The action of deliberately arousing public fear or alarm about a particular issue.
To put it simply, fear mongering is the act of affecting the choices and beliefs of people because of the experiences and beliefs of another. For a simple, non-problematic example: imagine you told your friend that you were trying a new restaurant, and they responded with “I just ate there and had the eggplant parm and it sucked”, and you leave the conversation believing that the restaurant is therefore bad. BUT, your friend maybe forgot to tell you that they have never liked eggplant in the first place. Make sense?
Fear mongering is what happens when facts, mitigating factors, and outside perspectives are ignored, and fear is then instilled.
Unfortunately, it is alive and well today, and even more so since the beginning of the pandemic. The topic of fear mongering can teeter on the edge of politics, as well as sometimes devalue the experiences of others. The point of this article is not to dehumanize the awful experiences that many have been through with birth control, but instead to help you and others reading this understand how to spot fearmongering and stop it in its tracks before it affects you and your life’s decisions negatively. Sometimes, these shared experiences that cause fear mongering can have positive effects on people, so I promise it’s not all bad, but recognizing when it could potentially harm you is a good place to start.
Fearmongering in relation to menstruating, periods, birth control, sexual health, and wellness is a massive topic that couldn’t possibly be wholly dealt with and discussed in one blog post. But it is rampant in the spaces that menstruators go to find out information about their own health. I won’t get into how our education systems perpetuate fearmongering by not giving proper mentula and sexual health education in schools, we’ll save that for another time. Try thinking about a time when you may have read a super “click-baity” title that made you roll your eyes. Now imagine having read that hyperbolic title that you knew was so fake that it was almost funny, and knowing that someone in this world believed it and made decisions because of it. Someone took that information and changed their life, or their thoughts, or their actions because of it. That happens each and every day because of fear mongering. When you hear that something bad has happened to someone, your natural instinct will often be “I don’t want that to happen to me”. That is only natural, but it doesn’t have to be so black and white.
Let’s dig into the psychological science on it. Just a little bit, you won’t need a Masters degree to follow along, I promise. In the study of the human mind, there is something called selective perception, meaning that you will ingest information based on how it affects you and your life and possibly even change the intent of the information if it aligns with your predisposed perception better. Now let’s add to it. Have you ever heard of confirmation bias? It’s the practice of believing that something is 100% factual (usually without fact-checking) because it confirms your predetermined ideals or beliefs. THIS is how fear mongering gets to you. If you have had a bad experience with birth control and you read something about how birth control seriously harmed someone (which it totally can), it will further confirm your fear. The important thing is to not let that fear cloud your critical thinking. This is the last psychology bit I’ve got for you, but it needs to be your biggest takeaway – critical thinking. Critical thinking is a form of reasonable and reflective thinking aimed at deciding what to believe and what to do. Using a critical thinking approach to consuming media and fear mongering can help you avoid situations where selective perception and confirmation bias skew your opinions, emotions, and actions about something before knowing the whole truth. Yes, some people have been harmed by birth control. But, do you know the brand, the year it happened, the geographical area in which it happened, that person’s medical history, the dose of the medication, and the percentage of people using that medication that suffer from the same response? No? Then, let’s start with that. This is not to say that after you have approached something with critical thinking that you can’t still conclude that it’s not for you. In fact, if you have approached something with critical thinking and concluded that it is not safe – you’ve done exactly what you’re supposed to do. But if we conclude that eggplant parm is bad from our one pal who hates eggplants, and you didn’t search restaurant reviews, ask other people, and ask your friend for more details as to why they didn’t like it (like that they totally left out the fact that they hate eggplants, what the hell was that about?) then you might be missing out on some damn good eggplant parm, y’know?
Ample information, educated professionals, and your own personal health and wellness are the most important key factors needed to avoid fear mongering and to not be scared of birth control, periods, and sexual health and wellness. Tools like Reya Health can help with your critical thinking and be a hand to hold when avoiding fear mongering and making decisions for yourself. Using Reya Health can help you understand what these scary things are, why they may happen, if there’s a risk of them happening to you, and all of the other information you deserve to know before diving into new medications. The process of Reya Health is just one (very well placed, if I might add) example of finding ways to mitigate the effects of fear mongering on your everyday life. As long as you are capable of taking a step back, with or without the help of a platform like Reya Health, and learning as much as you can about a situation or decision before you choose what’s right for you, then you’re on the right track.
This conversation about fear mongering does not intend to devalue the negative and sometimes life-altering experiences that some people have with birth control. If you are struggling to find a birth control that is right for you, please reach out at www.reyahealth.ca.