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» Got Questions? Get Answers. » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Sexual Ethics and Politics » What the Dog Saw

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Author Topic: What the Dog Saw
Onionpie
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Most of us have read some kind of article about period suppression. One of the articles in Gladwell's "What the Dog Saw" is just one of many.

But on top of doing the usual "women had only 100 periods in their lifetime a hundred or so years ago, so it's UNNATURAL (in terms of evolution) for women to now be having 400 in their lifetimes", -- completely ignoring the fact that those women with only 100 periods a lifetime were pregnant or breastfeeding for a large majority of their lives, and if they weren't then they'd be having the same amount of periods as modern women do, thus is it not "unnatural" -- the author argues that there are many health benefits to suppressing one's periods.

He talks about how with a much smaller amount of periods, the risk of ovarian cancer and other cancers is significantly lower. He argues that since a woman who suppresses menstruation ovulates a lot less in her lifetime, that's a lot fewer times the ovary has to rebuild the little hole the egg left in its lining when it was released. And thus there is a smaller risk of the ovary screwing up that process and creating a cancerous cell.

However, he overlooks the facts about the health risks oral contraceptives INCREASE. I also really don't like the whole "Periods are unnecessary and a waste of time, you should get rid of them" BS.

I don't know 100% my stance on period suppression, but I know that I think the "women had less periods before, thus we should continue to have less periods (through completely different means) now" argument is complete rubbish and a logical fallacy.

Does anyone have anything to say to this? Have any of you read the book, too? What did you think of his arguments?

[ 12-15-2009, 12:21 PM: Message edited by: Onionpie ]

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iAmRoxy
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I take Depo-Provera to suppress my period (not sexually active) and it has been a MAJOR blessing and relief to my life. Ever since my very first period, menstruation for me has always been VERY heavy, VERY painful and basically ruinous to my whole week and nothing else worked (and I did try everything!). So please don't judge women who choose to stop their period, it's all about personal choice!
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Ecofem
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I haven't seen Gladwell's book; although I do regularly read the New Yorker, I can't say how I feel about his writing either way because I can't think of any standout pieces off the top of my head.

I have very mixed feelings on all of this, and I've experienced different opinions and reactions as well. I was pretty against personally using hormonal birth control for a few years but I'm back in the middle now. I dislike the commercial aspect as well as BC as being a way for (male-dominated) science to have control over women's bodies and I'm very against anything that veers towards arguments for eugenics (like saying that "certain people shouldn't be allowed to have children.) I don't like how menstruation can be viewed as enemy or something to suppress but I'm also not into celebrating it either personally (it's all an individual choice!)

I think BCP are overprescribed in that women aren't provided with all options. However, now that I'm back on a low-dose form of HBC, I agree with iAmRoxy that having less painful periods is very nice (although I've gotten to the mindset that I'm just going to go about things as best I can, save for the worst cramps.) I also don't want to become pregnant right now and it's good having that peace of mind. Unfortunately, I wish the burden weren't so on women these days (although condoms and vasectomies are certainly options for men.)

Onionpie, do you have any suggestions for reviews of his book online where I could read more? I'll look for it the next time I'm at the library. [Smile]

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Onionpie
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hi iamroxy, I wasn't judging the women who suppress their periods, and I'm sorry if it came across that way; I was talking about how I'm pissed at all the people telling us we should. I totally get reasons behind choosing to suppress periods; I've suppressed mine at one point (via skipping my BC placebos) and I may do so again in the future if the situation arises, and I hear you when you say having really painful, horrible periods out of your life can be a good thing.

However, I don't like it when people, especially authority figures (doctors, researchers, etc) jump to the idea of period suppression right away -- without looking into the causes of severe pain/bleeding/what have you. I also don't really like all this "scientific evidence" (that doesn't even really make that much sense) of why we should not have periods evar.

And Ecofem, yep, you basically summed up how I feel about it, too [Wink] I myself use hormonal contraceptives, but am unsure of how I feel about suppressing it myself. My main problem with this article of Gladwell's is that he's selling the menstruation-as-the-enemy thing. And while, like you, I don't personally celebrate my period, I do not think it is an enemy that must be defeated or anything =P

So I looked some stuff up, and apparently you can find all of the articles from What the Dog Saw for free on his website! So if you wanna check that out, here's the link:
http://www.gladwell.com/

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KittenGoddess
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quote:
Originally posted by Onionpie:
But on top of doing the usual "women had only 100 periods in their lifetime a hundred or so years ago, so it's UNNATURAL (in terms of evolution) for women to now be having 400 in their lifetimes", -- completely ignoring the fact that those women with only 100 periods a lifetime were pregnant or breastfeeding for a large majority of their lives, and if they weren't then they'd be having the same amount of periods as modern women do, thus is it not "unnatural" -- the author argues that there are many health benefits to suppressing one's periods.

I haven't read this particular book, but I have read many similar arguments regarding menstrual suppression. I always think it's interesting not only in discussing the number of periods issue as you have noted it...but also in that so many of the authors making the argument ignore the lifespan differences. People (and often women especially since the mother/infant mortality rates were so high) did not live as long then as they do now. (Even 100 years ago, lifespan wasn't what it is now.) Of course you'll have fewer periods over your lifetime if you die prior to menopause! Duh. And as to the other possibly related health outcomes...risks of most significant diseases increase as you get older. If people didn't live long enough to develop those disease, well then it should be as much of a shock that there's more now than there was then. Beyond the fact that even 100 years ago we didn't have reliable ways to diagnose (let alone treat) many of the diseases we routinely deal with now. We've also got tons of junk in our diets and environment that were not in the picture back then. You just can't reliably compare the statistics and say it's the same thing...because it's not. Most folks making these arguments don't even try to control for the lifespan issue, lifestyle differences, health care differences, fact that you we don't have the same level of information about health back then, etc.

--------------------
Sarah Liz

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Onionpie
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excellent point, KittenGoddess! I hadn't thought of that, the life-span differences and all that. Isn't it interesting that those facts get completely overlooked, and what a coincidence it is that they would completely change the statistics/differences. It's a great point that there are just too many other factors to be able to reliably compare them. Thanks for the input! [Big Grin]
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