Plan B, Bad Science, and the Blogosphere

Crisis in the  female reproductive system is hitting the “I’m a woman who’s not afraid of science or sex” section of the blogosphere. Given, it’s not a huge group of writers, but these ladies mean business. Since I am a proud member of the club, I thought I’d take a moment to catalog the action:

The drama begins with a “health” and beauty columnist at XOJane (a new feminist web magazine) writing about a shortage of Plan B in New York City. Which is a legitimate issue. However, her piece is a disaster. She’s trying to be chatty and funny about sex and birth control, which, is a good way to approach a touchy subject (I know from experience) but she crashes and burns. An example from her list of birth control options:

2) Birth control pills. NO. They will make me fat; they will make me “spot” (another thing I squeamishly just DON’T LIKE TALKING ABOUT; don’t worry, though, everyone else who works here does); they will give me acne; and quite frankly, they will NOT prevent me from getting pregnant! I know this because IT HAPPENED TO ME™.

She’s not funny and she’s spreading patently wrong information.  The pill does work, and it does not make you fat.  Studies have proven this, again and again.  However, it doesn’t work if you don’t remember to take it, which is what she uses as her justification in the next paragraph.

When she moves on to discussing how Plan B works, she shows a diagram of the female reproductive system, with the description


Which is obviously freaking out anyone concerned with the persistence of stereotypes that science is too hard for women to understand.  Why should we even need to know how our bodies work, that’s so silly. Hear the huge growl of frustration from female scientists everywhere:

“Girlybits 101” from Crude Matters at Scientific American breaks down a “scary” science of how the female reproductive system works into the easy basics and why it matters that we understand it.

Neurotic Physiology from Scientopia has an excellently outraged blog with references to studies that prove that birth control does not make you fat and that anyone writing about health should know a little bit about health.

At Skepchick, Rebecca Watson wonders if possibly this could be a joke, a wink at a stereotype of slutty women as stupid? Even if it was intended that way, a lot of people are missing the wink, and that is dangerous.

Ladybusiness justice is the title at Context and Variation, from Scientific American. She brings up all kinds of viable birth control options besides Plan B.

Lastly, it’s interesting that this little storm produced enough critical comments, that the founder/editor of XOJane, Jane Pratt, had to write a piece on why it’s ok that people write from different perspectives, and that feminists are not in agreement on everything, and we should encourage that.  She does not mention this Plan B piece specifically. Sure, Jane Pratt, I agree that we are all entitled to our perspectives, but calling someone a health columnist who is writing things that are actually wrong, that’s dangerous.

I wish that as many people as read the XOJane Plan B article would read the responses. Not the comments, some of which are frightening, but these response blogs.  As they all said, and I can not resist saying again, there is no reason to be ignorant of your body.  And Plan B is a great option, but it should not be your only option. And if you want to write a funny article about sexual health, please be funny.


One thought on “Plan B, Bad Science, and the Blogosphere

  1. I’d argue that in addition to being wrong, her post isn’t feminist! Body-negative, lady-part-shaming, and trivializing ignorance about our bodies and the role of birth control are definitely not feminist, in my book.

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