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11:55 pm: Have children for the health benefits!
"Thank you for menstruating", starts out like this:

Okay, so as a guy, I’m probably the last person that should be writing this post. But here I am, so here it goes.

I keep seeing this commercial for hormonal birth control. I’m not even sure what the product is, because I only every notice the last little bit of the ad, when my what-the-hell-o-meter kicks in as the lady says “Did you know that there’s no medical reason to have a monthly period?”

Then she explains that if you don’t mind aggressively screwing with your hormone levels, you can trade in that silly and inconvenient monthly grind for a much more convenient four periods a year.

First of all: no medical reason? What is that supposed to mean, anyway?

Yeah, there’s no medical reason for a lot of stuff. Doesn’t mean there aren’t some damn good biological reasons for things.

That's pretty much all you need to know. The author, Josh West, knows that by offering a political-type opinion on what women should do with their reproductive organs, he is entering a situation where he has the massive potential to screw up and say something offensive. But he does it anyway. Even more importantly, he admits that he DOES NOT KNOW WHAT THE PRODUCT IS, and his research seems to have consisted of watching part of a commercial. But he goes ahead and offers his opinion anyway. And then he makes a distinction between medical and biological that doesn't seem to make sense and he never really explains. But, here's a hint: the purpose of a period is to get rid of the uterine lining. There's not much there when you're on birth control pills, so getting rid of it really isn't necessary. Going off to a female audience on a subject on which you are ignorant is pretty much the definition of mansplaining, but his wife, Amy, has deleted every comment with the word "mansplain" in it. (Oddly enough, she did not delete every comment that called him or his post "misogynist", "asinine", "ignorant", etc. Maybe "mansplain" struck a nerve because it fits so well.)

Every action has a reaction and it freaks me out to think about the unintended consequences that come along with tinkering around with the biology that’s at the heart of fertility and womanhood.

I love the things that make women women. Please think twice before you start medicating those things away. Even the inconvenient ones.

Commenters make some good points about why it's offensive to say that menstruation is "at the heart of womanhood" and "what makes women women". Josh and his wife, Amy, backpedaled away and said that it was one of many things that contributed to womanhood and basically made it clear that their opinion was, well, they hadn't meant to offended anyone, so therefore it just wasn't fair for people to tell them that Josh's words were offensive. (I mean, the people whose feelings really matter are Josh and Amy, not some transgender or menopausal woman.) Commenters also made some good points about how offensive the implication was that most women don't "think twice", or that his feelings about their menstruation should matter to them ("loving the things that make women women" and thanking them for menstruating). Oh, but according to their later comments, they weren't saying that women didn't think about it, just that the medical establishment was keeping the information from them? (Maybe, "please don't trust your doctor to give you all this information" could have gotten the point across without implying that most women don't think for themselves and have a childlike trust in what commercials tell them?)

But the real mess isn't in the post itself, it's in the comments. A little collection highlighting the

The most nonsensical comments were multiple comments from Amy along the lines of this:

Amy West: in reply to Waterbirthmw
It would be awesome to acknowledge that pregnancy and breastfeeding lower a woman's risk for ovarian cancer *naturally*. Granted, it's ecological breastfeeding isn't an option for a lot of women, but it's unfair to just say that the pill lowers risk, and not mention the more natural way.

And in fact, to "Wiessingerize" this, I'd say that *not* going through the normal course of pregnancy and ecological breastfeeding *increases* a woman's risk of ovarian cancer.

So... people on birth control pills, who presumably do not want to get pregnant seeing as how they're ON BIRTH CONTROL, should have children just to lower their risk of cancer? Doesn't that A) treat people as means to an end rather than ends in themselves (Kant would not be pleased), B) promise ecological catastrophe as women double or triple the number of children they have without the high infant mortality of our hunter-gatherer days, and C) really not make sense as a way to maximize one's health, even with modern medicine, given the small but non-trivial risks of childbirth to the life and health of women? It also seems like a lot of trouble to go to just to decrease your cancer risk.

don't mansplain: in reply to Amy West
And not all women are fertile, not all women want children, not all women can afford to have children, not all women want to/afford to have more than one child, not all women who do want and can afford to have children can afford to not work after their children are born, and not all women who have children and work have a place to pump or breastfeed and breaks to do so.

What about those women? Do they matter to you at all?

Amy West: in reply to don't mansplain
Of course they matter. But accommodating for and addressing every
if/and/but/exception isn't realistic or practical in this format.

