Health or hygiene

Ottawa XPress – Shotgun – October 6, 2005

Would it be for health or hygiene that you’d cut your period out of your life? And do you think you’d be more independent and self-assured? The makers of Seasonale® ( think so.

I learned about Seasonale® through a documentary called Menstruation Suppression that aired a while back on CBC. At last count, Seasonale® is approved by the American Food and Drug Administration after fewer than 500 clinical trials and is selling 13,000 prescriptions a week in the U.S.

The drug works like the birth control pill, except its extended regime limits a woman’s periods to four a year. Already, with any regular pack of birth control pills, a woman can choose to skip her period by continuing on to a new pack instead of taking the placebo or sugar pills, which allow her to bleed. This is common in Europe, with instructions on the package for such an arrangement. So, what’s the big deal, right?

Well, the CBC doc tried to expose the motivation – whether medicine or the marketplace – that is behind “helping” women in this area. While some people argued that taking this new pill medicalizes a woman’s life, many saw it as a “modern solution to a modern problem.”

Think about it: no more panic attacks up at a cottage party when you hear the dreaded words: “The toilet doesn’t flush all that well.” No more wondering if that iron smell is you. Or, if your boyfriend’s housemates will awaken to the crinkly unwrapping of a tampon or sanitary napkin packaging in the dead of night.

Or maybe you don’t give a shit about these petty embarrassments? But what about the times you or a woman you know had to miss a road trip, an important meeting, or did poorly on an exam on account of feeling sickly?

It’s obvious that quality of life would be greatly improved by getting rid of what is for most women a nuisance. But what message is putting a period to our periods saying about this natural function of a woman’s body? Then again – is it even “normal” to bleed every single month?

Historical context shows that women are having more periods now than ever, different from the olden days where they had fewer because they were giving birth and breast-feeding earlier and for longer. Also, women didn’t live as long then as they do now. So, curbing periods today would simply be restoring women to their historical norm, safely.

Joan Jacob Blumberg, a social historian from Cornell University, said in the documentary that young girls’ attitudes about periods have changed over 200 years. “It’s not loaded with meaning about fertility,” Blumberg said. And unlike their older sisters who believe it grounds a woman in her body, now a woman’s period is more medicalized than ever before and it’s an issue of hygiene, Blumberg said. “It’s about whether or not it shows or stains – and that is an interaction with the marketplace.”

It’s not something to be celebrated anymore; it is portrayed as a royal pain in the uterus. So if drug companies like the makers of Seasonale® are going with the flow by going against Aunt Flo, where’s the harm?

But should we look to the drug companies for a solution? I read recently how the industry creates ailments such as “female sexual dysfunction” so they can market drugs to “cure” the problem.

Would you give these freaks carte-blanche to fuck with your ovaries?


Boobie Bust Following parliamentary hearings in Ottawa last Thursday on the safety of silicone gel breast implants, a number of presenters gathered at a press conference the morning of September 30 to insist Health Canada look at the impartial data on the device’s safety record, not just that which has been provided by the manufacturers to paint a rosy portrait in Canadian media.


Murphy’s Law Ottawa writer and social policy consultant Barbara Murphy launches her latest book, Eating the Wedding Gifts: Lean Years after Marriage Break-up, at Mother Tongue Books (1067 Bank Street) on October 13 at 7:30 p.m. Her book explores how most single parents are raising children in poverty and that as divorce and poverty figures show, the most risky choice is marriage before higher education. Look to Murphy to uncover the realities behind social issues affecting Canadians.


Love Those Letters The Letters… Rediscovering the Art of Courtship is the Ottawa-based dating reality TV show Shotgun featured back in June. Catch the world premiere on October 6 at 10:30 p.m. on (CLT) Canadian Learning Television and October 8. Using the art of writing love letters, eight young men competed for the affections of one woman. Find out what happened!


Shotgun Wedding? Speaking of filming movies and love letters in Ottawa, a friend recently back from L.A. who is working with a film crew in Ottawa has spotted a special girl. If you’re the pretty girl with short-cropped hair who smiled, talked, waved and “made a long day feel short by her fleeting presence” (his words) before stepping into a red jeep, he was the tall, awesome haired (my words) and T-shirt wearing, walkie-talkie-using film crewman shooting a movie beside Dunton Tower at Carleton University on a sunny Sunday September 11. You made an impression.

– Sylvie Hill