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.)