Home sick from work, nursing a very productive cough and convincing myself that the holiday York peppermint patties are clearing my sinuses. Hoping you all are well, and sharing some of my favs from last week.
Plan B and Fat-Shaming: How to Avoid Unnecessarily Judgmental Reporting on Weight – Amanda Marcotte at RH Reality Check
“…Unfortunately, what could have been a clean victory for public health was sullied by the fact that many in the press have no idea how to handle a story about women and weight without bringing it back to fat-shaming. As reported at ThinkProgress, many headline writers around the country used the words “overweight” or “obese” in their headlines, even though the story is not actually about whether a woman weighs “too much,” nor is it about how much body fat she has. Because of this, the stories ended up delivering a pointless dose of shame alongside important health information, which may have made them less effective in getting the point across.
In response, I put together a quick guide on how reporters and editors can present stories about health care and weight that avoid fat-shaming. I’ve certainly failed at times to be as mindful as I can, but a little more diligence can help improve the quality of health-care reporting.
Make sure your facts are straight! One of the major problems with using “obese” or “overweight” in the headlines for the Plan B story is that the package warning isn’t about those issues. The warning is about women who weigh over 176 pounds. A woman who is over 6 feet tall can weigh that without coming close to the medical definition of “overweight.” Simply verifying that the story was about absolute body weight and not about other measures could have helped avoid this error. The word “heavier” is the better choice for headlines, because it is accurate.
Not every story about weight needs to come back to the “obesity epidemic.” Not every story about weight and health is about how Americans weigh too much and need to lose weight. Obesity’s effects on health are a common news item, but as this Plan B story shows, there are stories out there about how weight affects health care that aren’t about gaining or losing weight, or about dietary/exercise issues at all. Make sure your story focuses on the important issues—in this case, the limits of Plan B emergency contraception—and isn’t adding to the growing pile of stories chastising women about their weight.
Be mindful about what art you use. This story was about emergency contraception and package labeling. There was no need to use, as some outlets did, pictures of women standing on scales. (At least no stories I have seen used a picture of the headless fat person, something to be avoided at all costs because it’s so dehumanizing.) The illustrations insinuate the story is about weight management, when in fact it’s a story about drug efficacy. Pictures of the pills in question, of pharmacies, or even of women looking worried because they (presumably) had unprotected intercourse are all better options…”
Popping a Baby Out Like A Cork, And Other Birth Innovations – Dana Farrington and Rae Ellen Bichell at NPR
“…An invention to help with obstructed labor has turned some heads — and not just because the idea came from a party trick on YouTube.
The Odon Device, created by Argentine car mechanic Jorge Odon, guidesa folded plastic sleeve around the baby’s head. A little bit of air is then pumped between the two plastic layers, cushioning the baby’s head and allowing it to be sucked out. This trick for removing a cork from an empty wine bottle works the same way.
The device has been embraced by the World Health Organization and is being developed by the global medical technology company BD. Once clinical trials are done, the WHO and individual countries will have to approve it before it’s sold. BD hasn’t said how much it will charge, but each one is expected to cost less than $50 to make…
3. Like Stretching Before A Race
Athletes stretch their muscles before a race; why not do the same before birth? That’s the thinking behind a device by Materna Medical currently being evaluated in clinical trials in Australia. Over the course of one to three hours during early labor, it mechanically dilates the vaginal canal from the usual diameter of 2.6 centimeters to the fully expanded size required to pass a baby, about 8 to 10 centimeters. Though the product description includes bracing terms like “force-controlled” and “semi-automatic,” it’s supposed to make birth gentler on Mom.
4. From Gourds To Balloons
This silicone balloon can inflate to the size of a football. In practice, it doesn’t get wider than a standard grapefruit. In the weeks leading up to delivery, the German-made pelvic floor muscle exerciser is intended to stretch vaginal muscles so that they don’t tear during birth. The invention was supposedly inspired by the traditional use of gourds in some African countries for the same purpose…”
Forced C-section was ‘the stuff of nightmares’: Social Services condemned for forcibly removing unborn child from woman – Chloe Hamilton at The Independent
“…The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was visiting Britain in July last year to attend a Ryanair training course at Stansted airport in Essex when she suffered a panic attack after failing to take medication for her bipolar disorder.
