Author: has written 5297 posts for this blog.

Jill began blogging for Feministe in 2005. She has since written as a weekly columnist for the Guardian newspaper and in April 2014 she was appointed as senior political writer for Cosmopolitan magazine.
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63 Responses

  1. LotusBecca
    LotusBecca September 3, 2013 at 2:38 pm |

    Yes, doctors need to help women, like they’ve been doing for hundreds of years.

    1. Bagelsan
      Bagelsan September 3, 2013 at 3:06 pm |

      Yes, the fact that half of doctors are women does nothing to counter the point that all doctors are evil patriarchs! 9_9

  2. Barnacle Strumpet
    Barnacle Strumpet September 3, 2013 at 2:43 pm |

    “Women are encouraged to suppress their monthly ovulatory cycle in order to not miss any days of work or so as they can remain sexually available or experience only one-note moods.”

    Yeah, because if you’re in such pain that you’re too incapacitated to work, that pain alone surely couldn’t be a motive to get rid of the cause (periods), could it?

    And no one could ever enjoy their work and not want to miss days of it for their own sake, either?

    And emotional stability! Man, why would a woman want that? I mean, most women I know just love having horrible mood swings during their period that leave them crying all day or lashing out at their families. Wait…

    The real question here is why Slate (and Feministe) are bothering to give this crackpot more media spotlight. There are so much more amusing bizarre, contradictory theories that people have self-pubbed* out there.

    (*Or used some no-name publisher with a serious lack of quality control)

    1. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
      The Kittehs' Unpaid Help September 3, 2013 at 8:09 pm |

      I wonder if her head would asplode if she met my doctors? I’m perimenopausal now and my periods are giving me merry hell again, like they did in my teens. Said doctors have NOT suggested going back onto the Pill, or HRT; in fact they’re saying to avoid them if possible.

      It’s almost like individual doctors can look at individual patients and have different ideas for treatment!

  3. EG
    EG September 3, 2013 at 2:59 pm |

    This is conspiracy-theory crap at its finest. Just no.

    I did have a doctor who actively pushed hormonal birth control on me visit after visit even though each time I patiently explained why I didn’t want to go on it (and sometimes these visits were only two weeks apart). So I absolutely understand the desire to just tell a pushy doctor to shut it and just accept your decision. But since then, I’ve had good luck finding doctors/nurse-midwives who listen to me and respect my decisions.

  4. mh
    mh September 3, 2013 at 3:47 pm |

    I think there’s a larger conversation to be had here: the way women are often treated by physicians in general, and OB/GYNs in particular.

    It never would have occurred to me to use the tactic of refusing to explain my reasons not to take the pill, and kudos to the woman you mention for figuring that out! Think about it, though – at what point do men have to justify their refusal to take a medication?

    I never took the pill for birth control; I used it to control a number of conditions (one of which happened to be menstruation so excruciating that I couldn’t work- a condition that I understand is hardly universal, but which does exist.) I also reacted horribly to it. I fired doctor after doctor of both genders (I still fear going to the OB/GYN for this reason) until I found someone who would LISTEN and not tut-tut over my complaints that the pill made me sick (did an end-run around gynecologists and went straight to the ER, who recommended a surgeon. Problem solved.)

    It’s hard not to see some pharmaceutical conspiracy when this experience was repeated over many, many doctors for 20 years – but I think it’s less the pharmacology and more that doctors are allowed to dismiss the complaints of women, even more so if they specialize in women.

    “Hysteria” lives, if not in reality, at least in the minds of many medical professionals. Kudos to you if you’ve found someone who doesn’t buy into it.

    1. Bagelsan
      Bagelsan September 3, 2013 at 4:26 pm |

      Think about it, though – at what point do men have to justify their refusal to take a medication?

      When they discontinue a medication, same as everyone else… Everyone has the right to refuse treatment, but the medical provider still has the duty to prescribe and propose the best treatment they can.

    2. amblingalong
      amblingalong September 3, 2013 at 8:52 pm |

      Think about it, though – at what point do men have to justify their refusal to take a medication?

      Every single time?

  5. pheenobarbidoll
    pheenobarbidoll September 3, 2013 at 3:55 pm |

    Wait, I thought birth control was part of the evil feminist plot to destroy the ” traditional” family??

