Saturday, January 28, 2012

MEDICINE : Sex on the Pill (What Should be Common Knowledge)

Sasha Martin

"I want to tell you a terrific story about oral contraception.  I asked this girl to sleep with me and she said, 'No'."  ~Woody Allen

Though saying "no" is also an option, saying "yes" has been made much easier with the use of birth control. This article will mainly focus on the Pill, but it is important to realize that different forms of birth control have been in use for thousands of years. Documented use of birth controls goes as far back as ancient Mesopotamia. In 1850 BC, recorded on brittle papyrus was a concoction for spermicide using acacia gum. This substance is now used in many contraceptive foams. The same piece of papyrus reveals a method very similar to the modern-day diaphragm: honey and sodium carbonate was poured inside the vagina to hold steady a makeshift pessary (often the pessary was made of crocodile dung). Thankfully, throughout the years major improvements have been made to forms of birth control. No longer must we resort to crocodile dung! 

In the fifties, when birth control first came around in the United States, the Pill was much less forgiving than it is today, causing mood swings, acne, bloating, maybe even kankles. As the Pill has been more and more refined, women can find the Pill best suited to their unique body. Now, we can't blame mood swings on the pill as readily; no more, "Sorry babe, I didn't mean to start crying and yelling in the middle of the super market! It's the Pill, I swear. My hormones are all off." Because now we have brands, such as LoEstrin Fe or Ortho Tri-Cyclen Lo, with lower amounts of estrogen. 

No longer do we bloat or break out. In fact, many women have reported to be more energetic on the pill. And, as many of us know, the Pill is now used as a prescription to help with bad acne, rather than making the skin worse. While taking low hormone birth controls, periods become lighter, and low hormone or no, the Pill makes periods much more predictable. Cramps also lessen while on the Pill. The placebo portion of the birth control pack, the time in which women ingest sugar pills and go through menstruation, has also been lessened to a week or even four days-- hardly any time at all! Some Pill packets hold off on the placebo for months (like Yaz), though it is still questionable how healthy such pills are. LoEstrin Fe seems to have the 'short and sweet'; there are only four days of placebo pills, and the placebo pills are iron supplements rather than sugar to avoid anemia.

Here is something surprisingly very little women know, though it is of the utmost importance: if you are taking birth control and an antibiotic simultaneously, the Pill's effectiveness is reduced for a period of time until the body can adjust. The process is explained by experts of the field as...

"Certain antibiotics can interact with birth control pills, making the birth control pills less effective and pregnancy more likely. Spotting - or ‘mid-cycle’ bleeding - may be the first sign that an antibiotic is interfering with the effectiveness of your birth control pills. Antibiotics that have been shown to interact with birth control pills include rifampin (brand name Rifadin), and to a lesser extent, penicillin (Veetids), amoxicillin (Amoxil), ampicillin (Omnipen), sulfamethoxazole/trimethoprim (Septra or Bactrim), tetracycline (Sumycin), minocycline (Minocin), metronidazole (Flagyl), and nitrofurantoin (Macrobid or Macrodantin). To help women avoid pregnancy while taking an antibiotic - and for at least one week afterward - doctors generally recommend they use a condom or spermicide as a back-up method of birth control. If you are taking both antibiotics and birth control pills, be sure to check with your doctor about how long you should continue to use a back-up method" (Dickey, R.P). 

Another lesser known quality of oral contraceptives was revealed to me just last week. A UC Berkeley doctor recently explained that it is next to impossible to become pregnant while on the Pill. Even if you were to become pregnant on the pill, it is very unlikely for this pregnancy to last. The Pill, you see, also acts as an abortive agent. Though this view is controversial and still being researched, there are many doctors who would agree. Knowing that the Pill might not just be a contraceptive device, but an abortive agent too is something women should know so that each might have the choice as to whether or not she is comfortable with such properties. Some may consider it a blessing in disguise while others may revert back to condoms, however less pleasurable. 

