Monday, August 28, 2000

Natural selection

There's a new movement afoot in America, Land of Many Movements. It's the anti-period movement. And no, they're not trying to ban that little particle of punctuation at the end of every sentence. Instead, this group of doctors and promoters of women's health are seeking to end menstruation as we know it. Have the Kotex people heard about this?

The argument, as laid out in the book "Is Menstruation Obsolete?" by Brazilian gynecologist Elsimar Coutinho, is that if women would just take their birth-control hormones all the way through the month instead of taking a placebo for seven out of 28 days, they could do away with all that mess and bother without doing themselves any harm. Proponents envision a world with no bloating, no cramps, no PMS, no painful complications--and, presumably, no peppy cheerleaders on TV commercials talking about their tampons. We can all certainly get behind that.

To those who say that suppressing this wondrous monthly event isn't natural, the anti-period patrol responds that it isn't natural for women to be bleeding so bleeding much in the first place. In the past, women started menstruating later, had more babies, and stopped sooner. Died sooner, too, but that's beside the point. In ancient Persia, a woman might have had 100 periods in her lifetime. In modern America, it might be 480. Think of the pain and suffering. Think of the inconvenience. Think of the money spent on super-jumbo packages of Always pantiliners. Oh, the humanity.

So if you could cut your menstrual rate down to that of an ancient Persian, without having to have additional babies or die young, why wouldn't you? Well, for one thing, because the jury's still out as to whether taking more estrogen than you really need is always a good thing. As with virtually everything in life, that which takes away risk in one area often adds to it in another, and though taking the pill and avoiding periods may cut one's chances of getting ovarian cancer, the extra estrogen may increase the likelihood of breast cancer. Then, too, let's think about that PMS for a minute. Is there not some value in having an excuse to be cranky once a month, as opposed to the rest of the month when we're cranky for no good reason at all?

Personally, I'm waiting for the counter-campaign that the sanitary-product industry must necessarily be plotting even as we speak. Expect much New Age-y talk about the glorious ebb and flow of life and the wholesomeness of nature and all of its ways. Let's hope they leave the peppy cheerleaders out of it.

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