    1. theLaplaceDemon
      theLaplaceDemon September 3, 2013 at 7:01 pm |

      It’s so hard to keep up, isn’t it?

  6. Laura Wershler
    Laura Wershler September 3, 2013 at 4:42 pm |

    It would have been nice to have my name (other commentators?) added to the quote (from this post used in this piece.

    I don’t get the pushback to the suggestion that the pro-choice sexual health community – to which I’ve belonged for 30 years – could be doing a better job of serving women who want to use non-hormonal birth control effectively and confidently. There is so much more our sexual health clinics and educational/advocacy organizations could be doing in support of this goal with programs, workshops, services and research. Why aren’t we doing this?

    The goal is to end the kinds of experiences that EG and mh recount here.

  7. mamram
    mamram September 3, 2013 at 5:02 pm |

    It’s really unfortunate that Grigg-Spall had to basically attack hormonal birth control itself, because it kills any chance for meaningful conversation. Hormonal birth control just doesn’t agree with some people (sometimes after years of problem-free use), and cultural expectations regarding responsibility for contraception can make it difficult for cis women, especially those in long term heterosexual relationships, to transition to barrier methods. This deserves discussion, but it does not somehow change the fact that hormonal birth control is empowering and even necessary for a lot of people. Her desire to tell people what to do with their bodies is basically preventing a conversation about how to better empower everyone to make their own choices more freely.

  8. macavitykitsune
    macavitykitsune September 3, 2013 at 5:28 pm |

    This thread, post and topic are exhibit eleventy bazillion in My Problems With The Marx Fandom.

    1. EG
      EG September 3, 2013 at 5:35 pm |

      “The Marx Fandom” is the best thing I’ve ever read. Thank you for bringing that into my life, mac.

  9. theLaplaceDemon
    theLaplaceDemon September 3, 2013 at 7:09 pm |

    Things I really hate:

    1) Psuedoscience
    2) The idea that there is a One True Way to be a women.

    Things I really like:

    1) The Slate article linked.

    Seriously, I am so fine with people using whatever form of BC they want, and I am so ready to get behind women whose health care providers have inappropriately pushed hormonal BC on them or not respected their desire to stop. I totally, totally believe that some physicians do that. But Grigg-Spall’s book…uhg, I don’t have words. The sheer number of factually incorrect statements and the “your women-ness exists in your uterus” attitude make me crazy.

  10. Drahill
    Drahill September 3, 2013 at 7:47 pm |

    I think the book pretty dramatically glosses over the initial reasons why hormonal BC was demanded in the first place. It’s been pointed out elsewhere that the non-hormonal methods, especially barrier ones, seem to be far more susceptible to partner sabotage (poking holes in condoms, damaging diaphragms, etc). While hormonal BC isn’t beyond sabotage either (especially the Pill), she seems to overlook that part of hormonal BC’s appeal for many women is the privacy it can offer (especially the newer methods) and the inability of a partner to sabotage it. That isn’t true for all women, but it’s disingenuous, in a conversation about BC, to not address all the reasons why it’s useful. She seems to be presuming an awful lots about the motives of the women who use BC, and that’s where she really gets into trouble.

  11. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
    The Kittehs' Unpaid Help September 3, 2013 at 8:05 pm |

    “Women do not choose … hormonal contraceptives because these things are necessary or convenient for them or because they consciously need or want to,” she asserts. Instead, according to the author, “Women are encouraged to suppress their monthly ovulatory cycle in order to not miss any days of work or so as they can remain sexually available or experience only one-note moods.”

    Codswallop. I started on the Pill at seventeen, because I was going to RMIT and thought I might meet a boy I liked, and if sex was going to happen, I needed to be on it. Plus, my periods were sometimes absolute hell when I was a teenager, and controlling that was necessary and wanted even if I never did a day’s paid work in my life.

    Also bullshit about “one note moods” – like our only moods are happyhappyyesI’mupforsex or PMSrageweep.

    I wonder if she’s also against antidepressants? OH NOES MY MOODS ARE MORE STABLE MOTHER GAIA FORGIVE ME.

    Wow, these claims are stupid.

