One problem is that we live in a culture obsessed with what it thinks is beauty. We are told we must go tanning; wear such and such apparel that will minimize our waist, accentuate our bust, lift and round our bum; wear make-up that will plump our lips; take this pill that will sterilize us and alter (i.e. eradicate) our cycle; etc. And so, even though out-rightly our culture proclaims equality and "celebrates diversity," covertly it infers our pathetic inadequacy. It is like a mayor who gives a speech about human dignity and then goes home to view child pornography. It is inconsistent.
I think all this stuff just gets into our head sometimes. Even though they say we're equal, all their actions seems to say we're defective. And it's hard to believe and absolutely know that you have dignity when no one really acts like it.
Society's message is, "You can have value and worth if you do x, y, and z," which is really the same thing as saying, "You have no value." I don't want to be valuable because of all the things I did to change myself. I want to be valuable because I just am! It's like that maxim: It is better to be hated for who you are, than to be loved for someone you're not.
So what is the solution to the problem of Feminine Shame? I propose the practice of Natural Family Planning (NFP) as the means to liberate women from their bondage. Does that sound crazy? If so, please hear me out.
For those unfamiliar with NFP, it is a means by which married couples can space pregnancies or conceive. More specifically, a woman is fertile about one week out of the month. Couples learn to observe signs of her fertility, such as changes in mucus, cervix, mood and behavior, and temperature. If the couple does not wish to conceive, then they abstain from sex that week.
In this culture that has marketed contraception as Woman's Liberator, I understand that my claim may be a tough sell. If one does not take into consideration the health benefits of NFP (it is 100% natural and so does not increase her risk of heart attack, stroke, permanent infertility, miscarriage, etc.), the ecological benefits (it is not dumping huge amounts of female hormones into our drinking water and harming ecosystems)*, the marital benefits (the divorce rate among couples who practice NFP is about 1% compared to about 50% for the rest of our culture), but only looks at its philosophy, I think one can surmise that NFP is the true liberator.
For myself, being the staunch feminist that I am, I love NFP for this reason: NFP begins with the premise that women are good. Intrinsically. And that we must not engage in any practice that would harm us.
Contraception, on the other hand, begins with the premise that we are flawed, and that we need pills, surgeries, and devices to fix us. It patronizingly shakes its head at we who have the misfortune of being born female, but mercifully offers us the chance to be more like men.
I am proud to be a woman, and I do not feel as though I need to act like a man to prove it. Contraception is not liberating. It is insulting.
(Added January 12, 2011)
*Note: Since writing this post, new research has come out suggesting that the biggest culprit to estrogen in drinking water is not wide use of the pill but harmful farming practices. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/12/101208125813.htm Even with this new research, I don't think it is a stretch to say that using contraception is not eco-friendly. Considering the energy it takes to produce, market, package, and ship contraception, and treat the side of effects of its use, it is clear that NFP is very eco-friendly. Furthermore, hormonal contraceptives are extremely harmful to the ecosystem of a woman's body and are rated as a group one carcinogen. http://breastcancerbydrruddy.com/2009/05/29/who-declares-oral-contraceptives-highly-carcinogenic/