Birth control not really causing gender dysphoria in fish

birth control pills

You may have been told your birth control pills are leading to high levels of estrogen pollution in our water supply. The American Life League has built a campaign to stop women from taking birth control by arguing that it has detrimental environmental impacts. The campaign plays to fears about the decline of masculinity, except this time we’re talking about unacceptably feminine fish.

According to a study from UC San Francisco, only a small fraction (less than 1%) of estrogen pollution is actually caused by birth control pills. Our farming system is a much much bigger culprit. But of course we jump to blame women taking care of their own reproductive health instead of a huge industry.

Estrogen pollution isn’t a non issue. Beyond absurd fears about masculinity in fish, this pollution does disrupt reproduction in some species and estrogen in drinking water has been linked to fertility problems and cancer in people. But putting the blame on birth control pills is apparently an inaccurate scare tactic, and linking this issue to people’s fears about gender non-conformity is just insulting.

Boston, MA

Jos Truitt is Executive Director of Development at Feministing. She joined the team in July 2009, became an Editor in August 2011, and Executive Director in September 2013. She writes about a range of topics including transgender issues, abortion access, and media representation. Jos first got involved with organizing when she led a walk out against the Iraq war at her high school, the Boston Arts Academy. She was introduced to the reproductive justice movement while at Hampshire College, where she organized the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program’s annual reproductive justice conference. She has worked on the National Abortion Federation’s hotline, was a Field Organizer at Choice USA, and has volunteered as a Pro-Choice Clinic Escort. Jos has written for publications including The Guardian, Bilerico, RH Reality Check, Metro Weekly, and the Columbia Journalism Review. She has spoken and trained at numerous national conferences and college campuses about trans issues, reproductive justice, blogging, feminism, and grassroots organizing. Jos completed her MFA in Printmaking at the San Francisco Art Institute in Spring 2013. In her "spare time" she likes to bake and work on projects about mermaids.

Jos Truitt is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Development.

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  • nazza

    Not only does it apply to fears that masculinity itself is in decline, it’s a effort to try to use the basic framework of a typical progressive argument by means of subterfuge. It’s disingenuous, but also not based on anything like sound science.

  • Matt

    I would suppose that a conservative organization would be inclined to blame sources of pollution that bolster their agenda, even if their contributions are (relatively) minor. They just want women to stop taking birth control.

  • Cory

    I guess we better stop eating.

  • Kimberly Inez McGuire

    This information can be difficult to digest for non-scientists. For a “lay person’s” guide to the UCSF study, check out this fact sheet from the Reproductive Health Technologies Project:

  • littlepritties

    Actually studies do say that the estrogen levels in our water do impact us. The percent of (I think) prostate cancer has gone up and scientists have pointed their fingers at the estrogen levels in our water. If it is true we need to find a way to fix the estrogen pollution… somehow. The water treatment plant i visited specifically said they had no way of removing the estrogen or other pharmaceuticals from the treated water. The need to insure birth control is available and legal is certain but how to keep it from harming the environment needs just as much attention.