    1. Drahill
      Drahill September 3, 2013 at 8:15 pm |

      What’s this about remaining “sexually available?” She is aware that for a lot of women, BC actually results in MORE periods. Some hormonal BC takes women who naturally might menstruate once every 2 months, or 3 months, or even further apart and creates an artificial monthly period. Jeez, it’s almost like she truly does not understand that not every woman gets a period every month. Or that there is any variance at all among individuals.

      1. Willemina
        Willemina September 3, 2013 at 9:45 pm |

        Or that for some couples periods are not a stoplight and therefore have no effect on “availability,” just logistics.

      2. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
        The Kittehs' Unpaid Help September 4, 2013 at 7:55 pm |

        I’d guess she means remaining sexually available because we’re not at risk of pregnancy? If that’s the case, hello, it’s not just a choice between the Pill or the rhythm method! :P

  12. Donna L
    Donna L September 3, 2013 at 8:17 pm |

    By the time I got to this quotation from the book, I wasn’t the least bit surprised:

    Sweetening the Pill offers an insultingly reductive account of what it means to be female: “If we shut down the essential biological center of femaleness, the primary sexual characteristics, then can we say that women on the pill are still ‘female’?” Grigg-Spall muses, casting ovulation as the sine qua non of femaleness. If so, postmenopausal women, pregnant women, girls, ovarian cancer survivors, and transwomen aren’t really female.

    “Female” = fertile, I guess. People who think this way are so depressingly predictable.

    1. Jenna
      Jenna September 4, 2013 at 12:17 am |

      I no longer have a uterus. Therefore I am no longer female? My “biological center of femaleness” is history, but, I am the same person that I was, minus the horribly long drawn out painfully bloody periods.

      Yeah, Grigg-Spall can take a long walk off a short pier.

    2. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
      The Kittehs' Unpaid Help September 4, 2013 at 7:57 pm |

      Hmm, does this also mean you’re not really a RealFemale™ if you haven’t had sex with a man that had the potential to get you pregnant? I’ve never touched an earthly man in my life, so I’d be counted out in that case.

      … Wonder if one can be a CatFemale or something instead …

  13. Donna L
    Donna L September 3, 2013 at 8:26 pm |

    And this is even worse:

    Gray urges women to tailor their work schedules to match their menstrual cycles and not push themselves to excel at tasks that are at odds with their cycle. For example, she says women should take advantage of their preovulation phase to “understand complex ideas,” because that’s when our frail and inconstant lady brains are best suited to the task

    1. EG
      EG September 3, 2013 at 8:50 pm |

      OK. I’ll just tell my university that I can only conduct scholarship during my pre-ovulation phase. For the rest of the month, I guess I’ll just have to sharpen pencils and play solitaire. That should work out nicely.

      Also, what’s with this “sexually available,” women as objects of male desire bullshit? Why wouldn’t women take the pill because, um, we want to have sex with hot dudes without getting pregnant? We have desires too!

      1. shfree
        shfree September 3, 2013 at 9:16 pm |

        Criminy, I hate the term “sexually available.” As if woman will fling herself to the ground with her legs up in the air the moment some dude expresses an interest.

        I think the only time I was pressured to go on the pill (I used condoms exclusively) was when I was in college and I was going to get a pregnancy test every few months because my cycle was really irregular, and the test was free. But I’ve been fortunate enough to have a reproductive system that mostly minds its manners, so I haven’t had to hormonally prove to it that I am the one In Charge.

      2. Angie unduplicated
        Angie unduplicated September 4, 2013 at 8:54 am |

        She thinks that workers are allowed to plan their own schedules? She should try telling that to mostly female retail, fast food, and factory employees. If she’s been living on another planet, she should be running a travel agency and not writing uninformed arrant bullshit.

    2. Chataya
      Chataya September 3, 2013 at 9:59 pm |

      Normally I’d be all in favor of any plan that gave me 10 days of vacation a month, but if she thinks I’m going to menstruate again just to get it, she can fuck right off.

    3. Bagelsan
      Bagelsan September 4, 2013 at 1:56 pm |

      Really, why even try to understand complex ideas at all? Isn’t that best left to manly man-brains? I vote* that all uterus-owning people stay home and simply have babies 24/7.