Women who don't want to spend most of their life between puberty and menopause in either pregnancy or lactation are some kind of small special interest group? Is the readership for their blog mostly made up of Quiverfull members?

don't mansplain: in reply to Josh West
Do you think women are too stupid to think about these things on their own? Because what I'm really getting from this is, "Hey women, let me tell you how to feel about your body and what is permissible for you to do with them."

Amy West: in reply to don't mansplain

Mansplain? Really?

You must not have any men like Josh in your life. Sorry for that.

His wife, Amy, who had a hand in this post and thinks it's bullshit to say
that he's telling any woman - including me or our daughter - how to feel
about her body, let alone what's "permissible."

don't mansplain: in reply to Amy West
If I wanted my name published I would have included it in my handle, first of all, so thanks for being creepy.

Secondly, I have a better man than Josh in my life because he realizes that my body is mine and that the one who makes decisions about it is me. He's managed to do this even through a high-risk pregnancy and my decision to have my tubes tied; he's pretty awesome that way.

Amy West: in reply to don't mansplain
I didn't mean to use your name, sorry about that. Though it's a testament to the fact that when people think they're anonymous, it's easier to be rude.

I'm glad you think a lot of the guy in your life. That's nice.

For the record, my body is MINE and he'd never think of making a decision for me in that respect. We talk about these things and discuss them, because they impact both of us - we're a great couple that way.

Well, Amy, as far as I can tell you're using your real name, and your comments are the nastiest on the thread. This set of comments are probably her most condescending on the entire thread.

Here, we have Josh West repeatedly attributing commenters' dislike of his post to his brave decision to challenge conventional wisdom. Poor sheeple whose insight and authority-questioning cannot match that of Josh West! We also see one of many requests to "read it again"--Josh and Amy West are convinced that people are offended only because they didn't UNDERSTAND his post, and the kindly concern that motivated him to help the many, many, poor, misguided women who make their medical decisions primarily based on commercials.

Josh West: in reply to mvn
Please read it again. I'm not suggesting that this decision has *anything* to do with me or how I feel. I'm pointing out that although lots of people (obviously, read the comments) are downright offended that anyone would suggest that there's anything wrong with the conventional wisdom, there is value in thinking twice about generally accepted medical practices that can do women harm.

Josh West: in reply to Guest
Thanks for the support. Especially looking over the comments that rolled in overnight, it seems like people are really offended by the "thinking twice" thing for some reason.


[Points out that there's no reason why having more frequent periods while on hormonal birth control would have any health advantage over less frequent...]At this time in my life, I'm done with hormonal contraception and will be using natural family planning instead. There was a time, however, when birth control pills made sense. Until you understand the full scope of women's reproductive systems, you should refrain from making asisinine pronouncements about how we manage them.

Josh West: in reply to WSH
Hormonal contraception, as well as hormonal manipulation in general -- in food, water, and elsewhere -- is a conversation for another day. You can manage your body however you like, but you aren't doing women any favors by calling alternative considerations asinine. (Or asisinine for that matter, which is an unfortunate word to misspell.)

Yeah, she's not calling "alternative considerations" asinine, she's calling your pronouncements asinine. Which, given that you said you don't even understand hormonal birth control, is accurate. And then Amy does Josh one better:

WSH: in reply to Josh West
If hormonal contraception is a discussion for another day then your post was simply about the necessity of having a period. As I wrote above, with hormonal contraception there is no need. Historically, doctors/pharm companies gave women a break from the hormones for 7 days so they would have the psychological benefit of seeing confirmation that they weren't pregnant. It's hormonal manipulation either way.

Being ignorant of medical facts is not an "opinion" so my assessment of your statements as asinine (regardless of a misspelling/typo) stands. As a mom who fought very hard for a VBAC with my second, I have "a thing" for being accurate with facts. After all, the docs who are against VBAC love to stick by their pronouncements (VBAC is unsafe) even though it flies in the face of evidence.

To say that skipping a period is unnatural while on birth control pill (but not discussing the need for bcp in general) is similarly wrong.

Amy West: in reply to WSH
Do you realize that we're not talking about *all* hormonal birth control? We're talking about the seasonal kinds that, instead of having a 7 day break each month, there are only 3-4 breaks per year. This post isn't against hormonal birth control on the whole, just to be clear.

Let's see... she was discussing why there's no real difference in naturalness or health between standard bcp vs. Seasonale-type bcp, and saying that if they're trying to say that Seasonale is "more unnatural" than other types, they're wrong. Gee, I wonder if she understands that they're singling out Seasonale as being more unnatural than other forms of birth control?

Josh West: in reply to Joniedelman
Thanks. Partner involvement is huge. Not fair to saddle you guys with these decisions just because it's your real estate in question.

