This is going to be at least two parts, and will probably end up being more.
Because sexism is a significant problem on its own, without adding stupid bullshit to it.
Stupid Bullshit Part One
You may have heard about the study with a birth control shot for men, that was halted due to “unacceptable side effects.” If you possess a uterus and have taken any form of birth control, you may have rolled your eyes when you saw the exact same list of side effects we’ve been dealing with for years being deemed “unacceptable” by men.
Some fun responses (copied and pasted from various places, mostly my own friends list on my vanilla Facebook):
“Oh get over it. You men are bigger pussies than us women.”
“So basically they can’t deal with the same side effects that women can? Ha. Hahahaha. Omg MAN UP.”
“Aww, poor boys. Lord forbid they have to be sad!”
“This is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. Just one more way the Patriarchy rears its ugly head.”
“Once upon a time, masculinity was synonymous with ruggedness, toughness, ambition, and strength. Now it’s apparently synonymous with ‘Oh my God, I can’t handle mild inconveniences! Someone come cuddle me and tell me how big my penis is.'”
Seriously, sometimes I really, really hate people.
I initially went to Google, and quickly found that literally everyone had an opinion about this. And the vast majority of them made me basically hate humanity.
And here, no, I can’t just blame the women. One article, defending why the study was halted, apparently thought it was too much trouble to read the actual study and find out how/when/why it was actually halted, said:
But there’s a little bit of a different risk-benefit analysis when it comes to men using a contraceptive. When women use a contraceptive, they’re balancing the risks of the drug against the risks of getting pregnant. And pregnancy itself carries risks. But these are healthy men — they’re not going to suffer any risks if they get somebody else pregnant.
M’kay, so you’re an asshole.
But that’s one asshole, up against a few thousand idiotic armchair activists looking for the next new thing to be offended by.
This study wasn’t halted because of disparity, rooted in sexism, between what is considered an acceptable side effect for a specific gender.
Lemme say that again.
Nothing about this study, or why it was halted, is sexist. Chill the fuck out.
First of all, it wasn’t halted by the researchers or the participants. In fact, the vast majority said that the risks were worth it, and that they would take it if it was available.
It was halted by two independent safety committees who, during a routine yearly review, were concerned about the significantly-higher-than-expected rates of depression and “mood disorders.”* Apparently, the rates of adverse effects was much higher than in the previous, smaller study.
*”Mood disorders” is never really explained or defined. Although, based on the study itself, it does seem to be something different than depression.
Now this is where it gets a little fuzzy. The study itself states that none of the adverse effects, or the higher rates of adverse effects, were unexpected, but it’s also obvious that it’s written by someone who did not want or agree with the commitees’ decision, which leads me to wonder. Especially since I cannot find the previous study anywhere.
So here’s what actually happened.
This was a Phase II trial. It’s just one step of many in the long process of getting FDA approval. So even if it had been successful, it would still be years, and more studies, before you’d ever see this drug on the market.
This was the second study these researchers conducted, across 10 clinics around the world. It started with 320 men, and 266 made it through all the phases.
And there were a lot of problems with the study. The side effects were just one.
It wasn’t the side effects in and of themselves that was the problem. There were two problems. The first was that the rates of adverse reactions (particularly depression, mood disorders, and myalgia) were significantly higher than in the previous study (and, for the record, exponentially higher than in female hormonal contraceptives, but I’ll get to that). The second was that the vast majority of adverse effects were from two specific clinics.
This means, in a nutshell: either a) the drug is a hell of a lot riskier than they thought, or b) two of the clinics were not following proper trial procedures.
Neither of these things are good if you ever want to get FDA approval for a drug.
It also seems that the men participating in the study weren’t adequately screened, in the first place.
So let’s look at the mood disorders, shall we?
Out of 266 men, there were 65 reported cases of emotional disorders. Of those, 8 were deemed to “possibly” be related to the study. 41 were deemed “probably” related to the study, and 16 were “definitely” related to the study.
So let’s be conservative, and say that, of the 41 probable cases, half of them were related to the study, and none of the possible cases were. Which means 36 men suffered from this emotional disorder because of the drug.
M’kay, so 13%.
Now, to put that into perspective, let’s look at the occurrence of depression in women on birth control. It is actually surprisingly difficult to find accurate information on this. I was shocked. I figured it was like this hugely studied thing.
In my search, I found claims everywhere from “birth control has no empirical evidence linking to depression,” to “80% of women on birth control get depressed.”
