April 6, 2010
How did you come to write a book framed by an alternative viewpoint on the Pill?
When I started working with Barbara Seaman, at the end of 1999 and just in time for the 40th anniversary of the Pill, it was actually a shock to me to realize as a feminist she had been very critical of the Pill. I thought of myself as an up and coming young feminist and bought into the popular idea that acceptance of the Pill was an integral part of second wave feminism and as such allowed for many of the gains women have made. Working with Barbara I got to understand how criticism of the Pill was part of the feminist movement, and that this history has been lost over time. With the 50th anniversary of the Pill coming up, all the articles are very glowing and suggest the Pill made feminism possible, but I know it is much more complicated than that. I thought it was the right time to present a reassessment of our birth control choices, to encourage women to broaden the contraceptive conversation.
Seven years into working with Barbara and I was still taking the Pill. She wasn’t judgmental and it wasn’t like I was hiding it from her, but I had to learn the lessons she’d been discussing throughout her career for myself. I think it’s hard to see that it’s not just about what the Pill can do to your body, but also that this effect can change over the years. Contraception should be an inter-generational conversation, but unfortunately it is not. We could learn much by taking in the experiences of women older than us. We could be asking if hormones are increasingly unhealthy for you as you get older. I know as I got older the side effects I experienced got a lot worse. My symptoms – which started simply as painful breasts and worsened PMS when I started the Pill at 18 eventually extended to, among other things, constant mood swings,weight gain, erratic bleeding and severe cramping with amenorreah. Yet I still tried several more types of Pill until I finally decided enough is enough.
Barbara died in 2008, it was very sudden. We had been working on the menopause book together. I wanted to do something that honored her memory. I didn’t want to just talk about the Pill. The Pill will probably always be with us, it’s not going anywhere and I think we do women a great service by saying ‘Let’s not start and stop what we have to say about contraception with the Pill.’