Posts Tagged With: social justice

NFP Awareness Week: Why It Matters

A day late and a dollar short, but don’t let anyone tell you I haven’t been thinking of you!

“Okay, Jo,” says the invisible voice of the assumed reader of this blog, “you’ve made me aware that NFP exists, and maybe I read enough or clicked on the links to acknowledge that yeah, okay, there’s some scientific merit to these methods, but it still sounds like work and I’m still not convinced I should, you know. Care.”

I’m not here to tell you that NFP is easy (though if you don’t have any health problems, the basics of charting should not escape you). I’m not even here to tell you to do NFP instead of FAM. I just want to encourage you to THINK about why, maybe, a rational human being would choose non-hormonal methods of family planning and why, maybe, the constant quest to ridicule and dismiss that choice is one from which you should dissociate yourself, if not actively seek to silence it.
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NFP Awareness Week: Common Misperceptions

Here’s the thing. I’m having trouble figuring out where to begin with this because on the one hand I came to NFP because I’m Catholic but on the other hand it’s something I feel so incredibly passionate about above and beyond the calling of my faith, and that’s what I want to communicate. So let’s skip the conversation about the morality of hormonal birth control and talk about why NFP (and the women [and men!] who use it) deserves consideration and respect. So maybe let’s start with some misconceptions? Yeah. Let’s start there.

1. NFP doesn’t work.
There’s a statistic that’s been quoted to me that non-hormonal contraceptive methods are less than 75% effective (worse than condoms!). My understanding is that there are several reasons for this:

  • Many studies on the subject don’t provide responders with the opportunity to specify that they use NFP; instead, they’re just given an “other” option.
  • In that vein, the “other” option often includes those who do nothing to either prevent or encourage pregnancy, a state of affairs that generally leads to yup you guessed it pregnancy.
  • Also in that vein, there’s no room for distinction between the various NFP methods OR between NFP and the “rhythm” method (more on that in a moment).

Obvious anti-non-hormonal-contraceptive-methods bias aside, if you go to any of the NFP methods you’ll see that they’re all 99% effective, just like hormonal birth control (and way better than condoms). And beyond statistics, I can offer you hundreds of examples of women (and men!) who have used NFP with that 99% effectiveness not just on a monthly basis, but on a yearly or even decadely basis.

“Oh sure,” people will say airily, “but that’s perfect use, and nobody could possibly use an NFP method perfectly.”

Well, all of those 99% effective statistics rely on perfect use. If you forget to take a pill you lose that 99% effectiveness just as surely as if you decide to have sex when you are clearly ovulating out the wazoo. Furthermore, you’re insulting the intelligence and self-control of a whole heck of a lot of people with that statement, which leads me to…
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NFP Awareness Week: An Introduction

First of all, I would like to apologize for my absence these past few weeks. Family troubles intervened, and I am very bad at sticking to a schedule when disruptions are introduced. The latter is my fault entirely and also something that this blog is supposed to help me correct; at the very least, I am forcing myself to return to the project instead of hiding my face in shame for having been silent for so long, so that’s progress, right?

Anyway, to the post at hand. It’s Natural Family Planning Awareness Week! If you have any devout Catholic ladies on your Facebook newsfeed then there’s a chance you’ve seen #iusenfp or any number of signs or banners talking about how awesome women are and how great creation is. If you don’t, well, here are some links to give you an idea of what’s going down.

For my part, I’d like to take this week to address various aspects of NFP, starting today with the most obvious:

What is NFP?
Natural Family Planning (and its barrier-friendly cousin the Fertility Awareness Method) is a non-hormonal method of family planning. Instead of using somebody else’s hormones in the form of a Pill (or IUD or whatever you want to call Nuvaring), NFP users rely on the hormones naturally present in a woman’s body and the signals they give off as a woman naturally progresses through her cycle. Armed with knowledge of these signals and what they mean, NFP users can know exactly when a woman is ovulating and decide whether or not to have sex accordingly.
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Potato Skins

I’m in the middle of a spell of being painfully aware of the whole my-actions-affect-everyone-else (in a macro sense; on a daily level I’m probably as thoughtless as ever), and so my husband has been patiently participating in mostly-one-sided discussions on the subject, such as the one we had Saturday night about potato skins.

It was late and we were on the road and hungry, so we stopped at a Wendy’s; since we’re in the middle of moving, we’ve been eating a fair amount of fast food lately, and one of the things I like about Wendy’s is you can get a baked potato (and you used to be able to get broccoli on it to, but they seem to have taken that off the menu) instead of fries.  So I ordered one and some chicken nuggets, which I used to top the potato along with some honey mustard, and then I mixed it all together and it was mostly satisfying.  (One day I will give a class on creative uses of same-old same-old prepackaged food?)

