My dad loves, and I mean loves, to talk about how the pill is what enabled women to become equal. He talks about it as if it’s the end-all-be-all of contraceptive and that something like women having a pill that they can take to prevent pregnancy was the deciding moment in the struggle for equality. Now, I think he presents it this way mostly because my family tends to talk in hyperbole, but I do think that it’s a reflection of the common way of thinking of the pill as freedom for women.
Now, obviously the pill has done some great things for some women. I’m not disputing that. But I would like to highlight a post by BetaCandy, How the pill revolutionized sex… for men, where she questions the conventional wisdom that the pill was some miraculous discovery for women everywhere:
We already had the solution to women’s freedom to have sex without worries about pregnancy: condoms. So why did we need a pill to market the concept that women could now have sex as they pleased?
Because men didn’t like condoms, and this “sexual freedom” women were being granted took place within a framework of having to sexually appeal to men and their preferences. I realize there were other apparent advantages to the pill: it was more convenient, it didn’t interrupt the moment, and for a lot of women it made periods more manageable (which sounds trivial to those who’ve never experienced grossly difficult or irregular periods, but trust me: it seems like a godsend at the time). But it wasn’t marketed as “convenient”; it was marketed as “freedom”, when condoms already provided that very freedom, plus STD protection, without side effects.
And I think that’s something that’s important to think about because so many things that are packaged in our society as “freedom” for women really translate into some freedom for women, but much more freedom for men. I feel like the rhetoric of the pill as revolutionary is symptomatic of the way women’s needs and wants are subsumed by greater narratives that, ultimately, cater more towards the needs of others rather than the needs of ourselves.