The Pink Pill Gains US FDA Approval

GATC is proud to present our first guest publication from

By Urvashi Singh

The first ever drug designed for lack of sexual desire among premenopausal women has gained approval from the United States’ Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Addyi, a flibanserin drug manufactured by Sprout Pharmaceuticals has been designed for premenopausal women suffering from a condition that is formally known as Hypoactive Sexual Desire Order (HSDD). This condition is prevalent among female populace around the globe, but remains relatively undiscussed on larger public platforms due to being rooted in matters of female sexuality.

Despite working differently as compared to Pfizer Inc’s Viagra for erectile dysfunction among men, Addyi has been nicknamed the “female Viagra” is to come with a prominent boxed warning due to the potential dangers that this drug holds for people suffering from liver impairments, as well as those taking certain steroids. The drug is feared to dangerously effect blood pressure levels and cause fainting if taken with alcohol. A consumer watchdog group in the United States has linked Addyi’s side effects as a potential cause for it to be suspended from the market in the near future. However, few believe in the authenticity of their foresight. Moreover, Palatin Technologies is creating a rival drug to combat HSDD, which, unlike Addyi (which activates the brain’s sexual impulses by selectively inhibiting serotonin), will attempt to activate certain neurological pathways in the brain. Several experts believe that the US FDA’s approval of Addyi marks the start to a blockbuster manufacturing trend among rival companies. They also concur that Addyi’s clinical studies are rather promising. While several medical factions speculate the drug’s benefits versus its risks, Addyi’s entry into the market holds a very different meaning for feminist worldwide.

Termed by the National Consumers League as “the biggest breakthrough in women’s sexual health since the advent of ‘the (contraceptive) pill’… it validates (and legitimises female sexuality as an important component of health”. Clearly, issues relating to sexuality, such as sexual impulse, desire and gratification are more comfortably discussed when related to men as compared to women. Pfizer Inc’s Viagra pill for male erectile dysfunction in 1998 highlighted the issue considerably, whereby erectile dysfunction came to be accepted as a medical condition that wasn’t just associated to stigma and ridicule, but also to a meaningful solution. Similarly, the oft-neglected and seldom addressed issue of hypoactive sexual desire disorder among women seems to have a solution after all. Medical solutions for issues relating to sexuality not only provide relief to the patients suffering from dysfunctions/ disorders, but they do so while authenticating the problem’s scientific and medical roots, thus divorcing it from too much social speculation that masters the act of conjuring. This is not to say that the problem is no longer stigmatised, but finding a medical solution to the problem saves the patient’s psychosis from delivering themselves to meaningless speculations by the society, which would have otherwise caused serious damage to their personal esteem and self-worth.

Societal factors in a country like India are still coming to terms with the reality of medical conditions that hamper or impair sexual aptitude even amongst males, which is seen as one of the biggest causative factors behind character assassinations among Indian men. A man in India might find nothing more insulting and offending than being called unmanly due to his diminished sexual prowess or a lack thereof. As issues relating to sexuality are stigmatised, so is their discussion. Now, consider the same situation amongst the less-privileged gender, whose open redressal of the issue is feared to tamper with matters relating not just to individual self-images of women, but collectively to family and communal honour. In such situations, the advancement of drugs catering to female sexuality-related problems comes as a great relief to patients suffering from these conditions who, on identifying medical-backed researches that diagnose their problems, are saved from social prejudice and meaningless norm-identifications. More importantly, this approval also paves way for a larger number of the world’s female populace to find equal sexual gratification as their male counterparts, hence ridding themselves of the oft-quoted drudgery associated with the act.

When it comes to mainstream manufacturing of such drugs in India, a key consideration is that of pricing and affordability. Another is that of the rigorousness and selectiveness with which medical practitioners prescribe this drug. As optimistic as its gender dimension promises to be, it is equally important that health faculties worldwide maintain stringent rules and regulations dominating drug prescription and directions of use to its patients, with precisely laid-out guidelines around the drug’s prognosis. Leaving this responsibility to the discretion of global and national drug administrations, the symbolism of the US FDA’s approval of Addyi is significantly empowering in matters of female sexuality and desire.

Power to Pink! 🙂

News courtesy: Clarke, T. and Pierson, R. (2015). For Lack of Sexual Desire: US FDA approves ‘female Viagra’, but with strong warning. Indian Express (August 20th)

Spectrums not Binaries: Gender on Film

Gender And The City is proud to present its first ever video publication! Director Claudia Palazzo collaborates with Francis Doody and some of the GATC team to produce a short film that discusses gender, sexuality, self-possession and pop.

Against the backdrop of an Essex shower room three performers take us on a surreal journey of fears, fetishes and dance routines. We face the anxiety of finding yourself on the spectrum of gender and sexual orientation: the pressure of finding an identity while you’re still young enough to shape one.

The strong yet fluid performances combine with Francis Doody’s fragile vocals and Thomas Swarman’s deep baselines to draw us into the dilemma of the main character. Their apprehension about the gender binary translates into a moving tale about trying to find your position in a society obsessed with categories.