Anyway, I had finished the filling, but there was still plenty of potato left on the skin–the kind that’s hard to scrape off when you’re sitting still, let alone when you’re trying to balance in a car on the interstate–and after a brief war of what-about-germs versus piping-hot-temperature-of-baked-potato, hunger won out and I carried on.

“Does it weird you out, that I eat potato skins?” I asked my husband.

“Not anymore,” he said, fairly promptly, “although I’m not so sure about what you’re doing now…”

I asked because one of the first times I ate with his family, they made steak and baked potatoes, which I hear is a fairly typical American meal but not one I ever really ate growing up.  I did eat a lot of ten-minutes-in-the-microwave potatoes though, and so I proceeded to eat them as I normally did, skin and all.  (Especially if they’ve been salted and baked properly, so they’re nice and crispy?  DELICIOUS.)  It was only after I was about halfway through that I realized that everyone else…was leaving their skins on their plates.  Being the new girlfriend, I panicked a little internally, but it was too late and they were delicious and I couldn’t eat any more steak, so I finished them off.  I had a similar encounter the first time they served me cucumber salad on a lettuce leaf; turns out the leaf is decoration and not part of the salad.

Now, my husband and I both grew up in middle-class suburbia in the nineties, but I was taught that potato skins were something you eat, and he wasn’t.  This got me thinking about all the other foods we reject that are eaten elsewhere, or were eaten by our relatives only a few generations ago, and how sometimes we even view those foods as “poor people’s” (I think it partly has to do with European sensibilities, but this post is getting long already so–for another time!).  Like pig ears–they sell them at Kroger, but I would never in a million years buy one because ew, ears (or worse, cow tongue, which I read about in the Ramona books and was so grossed-out-by that I believed obviously it was a fancy name for something because they couldn’t really be eating tongue, could they?).  And yet go back a hundred, a hundred and fifty years ago, and if you did something like slaughter a pig and then not use part of it, you were being practically criminal in your wastefulness.

(This also ties into the whole detachment-from-our-food sources thing.  Post for another time, probably by someone who is better informed than I.)

And then there’s the huge problem that the simultaneous treatment of something as trash (i.e. not useful/edible) but also as for poor people implies that they deserve and are worth no more than garbage.  How often are food pantry donations made simply from the leftovers or off-brands or things-I-wouldn’t-eats?  It’s like condemning a school or school system for being bad and then ignoring the fact that children are still attending that school.  They know you think the education they’re getting is worthless; they make the connection that they, too, are worthless.  When we look at the pollution in China and say “I’d never live there” but keep taking advantage of the cheap prices associated with that Made in China sticker, we have to be aware that we are contributing to a toxic level of pollution affecting the lives of 1/7th of the world’s population, that we’ve contributed to the genocide of their daughters.

But then you get tangled up trying to figure out how not to buy Made in China–in staring at the vast array of meat in the grocery store and contemplating how many animals were slaughtered but are never going to be eaten–in looking at all the resources we’ve wasted making junk, or even merely too much of one thing, because supply and demand are so separate from one another and the relentless machinery of capitalism keeps trying to create need out of want and want out of who even cares? (and is broken if not failed completely, gears crunching against each other while that horrible screeching you hear is the souls caught up in it like an Irish girl’s hair in a textile mill).

My dad starts his Sunday School curriculum on social justice with the story of the village by a river that one day discovered babies floating downstream in the river and organized an effort to get them out of the water before they drowned.  Their efforts were valiant and they saved many lives, but the babies kept coming, and so one day two workers quit what they were doing and started heading upstream.  “Where are you going?” the other villagers asked, scandalized that they would abandon their posts.  “To stop whoever’s throwing babies in the water!” they replied, and off they went.

That’s where the story ends, but of course the people who try to stop the babythrowers have different methods they can try–they can directly approach the people throwing babies into the water, or they can go after whatever political body is dictating that babies ought to be tossed in.  It seems to me nowadays that most people who try the second route often end up sucked into the very system they’re trying to reform–at least, that’s how Washington feels to me–but I firmly believe that the individual grassroots approach works–that it’s the best way of working, because politicians come and go but individual impacts can be passed to the next generation.

And as I told a group of freshmen, on that first day of Social Justice, whenever you get overwhelmed about all the broken and corrupt systems in the world–or at the very least, when the complexities of the quinoa craze leave you wondering just what you should do–there is always, always something you can do at the local, individual level.  Soup kitchens.  Food banks.  Libraries.  Prisons.  Women’s health clinics, in all their myriad forms.  4H.  Boys and Girls Club.  Legal Aid.  Trail or highway cleanup.  Prayer!  And once you’ve hit upon something you think you should do, do it.  Part of what I’m most looking forward to about being done moving is the chance to ease the crisis of conscience through finding whatever way I’m meant to help in our new community.  For now, I’m stuck with problems for which I see no answers, and paralysis in the face of injustice is exactly what keeps the injustice going.

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