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Roux Alexandra

PhD in Sociology

Member of the Contraception&Genre junior lab.



Research and teaching specialities

Studies in sciences, techniques, medicine and health : knowledge production on human bodies ; French medical profession and medical specialties ; scientific expertise ; drugs and pharmacy industry ; social inequalities in health.

Gender studies : contraception, sexuality, health ; (bio)medicalization of Women’s bodies ; socialization, (re)production of gender ; cultural goods for children ; feminist movements for reproductive rights.

Qualitative and quantitatives methods of research : bi- and multivariate analysis (factor analysis, clustering, regressions), textual analysis ; archives ; biographical interviews ; specificities of mix-methods in socio-history ; reflexions on data graphic modelization.

PhD research (viva held on June 16th, 2020) : « For the Love of Women » ? The Contraceptive Pill in France: Birth of a social and medical norm (1960-2000)

Supervisors: Ilana Löwy (Cermes3) and Nathalie Bajos (Inserm-Cesp, EHESS/IRIS)

The pill, in France, is so central to current contraceptive practices and social representations that its vast prescription, and the minority use of other methods, goes almost without question. This PhD thesis studies the genesis of such widespread acceptance, by looking at how the use of the pill as main contraceptive became, between 1960 and 2000, a social and medical norm. My analysis relies on a considerable body of archives, on interviews with contraception experts, and on quantitative data about national contraceptive and prescriptive practices.

This research shows that the norm in French contraceptive practice, which considers the pill as the go-to recourse to pace pregnancies, and intra-uterine devices as final contraception for women who no longer want children, was generalized in the 1980s. As practices converged towards that norm, the pill benefited from the central role it occupied in medical and media representations since the end of the 1960s, to the point of standing in for contraception as a whole. Such “pill-centrism” in the media and medical fields led to the occultation of other methods.

This work sheds light on the role of contraception experts in defining and expanding the aforementioned norm. Theirs was a gradual shift from conceiving contraception as a plurality of methods, to considering the pill as the only efficient and risk-free way to prevent pregnancies – within the limits of adequate prescription. Furthermore, the involvement of pharmaceutical industries was paramount in shaping the experts' medical categories and in focalizing the market on oral contraceptives.

Although the end of the 1960s and the beginning of the 1980s saw a number of attempts, most notably in the medical sector, to challenge the norm, those hardly impacted contraceptive practices and representations. French feminist activists in the 1970s rallied to the norm rather than challenge it, and made the pill a symbol of the battle for extended reproductive rights.

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