Caitlin Karolczak, "The Martyrdom of St. Agatha"
Patron against sterility, against natural disasters, against breast cancer,
for rape victims, for single women, for torture victims, for wet-nurses
This summer, I am beginning by closely reading Humoral Theory besides philosophies regarding contemporary Physics, Biology and Chemistry. Again, I am thinking about key terms. Thus I set a challenge to myself: to pick a few key terms and think through their implications for how we look at the production of bodies, particularly gendered bodies, and how this has in term been exploited in one way or another by State and Capitalist Engines. My initial research produced the following terms, which will each be explored in a series of three posts highlighting one of the three inter-penetrating disciplines of contemporary science: Heat (Physics), Estrogen (Biology), and Silicone (Chemistry).
From Humors to Hormones
As I sit listening for ESTROGEN, I am overwhelmed with noise. Its presence is felt in excess but what it is passes over me like unfamiliar voices in a crowded room. The room is the construct of my own knowledge of gender. I didn’t invent it, but occupy it and tend to its maintenance, even as I plot my remodeling. I try to hear through the voices to get back the hormone and again and again I fail. All I can hear is the room, reverberating with the shouting of those who build it. Desperately I fight the urge to reject the existence of ESTROGEN in favor of an episteme. I hear how ESTROGEN was defined and given a place in the production of women before we knew it existed. It’s hardly metaphoric to say that we met ESTROGEN on the road and before it could introduce itself we grabbed it by the shoulders and babbled “Oh thank God, where have you been Mr. Sex Hormone? We have some women we need you to explain and control.” We put it to work without learning its tongue or trade. I am confident in this because we still know as much about ESTROGEN as we do about women; these two products remain as dark to us as they are to one another. We operate them as if by magic, pushes and pulls to invoke rote ends, but ultimately as an Other to the internal life of ESTROGEN.
In the Abolition of Man, CS Lewis contended that magicians were the brothers of the scientist, the one was weak and died, the other successful and rewrote his own history. He contends that the distinction came in the Early Modern period when Alchemy, Astrology, and their kin gave birth to these unruly descendants. I can’t say if this is not as good an explanation as any, because Astrology is not the brother of Astronomy and nor is Alchemy the brother of Chemistry, they predate them and are distinct in at least one very consequential way: they depended on what they could not see. The Magician (like Dr. Faustus) and the Scientist are students of the eye; they make what they command visible before they issue their orders. They are empiricists and they do not like to work in the dark; hence the name and disdain they give to the Dark Ages, as that which came before their own age, which they unabashedly call “the Enlightenment.” And yet the dark things are no less present nor are they any les dark because of the lights we blare. Our empirical method only means that we see certain things more emphatically in a certain way and become all the more blinded to and afraid of what exists beyond the iridescence of our ordering and naturalizing gaze.
To understand the dark-magic of hormones, we need to understand the dark-science of the humors. According to Galen's book On the Natural Faculties, informed by Hippocrates, gender is a product of a difference (a defect, in fact) in dryness and heat. All human life begins identical in the womb, but because of a variety of factors (most of which are pinned on the pregnant mother) a fetus may not “cook” long enough or hot enough to make the internal organs (i.e. vagina, ovaries) to pop out and become external organs (i.e. penis, scrotum). While we discussed this difference during the HEAT portion of this initial research, the relationship of this gestation to the humors was set aside. For the humors (blood, yellow bile, black bile, and phlegm) are likewise the results of different levels of HEAT, and the morphological differences that determine a child’s gender in this system likewise come with humoral (we might call biochemical) differences as well. For this reason and others, we may take translator AJ Brock’s argument that “our modern conception of ‘hormone’ action shows certain resemblances with this [humoral] theory” (xxxiii).
Different balances in the humors, such as those between men and women, would have a menagerie of effects on the body. Disposition (mood), skin tone (complexion), size of certain organs, regularity of bodily functions, fertility, pregnancy, etc, were all read as dependent on the levels of these humors. Today, we regard hormones with the same pervasive powers of influence and market them as solutions to imbalances in the body. Because men were read as the standard model of humoral balance, women are given special attention in the literature as the exception that proves the rule. In the same way, worry over hormones largely began and remains primarily a women’s issue. Not only are we allowed to forget that men also have ESTROGEN but often that they have hormones at all; injections of Testosterone, for instance, are largely called “T” or “steroids,” to disassociate it from its identity as hormone therapy.