It is extremely important to remember to check what our medications are capable of, side effects and all, and to research what might interfere with the medicinal drugs we ingest. When you meet with your doctor ask questions and make sure you understand the full gravity of the drug, as well as the precautions. Do research to insure you know everything about the medication! 

Now, I'll leave you to celebrate the progression of science: cheers to no longer relying on crocodile dung to keep from getting pregnant!

Sources:Dickey, R.P. Managing Contraceptive Pill Patients. EMIS Inc.,1998. Hansten, P.D, J.R. Horn. Drug Interactions Analysis and Management, Applied Therapeutics, 2000.Dipiro, J,T, Pharmacotherapy A Pathophysiologic Approach. Fourth Edition. Appleton &Lange. 1999.Health. “Birth Control Pills”. Mayo Clinic Health. 

Also, see if you are wondering why antibiotics reduce the Pill's effect.

    The Woman Behind Unleashed and the Words                       
   I am a Practice of Art Major and Creative Writing Minor at UC Berkeley. My passions are writing and the arts in general. I created Unleashed for the empowerment and enlightenment of women everywhere. I am the editor, designer and contributing writer. I truly hope this magazine speaks to each and every woman.   Sasha Martin                                                             

Saturday, January 21, 2012

RELATIONSHIPS : The Weight of a Kiss

Photograph by Sasha Martin of artwork found in Hackney, London.

"A kiss is a lovely trick designed by nature to stop speech when 
words become superfluous"
                                                             -- Ingrid Bergman

Sasha Martin

A kiss is a "dot above the 'i' in loving," a known way to convey a feeling of infatuation or love. And, kissing to express devotion is something expressed by humans alone. Even smiling is not specific to just humans-- it is a natural response from many mammals to indicate they are of no threat. The clamping of the teeth shown in a smile shows that being bitten is not a danger. Even something as seemingly human as a smile is not necessarily unique. Kisses, however, with the intention of conveying an emotion or even sexual drive, are uniquely human. When one really gives thought to the idea of a kiss, it becomes more and more incredible. 

Kissing actually originated from a maternal standpoint, not romantic: mothers kissing their children. This is the ultimate love, unconditional and strong. Through the centuries, however, it morphed into an activity involving lovers, becoming a symbolic gesture as well as a pleasurable one. 

Its relevance in our society now ranges from that of a second grader running away from a peer's kisses, in terror of "cooties," to traditions involving Mistletoe and a wedding day's sealing kiss. 

From a more scientific, physical perspective, kissing can be addictive. When kissing another human being, dopamine and other related neurotransmitters are released in the brain. These stimulants act as a reward system, making kissing scientifically addicting and thoroughly enjoyable. Such neurotransmitters are released when snorting cocaine, or experiencing other drugs. You can't help but wonder if kissing is more powerful than you might expect...

Granted, a kiss does not always mean anything more than the physical act. Kissing a stranger with no emotional connection can sometimes be just that: two lips colliding. But, when a kiss does carry meaning, it momentarily consumes the mind. We abandon all thoughts in exchange for this fleeting and intensely passionate experience. This feeling has been portrayed in many beautiful works of art...

Auguste Rodin sculpted "The Kiss" in honor of the kiss that never was. Rodin admired Dante's Inferno, and modeled many of his sculptures from the text. "The Kiss" was one of these (see Dante's Inferno, Circle 2, Canto 5). Francesca da Rimini, a beautiful and intelligent Italian noblewomen, was married to nobleman, Giovanni Malatesta. Giovanni, though known to be the kindest and most generous of men, was crippled and grotesque to look at. While her husband traveled, his brother, Paolo, came to entertain the lonely Francesca. Together, they read Lancelot and Guinevere everyday, falling more and more in love with the turn of every page. Eventually, Giovanni began to notice their connection. In a rage, Giovanni burst into the room in which Francesca and Paolo were reading, right as the couple were about to kiss for the very first time. Blindly, the jealous husband killed them both. Knowing this, when you look at Rodin's "The Kiss" very carefully, the couple are not actually kissing, but are just about to-- only separated by a couple inches of marble.

