Happy Birthday Birth Control

Did you know…

that on this day in 1960, the FDA approved the first birth control pill?

That may not SEEM like such a big deal, but in reality, birth control has probably been the single biggest influence in changing gender roles and gender norms, not just in the United States but around the world.  I was so fascinated by this that I literally took the time to go write a 15-page paper on the power politics of birth control in the fall, and to be honest, there’s so much I’d still love to examine.  Why?  Because those little pink pills that millions of women take every day seem so normal to us now, and in reality, they reshaped the entire course of herstory.

Yes, I just said herstory.  Deal with it.

If you DON’T think birth control was such a big deal, maybe you weren’t paying attention to that whole “sexual revolution” thing we had going on in the US in the 1960’s or 1970’s, or you just haven’t heard of second-wave feminism.  Or you aren’t aware of the demographic shift that has occurred in the US over the past several decades as people are able to get married later and have children later, and more women have been able to enter the workforce, because of those little pink pills people want to tell you aren’t important.  As a young woman, I can tell you that without birth control, there’s a good chance that my life’s trajectory would look somewhat different than it does WITH contraceptive capabilities.  And because women are able to postpone having kids, they’re able to become more invested in their careers, and this has made a huge difference for individual women, their families, and America as a whole.

On top of that, it of course has all kinds of non-contraceptive purposes, which have helped to improve women’s lives by helping them regulate hormones more effectively.

And Congress has decided they’re not fans?  What?

Right now, Republicans are trying to play this off as a “social issue” at a time when “people care more about jobs and the economy”.  But if you’re a woman reading this, I have some big news for you: reproductive rights are an economic issue.  Women are less likely to get hired because employers assume they will leave or take time off to have and raise babies.  Companies invest less in women for the same reason.  As Anne-Marie Slaughter points out in a fantastic essay that I will be discussing at length with you soon, women are taught that they have more to prove than men in the workplace, and end up struggling a lot more with their work-family balance, because they feel they cannot ask for time to be with their kids; this causes them to suffer either professionally or in their family context, because they simply can’t be as dedicated as they want to both parts of their lives.  And your ability to establish yourself in a career BEFORE having kids could be the thing that makes all the difference.

And that’s a lot harder to do without birth control.

So really, take a minute.  Think about the incredible impact that the ability to choose when you want to have kids and how many you’d like to have has had on American society.

And when November roles around, remember all of this, when you’re looking at a candidate and someone is telling you that birth control is a “social issue” that you “don’t need to vote on”.

It’s your body.  You should be in control of it.

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~ by Randi Saunders on June 24, 2012.

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