As will be explored, the pervasiveness of ESTROGEN and its ecological effects are myriad, but the dangers that have caused legislators to cap ESTROGEN emissions have only or mainly been its toxicity, but its gender. The men in congress worry that it may be making them into women. This fear existed before we knew what ESTROGEN was. It’s “discovery” came as part of a search specifically for the “sex-hormones” that produce men and women distinctly. We found it, noted it’s certain effects on genitals, breasts, etc. and declared we had found the chemical reason for gender; however many of those who made the discovery disagreed with this conclusion. Surprisingly, one of the largest groups to contend that ESTROGEN does not in fact make you into a woman, are doctors and biochemists. This is not just a gender versus sex distinction (gender as social, sex as biological). No, these bio-medical experts don’t necessarily think sex exists at all. As early as 1923, with the rise of understanding of hormones and the body, NCR Committee member for the Research in Problems of Sex (CRPS), Frank Lillie concluded:
“There is no such biological entity as sex. What exists in nature is a dimorphism…in any given species we recognize a male form and a female form, whether these characteristics be classed as biological, or psychological or social orders. Sex is not a force that produces these contrasts. It is merely a name for our total impression of these differences… It is difficult to divest ourselves of these pre-scientific anthropomorphism… and we have been particularly slow in the field of the scientific study of sex-characteristics in divesting ourselves not only of the terminology but also of the influence of such ideas.”
If sex is already gender, a way of relating or knowing another, then when we consider ESTROGEN and women as things which have been produced and sold as feminine, we must work at the politics of the gender industrial complex. We will look at the makers and made of transgender healthcare, birth-control, menopausal medicine, and meat farms.
One of several reasons I left the discussion of ESTROGEN for last is that its relationship to the products and production of females has become so naturalized that it almost goes without saying; this speaks volumes. Now, being female without having ESTROGEN seems unthinkable, so that becoming female means to collect more ESTROGEN, whether by developments at conception, at puberty, at impregnation, or at the pharmacy where one receives it by injection or pill.
It is this naturalization, this refusal to see not only beyond the light, but even what the light may illuminate, that makes ESTROGEN and women dark objects: they refuse to respond to our methods of inquiry; they reject the premise of the question and ordering of our gaze.
“Any or all of the things mentioned can be withheld by some men from other men; by those who sell, or who approve of the sale, or who control the means of production, or who make the goods. What we call ‘man’s power over nature’ is really the power of some men over other men…
Every victory ‘by Man’ is a victory ‘over Man’.
It makes him stronger as well as weaker.”
It makes him stronger as well as weaker.”
CS Lewis, the Abolition of Man
If you have not already guessed, the room that I have been occupying is a kind of prison, or else a way to hide in plain sight; and for that you may call me fortunate. So far I have been able to pass inspection and cross through the borderlands that divide this cell and the one next door. That line is a no-man’s land. It is a place where the light of our empirical method shines brightly, policing and flushing out the dark places to see that land remains clear and everyone in their proper place, or else not. While ESTROGEN remains largely unlit, it has become one of the police and so it shines it’s the flashlight elsewhere. As we follow its gaze, we might see scratched into the land testimony of a genocide against gender outlaws.
While “transgender healthcare,” especially in the United States, is largely considered an oxymoron, it remains important as a theoretical area of the medical industry in regards to selling and regulating gender identities. Regarded mostly as either an outlier or an extreme case, trans* and intersex persons are offered as instances in which hormone levels and morphological features are so out of balance that intense regiments of “hormone therapy” must be purchased, overseen by doctors, then verified by state personnel, to bring these bodies back in line with one of two publicly recognized categories of gender.
