The Life-Giving Properties Of Birth Control

Birth control, in modern society, is just another thing we take for granted; much like flavoured vitamins and an abundances of vaccinations. Medical miracles of their time that are now little more than, so we insist, our right. How often do we look back to the birth of contraception? It wasn’t all hunky-dory from day one: it was like abortion, and same sex marriage… “Unnatural!” the religious fanatics might cry, “Expensive!” call the politicians, “Ridiculous!” shout out the fortunate classes who do not necessarily understand these controversial burdens.

Birth control gave power back to the woman. The power to say ‘if a man can take a meaningless lover, why can’t I?’. It gave her the power to choose the order of her life: marriage, career, children. It gave her the power to love others, and herself; fewer offspring gave her the time to appreciate herself as well as her family.

During the early twentieth century, the woman was trapped by an endless cycle of reproduction – sad really, that such a monumental act as giving life became so mundane and disdained. This was the time of the female revolution, a wave of feminism that modern medicine facilitated. Although the initial idea came into being centuries ago by founding father, Robert Thomas Malthus, it took its time to take hold.

Birth control gave life to the woman, so she was no longer forced to decide between another child, or celibacy; so she was no longer a prisoner to the unrivaled wonder of childbirth, no longer stuck behind the bars of motherhood.

The average family in Britain today doesn’t even have three children, yet if we go back only two or so generations, it was not unheard of that our grandparents were one of twelve. Is it that women have become lazy and greedy? Wanting more career and entertainment, and less maternal responsibility? No. It is a mother taking initiative to give more love and attention, more support and opportunities, to her reasonably-sized, nuclear family. Some women do not want children, but unless they are celibate or homosexual then, without birth control, they would struggle.

Unnatural? Or is this free will handed down from the heavens in the form of a tablet or discreet foil packet? Birth control is control. It allows women to decide ‘When’, ‘Who with?’, ‘How many?’. It allows a man the freedoms to wait, to not have a child until he is ready. (Isn’t that something men often complain about anyway?) However, joking aside, it gives freedom to all people; regardless of sex or class, regardless of age or occupation, regardless of intelligence or race or lifestyle.

Birth control may prevent births, but this does not stop it giving life and strength to the people of today. From a time when it seemed radical and ridiculous, to the era of dating sites and one night stands; birth control was a natural progression necessary for the world to move forwards, to nurture young minds more attentively, and allow ourselves the necessary freedoms. This is how birth control yields life.

(This piece was a  response to Emma Goldman’s article on The Social Aspects of Birth Control, which looked at the attitudes towards birth control in the 1920s.)

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On A Mission: How to Tackle Homelessness On A Budget

So I bet that if you’d an avid user of social networking sites, or even just an average user of social networking sites, you’ll have heard of ‘neknominations’. Neknominate, also known as ‘neck and nominate’, is viral. Essentially, an individual receives a ‘nomination’ and subsequently has 24 hours to create a disgusting (and quite heavily alcoholic) drink and recording themselves drinking it. Drinks have included combinations or beers, spirits, cordials, milk, fizzy drink, various cupboard condiments (ie, mayo or ketchup) and pretty much anything a person can get their hands on; spices and hot sauces are not uncommon. More recent nominations have also included individuals dressing unusually or doing it in strange places (see the instance of the Leicester teen who did hers in asda… In her underwear.)

ANYWAY, whilst rolling my eyes cynically, I found instances of ‘raknomnations’. What is RAK? RAK stands for Random Act of Kindness. I’ve seen new takes on nominations where the individual, usually, is giving food or clothing to people who are homeless. This got me thinking; wouldn’t it be wonderful if this went viral? Viral hope in humanity…

So even though I have not been nominated (nek, rak, or otherwise), I’ve been scheming. I’ve decided I’m going to start putting together homelessness packs. This isn’t a big mission, this won’t become my full time job, I’m a student and I don’t have the time to make a big deal out of it, but that’s the point! I’ll bulk buy beans or bread, cereal bars and juice cartons; tissues and toothbrushes, bars of soap and body wipes… I’m not planning on spending a fortune on fancy coats and cashmere scarves – I don’t do that for myself – just spending enough. Think about how often you waste a fiver or a tenner on a burger, or a t-shirt, or on a drink, on anything that you don’t really need. I’m not saying stop doing that, I’m saying tone down the frivolity and put it to use. Instead of buying another t-short for £20, save that money and put together a homelessness pack.

A homelessness pack could include things like:

  • A bar of soap, a toothbrush & toothpaste, a comb, two handy packs of tissues and a pack of wipes, maybe a can of deodorant;
  • A can of beans & disposable spoon, a sandwich, a cereal bar, some fruit, a couple of cartons of juice and a bottle of water;
  • A towel or a blanket, a pair of gloves and hat or scarf.

Some things don’t need to be new; if you’re on a tight budget and you have a spare pair of mittens, give them to someone who needs it! We really don’t need to do a lot to make a difference to someone’s day, and many of us don’t even think about it. Sometimes, it doesn’t even cross our mind, or we’re too nervous to approach a stranger, regardless of who they are. I’ll admit, I’m as bad as the next person; I stick some change in collection boxes and just wonder… It’s time to put actions to our intentions, and I know that I really want to be part of it.