      *I kid, of course; women shouldn’t vote either!

    4. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
      The Kittehs' Unpaid Help September 4, 2013 at 8:00 pm |


      Why doesn’t she just join the MRM and be done with it? Not that they want us working at all, but this stuff’s almost as misogynistic as their garbage.

  14. Alcharisi
    Alcharisi September 3, 2013 at 8:31 pm |

    I’m in a same-sex relationship. I’m on the pill because I developed an ovarian cyst and wished not to develop any more of them, and because my breasts started to become so tender before my period that so much as breathing on them caused me significant pain. And my reasons for choosing hormonal birth control were fairly mild, as these things go. This particular stream of biologically essentialist feminism–in addition to being transphobic and shot-through with cringe-worthy science denialism–is remarkably tone deaf to a good deal of suffering.

    1. Donna L
      Donna L September 3, 2013 at 8:41 pm |

      But suffering is natural. Therefore, it’s good for you.

      1. Alcharisi
        Alcharisi September 3, 2013 at 9:40 pm |

        Better yet, a lot of times you get told that the suffering you might be enduring is because you’re not living naturally enough. Menstrual cramps? Breast pain? Your diet must be wrong! Or you’re not in proper spiritual and mental harmony with your bodily rhythms!
        Yes, I grew up with a lot of this bunk. From my dad. Go figure. I’m now a thorough-going technophile.

      2. Chataya
        Chataya September 3, 2013 at 10:03 pm |

        Nah, it’s actually part of God’s curse upon Eve for eating the fruit in the garden of Eden, that baby-related functions will cause pain. So you’re thwarting his will, or something.

  15. Tenya
    Tenya September 3, 2013 at 9:22 pm |

    Unfortunately I think a lot of ob-gyns and associated folks (myself included) are fighting against abstinence-only education that teaches that all birth control pretty much doesn’t work so you’ll get pregnant anyway if you’re having penis-in-vagina sex and haven’t you heard about the icky side-effects?? Like those icky side-effects (weight gain, nausea, bloating, skin changes, mood changes, blood clots, etc.) aren’t heightened in pregnancy anyway. And it is being honest to tell patients that if their goal is not getting pregnant, at least in the immediate with the option of maybe doing so in the future (eliminating sterilization as an option) that hormonal methods are their best bet for that goal.* As it is, we trade some side-effects and potential problems for most of the higher efficacy methods, or a higher risk of pregnancy for less side-effects. I can understand when a provider perceives the goal of Less Pregnancy as more valuable than Less Side-Effects why they push hormonal methods, to the point of brushing away side-effect complaints. It is not patient-centered, no, and doesn’t make for a good client relationship. However, acting like all birth control methods are equally effective at pregnancy prevention doesn’t work either (and sorry, I see a lot of “but with PERFECT use and and and” stuff in regards to non-hormonal methods), only education about what is likely to be the most effective with accurate information about side-effects, costs, upkeep, etc. and letting patients make their own decisions about goals is best for the relationship.

    *exception for the copper IUD, which is a great long-term chemical free method that only recently (along with any IUDs) became recommended for nulliparous women due to the difficulty in insertion – so many providers stick to the old recommendations of IUDs only for people who’ve given birth, and subsequently less are getting the copper IUD because of it. Not to mention cost.

  16. Dugleik
    Dugleik September 4, 2013 at 4:37 am |

    It takes extreme self-assurance to do what one young university student told me she did when her doctor questioned why she didn’t want to use HBC. Her response: “My reasons are none of your business.” She said she knew the doctor would try to overcome her objections to the side effects she refused to incur.

    When I told my doctor I wanted to change my Asthma medication, he asked me why. I thought nothing of it at the time, but now I see he was a patriarch trying to control my breathing.

    Of course the doctor wants to know why a specific type of medication or a HBC doesn’t work for a patient. That way he can help not only this patient better, but he can tell the next patient that some people have a problem because reason and he can report side effects.

    1. Bunny
      Bunny September 4, 2013 at 11:35 am |

      I used to work in complaints.

      Every now and then, we’d get a customer calling in absolutely furious with us, convinced we were only interested in stealing their money and deeply disappointed in our service. And they would call in to the complaints department, and flatly REFUSE to provide their names, the details of the product they had an issue with or any details of the complaint whatsoever. And then get even angrier when I had to explain that, without that information, there wasn’t really much I could do to help them.