Despite the woman’s mother explaining her daughter’s condition to police over the telephone from Italy, she was taken to a psychiatric hospital and sectioned under the Mental Health Act. Five weeks later, her daughter was removed from her womb without her consent.
John Hemming MP, who is campaigning for greater openness in the family courts, is set to raise the issue in Parliament this week and said he hoped the incident would “shock people out of their complacency about the corrupt practices in the family court”. He told The Independent: “I think this has a fair chance of being the worst case of human-rights abuse I’ve ever seen. She wasn’t treated as a human being.”
After the C-section, the woman, who has two other children and is divorced, was sent back to Italy without her daughter. She returned to Britain in February to request the return of her daughter, who is now 15 months old, but was told at Chelmsford Crown Court that she was to be put up for adoption in case her mother suffered a relapse…”
This Awesome Ad, Set To The Beastie Boys, Is How To Get Girls To Become Engineers – Katy Waldman at Slate
“…This is a stupendously awesome commercial from a toy company called GoldieBlox, which has developed a set of interactive books and games to “disrupt the pink aisle and inspire the future generation of female engineers.” The CEO, Debbie Sterling, studied engineering at Stanford, where she was dismayed by the lack of women in her program. (For a long look at the Gordian knot that is women’s underrepresentation in STEM fields, check out this New York Times article from October.) As the GoldieBlox website attests, only 11 percent of the world’s engineers are female. Sterling wants to light girls’ inventive spark early, supplementing the usual diet of glittery princess products with construction toys “from a female perspective.”
We love this video because it subverts a bunch of dumb gender stereotypes—all to the strains of a repurposed Beastie Boys song. In it, a trio of smart girls could not be less impressed by the flouncing beauty queens in the commercial they’re watching. So they use a motley collection of toys and household items (including a magenta feather boa and a pink plastic tea set) to assemble a huge Rube Goldberg machine. Watch to see what happens next. (And watch another great GoldieBlox ad from earlier this year.)
Bonus points to GoldieBlox for releasing an award-winning book in which its marquee character Goldie, the “kid inventor who loves to build,” dreams up “a spinning machine to help her dog, Nacho, chase his tail.” Screw you, Soul Cycle. That’s the kind of spinning machine we can get behind…”
For Black Women, Everything Is a Feminist Issue – Mikki Kendall at RH Reality Check
“…For Black women, our struggle is not necessarily about access to the workplace; Black women have always had to work in America. Our struggle is to be recognized as human beings. To have our choices be treated with the same respect offered to anyone else. Whether we’re talking about Michelle Obama, Beyonce, or just the average woman on the street, the reality is that some feminists have children, and their decisions aren’t any lessfeminist because they are done in the best interests of those children. In fact, as feminism has never mastered being all things to all people, the reality is that no one is in a position to decide for another woman what kind of work she should do, how she should engage with her family, or even which of her choices represent the “right” kind of feminism.
As terms like womanism, intersectionality, and women of color enter the mainstream, it is important to remember that they do not exist in a vacuum. They were created by Black women to address the ways in which we feel excluded from mainstream feminism. Kimberle Crenshaw, Patricia Hill Collins, Loretta Ross, Audre Lorde, and bell hooks are more than names to pluck convenient quotes from when it suits you. They are Black feminists, and they are part of a long tradition that can be traced back to Ida B. Wells-Barnett and beyond. So when your idea of feminism in 2013 harkens back to the racist, sexist rhetoric thrown at Wells-Barnett by Susan B. Anthony and Frances Willard, then what kind of movement are you trying to build? If your definition of feminism is rooted in Mammy myths, what can be built with you? Are you fighting for equality for all, or your right to be equal in oppressing Black women?
