Liberated or Debilitated?

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During my first week attending the United Nations’ Conference on the Status of Women (CSW), I could not forget my reading of “Medicating Women’s Feelings.”[1] This New York Times op-ed, written by psychiatrist Julie Holland, had been quietly published two weeks earlier and much of its theses should echo through the halls of the UN.

 

Dr. Holland’s article, while avoiding ideology and concentrating on biology, demonstrates the brokenness of the modern idea of “women’s equality.” For sure, fighting for the equality of women could be a worthy and just cause. But, the loudest voices have misunderstood at least some things. And woman clearly is no longer a beneficiary of their cause. In the NY Times article, Holland’s professional experience shows how the fight for fallacious equality has invited the pharmaceutical industry to prey on the contemporary woman’s confusion and insecurity about her sex. Today, at least one in four American women takes psychiatric medications. It is refreshing to hear a clear voice, even if somewhat hushed up, insisting that our biology is not something to be defeated, but something to be cherished. This voice is certainly needed and welcome in all fields that consider the condition of women, including in the arena of the CSW.

 

Holland reminds us that woman’s emotionality is a sign of health, not disease. It is not scientific success to numb women’s propensity to tears at the cost of numbing empathy, sympathy, intuition, expressiveness, and other human traits. For all the talk of equality, it seems that the modern woman is Simone de Beauvoir in disguise, “disgusted by [her] own sex.”[2] Just as socially acceptable is the ransacking of femininity through The Pill. Hormonal contraceptives’ use is especially reckless, if for no other reason than the dearth of research to its effects on brain structure and physiology. A new study[3] published in August 2014 in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience demands attention to the lack of research and biased treatment of the drug.

 

Belinda A. Pletzer and Hubert H. Kerschbaum, Austrian neuropsychologists from the Paris-Lodron-University of Salzburg, call hormonal contraception a “global experiment” and note the absence of scientific data, which is not slowing its increased promotion and use amongst the youngest of girls. Upon review of the limited data available, the scientists found that hormonal contraceptives profoundly alter women’s ability to process and react to information. The affected areas include verbal communication, memory, and emotional recall. A clear link is also shown between hormonal contraception and chemically based mood disorders such as depression, anxiety, fatigue, neurosis, compulsive behavior, and anger problems.

 

Today, after more than 50 years of marketing of this great liberator, there are more than 700 million users worldwide[4]. While the neuropsychologists’ call for more research is a noble cause, many users already know about side effects such as weight-gain, loss of bone density, increased chance of breast-cancer[5], and increased susceptibility to HIV infection. I ask myself how much evidence of harm is required for women to protest this pill-shaped “solution.” Apparently, the societal pressure to defeminize is the real culprit, not the lack of scientific information.

 

This pressure is an oppression that will rank along the worst of history. Writing more than a century and half ago, Kierkegaard writes, “[w]hat abominations has the world not seen in the relationship between man and woman—that she, almost like an animal, was a despised creature compared to the male, a creature of another species.”[6] Today, at the acclaimed and celebrated CSW, I feel not “almost like animal,” but precisely like an animal. To add insult to injury, the condemnation of feminine characteristics is often achieved under the guise of a “feminists” cause.

 

The modern battle for equality is not in tune with reality. During this past week of attending the United Nations’ Conference on the Status of Women, I was continuously confronted by the absurdity of this extant warfare. No true respect is given to womanhood and the fight has turned into a numbers game in which country delegates boast their statistics about the rising number of women in various offices and professions. At the same time, the tragedy of forced sterilizations, the unrestrained promotion of abortion, sex-selective abortion and infanticide is tolerated. So what have I learned during my first week at the UN? I have understood for certain that the road to obtaining “equality” with men is leading to the destruction of womanhood completely and I am but a number, if not an animal, to be medicated and organized.

 

 

Written by Magda Laszlo, A WYA North America Intern in New York City.  


 

[1] Holland, Julie. Medicating Women’s Feelings, New York Times, February 28, 2015, available at http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/01/opinion/sunday/medicating-womens-feelings.html?rref=opinion&module=ArrowsNav&contentCollection=Opinion&action=keypress&region=FixedRight&pgtype=article&_r=0 (last visited March 17, 2015).

[2] Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex (New York: Alfred Kopf, 1993), p.140.

[3] Pletzer, Belinda A. and Kerschbaum, Hubert H. 50 Years of Hormonal Contraception—Time to Find ou What it Does to Our Brain, Augsut 21, 2014, available at http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fnins.2014.00256/full (last visited March 17, 2015).

[4] According to the Population Division of UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs the figure is 721 million in 2009 and 739 million in 2011 (http://www.un.org/esa/population/publications/contraceptive2009/contracept2009_wallchart_front.pdf, http://www.un.org/esa/population/publications/contraceptive2011/wallchart_front.pdf) (last visited March 17, 2015)

[5] E.g., Khazan, Olga. The Link Between Birth-Control Pills and Breast Cancer, August 1, 2014, available at http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/08/the-link-between-birth-control-pills-and-breast-cancer/375448/ (last visited March 17, 2015)

[6] Søren Kierkegaard, Works of Love (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1951), p.139