life we continually find ourselves in situations in which we really have little or no choice. And is the illusion of “choice” part of the illusion of “control?”

    I know the situation you are struggling with is not of your choosing, nor of your husband’s choosing. It is what it is, and for no good or understandable reason.

    It is important to remember that we are not necessarily diminished by recognising such limitations and still going on to live (and to love) as good and hard as we can within situations not of our choosing and beyone our control.

    Just to live and to love, despite all, are sometimes in themselves the ultimate triumph.

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