For the past five years I've used birth control to treat symptoms of what my doctor believes is Endometriosis. Each day I take a birth control pill at the same time, no matter where I am. Sometimes this results in stares and, while it's preferable to being in horrible pain, it's still very frustrating. This dismissal of the importance of birth control appears throughout society. While condoms are talked about with ease, women's birth control is discussed in hushed tones. Frankly, I'm sick of it, and so is actress and activist Sophia Bush, who's been a huge proponent of open conversation on women's health.
Bush decided to take action and teamed with Teva Women’s Health for the #NoHormonesPlz campaign. It was born after a 2016 Teva survey found that more than half of women had some concern about using hormonal birth control, but continued to because they were unaware of other options. The idea behind the campaign, found in full at NoHormonesPlz.com, isn't that you should or shouldn't be using hormonal birth control, but that it's incredibly important to be aware of your options.
Knowing your birth control choices can be life-altering. "I think you have to figure out, first and foremost, what you need and then make sure you have all the information to ask your doctor what your options are," Bush tells Bustle. "Because, depending on the ways in which you're covered, your circumstances might be different. But, I think as long as you know what everything looks like, what your full landscape looks like, then you can figure out how to get what it is you need."
"Women's health and women's empowerment go hand in hand and truly, there is nothing that allows us to come into the workforce, create social change, really change the world more than having sovereignty over our own bodies."
Our health is the core of who we are and when it is treated as unimportant —or something that needs to be hidden — it's as if we, as women, are being told we are unimportant and need to be hidden. When we have control of our health, we have control of our lives. "I've always understood that women's health and women's empowerment go hand in hand and truly, there is nothing that allows us to come into the workforce, create social change, really change the world more than having sovereignty over our own bodies. It's incredibly important for all of us. And it was interesting to me, as I'm always trying to have conversations about this stuff, to realize how many women, even in my peer group, adult successful women, feel like talking about their bodies is still kind of taboo. How do we break that? How do we have these conversations? How do we have them from places that feel empowering and strengthening? That was really why I wanted to jump into this at a time when our care is being threatened. I was like, no we've got to be talking about this. Let's make a lot of noise about our bodies right now," says Bush.
In order to break the taboo around birth control we must continue to openly discuss it in a positive and empowering way. Here's how Bush believes we can change the conversation around birth control and women's health.
If you're unsure of something, ask someone about it. Your doctor is a great source of information for any health or birth control questions. If you find that they are being judgemental, it's time to find someone new. Your doctor's job is to provide you with everything you need to be healthy — including information. "I think it's incredibly helpful to have resources that aren't trying to sell you anything," Bush says. "That's not the goal of this. Nobody's trying to say like this is the one thing that you need — there's literally nothing attached to it. It's about saying, here's a whole bunch of information you might not have had, we want to make it easily digestible, we want to make it helpful so that you have all the information you need and then go talk to your doctor. Write out a list of questions. Think about the things that maybe are surprising to you, or that you didn't know and put those in your tool belt. Go out and make sure that you are making decisions from your most informed place. That's the key I think: Making sure we have all the information so we can make the best decisions possible."
Understand That Politics & Women's Health Intertwine
"The fact that we have to have conversations about women's health as separate than human health are first and foremost a huge problem," Bush says. "If men could get pregnant literally none of this would be an issue. I think for us it's the issue that our health seems to not be as respected as everyone's health."
"Why are we acting like this is taboo? This is health, this is rights, this is work — It affects everything for us."
The current state of America deeply reflects that as the Trump administration does everything in its power to rollback women's access to healthcare. That means its up to us to fight back and protect our right to our bodies. "Do you feel like you're taken care of, protected — like your access is ensured? Call your senators, call your congressman, get on the phone, write letters, do things, speak up, show up, vote for the stuff that makes sure you're empowered." Bush says. "Obviously we aren't here to talk about politics, we are here to talk about birth control but, the point is, if your body feels like it's your right — step up. Step up with your doctor, step up with your representatives, step up with your community, step up with your friends. Then we make the way we take care of our bodies and our health less about paperback, bottom shelf quiet, whispered conversation."
Bush also wants people to remember that most issues we care about are tied to others. "People are like, oh wow, as a political activist you're going to talk about birth control? I'm like why are we acting like this is taboo? This is health, this is rights, this is work — it affects everything for us."
Make It Casual
As women, we have become so afraid to acknowledge our periods and ask for a tampon. Why are we embarrassed over something so many people go through? Think about it this way...
"My girlfriend Jackie Tohn, she's on Glow, she's a genius comedian and a singer-songwriter," Bush says. "She said that anytime she's out in public and somebody needs to ask for a tampon she like makes a joke and takes it out of her purse and pretends like it's a cigar. She's like, why are we so weirded out about tampons? Fifty-one percent of the world is female, everybody has a period. Why is it taboo? What is the thing about this? So I think that the more we do what you and I are doing right now and just frankly talk about how we can take care of our bodies and how we can help our communities of women take care of their bodies, we are talking about how we take care of our life."
Don't Be Afraid To Be Outspoken
"There is consistently and constantly a system in place that tells women that if they are too outspoken, too smart, too educated, too opinionated, too successful — if they become the breadwinners —and the list goes on, that any of those things that you can plug into the sentence, X makes you undesirable. None of that is true. That is simply a system that knows that the more disenfranchised they can keep women, and the less on each other's teams they can keep us and the more sort of, out to sea, we are — the more traditional systems get to continue their stronghold. And it's up to us to change that. It's up to us to have these conversations to say, nothing about our bodies is taboo, nothing about birth control is taboo."
"Know that you control your body and your own timeline so that you can literally achieve anything that you want. I think when we start shifting the conversation in that way, we take the power back."
Being a woman means that there are going to be times where society attempts to prove that you are less than. Never listen to those voices. Their only goal is to tear your strength down so it's no longer in their way. "Birth control is actually a great source of empowerment for women because when we talk about family planning, what we're actually talking about is career planning, calendar planning, goal setting. Go get your masters, go after that job. Know that you control your body and your own timeline so that you can literally achieve anything that you want. I think when we start shifting the conversation in that way, we take the power back."
Be Confident In What You're Saying
When you're educated on the facts, you're able to confidently hold your position. "Listening, and really understanding where other people are coming from, makes me feel confident, says Bush. "Knowing that I'm up to date on facts and issues makes me feel confident. We are experiencing this sort of war on information in our country right now which is so bizarre. It's like, on what planet do we think that being educated is a bad thing? So, I think the more that we all show up to fight the good fight, and make sure we're seeking truth and seeking facts, that stuff excites me."
You can take control of your body by researching all your birth control options. Your health is extremely important and, what was once right for you, might not be right now. Have open, honest conversations about your birth control and, with each word, the taboo lessens. You deserve the best — so discover what that is for you. Take a cue from Bush and don't ever apologize for it.