Many doctors and advocates do not regard “transgender healthcare” or gender so starkly, but this remains the case for many, who largely consider it merely as a theoretical oddity which inform the general practice of medical gender regulation. If hormone treatments can be said to “change a man into a woman,” then surely, they can claim that it can be used to bring bodies that are already recognized as women “better in line” with their femininity. Indeed an increasing number of medical professionals and legislators are becoming less permitting of access to ESTROGEN for transgender persons. In Normal Life: Administrative Violence, Critical Trans Politics and the Limits of the Law, Dean Spade notes that while in the recent decades with a rapid increase in hormone administrations, the number of legal prescriptions for trans patients is diminishing:
“Estrogens are frequently prescribed to nontransgender people for a variety of conditions including hypogonadism, menopause, late onset of puberty, vulvular astrophy, atrophic vaginitis, ovary problems…intersex conditions, breast cancer or prostate cancer….Nontransgender women who are diagnosed with hirsutism—where facial or body hair grows in what are considered abnormal amounts—are frequently treated for this condition through Medicaid coverage’s… treatments designed to help create genitals that meet social norms of appearance are frequently provided and covered for children born with intersex conditions” (Dean 148-9).
A major reason for the increase in hormone therapy among nontransgender and a decrease in the healthcare given those who are transgender is that the healthcare industry has hardened on the opinion that hormones, including ESTROGEN, not only bestow one of two genders onto a body but should be used to police and correct this two-part division of the genders. Furthermore, enforcement of the legal definition of gender, which is determined for transgender and nontransgender alike is effectively: what your genitals look like. Once a certain shape has been determined, usually at birth by a doctor, then typically the gender of that person is legally set.
That is why intersex persons can get treatment, to bring their genitals into line and why nontransgender men and women can get aid to bring their bodies back into line if abnormalities in their shape or function occur. Thus transgender persons, because they are regarded as already having one gender, based on their genitals, are being increasingly turned down, because they seek to defy popular State, Medical, cultural & religious definitions of their gender. Transition is regarded as foolishness at best, a transgression against the Law, Nature, or God at worst.
Transgender persons, even those who can afford the expensive private health insurance and fork out the large amounts of money to personally fund the surgeries are finding themselves stopped at the doctors door; especially the increasingly number of transpersons that wish to have hormone therapy without surgical changes to their genitals. In Transpeople: Repudiation, Trauma, Healing, Christopher Shelley provides numerous accounts of healthcare discrimination.
- “Yossi (Ftm) lives with multiple
disabilities and often requires medical assistance. He finds that healthcare
professionals often get ‘hung up’ on his trans-ness, regardless of his reason
for consulting them. He recounts once being rushed to the emergency department
at a hospital. After he revealed his trans status, he was asked several
questions: ‘they got all caught up in asking about my genitals, ‘have you had
genital surgery YET, or DO YOU PLAN TO?; and you know, when you’ve been hit by
a car, those are not really the kinds of questions you want to go through”
- “Califia (2003) tells the story of Trya Hunter, who was gravely injured in a hit-and-run accident. When emergency personnel arrived they were compelled to cut off her pants to order to enable treatment of injuries. Discovering Tyra had a penis, the first attending paramedic jumped back and yelled ‘that ain’t no bitch!’ They refused to continue treating Tyra’s serious wounds and she later died” (Shelly 65)
The result of this refusal to provide or finance healthcare, many transgender persons chose to “self-medicate,” seeking black-market hormones and surgeries which can be not only hazardous but fatal. David Valentine in Imagining Transgender: an Ethnography of a Category, joins Spade and Shelley, in tracing the line of cause and effect following public transitioning which begins: (1) rejection from a support system, (2) an inability to find work, (3) financial inabilities to afford treatments, (3) a turn to prostitution to bring in income, (4) a turn to illegal drugs to help deal with physical & psychological repercussions, followed by (5) arrest and prison; or suicide.
Polls such as the Seattle & King County Health Department report above 20% of transgender persons attempt suicide and Dr. Paul Cody of the University of New Hampshire Counseling Center report more than 50% attempting. While there is a range of 20% to 50%, the majority of polls trend towards affirming that half of all trans persons will commit suicide by the age of 20. Yes, pioneering in ESTROGEN has allowed some trans persons to pursue transformations which make their lives more livable, but the force of the healthcare industry and the legal system has turned hormones primarily into a denied possibility. ESTROGEN has become a participant in a genocide which through the sin of omission sees that between 1 in 5 or 1 in 2 trans persons end up dead by their own hands, and the bulk of the rest either working on the streets, working in jail, or working in the capitalist-state system to pay off life-long healthcare debts for treatments that their insurance refuses to cover.