Alfred Eisenstaedt photographed "The Kiss" on V-J Day in Times Square after the end of World War Two, 1945. In the middle of everyone's mad rejoicing, a sailor embraces a nurse, kissing her. The kiss featured here represents the joy and appreciation for life blossomed after the deathly mess of war.

Gustav Klimt painted "The Kiss." In his case, the kiss was a representation of desire and erotic love. Klimt lived at home with his mother and sisters, not experiencing the pleasure himself. In frustration and curiosity, he painted "The Kiss," attempting to experience the passion others felt through his artwork. 

A kiss can mean thousands of things. Take your pick.
But, it is without doubt, one of the most unique expressions humans have to offer.

Alfred Eisenstaedt's "The Kiss"

Auguste Rodin's The Kiss. Photograph taken at the Rodin Museum in Paris, France, by Sasha Martin.
Gustav Klimt's "The Kiss"

Suggested Further Reading: 

Concerning the science of kissing:

Concerning art featuring kissing:

    The Woman Behind Unleashed and the Words                       
   I am a Practice of Art Major and Creative Writing Minor at UC Berkeley. My passions are writing and the arts in general. I created Unleashed for the empowerment and enlightenment of women everywhere. I am the editor, designer and contributing writer. I truly hope this magazine speaks to each and every woman.  Sasha Martin   

Monday, January 16, 2012

CULTURE : Unveiled

Muslim Woman by Sasha Martin, taken in Ghana, Africa

Sasha Martin

The veil worn by Islamic women, known as the hijab, is viewed as a sign of repression by outside cultures peering in. "Hijab" literally translates to "curtain" in Arabic-- so, what do the women behind the curtain think?

Though, one can be sure that many Islamic women feel disrespected and repressed as a gender, some look at the veil in a slightly more empowering light. Women are not allowed to 'date.' Instead, women are expected to befriend men and eventually find someone to marry, whether she is set up or chooses a man she had earlier befriended. And, men are only allowed to see below the hijab of their wife after marriage. Some see this as an opportunity to avoid being seen as a sexualized object for carnal pleasure. These women see the veil and dating tradition as an opportunity to get to know the men in their lives without the superficiality of looks, relying only on personality and conversation. As mentioned earlier, however, many women do not agree with this more positive approach, seeing the hijab as just another way for the men in their culture and religion to control the "weaker" female sex.

Though one can appreciate such reasons for praising the hijab, it's hard not to realize that the veil is a uniform. What do uniforms do? They make everyone look the same, figuratively speaking. In the military, everyone wears a uniform and shaves their head to create an even playing ground and dehumanize individuals into pons. In concentration camps during the Holocaust, men and women were forced to shave their heads and wear similar clothing. Eventually everyone blended in, no longer individuals, but a mass of bones and skin. Again, this dehumanizes a person. Does the hijab dehumanize its covered women? If your face is covered, others cannot distinguish you from a crowd-- your uniqueness is lost. Women seem to become dehumanized pons, just as soldiers do upon donning their uniform and shaving their scalp. Is this what the veil's purpose is? Or, is it truly a way to create blind love, free from superficiality?

In America and other Western countries, wearing the hijab is not easily accepted. In many European schools, the hijab is coupled with other 'banned' clothing in the dress code. This does not make assimilation into Western countries any easier for Islamic women, or any other cultures that require any kind of coverage of the face. An Islamic woman, studying at UC Berkeley, passionately spoke about the subject: "the media makes the religion sound horrible, and of course, there are crazy extremists, but it's hard when everyone is stereotyped because of those psychos, you know? I mean, I was born and raised here, so I see myself as an american. But, some people see me as different just because of my scarf."

Now, take a moment to imagine no one being able to see your facial expressions: lips curving to a smile, dripping to a frown, scrunching to the bitterness of a lemon. Imagine only your eyes visible, a veil covering the rest of your face. You're walking down the street, and no one can really see you. How would you feel then?  