As an example of how little you need to spend to brighten up somebody’s day, and give yourself that warm, fuzzy feeling, I’ve made an example pack (including prices)…

  • Asda smart price toothpaste: 25p
  • Asda protect medium toothbrush, one of a 4 pack: 25p
  • Asda cream moisture bar (soap): 50p
  • Asda ultra soft pocket tissues, two of a pack of 6: 29p
  • Asda baked beans: 32p
  • Homemade sandwich using sliced bread and fillings (cheese, ham, salad etc.): approx. 35p
  • Some fruit (eg, 2 apples and a banana): approx. 70p
  • Asda smart price juice cartons (3): 45p
  • Asda milk chocolate (100g): 60p

GRAND TOTAL: £3.71.

And that’s before you even happen across a pair of gloves in a charity shop, or a warm hat on special offer. Find the right shops, find the right deals, and it costs almost nothing to us. Yet, regardless of the money, this is stuff that a person might not have, that we might take for granted.

So this is a big mission for me, to work up the courage to approach a stranger in public, homeless or not, but I’m up for it.

It’s a little scary even though it’s a little mission, but it’s my mission, and I hope that you’ll join me. It may not be much, but it’s more than nothing. If something like this went viral like ‘neknominations’ has, think about how much of a different we could make.

The Drudgery Of Revision (AKA The concept of study versus the appeal of procrastination)

In case the title didn’t give it away, I’m currently suffering from a serious case of procrastination (if you don’t understand this reference, please look it up right now; it all makes better sense now, right?).

Studying, for those who have entertained the idea (or pretended to), is pretty much a synonym for being bored. I’ll admit that after finishing a long and in-depth essay, I do feel pretty accomplished and proud of myself! However, I have to get there first. A flaw with the wonders of technology are that it is just so hard to take my eyes off that funny cat video.

Actually, weirdly enough, I have a ranty rambly piece in the nerd bank. That is to say, I blurted up some words on a page one time, and it actually relates to what I’m blabbering on about now. So, for your amusement… for one night only (and every other night and day for eternity, this is the internet)… I present, myself!

Warning: This is a longer one, feel free to pause here to make a cup of tea.

We all know, we’d much rather be watching cat videos on YouTube, than analysing poetry or doing quadratic equations. However, we should be so lucky! The youth of today have more distractions than ever before, thank to the wonder that is the internet. Globalisation (essentially, the idea that the world is smaller because it’s better connected) has vastly altered the dynamics between work and fun. Work hard, play hard is an alien concept to many; as much as we say it, it’s just not true. I do not know a single person who works as hard as they play, and so it should be. As Mark Twain famously said – “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education”. We learn in a vast number of ways and schooling is just one of those means. Yes, it’s true that our education career – our GCSEs, A levels, BTECs and apprenticeships – are valuable. They are the piece of paper that says “yes, I am capable of working hard”, but spare a thought for people whose pieces of paper don’t say that. They say “I didn’t put in enough effort” or “I’m not good enough to work for you”, but why? Is it effort, is it ineptitude? I doubt it.

It’s progress. It’s the miracle of the space era (as some have called it); of technological and medical advances that now require the younger generation to work until we are AT LEAST 70. A few decades ago, that wasn’t even a life expectancy in this country, its still isn’t in some parts of the world. We now have to accept the fact that we could be spending over half a century in a single profession. How scary is that? Think about how long your schooling qualifications took, times twenty, and the rest. The rest of your ‘short’ life (that really isn’t so short), spent working. So we rush to study when the opportunity is thrown at us, only to fail and end up in the wrong place. Or maybe we do really well, get into university and get an honours degree… only to end up in job we hate with people we loathe.

Everyone of this generation, of this day and age, rushes. Our minds race as we fall asleep in front of screens and wake up to sirens. We rush and rush, always needing to be somewhere else, doing something else… but why? Fifty years of work, and we still rush. I say, don’t. Don’t rush and race, slow it down. If you want a gap year, take it. Don’t weigh up the costs versus what you might gain for your CV; if a gap year looks enjoyable then do it. If you want to study abroad during your degree, embrace it, do it. People take multiple undergraduate degrees, and we worry about whether it’s worth doing one. It’s expensive, it’s £9,000 a year, but it isn’t upfront. It’s new friends and new experiences and a subject that you get to choose, that you get to study with like-minded individuals. Although, it’s true that it can be hard to get there.

There are countless distractions – you could try to count them all but it truly is impossible. Websites with videos, and photos, and blogs; books, and music, and board games; baking, and exercise, and socialising… We have been presented with innumerable opportunities and resources, but it’s too much. This is a curse in disguise. Forget about appropriateness, security and privacy for just a moment, and consider just the amount of things you have viewed online. The internet is a drug, it draws us in but we cant help it. We need the internet, we need it to learn and to connect. We now use it for a DBS check (similar to the old CRB check), for banking, even to adopt. Times are changing and yet, our education is the same. Maybe the qualifications have different names, and different scales of marking; but we still studying a subject and hand in coursework or sit exams. We still study traditional subjects and find little room to utilise all the wondrous things we find online, and in our day to day life. It is hard to reach your fullest potential, when everyone else’s is thrust upon you. When all you see is nonsensical ramblings of a distracted mind, only to realise you’re looking at your own work. I would even go so far as to say that this is what you’ve just read; nonsensical ramblings of a distracted student, struggling with the concept of study versus the appeal of procrastination.