These aren’t questions with simple answers. It’s easy to get so invested in this idea of sisterhood and solidarity that you ignore the harm done by unexamined anti-Black biases. Black feminism has always gone beyond the boundaries of narratives that center on the self and into discussions of what should be done so that not only are Black women safe from harm, so are our children and spouses—even the underpinnings of what allows us to survive in a hostile environment. Michelle Obama is indeed the First Lady, but she is also a Black woman born and raised on the south side of Chicago. The Obama girls aren’t likely to wind up exposed to gang violence, but as someone who was not as fortunate as her own daughters, Michelle is well aware that they need special protections, that with a father who is both revered and loathed they have to pull together as a family simply to survive the history they have made.
As we speak of what harms feminism, of what nightmares invade the feminist subconscious, we must remember that we are not all fighting the same forms of sexism. We are not all reaching for a place where we can escape a gender-based pedestal. We are not all seen to have virtue, much less be in need of protection. For some of us, the goals we set center on survival; they include community problems that affect us because of race, not just gender. Living at the intersection of racism and misogyny means more than dueling with identity politics—it also means setting examples for our children and our communities that may mean nothing to outsiders, but everything to those of us who are also living at that intersection…”
The GOP’s Late-Term Abortion Strategy Is Backfiring – Sally Kohn at The Daily Beast
“…Diana Greene Foster and Katrina Kimport are professors in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences in the School of Medicine at the University of California in San Francisco. Between 2008 and 2010, Foster and Kimport studied the cases of 272 women who had received an abortion at or after 20 weeks of gestation, as well as of 169 women who received first-trimester abortions. These women were interviewed just one week after their abortions and asked a variety of questions including what led to the delay in their medical care. The results are striking and profoundly important for those who seek to promote—or constrict—the rights of women to access and exercise their own reproductive freedom.
The study found that young, low-income women are disproportionately more likely to seek abortions at or after 20 weeks. That’s partly because of the compounding circumstances young low-income women are more likely to face. Many in the study were either raising children alone, were depressed or using drugs or were experiencing domestic violence or tension. Half of the women having later-term abortions were unemployed, compared with just one-third of women having first-trimester procedures.
But the barriers to accessing abortion services weren’t limited to the conditions of these women’s lives but the context of medical access in their communities. Foster and Kimport found that first-trimester and later-term abortion seekers ranked roughly the same in terms of delays due to “not knowing about the pregnancy” or “trouble deciding about the abortion.” But there were four barriers to abortion services that affected late-term abortion seekers twice as much as those who had first-term procedures:
1. Not knowing where to go for an abortion
2. Difficulty getting to the abortion facility
3. Raising money for procedure and related costs
4. Difficulty securing insurance coverage.
Let’s break each of those down. Right wing legislative attacks on abortion facilities across the country have only made the first two factors worse. Thanks to archaic and absurd restrictions Republicans in Texas have imposed on abortion providers in the state, a woman in El Paso, Texas, will now have to drive 560 miles—over a 16 hour trek—to San Antonio to access her right to have an abortion. The Texas law has also restricted what doctor’s can tell their patients about abortion options. A Catholic hospital in Colorado has tried to illegally tell its doctors that they cannot discuss abortion options with patients, even in situations where the woman’s life is at risk…”
You Have the Right to Pleasure – Choice USA
“…All people deserve a happy and pleasurable sex life but for many young people there isn’t really a distinction between good sex and any sex at all. A lot of us feel like as long as we’re grinding different body parts together and at least one person (usually a man) comes we’ve done sex right. It’s almost as if sex is a race and getting a penis to orgasm is the finish line. The only sex ed that most young people get that has anything to do with “pleasure” comes from exaggerated, unrealistic, and stylized porn found on the internet. It’s no wonder that when they start putting that training into action the pleasure stuff takes the back seat to a performance.
Why do people actually have sex? Sure, sometimes it’s to make a baby. But most of the time people have sex because they want to feel good, they want to relax, they want to bond with a partner, they want an orgasm. All that heteronormative sex education focused on the what that goes where and the baby that comes out 9 months later is barely the tip of the iceberg.
I’m envisioning a world where sex education teaches students about sexuality, masturbation, orgasms, oral sex, and how to do and explore it all safely. A world where no students feels out of place for their sexuality and where every student learns how to be safe while having the kind of sex that they actually want. A world where sex and desire and pleasure aren’t seen as shameful but as joyful and wonderful parts of being alive…”