The odds are, arriving into this world transgender is a literal death-sentence, or else a ticket to a life in jail or buried in debt.
The odds are, arriving into this world transgender is a literal death-sentence, or else a ticket to a life in jail or buried in debt.
“Every act of will is an act of self-limitation...
when you choose anything, you reject everything else…
It is obvious that ‘thou shall not’ is only one of the necessary corollaries of ‘I will.’
‘I will go to the Lord Major’s Show, and thou shall not stop me’”
GK Chesterton, “The Suicide of Thought”
ESTROGEN, since it was first synthesized, became a participant in a movement which has been responsible for the lives and choices of millions: eugenics. "Eugenics warned that the nation's 'racial stock' was endangered… To limit the burden placed on the whiter middle class by poverty and crime, believed to result from the 'weak heredity' of immigrants and darker skinned peoples, eugenicists advocated controlling the reproduction of the so-called unfit and promoted child-bearing among those thought to represent strong racial stock" (175). Thus before women were sexually conceived they may be abstractly conceived and their production planned. ESTROGEN’s development became explicitly marketed throughout the 20th century for and by state-medical authorities as capable of limiting the birth of undesirable women of color, class, disability, sexual orientation, etc. While latently and simultaneously promoted as empowering women with the choice to conceive or not, thousands of women were systematically sterilized by doctors who gave partial or no information on the procedures they executed on their patients.
As Aharon W. Zorea notes in Health & Medical Issues Today: Birth Control, women, especially women of color and those in poor neighborhoods were revealed as late as 1973 with consenting to and receiving a series of routine “shots” as part of their yearly check-up, that turned out to be, without their knowledge, a ESTROGEN-based sterilizations. Some girls as young as twelve-years old from these communities were given anesthetic and then "taken back into surgery where they underwent tubal ligation procedures,” all of which was executed “without their knowledge or the consent of their parents” (Zorea 87).
These procedures were legal and promoted in many states beginning in the 1920’s, continuing to be on the books into the 1970’s. Legislators wanted to eugenically diminish the number of society’s “dependents” by targeting “poor immigrants and other minorities” (Zorea 87). Challenges throughout these 50 years, were overturned by the 1927 Supreme Court ruling in Buck v. Bell that these practices were constitutional and that states had the right to legislate implementations to control population and the production of desirable off-spring. Zorea notes that in 1973, the same year that Ebony Magazine published series of articles unveiling these secret state sterilizations, “14 states considered resolutions to attach sterilization requirements to state well-fare provisions.” These resolutions were stopped by public opposition however, as “the American Civil Liberties Union filed several lawsuits, and no state legally permitted involuntary sterilization on the basis of income” (87). This victory for the Union however did not exclude involuntary sterilization on the basis of other prejudices, such as race.
Even with political pressures curtailing the outright involuntary sterilization, there remains factors that trouble choice and informed consent with the use of ESTROGEN-based pills and patches. In Our Control: the Complete Guide to Contraceptive Choices for Women, Laura Eldridge extensively reports on the history of Birth-Control Manufacturers and doctors that have been fined for prescribing pills without giving legally adequate information that the product was a type of birth control or that it carried such risks as inducing blood-clots, stroke, and cancer. Products such as Yas and Yasmin, which remains one of the most sold versions of Estrogen-based Birth-Control on the market, continues to pay out damages for their years of marketing the pill as a cure for cramps and acne without making it clear that it did so by controlling the bodies ovulation and menstruation; or that in animal testing it carried with it a variety of health risks.
Beside direct human use, ESTROGEN as a social-object itself acts with surprising independence. In Toxic Bodies: Hormone Disruptors and the Legacy of DES, Nancy Langston maps the various recorded effects that such pills have on the body that researches and consumers cannot fully understand, predict, or control. Even when these hormones are no longer in use, they can remain active in the body for months and years, making it difficult to control what the drug does. ESTROGENS can in fact have seemingly contradictory effects in different forms and doses. Among the notable effects of Diethylstilbestrol (DES), in addition to functioning as both a birth control and an ESTROGEN supplement for pregnant to “increase the size and health” of babies, the drug also can function as a abortifacient, can change the “gender” of offspring by altering the size and development of different organs in the womb, as well as “increase the likelihood of cancer in those offspring when they reached sexual maturity” (Langston 55-6). The magic word for potential toxins like ESTROGEN is “dose” This was also true for Galen’s abortifacient’s, which a varied and included a host of things that would only cause miscarriage if taken in certain doses without passing or inducing vomiting (285).
