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Title: The social life of the Pill : an ethnography of contraceptive pill users in a central London family planning clinic
Author: Boydell, Victoria Jane
Awarding Body: London School of Economics and Political Science (University of London)
Current Institution: London School of Economics and Political Science (University of London)
Date of Award: 2010
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This is an ethnographic study of users of the oral contraceptive pill at a London specialist clinic. The pill was introduced in the United Kingdom in 1964 and is currently provided free of charge to twenty-five percent of British women. It has had a major impact on the sexual and reproductive lives of people in contemporary Britain. This ethnographic analysis of the pill contributes to our understanding of the cultural meanings and practices associated with the pill and shows some of the fundamental assumptions and expectations of pill users about their lives, including particularly ideas of femininity and nature. In this thesis, the central question of how the 'natural facts' of femininity are constantly negotiated in both private and public domains will be explored through the related examples of pregnancy, sex, and menstruation, as experienced and conceptualised by the women in this study. The ways in which these women use, think and talk about the pill demonstrate their efforts to balance the often contradictory demands made upon their bodies and persons in various social fields as they participate in social terrains once inhabited primarily by men. Therefore, a key argument will be that the social life of the pill is inseparable from the constitution of femininity and female bodies more broadly. This thesis contributes to the anthropological theory of "natural facts" by providing an example of how they are mobilised by women using the pill. It suggests that "natural facts" continue to provide a privileged ground for femininity. It adds to research on gender in the UK by illustrating the strategies employed by women at both symbolic and relational levels as they attempt to control their identities in the face of changing conventions and institutions. Finally, it is hoped that this ethnographic illustration of the experiences of pill users will provide insights relevant to the work of public health practitioners.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available