      Nice to know those sort of people are equally horrible to every service provider they encounter.

      Funnily enough, when my doctor asked me about my concerns with various contraceptive methods, and my reasons for wanting to switch from the method I was using at the time, I thought it was because he wanted to help me figure out the best match for my needs, eventually helping me to settle on a hormone-free copper IUD. But now I see his secret plan all along was to force me onto hormonal pills so I could work a full time job with regular hours and have sex with the people I want to have sex with. Quell Horreur.

    2. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
      The Kittehs' Unpaid Help September 4, 2013 at 8:03 pm |

      I thought nothing of it at the time, but now I see he was a patriarch trying to control my breathing.

      I’m seeing my (female) doctor about asthma meds this afternoon. I may be on the verge of uncovering a fifth-columnist for the patriarchy!

      1. Bagelsan
        Bagelsan September 6, 2013 at 11:38 am |

        Watch yourself around those breath-fascists, The Kitteh’s! I’ve heard doctors are even known to forcibly restart breathing in people with no respiration! Sceery!

      2. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
        The Kittehs' Unpaid Help September 8, 2013 at 3:34 am |

        All’s well, Bagelsan! My doctor passed the Sekret UberFeminist Test by presribing what I asked her for. (Prolly didn’t hurt that I had the current inhaler with me.)

        Your restart-breathing joke’s kind of eerily well timed: I’m just filling in an Advance Care Plan and I keep writing “Do Not Rescusitate” in capital letters (and varied spelling ‘cos I’m too lazy to look it up) in different sections. :P

  17. Athenia
    Athenia September 4, 2013 at 1:40 pm |

    Let me guess, Grigg-Spall didn’t even mention non-hormonal IUDs? Or, she thinks non-hormonal IUDs means I’m still a woman?

    1. Drahill
      Drahill September 4, 2013 at 3:15 pm |

      Hard to say. True, it’s hormone-free, but an IUD still requires you submit your fragile female person to carrying around a foreign, man-made object inside your Holy Uterus. Not to mention that the wonderful, hormone-free contraption might make your periods heavier and more painful – those are small prices to pay for the wonder of being free from the evil hormones of doom. So sayeth this book, anyway.

      1. Bagelsan
        Bagelsan September 4, 2013 at 3:38 pm |

        If hormones were feminist, they’d be called “hermones!”

      2. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
        The Kittehs' Unpaid Help September 4, 2013 at 8:05 pm |

        Holy Uterus has me thinking of the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch …

        1. EG
          EG September 4, 2013 at 9:38 pm |

          Three shall be the number of the counting, and the number of the counting shall be three…

        2. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
          The Kittehs' Unpaid Help September 5, 2013 at 10:22 pm |


      3. Athenia
        Athenia September 6, 2013 at 9:35 am |

        LOL You guys are hilarious!

  18. Mother Laura
    Mother Laura September 4, 2013 at 5:19 pm |

    This book sounds very problematic but it is true that fertility awareness methods 1) are equally method effective as hormonal bc, with no side effects, and more method effective than barriers 2) carry additional benefits such as achieving pregnancy when desired (which helped a friend avoid IVF her doctor had pushed) and pinpointing far more accurate due dates than doctor’s estimates based on memory of last period (which saved both me and another friend from unnecessary repeat C-sections) 3) unjustly withheld from women who are not married or engaged and straight by many teaching groups based on religious reasoning and 4) dismissed as ineffective religious propaganda by way too many doctors and other health care providers due to their ignorance as well as reflexive response to group 3.

    1. Aydan
      Aydan September 4, 2013 at 7:25 pm |

      I’m not sure what you mean by “method effective,” but studies that show that FAM is as effective as oral contraceptives or barrier methods tend to have highly questionable methodology, like counting participants who get pregnant as achieving “desired pregnancy” whether they were trying to conceive or not.

      They also carry additional severe drawbacks, like being hard to follow.

  19. Laura Wershler
    Laura Wershler September 6, 2013 at 9:17 am |


    Re your comment:
    If by “honor” you mean “never discuss” a woman’s choice to not use HBC, then no, that’s not a reasonable option for doctors and other healthcare professionals to take.