    The Woman Behind Unleashed and the Words                       
   I am a Practice of Art Major and Creative Writing Minor at UC Berkeley. My passions are writing and the arts in general. I created Unleashed for the empowerment and enlightenment of women everywhere. I am the editor, designer and contributing writer. I truly hope this magazine speaks to each and every woman.  Sasha Martin                                            

Sunday, January 15, 2012

RELATIONSHIPS : What Every Woman Should Know

Sasha Martin

"There's a thousand you's / there's only one of me," raps Kanye to his audiences. This is the mentality men are encouraged to develop, letting experiences with women blend into one another anonymously without extracting any emotional relevance. The New Generation, of which I'm a part of, has trained men to treat carnal activities flippantly, rather than involving emotion. 

Of course, not every man behaves or thinks in such a way. These exceptions to the rule society has created leaves hope: the reason women still date, fall in love, and get married. 

But this new craze of 'Men Gone Wild,' is not completely the fault of men's carelessness. Women let it happen and excuse it more often than not. Rather than directly addressing a problem, women edge around it passive aggressively or expect the man to understand innately. Instead of becoming frustrated with men as a whole, take control of the situation and consider relationships in the following manner...

First: If a man is "unconcerned" and "doesn’t care" about your feelings, let alone your heart, why let him rule either? So many women spend time mulling over heart break with tear sodden pillows. Why waste all this time obsessing over someone who is clearly less involved? Everyone needs to love and to be loved-- but you never need to settle for less than deserved to reach this. Concentrate on your passions, friends, family and be single. It's enriching to say the least. Don't waste time trying to make someone love you. Someone who, if he doesn't really care, eventually won't be able to bring a real smile to your face.

Second, Stop complaining to your girlfriends about how he doesn’t do this or how you wish he’d do that. Go to him first-- explain to him, clearly and calmly, your thoughts and concerns. If he makes you feel badly for doing this, you have to wonder if he has your best interest in mind. Expressing how you feel, a routine snuffed out by society, is healthy. If someone really loves you, they should want to know how you feel. It's a dance: you compromise back and forth, and swing through life together. This takes cooperation, which takes the revealing of honest, raw feelings. And, if there is no attempt on his part to show you that he cares by addressing these matters, again, wonder if he has your best interest in mind. 

Third, don’t blind yourself. A relationship is not always strictly about emotion, but also how one another bolster each other's quality of life. There is a difference between blowing little annoyances out of proportion and ignoring bothersome behaviors because "you love him". Listen to yourself: if something bothers you at the time and you blow it off in exchange for forced happiness, resentment will surely tear you apart. If you break up, later when you mentally review your relationship, these events you chose to ignore at the time will seem much more obviously troubling. You will wonder why you put up with such things. Instead of going through this, address them at the time and don't let them sizzle on the back burner! 

Be direct with him, but more importantly, yourself. Be honest with yourself rather than rationalizing problems away. For example, if a man does not make you one of his priorities, don’t waste your own time wishing he would—realize that for the time-being he won’t. If you can handle this, simply stay with him and don’t make him one of your own priorities until you can be on a more even playing ground. If you cannot handle it, leave him. 

There are many men out there. Cherish the nice ones, the ones that care for you deeply. This is rare. Cherish the ones that bring you love. This is even more rare and quite beautiful. But realize too, that you should not hold on to someone for fear of losing them. "Some love stories are short stories, but still love stories nonetheless." As cheesy as this has sounded every time someone has said it: "if it’s meant to be it really will be". 

Sometimes, even if you don’t want to let go, it’s time. You just have to breath, realize it’s for the best, do it and watch as your life continues to unravel and every day becomes easier. You will get through what seems like heartbreak, only to fall even harder for the next person. It’s human nature. It’s life. 

So, no more self-pity! Take it upon yourself to be surrounded by people who love you, and move on from those who don't. Life is too short to be stuck in a rut.

    The Woman Behind Unleashed and the Words                       
   I am a Practice of Art Major and Creative Writing Minor at UC Berkeley. My passions are writing and the arts in general. I created Unleashed for the empowerment and enlightenment of women everywhere. I am the editor, designer and contributing writer. I truly hope this magazine speaks to each and every woman.  Sasha Martin