It is this mysteriousness, the dark magic of DES, which makes it potentially dangerous and allows it to stay on the market. Not only are the effects unpredictable in animal experiments and human experiments, the more predictable effects, including cancer, which is visible in the animal tests are argued to not be a guarantee that such effects will be visible among humans. Also, since human testing is so restricted and with so many contributing factors to the development of cancers and other conditions, even the more extensive and telling studies on human use of ESTROGEN-based birth control can be rejected by State regulators because they do not and largely cannot meet the requirements to be considered conclusive. Potentially dangerous pharmaceuticals are permitted on the market until conclusive evidence is available to show their danger to human life; in other words, legally, manufacturers are innocent until proven guilty.
Then again, many scientists, legislators, and consumers regard these risks as worthwhile, especially to produce and “guarantee” (keep within control) a certain definition of womanhood. The ability to choose not to conceive, to feel better able to conceive, and to maintain desired physical qualities such as skin, fat content, hair, and body shape, all of which produce a defined sense of what it means to be a woman, have been a part of the selling point behind ESTROGEN-based birth control since their development.
Undoubtedly, women are produced, violated, and controlled, especially sexually & reproductively, unacceptably and this contributes to the arguments justifying the risks & consequences of using ESTROGEN-based contraceptives. Nonetheless, birth control remains a part of this violence and being a feminine product (for women & ESTROGEN) means relating to the violent political machine of reproduction.
In chapter four of her book, “Help for Women Over Forty,” Langston plumbs the history of researchers, legislators and marketers of ESTROGEN hormone therapy and discovers across them all the claim that ESTROGEN makes you a woman and ESTROGEN makes you young. By the 1930’s “menopause became defined as a ‘deficiency disease’ in need of treatment, and women’s health became increasingly controlled by professionals. Doctors, researchers, and pharmaceutical companies developed networks of expertise to develop and market new drugs for the treatment of menopausal symptoms. It was in this context that the search for cheap synthetic estrogen intensified” (Langston 31).
Taking this as an opportunity to diagnose part of women’s bodily rhythms as a disease, researchers, lawmakers and drug companies had an excuse to push forward on their examination to map, monitor, and control (as well as market) women’s bodies. By the 1940’s, even when researchers began to inform legislators that ESTROGEN was not bound directly to women alone, i.e. to defining gender. Initially there had been an established belief in a two gender, two hormone dichotomy, which “according to this simple formula, females produced female sex hormones such as estrogen, which made them feminine, and males produced male sex hormones such as testrone, making them masculine. But this simple idea became more complex…endocrinologists realized that both sexes contained both male and female hormones” and this “transformed biological definitions of sex” (Langston 29). Going on ESTROGEN is hardly any guarantee of an increase in femininity, it may even reduce the bodily effects which encode the body as feminine because at different levels, ESTROGEN will in fact increase testosterone production in bodies, causing, for instance, an increase of body hair.
The FDA also revealed that it had numerous potential risks including the increased likelihood of blood-clots and cancers, drug-companies covered up this information. “Women taking HT [hormone treatment] and ET [estrogen treatment] were having serious health problems: more heart disease, cancer, strokes, pulmonary embolisms, and blood clots than women taking placebos. These findings flew in the face of decades of research…HT and ET were on the market for sixty years before conventional wisdom was overturned” (Eldridge 44). The crux, however marketing might claim to return youth to menopausal women, was age. “The results of WHI aren’t applicable to young women and the pill. The same hormones work very differently in women’s bodies before and after menopause” (Eldridge 44). A body’s changes over time further complicate beliefs that ESTROGEN has clear and specific effects. In the same way that “if you are forty when you off the pill, you will not regain the fertility of a twenty-year old” (Eldridge ) neither will going on ESTROGEN later in life will return the same bodily effects as when you were younger. Going on ESTORGEN is then hardly any guarantee of an return to youth, as complications due to age may not only compound current conditions, they may bring about blood-clots, strokes, heart-attacks, and cancer.