This comment seems a little bizarre to me. Why wouldn't we be the primary decision-makers on stuff affecting our own bodies? Especially when it comes to which type of birth control pill we're putting in our bodies when we've already made the decision to take birth control pills.

Amy West: in reply to Melindatoumi
[...]He's advocating informed decisions. If you know the
facts and risks and want to do that, more power to you.

Both Josh and Amy have responded to multiple comments with variations on this statement. Which is ironic, since Josh said at the beginning of his post that he DOES NOT UNDERSTAND HOW THESE BIRTH CONTROL PILLS WORK, and made it clear in the rest of his post that he doesn't really understand how birth control pills in general work.

transfinite: in reply to Josh West
My position: People's bodies are their own to do with as they wish. If you (general you, that is) are the sort of person who takes your partner's wishes into account, then good for you!... but not everyone should have to. People who have severe pain, anemia, and other problems that make menstruation painful or dangerous should not have to deal with anyone (male, female, menstruating, or not) telling them they're doing something wrong.

That's not the point of the comment I was making, though. Your post, especially the part I quoted, implied that menstruation and womanhood go hand in hand. They don't. Hope that helps.

Josh West: in reply to transfinite
Wow. Under the preoccupation with transphobia there was a salient point that actually had something to do with the topic at hand. Not going to lie...did not expect that.

I was feeling optimistic about our conversation, but I can see from the exchange directly below that I was being naive. So forget it. If you can't set it aside for five minutes, then you're right. You're not going to get anywhere with me.

Silly transgender people with their silly preoccupations with transphobia! Your concerns are not important, you should set them aside for 5 minutes! I wasn't trying to write about them and don't want to talk about them, so it doesn't matter if I actually write something offensive, I shouldn't have to fix it! Also, I'm not going to care about transgender issues based on whether it's the right thing to do; I'm going to make my decisions based on whether you're nice to me! Also also, it's your job to educate me, I will not put any effort whatsoever into doing it myself.

In another place, he also writes:
And furthermore, to toss transphobia into the mix based on what I wrote here makes it clear that you are looking for a fight. Good luck finding one.

Yes, if I accidentally write something offensive, and you get offended by it, clearly you are "looking for a fight"! Clearly your offensive is not genuine and you just like getting in fights. More defensiveness and admitted ignorance on transphobia, etc:

You're also extremely transphobic with your comments. A period is not at the heart of womanhood. Nor is pregnancy. I don't expect you to deign to educate yourselves on these issues, though.

Josh West: in reply to Ruby
I'm going to ignore the transphobic jab since up until that point you were making some sense.

transfinite: in reply to Josh West
If you think it's a "jab", what would you call conflating womanhood with menstruation if not cissexist or transphobic? (Note: I am still not accusing you of transphobia.)

Amy West: in reply to transfinite
It would be so-called gender essentialism (admittedly a relatively new
concept to me). But no one is flat-out equating having a period with being a


Think twice before you medicate those things away? What makes you think women don't think twice before making such decisions? Do our tiny wimmin brains render us incapable of understanding the magnitude of our decisions?

Amy West: in reply to Guest
Judging by the fact that it's worth it to these drug companies to mass-market the seasonal period products via TV and other media buys, I'd say there are probably a lot of women who haven't realized or considered the long-term consequences to hormonal birth control.

So... the fact that women are buying these products proves they're not thinking twice, because there's no way that women making an informed decision would buy them? Because obviously you're right about your assumption of long-term consequences, which you have provided no evidence for! Well, here's Josh's response, too!

Josh West: in reply to Guest
We spend a ton of time and energy trying to figure out what is safe and healthy in terms of medicine, food, hygiene products, you name it. It is hard. The average consumer will not be exposed to many of the arguments that oppose mainstream products and medicine. Why you would be so offended by (and condescending about) a simple encouragement to think twice about established doctrine is beyond me.

Guest: in reply to Josh West
What's condescending is your idea that women don't have a clue what they're putting in their bodies. If you're so capable of figuring out what's safe and healthy, what makes you think those of us that actually use the products aren't? Why you would be so arrogant as to assume that only you - and your lovely wife - are the only people informed on the matter is beyond me.

Josh West: in reply to Guest
How have I implied that me or Amy should be making those determinations? I'm just saying don't let the damn TV commercial do it for you.

Guest: in reply to Josh West
And I'm saying - hold tight, 'cause here's the kick! - maybe we don't let the damn tv commercials do it for us. We are capable of thinking and researching for ourselves. Research is not some great endeavor that only Josh West can tackle.

