Category: Memewar

Quick Hormonal Birth Control Science Explainer

Yesterday, I saw a guy suggest that women who lose insurance coverage can go buy one of seven birth control brands offered by Walmart for $9—and that sounds like a broadly-applicable solution, but only if you don’t understand hormonal birth control. Most birth control pills have two hormones in them: one which convinces your body it’s producing a hormone it isn’t producing, and one which binds with a hormone in your bloodstream to mask it and convince your body it isn’t there. There are more than a dozen variations of each of these components, and hundreds of ways they could be combined.

How a given hormonal combination reacts with the body of an individual woman varies widely. The same pill will raise one woman’s sex drive and kill another’s. It’ll clear up one person’s acne and give another one acne. It’ll cause one to gain weight and one to lose it. It might be mood stabilizing, or cause severe depression. There are hormonal sliders the pill is moving, and you have no way to know in advance what this woman’s presets are, let alone how responsive her sliders will be to a set of chemicals she hasn’t tested personally.

Think of birth control pills as if they’re chili. There’s a whole bunch of different things called chili, and even if you know you want chili, a particular batch might have no ingredients in common with another batch. It might include elements you’re allergic to, or might be too spicy, or it might have none of the characteristics you want when you say “chili”. Beans v no beans, white v red, chicken v beef v vegetarian – the world of chili is vast.

Unlike with chili, you need a prescription for hormonal birth control, because although you’re probably safe if you’re on the same pill you’ve been taking for a while, you don’t really know how your body is going to react to a new one and it could react by forming blood clots that try to kill you. Testing a bunch of different kinds is strongly discouraged, and also impossible because your pharmicist wouldn’t give you a different kind of pill than the one prescribed to you. On top of that, the first month after you switch or start a pill variant is the most dangerous – is the time you’re most likely to have a life-threatening adverse reaction. When you think about switching types, you weigh that risk against the side effects you’re already experiencing.

(Why not opt out if it’s so dangerous, you might say. The answer is that pregnancy is even more dangerous. Sincerely, that is the reason the FDA thinks the risks are acceptable for female hormonal birth control but not male hormonal birth control.)

To make this less abstract, here are three forms of hormonal birth control I have used and how my specific body reacted to them:

Microgestin (norethisterone acetate and ethanyl estradiol) is great for me. I feel totally normal for the most part, with better skin and a slightly increased sex drive which is enough to be fun but not inconvenient.

Microgynon (levonorgestrel and ethanyl estradiol) is what I was prescribed when I moved to England, where Microgestin was not available. It makes me way more teary than my normal self. Not for the most part depressed, but more likely to burst into tears over something small. During two of the seven days of the month when I took spacer pills (the ones with no hormone that allow you to experience withdrawal bleeding, aka fake period) I felt delicate and bereft and wanted to be held by my partner – felt like I was mourning a very early miscarriage. This is a strange experience to get from a pill you take to ensure an egg will never be released and fertilized, and it felt simultaneously real and fake, the way “hangry” feels falser than angry.

Qlaira (dienogest and estradiol valerate) is what I was prescribed in Italy. The first month, I had terrible headaches. Those cleared up, but for the entire two years I was on this, I was emotionally flat and had no sex drive, and experienced constant dryness in parts of my body that shouldn’t have been dry. I didn’t get my libido back until more than a month after I stopped taking it.

None of this is a guide to what other women could expect. We can’t compare notes and say “I liked this one; you should try it” or “you have almond-shaped eyes, so clearly the best pill for you is lavender-colored.” However, you can see why maybe it could be a significant daily burden not to be able to take your preferred pill formulation. Of the three pills I listed above, Migrogynon is the only one with generic $9 Walmart equivalents. Otherwise, they offer progesterones I haven’t tried: norgestimate, norethisterone (not the same chemical as norethisterone acetate), and desogestrel.

Advertisements

Julius Caesar is not Trump

Fox News has manufactured a culture war story about Shakespeare in the Park in New York, which has caused at least two major sponsors (Bank of America and Delta) to pull their funding for the theatre. Fox is faux outraged about a performance of Julius Caesar in modern clothing, with a blond in the title role, which in fake news world means it’s inciting the assassination of President Trump.

“Free Speech” defenders, I’m waiting for your protest tour.

But mostly, I am mad at Fox News for being so dumb about Shakespeare. I’ve studied Julius Caesar. I’ve performed Julius Caesar (as one of the assassins! As the assassin who strikes the first blow, in fact!) That play is a fan of Julius Caesar. If this theatre did want to turn the play into a Trump commentary (which I doubt), it would be PRO TRUMP. It would be a major Trump compliment.

Shakespeare, you may remember, liked the monarchy (or at least wrote things flattering to the monarchy). Caesar is portrayed as a great guy—very smart, brilliant general—and Brutus’s central conflict is “I’m worried this is bad for our democracy, but I love this guy! On a personal level, he is so likeable!” Then, after the assassination, everything falls apart, there is a power vacuum, and it’s awful until Caesar’s heir kills all of the conspirators and takes over as for sure a king. (This reflects anxiety in Shakespeare’s England over how the successession would go after the death of the childless Queen Elizabeth.)

Basically, if Shakespeare in the Park were to put on a “Trump is Julius Caesar” play, it would be a way to say “hey, liberal audience of ours, maybe don’t impeach this guy, it’s a terrible idea that will go badly. Plus isn’t he kind of likeable and great?”