Despite the protests of the researchers and the FDA, the drug companies decided to use direct to public marketing to raise popular support by convincing menopausal women that they were sick and that a cure was on the way, if only the FDA would stop blocking it. “Lettings flooded into the FDA offices from women begging that diethylstilbestrol [DES] be made available” (Langston 28-29). The pressure worked and more menopausal hormone therapy treatments were released by the FDA and this in turn raised the money and profile to sell menopause as a disease & ESTROGEN as not only the cure for it, but the cure for aging as well. Fausto-Sterling affirms in Sexing the Body, that by the 1960’s,doctors such as Robert A Wilson was telling the public that “the stigma of Nature’s defeminization [at menopause]” brought about “a general stiffness of muscles, a dowager’s hump, and a vapid cow-like negative state.” (Fausto-Sterling 146). “Postmonepausal women, he wrote in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society, existed but did not live” (146). With such sales pitches from medical experts, one would expect research to collaborate, but neither the FDA or scientists agreed.
While the effects of ESTROGEN can neither give femininity nor a return to a pre-reproductive state, the promise of youth was broadly bought into by consumers, doctors, and lawmakers. “Some doctors promoted the therapy not just to treat the symptoms of aging by to arrest the process of aging itself.” (Langston 44). This was not simply part of the age-old battle against mortality, but reflected a deeply ingrained prejudice against women; a prejudice deepened by discussions of age & ESTROGEN. “The urge to control the disorderly nature of the hormonal female body was closely linked to a sense that women were flawed by nature, unable to make rational decisions without the careful guidance of the experts…many specialists saw women as creatures who were made irrational, almost child-like, by their hormones” (Langston 44-45).
Thus while often a source a relief from various symptoms, the prescription and marketing of ESTROGEN for menopausal women is not geared towards the liberation or re-feminization of bodies but the control of them but a culture that is as anxious about "the disorderly female body" as they are about age. ESTROGEN may be a useful ally for the material feminist, but not as a return to the light, but as an escape into the darkness by which queer monsters may thrive outside the reproductive futurity of enlightenment science and industry.
As Gianna E Israel and Donal E Tarver II, MD note in Transgender Care: Recommended Guidelines, Practical Information & Personal Accounts, the primary source for drug-manufacturers of ESTROGEN is the urine of pregnant mares. The juice filtered from pig ovaries as well as the crushed extracts of guinea pig and dog testicles have also been used to synthesize hormones. Some animal experimenting has included grafting the ovaries and testes of chickens, rats, and guinea pigs into animals of another gender. Once the discovery was made that the urine of pregnant animals contains significant amounts of ESTROGEN which can be synthesized, there was what Fausto-Sterling calls a veritable “gold rush” to begin collecting urine for experimentation and drug production. To this day, the urine of pregnant horses and human women remains the largest source of certain types of ESTROGENS.
Over time and experimentation, however, hormones began to be discovered in more and more places, adding men, soy, and certain types of plastics as sources of ESTROGEN production. These studies suggested even more ways that ESTROGENS function and potential uses it could be marketed for. Particularly when the connection was made between the boost in the production in the mammary glands, fat, etc among human women that were on ESTROGEN and the similar effects it could have on cows, then the drug industry really began to get cooking towards milking that market in a new way.
Following the second World War and the baby boom that followed, there was a concern by American farmers and legislators that the US had enough cattle that could be slaughtered to produce the meat and dairy sufficient enough to fulfill the demand of the general public. This anxiety met with the gendered assumptions that men needed to eat meat to become masculine and that women needed meat and dairy to give birth to strong men. This combined with an increased faith in American industrialization, technological innovations and chemical engineering saw a push from legislators and corporations to “modernize” the meat market by pioneering hormones to increase the birth rate, size, and milk production of cattle, as well as the birth rate, size and egg production of chickens. With government approval and sponsorship ESTROGEN and other hormones began to fulfill these desires, so much so that a whole new age of mechanization to reduce the amount of time, space, energy and effort needed to raise, breed, house and kill the animals. Cattle farming then became the meat industry we know today.