Especially since the research Josh West did before writing this seems to consist of having watched a Seasonale commercial. Oh, but wait! Women are buying the drugs, and there's no way that they would buy them unless the only research or thought that went into their decision was, "periods 4x/year, sounds convenient!" because Josh and Amy are so obviously right.

This post just plain was condescending. Next time you consider dispensing advice, you might want to stick to topics you have some experience in, or do some research beyond "this makes me feel uncomfortable".

Amy West: in reply to Allie
He's not saying that using hormonal birth control therapeutically is bad.
And periods don't make him uncomfortable; messing with biology in ways we
don't fully understand, does.

That is not a rebuttal. He did not do any research beyond "this [messing with biology] makes me uncomfortable."

And the grand finale:

[in response to a "comment removed"]
Amy West: in reply to Guest
I'd be a lot more open to your criticism if it wasn't so patronizing and


[User Picture]
Date:March 27th, 2011 04:05 am (UTC)
Let's see... she was discussing why there's no real difference in naturalness or health between standard bcp vs. Seasonale-type bcp, and saying that if they're trying to say that Seasonale is "more unnatural" than other types, they're wrong. Gee, I wonder if she understands that they're singling out Seasonale as being more unnatural than other forms of birth control?

Seriously. Like I said on the e-mails: my #1 problem with this article is just how badly researched it was. He basically wrote this article on a gut feeling he had and then talked about how other people should do their research. *Eyeroll*

There's genuine criticism that can be leveled at hormonal birth control--hell, for the amount I know about it, there may even be genuine criticism that could be leveled at seasonale-style birth control. but "it feels unnatural to me and I don't like it" is not one of those criticisms. It reminds me of the tea-party/conservative republican tendency to say "PRESERVE THE NUCLEAR FAMILY!" when the nuclear family is a pretty new construction (only about 50 years old.) If Josh West had actually done some legitimate research on potentially harmful effects of hormonal birth control and then posted about that, to me, it wouldn't matter whether he was male or female. As it stands, isn't even that Josh Wests' article is "mansplaining" per se--it's just stupid and ill-informed.

Edited at 2011-03-27 04:07 am (UTC)
[User Picture]
Date:March 27th, 2011 02:46 pm (UTC)
If Josh West had actually done some legitimate research on potentially harmful effects of hormonal birth control and then posted about that, to me, it wouldn't matter whether he was male or female.

Yes. Like I said, he's wading into a subject where he has more potential to screw up and say something insulting, even by accident. He sorta recognized that, although not in so many words, but then apparently didn't try very hard to avoid insulting people. It's not enough to not try to, you have to try not to [I think that was one of Dad's favorite phrases WRT breaking stuff as kids], and apologize if despite your efforts you screw up anyway, instead of saying "LOL people are so offended that I'm challenging conventional wisdom!"

That's part of where the "as a man, you shouldn't have gone there" stuff that some commenters say is coming from, I think. I think that if he makes an honest effort to educate himself and not screw up, the "as a man" thing isn't really a problem. [Some of the commenters sort of imply this by saying, "and he's also not a doctor".] He didn't do that, though.

I think that part of the reason he felt the need to share his poorly-researched, poorly-thought-out, knee-jerk opinion with women and then say THEY needed to educate themselves has to do with with unconscious bias, which is why I used the word mansplain. I admit it may put some people off, but it also calls attention to the gender issues here. It's a useful concept, and if a lot of people are throwing it around carelessly, well, all the more reason to use it here and attempt to show that it does come from a real phenomenon.

By the way, as further evidence of how poorly researched this is, throughout the comments they have made no attempt to defend against people who argue that frequent fake birth control periods have no health or naturalness advantage over infrequent fake periods.
[User Picture]
Date:April 24th, 2011 01:12 am (UTC)
... you can trade in that silly and inconvenient monthly grind...

... this [messing with biology] makes me uncomfortable...

You know what's silly and inconvenient? You know what makes me uncomfortable?

  1. Having to go to the ER for menstrual blood loss. Repeatedly.

  2. Living with chronic anemia because I bleed out hemoglobin faster than I can replenish it.

  3. Needing to pull over twice on my 30-minute commute home because I'm blacking out from pain.

  4. Spending the night in the bathroom dry heaving over the toilet (and then bleeding on the floor) because the pain is so intense, my body has to sublimate it into something else.

  5. Having permanent pelvic muscle and nerve damage as a direct result of my endometrium and my periods.
  6. </ul>

    Biology has messed with me in any number of ways. At this point (though yes, I do my research), I feel free to mess right back.

    PS -- Here via Anytime Yoga. I'm not stalking, I swear! ;)

[User Picture]
Date:April 24th, 2011 01:12 am (UTC)
But um, pretend I can HTML right.
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