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Limbaugh v Fluke Reminds Us the UK Contraception Battle Isn't Over

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On the other side of the Atlantic, the contraceptive pill is hot topic. This has been sparked by the world's greatest living PR disaster, Rush 'nought to bigot in 30 seconds' Limbaugh calling student Sandra Fluke a 'slut' for her campaign to have medical insurance cover the cost of the pill.

At the same time, way under the radar, Kansas State University release findings that suggest a male contraceptive pill is on the way. Aside from a fleeting comment from Stephen Colbert, this research goes largely unreported. The American media has gone into overdrive regarding Limbaugh v Fluke, with many feminist commentators pointing to the contraception issue as really a matter of control over women. Here in the U.K, discussions about the pill are at the bottom of the agenda, but should they be?

This is my second affair with the contraceptive pill. It's an upgrade from the first and is definitely an improvement. I'm not howling at the moon for a start. I am not raving, snooker loopy and foaming at the mouth. It has however made me, for lack of a better term "a bit of a dick", a position which is notably difficult to find forgiveness for.

Life can be wearisome. Unemployment, sickness, heartbreak, life has a plethora of catalysts to trigger that inexplicable feeling of abject powerlessness, that bleak place from whence we whinge and ache, indulge and moan. Life can give you plenty of reasons to neglect your closest friends, be cruel to your partner, and send passive aggressive emails about leaving the bottle top off the communal milk in the office. Which is exactly why until I found myself comparing a poor employee of o2 to Charles Manson for simply wanting me to extend my contract, I thought it was I that was to blame.

The scientific term is called 'emotional lability' and is essentially a convoluted way of saying 'mood swings'. Emotional Lability is a recognised side effect of nearly all female contraception but with up to 30% of women of reproductive age in the UK (that's 3.5million women) being administered one of three brands of the pill, and of those, a huge amount reporting symptoms of emotional lability, I can't help but wonder why there hasn't been more of a push on the medical community to address this issue.

Although there is currently no precise data on the exact figures of women affected by emotional lability, the discourse has become inseparable in both medical journals and popular media when discussing the pill. Just imagine if millions of men consumed a pill that every day pushed them to rage, cry, and act irrational. It would probably be pulled from shelves. Indeed, the study into a male contraceptive pill from Kansas isn't the first. There have been studies from Columbia University and a Phase III clinical trial in China that demonstrated positive results. All of these went largely unreported. It remains in this sense, a female burden.

One can't help but wonder whether the prevalence of such a medication, and the wide acceptance of a side effect that can destroy relationships, and send many women spiralling into depression, is symptomatic of an entrenched gender stereotype of the female sex as irrational and hysterical by nature. After all, if the girls are prone to that kind of behaviour, a little more isn't going to hurt right?

Still to this day it appears to me an underlying cultural belief of women as moody and hypersensitive occurs, and in an age where rape convictions suffer, street harassment is commonplace, and reports of up to a 35% increase in domestic violence, we need to ask ourselves how harmless a belief that women have a penchant for 'overreacting' is.

It is a very powerful tool in suppressing the demand for change and fair treatment. Whether the commentators in the States realise it or not, in highlighting the contraception issue as one about control, they remind us the campaign for agency, both politically and medically is not over. The medical community seems to have no problem in supporting what are essentially false gender truths and if we can't depend on science, what can we depend on? That's the kind of bitter pill that no amount of sugar can sweeten.

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