    It seems Ann Friedmans’s piece in The Cut yesterday ( provides yet another perspective on how women fed up with HBC are making sexual health care decisions. I’d be surprised if discussing their new BC methods with their doctors was part of the transition plan. If it was, I’d love to know how those conversations went. Can you imagine what their doctors might have had to say about it? Perhaps women are avoiding these conversations altogether because they have no intention of being “dissuaded” from ditching their pills or “persuaded” into getting an IUD. Just a thought.

    1. Donna L
      Donna L September 6, 2013 at 10:52 am |

      Because the “pull-out” method is so remarkably effective. Are we back in the 1950’s?

      I know there are a lot of women, in the comments to that piece, talking about how completely they trust their partners, not just to pull out in time but also to be monogamous. Perhaps I’m overly cynical, but I’ve heard too many stories, both from women and from men (back when I was a de facto spy in in the world of men) to think that that’s ever a good idea.

      1. EG
        EG September 6, 2013 at 11:26 am |

        I have to confess to having been part of this trend, though I am not young. For me, it was the result of having to use condoms that are prone to breaking anyway combined with being unable to get the contraception of my choice (copper IUD) due to financial constraints. It was not my first choice, but my only other options seemed to be HBC, which I wasn’t touching due to concerns I have around depression, and barrier methods, which I have used and loathed. I would not have done it had I not lived in a place and situation in which I knew I could get an abortion if need had been. If I’d had insurance that would’ve paid for my IUD up front, instead of needing me to lay out over $800, I wouldn’t have done it. But I didn’t have that to lay out.

        1. Donna L
          Donna L September 6, 2013 at 11:59 am |

          EG, please don’t think I was criticizing you in any way. You made the best decision for yourself that was possible under the circumstances you were in. And, knock on wood, it seems to have turned out OK. My concern is more with people who make that particular choice without being fully informed of the risks, when other choices are available to them.

        2. EG
          EG September 6, 2013 at 12:34 pm |

          I know you weren’t criticizing me, Donna–I’m just a little defensive about it, because I know it’s not the ideal, most “responsible” decision I’ve ever made. I was reacting more to what’s in my head than to what you said; I’m sorry about that.

        3. Donna L
          Donna L September 6, 2013 at 12:42 pm |

          No apologies whatsoever are necessary. Besides, as I said, it turned out OK — I think you would know by now if it hadn’t!

      2. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
        The Kittehs' Unpaid Help September 8, 2013 at 3:29 am |

        I know there are a lot of women, in the comments to that piece, talking about how completely they trust their partners, not just to pull out in time but also to be monogamous.

        Probably saying something everyone here knows, but even if the bepenis’d person does manage to pull out “in time” every time, that’s no guarantee. Preejaculate can contain sperm too, so zir partner could end up pregnant anyway.

    2. Bagelsan
      Bagelsan September 6, 2013 at 11:35 am |

      Jill didn’t make that comment, I did, and I think the pull-out “method” is dubious at best, ridiculously lousy at worst. Welcome to a generation raised with crappy religious sex-ed.

      1. Laura Wershler
        Laura Wershler September 6, 2013 at 12:46 pm |

        I stand corrected, Bagelsan. Apologies.

        My point is that because the SRH community often fails to present NHBC methods, especially FAM, as valid, effective and accessible, women wanting to quit HBC don’t seem to feel like they have many options. The growing popularity of period tracking apps has me wondering how they might become a “gateway” to certified FAM instruction.

        I appreciate that the pull-out trend is partly fall-out to what you call “crappy religious sex-ed.” In Canada we have more comprehensive sex-ed, but we are still not doing the best job providing info, support and services to use NHBC methods.

  20. Janelle
    Janelle September 8, 2013 at 5:10 am |

    Glad to see this here! I created a petition for this, if anyone is interested in signing –

  21. armillaria
    armillaria September 13, 2013 at 9:11 pm |

    It takes extreme self-assurance to do what one young university student told me she did when her doctor questioned why she didn’t want to use HBC. Her response: “My reasons are none of your business.”

    What? That’s not extreme, that’s like the most normal thing ever.

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