ESTROGEN has become so indoctrinated into society that the healthcare industry, lawmakers, and consumers worry over the flood of ESTROGEN we receive by eating meat or drinking a bottle of soda; even or vegetables and tap water are monitored for ESTROGEN to determine toxicity. As Nancy Langston reminds us in Toxic Bodies: Hormone Disruptors and the Legacy of DES, legally it is the dose of a material that determines it as a toxin. Anything, perhaps, can be considered a toxin at high enough levels. ESTROGEN however has been shown in animal studies to cause health problems, even cancer, at extremely low doses, doses far less than we imbibe in some areas by drinking from the faucet. The logic behind the chemical manufacturer’s and water-sanitation’s defense is that there has yet to be conclusive testing to show a causal effect between ESTROGEN and human death. Also, counter intuitively, ESTROGEN in higher doses and chemical forms shows to be less dangerous than in smaller doses. Despite unknowns, dangers and violence against animal test subjects however, ESTROGEN has been embraced as a boon with dismissible risks except one: its threat to gender norms if it is not controlled.
Just as its purpose was predetermined before its discovery, ESTROGEN’s associated dangers were likewise pre-scripted before the test results began to be reported. With cows and chickens receiving extra ESTROGEN and men eating their meat, is it possible that men (even soldiers) could become feminized as a result? When the studies came back, the answer was: yes.
Then reports began to be released showing that the environments around these meat factories were showing a noticeable increase in ESTROGEN levels, including in the soil and water which absorbed the fecal matter and other bodily excrement’s of the hormone injected animals. As a result the consumption of the water and vegetables, as well as regular contact through skin and breathing in the air showed notable changes on the human inhabitants including “marked disturbances in menstrual function and…a devitalization in men” as a result the FDA suggested “the employment of old rather than young men” at these locations, because of a feeling that such effects were less of a concern for those after their prime age for reproduction. The FDA continued to assure the public that the consumption of meat and produce from these regions were safe, while “acknowledging that male workers might become infertile and grow breasts, while female workers may have their menstrual cycles disturbed” (Langston). In time more regulation would be put into place on the use of hormones on meat, following further animal testing, but the motto remained and remains for many that these are dangers and concerns for “mice, not men.”
But how about those mice? The following is a small sample of some of the ecological impact, intentional and unintentional from the spike of ESTROGEN pollution. Pigeons in various states, including New York and California have been "put on the pill" through the release of OvoControl P, which sterilizes these birds prohibiting their eggs from developing correctly. This practice has recently been expanded to eugenically diminish the population of geese and deer. In West Virginia, Maryland, the Great Lakes, and Arizona (near Las Vegas) the release of ESTROGEN into the water systems from the flushing of birth control down the drain directly or when the hormone passes through the urinary track has been cited for the development of inter-sex fish. "Cross-gender" behavior has been witnessed among birds given hormone enriched foods, causing rapid changes to reproductive, nesting, and territorial habits among male and females of the species. Similar studies have been performed on white mice revealing similar cross-gender activity with the introduction of extra hormones into their diet.
Ecologists, gender theorists, and bio-chemists however are quick to warn against invoking the same anxiety used to defend men against "feminization" or to control women's bodies, and simply applying them to animals. Remember, it was the researchers that experimented on the relationship between hormones and gender on rats that first began to seriously challenge the existence of gender or sex as physical phenomena outside cultural contexts for certain morphological features. Calling for vindication for the lab and farm animals that are exploited to satiate our scientific, industrial, & culinary markets, we need to remain conscious of the problematic human-centric assumptions we bring to this effort. To what extent do we bring our trans-phobia, inter-sex-phobia, crip-phobia, and anthropomorphizing along as further forms of violence against animals? As Langston argues in the conclusion to her book, we must challenge ourselves to promote different kinds of lives for different kinds of life-forms, which may also include accepting the mortality of short lived species, while doing our best not to significantly contribute to its acceleration.
I join Langston, and the others, in demanding not only a more eco-conscious partnership with ESTROGEN and women, but the development of an ability to better live amidst darkness & among monsters; if for no other reason than we already do.