My Island: A Pill Rather Hard to Swallow

We decided something, along with a couple of friends: not taking the pill is the new feminist struggle.

It was after one of them got in a fight with her boyfriend, one that we’ve all had or felt like having at some point, after someone casually/cheekily said: “why don’t you go on the pill?” Understand: so we can unveil his penis and free it from the evil clutch of the condom. Let’s see – why don’t I?

It’s not just men who would have us swallow it whole, don’t get me wrong. We all have great relationships with our grandmothers, and we’ve all noticed a pattern. Mine insists she used to wear miniskirts in Algiers in the 60s (and to be fair, she kind of still does). My friends’ European grandmothers tell them theirs was a “bra burning generation” – and we wonder: do they think we’re just a bra-push-upping one, lowering our guard as we pull up our boobs ever higher?

We’re also all truly proud of them. My own grandmother left her country rather than leaving her god-given right to wear tight clothes, and so her four daughters could laugh as loud as she always had. And in her mouth, that very freedom is encompassed in the pill: “Take it every day and you shall be free, benti.” We try to imagine how liberating it must have been to suddenly have the power to alleviate the stomach-sinking anguish of unwanted pregnancy. Those of us who’ve had the scares can go from there…

Now I’ve always been a health Chernobyl, and by a mixture of mismanagement and bad luck I’ve peaked recently with breast cancer, so the pill is not an option for me – and I like to think that makes me a good comparative case. I can’t be on the pill, and it would be extremely dangerous for me to become pregnant, and yet getting partners to use condoms is still something I have to continuously work on – that is where my guard cannot go down. For the rest of us, even for the health Icelands out there (sounds like a good place I guess), my friend Lily put it best, mums and nans: why would we risk depression, hormone deregulation, strokes for those of us who smoke and yes, weight gain for some of us who don’t – all so the men we sleep with can be one hundred and fifty per cent comfortable inside us? Not being on the pill is, conversely, the way a lot of us make sure we insist on using condoms, which we all seem to forget are there to prevent STIs in the first place…

Just as you fought to take the pill, we’re feeling like fighting for the right to have it there, to have it free even, and not to take it.

Roxanne Metzger