“I am interested in the moments before performance that are full of self-doubt and narcissism: the transitory space between the private and the public. I often think about how we perform being ourselves and what it means to lose yourself.” Claudia Palazzo (Creative Director and Choreographer).

Watch, reflect and let us know what you think!

Do you recognise the song?


Director and Choreographer:  Claudia Palazzo

Director of Photography:         Ian Buswell

Music:                                      Don’t cha By The Pussycat Dolls

Arranged and performed by Francis Doody

Produced by Thomas Swarman

Performers:                              Francis Doody, Grace Nicol, Tom Tree

Crew:                                       Victoria Palazzo

White Feminism: Not Even Good for White Feminists

By Camille Jean Brown

How to Navigate a ‘Taylor Swift Moment’

When Feminista Jones came to my campus last autumn I was the most excited to hear her talk about her #YouOkSis campaign against street harassment. Thinking my feminist roommate (white, like me) would also be going to such a momentous occasion, I asked her if she would like to have dinner beforehand.

“I was going to go but I didn’t know she’d be talking about black feminism. I thought she’d be talking about everybody feminism.”

Frustrated, I went to the talk alone.

My roommate, like many white feminists, didn’t get it. Equality for women may be a single issue but, as Audre Lorde put it so well, “there is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.”

For feminist ideologies to work properly they require a fundamental understanding of intersectionality, namely the way in which various societal constructs (e.g. race, gender, class, sexuality) work together for various individuals. That means feminist ideologies, even when applied to a subgroup of women, are applicable to even those who do not identify with that group.

Let me give you an example.

A few weeks ago, the internet blew up over Nicki Minaj calling out the MTV Video Music Awards for nominating a video that “celebrates women with very slim bodies.” A few tweets later, Taylor Swift invited Minaj onto the stage with her to share the victory if ‘Bad Blood’ were to win Video of the Year, but in doing this, Taylor was ignoring intersectionality in favour of a “white feminist” viewpoint. What I mean is that Nicki’s whole string of tweets were recognising a racial unfairness as well as pointing out her body’s nonconformity to beauty standards. Nicki’s statement came at the intersection of her being black and being a woman. Taylor’s counterargument, unfortunately, took the white feminist approach and dismissed Nicki’s racial statement. By suggesting Nicki was “pitting women against each other” and inviting her to share the stage, Taylor was tapping into a mainstream white feminism that is not inclusive.

Okay, so Taylor’s apology tweet about misunderstanding makes sense.

But doesn’t it also make sense for Taylor or some other white feminist to misunderstand the argument in the first place? We were so quick to feel better about the two making up. We forgave the white feminist for not understanding.

On the other hand, it definitely makes sense for black feminists to have understood where Nicki was coming from. The problem here is that the person with more privilege is given the benefit of the doubt while the person with less privilege has to understand mainstream (white) feminism to make the argument in the first place. In many ways, black feminists must take mainstream feminist ideologies and weave in racial experiences in order to make an argument under which they apply at all.

Apply that to women of any other non-white racial or ethnic identity and you see that the same approach is necessary.

Make sense?

So, now, why should white feminists care about this if “their” feminism is the “norm”?

The freedom to ignore intersectionality is a sign of privilege. And white feminists (like myself) have the option of running with that privilege without looking back. However, gender equality will not go as far if we do so.

In addition, when I talk about feminists I don’t only mean women. Men can be feminists, too. My roommate didn’t want to attend Feminista Jones’s talk because of a racial difference. That’s similar to a man saying he didn’t want to attend because of a gender difference.

The talk definitely applied to men in attendance, just as it applied to white women. There were things to be learnt. In fact, most women of colour in attendance probably already knew most of what Feminista was talking about. Those not identifying as black feminists probably had the most to learn.

And that is why white feminism isn’t even good for white feminists.

White feminism ignores a whole slew of issues that women of colour deal with perhaps in more intense ways. For example:

  • White women are the standard of beauty that women of colour are expected to conform to. At the same time, white people have a tendency to appropriate the fashions of other cultures — picking and choosing what they deem “beautiful.”
  • The black community tends to prize “thick” women but those same women receive critiques for not having the thin body type that mainstream society prizes.
  • Affirmative action tends to help white women more than women of colour.
  • White women don’t struggle with the same level of anxieties about their natural hair.
  • Women of colour have a much harder time finding beauty products that work for their hair type and skin colour.
  • As Feminista Jones described in the talk I attended, women of colour are more likely be street harassed, more likely to be victims of random acts of violence including sexual assault, and more likely to be murdered.

All of the above and more are true. The facts aren’t meant to diminish the struggles all women face. Rather, they are meant to point out the diversity of struggles mainstream feminism tends to ignore. They are still very much issues of gender equality. White feminism leaves behind women of colour and, therefore, does not allow gender equality to reach its full potential. It’s still okay to have a Taylor Swift moment from time to time but only if you recover with a healthy look at your privilege in relation to the statement you’re making.
[Note: For the most part I’ve spoken about intersectionality as it applies to race and gender because those are ideas I’ve studied extensively. It is important to consider while reading how intersectionality applies to any other social construct that creates a system of privilege as it interacts with feminism.]