Needless to say, neither of those are true.
There is a recent Danish study that looked at over a million women, on varying kinds of birth control. And their findings are interesting.
Namely the fact that the absolute highest rate of depression diagnoses in adult women using birth control was 2% (with women on a patch). Adolescents and teens were slightly higher, at 2.2%.
Which is still a lot. But that number gets a tad bit lower when you take into account the control group.
Among women not taking hormonal birth control, 1.7 percent took antidepressants and 0.28 percent received a depression diagnosis at a psychiatric hospital. By comparison, 2.2 percent of women who started birth control began taking antidepressants afterward, and 0.3 percent were diagnosed with depression at a hospital. Basically, about 0.5 percent of women who began hormonal contraception developed depression who might not have otherwise.
Now, again, this is the only real study I could find, although I did find a clinical trial for a specific contraceptive, called Liletta, that was FDA approved in 2015. It reports that 5.4% of women in the trial experienced depression or a depressed mood, and 5.2% experienced mood changes (neither of these mean they were actually diagnosed with depression).
And, it’s important to note that, in clinical trials involving birth control, you cannot have a control group. You cannot give a group of people a placebo and tell them to go have sex, hoping that they won’t end up with an unwanted pregnancy. You just can’t. So there’s no control group in any contraceptive’s clinical trials, or any studies done with the goal of eventual FDA approval.
That’s a pretty big disadvantage.
Still, 5% is pretty high. But not as high as 13% (which, again, is a very, very conservative estimate. The actual number kind of a lot higher). And, looking at the study, you also find disturbingly high incidents of mood swings (4.7%), hostility/aggression (6.6%), and 3.8% were diagnosed with depression. One man committed suicide (which the researchers argue was because of unrelated reasons), and another attempted suicide by intentionally overdosing on acetaminophen (which was because of the drug, m’kay).
And, because this drug works by reducing the sperm count drastically, it’s interesting to note that, while most of the men’s sperm count returned to normal (and can be considered “fertile”) within a year, 4 men took up to 3 years to become fertile again, and one man is still infertile, four years after the study was halted.
Now I know that there are some pretty significant side effects in women’s hormonal birth control, as well. But that is a whole separate issue (and a pretty fucked up one, too. I’m going to resist the urge to get into it here, but let’s just say traditional contraceptives do not have a pretty past), and has nothing to do with this study, or why it was shut down.
And let’s not forget that the vast majority of the emotional disorders came from one clinic. And the vast majority of myalgia sufferers came from another clinic. One clinic showed almost no side effects at all in the participants. There are discrepancies everywhere.
They were right to stop this study, y’all. It needed to be stopped, and the researchers needed to go back and figure out what went wrong. Whether the clinics fucked up, or the drug is dangerous, they needed to stop this study.
And that does not make the men wimps. That does not make the researchers, or even the safety committees, sexist.
So, ladies, stop perpetuating this stupid bullshit and focus on real, actual issues. Because you’re doing nothing but alienating men, breeding misogynists, and making enemies.
Because really, who was ever persuaded or enlightened by being insulted? Do you honestly think a normal, sane man is going to react well to those comments up there? Do you really think he’ll be willing to support you, to support feminism? Or will he decide that you’re all full of shit in every subject, and not pay attention to you even when you’re discussing actual issues women face?
I can tell you which option I’d take, if I were a man. Hell, even as a woman and a feminist, I think you’re all full of shit. Just looking for stupid bullshit to be offended by.
Sexism and misogyny are not going to disappear by making enemies of men, ladies. They’re going to get worse. And you won’t be able to blame a single damn one of them for seeing you that way.
So here are your options. You can either make shit worse by doing what you’re doing, you can completely cut yourself off from men (which is completely unrealistic and impossible in today’s world, and it still won’t solve the underlying problem), or…
We could take a breath, recognize that Facebook click bait is just that, and look at any given situation like rational, compassionate, empathetic human beings. We can show ourselves to be calm, collected, logical people with basic self control, so that when a real issue comes up that we need to deal with, men will have reason to listen to us, acknowledge the problem, and give weight to what we have to say.
Respect is earned, and not a single one of those women’s comments earned the respect of any man.
Do you want to be respected? Then be respectable.
Stop perpetuating this stupid bullshit. There’s no excuse for it. You have a device, in your pocket, capable of accessing the entirety of mankind’s knowledge. Including this study. Use it, goddammit.
Google is your fucking friend.