Health heavily influences the choices we make in our lives. Our health levels determine the environments we live in, the food we eat and the activities we do. We talk about our health indirectly whenever we mention the restaurants or new exercise routines we want to try; however, we seem to be avoiding one particular health conversation — birth control. Birth control has been around for years, but the terrible stigma that comes with it still holds strong.
The stigma of birth control is misogynistic at its core. When men buy condoms, society perceives it as the responsible thing to do. When women inquire about birth control, we’re seen as promiscuous and are treated as if we need to be deterred from the bad decisions we’re going to make. Why do these different ideas surrounding birth control exist? They stem from the way society perceives sex for men and women. Sex is seen as a conquest for men, while women it is thought of as a loss, which is reinforced with the concept of virginity. We see the different responses to a couple having sex in songs, shows and movies. The man receives a round of applause in the locker room while the woman is surrounded by whispers and nasty glances in the halls.
Birth control is a powerful tool for women to have. Our reproductive health can sometimes seem like an unconquerable issue, but birth control can be a great aid in managing it. Certain contraceptives can help with issues outside of the reproductive system such as acne, bone thinning, cysts in breast and ovaries, endometrial and ovarian cancers and anemia. There’s a large pool of options to choose from when considering the best form of contraceptive, but many women don’t realize there’s more than the pill to choose from. The stigma around birth control is dangerous for women and it needs to change. Here’s how to go about it:
Talk about it
The stigma around birth control exists because of the conversations that surround it. Talk with your doctor about birth control and ask about the myths you might have heard and use online resources, like Planned Parenthood’s website, to read about the multiple birth control options in greater detail. Share the information you gather with your friends and family. If you have a friend who is struggling with the decision to use birth control, support her. Let her know you are supportive of her decision to take care of her health. If you feel comfortable, share your story with her. There is power in knowing that you are not alone.
The government loves to get into women’s reproductive rights, yet it tends to take no action to resolve the inadequate sex education in American public schools. The public school system’s sex education cares about three things: STIs, abstinence and pregnancy. One of the many things ig need to include in the (too) short course is a lesson on the different forms of birth control and uses. If we include lessons about birth control from an early age and in a public space, we can help speed up the process of changing the stigma around birth control. You can help by letting the politicians in office know that it’s important to you that public school sex education improves.
Social media is a valuable tool in fighting the stigma against birth control. For example, you can make a post on International Contraception Day on Sept. 26 about the importance of birth control and how it’s more than just a form of preventing pregnancy. If you watch a TV show and it shames someone for using contraceptives, call it out on Twitter. The likelihood of a response is slim, but it sends a message to your followers that you know birth control is a medication that deserves respect and that the women who take it should not be treated negatively. The same idea applies to hearing an acquaintance make a false statement about women on birth control; let them know that what they’re saying is misogynistic and damaging.
Birth control can be bought over the counter or prescribed by doctors, and its usages vary from preventing pregnancy to getting rid of stubborn acne. The pill is the form of birth control that I use and the knowledge that I have power over my body trumps any shame I feel that is associated with taking it. Birth control is just another thing women use to take care of themselves, so there should be no shame in taking it.