I don’t think they’re saying that. (I think they’re trying to get nontraditional Shakespeare audiences to come see Julius Caesar by dropping in “hip” “contemporary” references. Like usual.) Hence I think this is a made up story. Hence SHAME ON YOU FOX AND FRIENDS for not understanding Shakespeare plays you should have studied in HIGH SCHOOL but I guess you find WORDS too complicacted.

go work for some other FBI

I’m not a big Comey fan, but the “why didn’t you resign when the President acted shady” questions are a ridiculous way to discredit him. It’s not like there’s some other massive domestic surveillance/intelligence network that isn’t part of the executive branch, and “oh, I’ll just hop over there.”

If there’s a private-sector FBI, I want to know about it.

Then I want to shut it down.

(It doesn’t exist.)

(For obvious reasons.)

It’s a bit like asking internal affairs investigators why they don’t quit the second they realize the police are doing something improper.

It

sounds

stupid.

Horseshoe Theory

So far, horseshoe theory has about the same track record as looking for your keys under the streetlight when you dropped them somewhere else. When the far-left fringe kills us, it’s going to be due to weakened antivax herd immunity and/or the rejection of essential food sources as “toxins.”

There is a third scenario in which I decide I’d rather stop breathing than listen to one more word about chemtrails, but I like to think none of you would do that to me.


Mark says: The actual antivax people I know in my life are all libertarian, so I sometimes think progressives get fingered unfairly for that. But the food issue: absolutely. Enjoy that GMO-free mass starvation.

Romie: By all means, Not All Progressives (or even most). Mainly, I don’t think there’s evidence that “the far left” is just as dangerous as “the far right” when it comes to domestic terrorism, even though earnest lefties keep warning that “it could be us next.” Kind of a waste of energy. There is a lunatic left, but it doesn’t much resemble a paramilitary.

Jacob: Well. The left believes in gun laws. ‘Cause we fear guns. So…that may be a small part of that. And our strength/weakness is our “I’m ok you’re ok” Cat Stevens mentality of our community.

Romie: It’s not just guns. The far left (and the right that’s not batshit) don’t do this:

Far right raises £50,000 to target boats on refugee rescue missions in Mediterranean” (Mark Townsend, The Guardian)

I keep running into variations of “both extremes are awful, the middle is good” where one extreme is whiny about pronouns and the other extreme fundraises in order to murder tens of thousands of fleeing civilians, predominantly women and children. I thought we’d figured out this “treat both sides equally” thing didn’t work when we allowed climate change denial to go mainstream, and then I thought we’d figured it out AGAIN after “Hillary and Trump are both bad, just in different ways,” but apparently no.


Nic says: When I was younger and first saw the (not particularly great) film Sphere, I was so infuriated at the end when they decide to forget everything because humans aren’t ready for the power. “No!” I shouted at the TV “Just think what you could do with it! Stupid Hollywood pat cop-out endings!” Then a few years ago I was on the internet and it suddenly struck me that I felt about the internet in the exact same way. It’s an amazing power that technology has bestowed on us and much as I’d love us to be, we’re just not ready for it. Wishing it away though is just a Hollywood fantasy, it turns out.

I just mention it here because I feel these kind of ‘theories’ would never reach any kind of critical mass without the internet linking vulnerable and impressionable people together in the absence of any kind of critical intermediary (add to this every ‘alt-right-read-fascist’ echo chamber message board and conspiracy hysteria). The internet has allowed amazing growths of expression and given voice to people who have been genuinely empowered in a way that benefits us all. But I wish we were able to handle the darker side of that power.

Pledge of Allegiance

I’ve been seeing a grumpy meme mocking “the far left” for their preoccupation with racism, as though it’s an insult invented by unpatriotic extremists to beat up Real Americans(TM). I seem to recall that every weekday for 13 years I was instructed to recite a loyalty pledge in which I promised, hand on my heart, to defend liberty and justice for all. All. Maybe you’re familiar with it.

These colors don’t run, y’all.


Gary says: That dog hunts! Always has!! What’s tough for some hunters is that they sometimes realize THEY are the hunted.

Jeff says: A mandatory loyalty pledge in any free society is odd, as is the entire notion of having to repeat any pledge daily, but the “liberty and justice for all” part is really good.

Gary: I don’t know that I would call it mandatory, although when children are required to recite the pledge, it might be called “brainwashing.” But to me, it is brainwashing in a good way! It’s only mandatory in the military, or of those who serve us in the government, as it should be.

Romie: I always thought it was kinda weird, and none of my schools bothered people who didn’t want to do it. I usually participated, although at different points I dropped out certain bits (because my allegiance isn’t actually to the flag; because I believe in a separation of church and state; because the nation was divisible [I felt at the time, but now I take the Unionist point of view that the Confederate secession was never legally legitimate]).

I have a lot of sympathy for people who find the pledge sinister or alienating. However, speaking only for myself, I enjoy rituals and mantras. There’s something interesting about returning to the same set of words over and over again and finding that I understand them differently. Particularly when they’re words I share with a lot of other people.

Sharon: Seconding the enjoyment of rituals. I worry sometimes my daughter doesn’t get enough of them. She, like me, is a creature who enjoys habit.

Kathy: Hate is never good.