Health & Science
Two stories about gender and children caught my eye, over the last couple days. They are not at all connected to each other, but the more I thought about them, the more I realized that they illustrate very different responses to gender inequality, and that those different responses say a lot, potentially, about the structure and culture of gender in two different societies: Canada and India.
The first story was making the rounds a few days ago on Yahoo! News. It tells the story of the Witterick-Stocker family, of Toronto, who have decided not to share the sex of their 4 month old baby Storm with anyone other than immediate family and the midwives who assisted with the delivery.
The second is a story I read in the New York Times yesterday morning, and it tells of increased rates of sex-selective abortions among well-off, well-educated women in India. Specifically, it reports on a study recently published in The Lancet, documenting the spread of sex-selective abortion practices across India over the past 20 years. The study placed particular focus on the decisions made about second children when the first child was a girl.
What a world apart, both literally and figuratively.
Value judgements are useful if you you can quantify what makes something good. But what if the actions that you want to evaluate are very subjective?
writes about the subjective and hard to pin down qualities that might make someone "good in bed"
Talking about sexuality does not increase sexually transmitted infections, despite what non-experts report.
Contact: Megan Andelloux
Contact: Aida Manduley
In yet another attempt to shut down access to quality sex education, South-Eastern New England conservative advocates hit the sex panic button in a multi-state, email and phone campaign to colleges all over New England last week.
On February 3rd and 4th, certified sexuality educator and sexologist Megan Andelloux (AASECT, ACS) received word that numerous colleges and university faculty received a document stating that colleges who brought sex educators such as Ms. Andelloux onto their campuses were linked to the increasing rate of transmission of HIV in RI. Furthermore, among other misleading “facts” that were “cited,” the author of this bulletin claimed that Brown University was facing an HIV crisis, which is false.
Gina is a friend of mine and I am huge fan of her work. She is a master at creatively pushing past the present in life, sexuality and spirit, and opening up new paths that didn't seem there before. I've attended her workshops and always come away with new and unexpected openings; and the group experience is very life-enancing. You can go to her beautiful website, http://www.ginaogden.com/ to get a sense of what I'm talking about. Hope to see you there on Friday! Rebecca Chalker, Ph.D., Adjunct Professor of Women's and Gender Studies, Pace University, New York City; author of The Clitoral Truth.
When I was coming of age sexually there was no Scarleteen. And I was fortunate enough not to need it. If there is such a thing as a charmed introduction into one’s own sexuality, I had it. I had an open-minded mother who, without batting an eye, answered questions like “What’s a peckerhead?” when I was 8, and who bought me a copy of Our Bodies Ourselves when I was in my mid-teens. I had little formal sex ed in school but plenty of books at my disposal (including a copy of The Hite Report that I found in the basement in a box of old books). As a younger teenager I masturbated and was not ashamed, and when I decided I wanted to have sex, at 17, with my 22-year old boyfriend, I talked to my mother about it and despite thinking I was too young she understood that it was my decision and she took me to Planned Parenthood. To add to my good fortune, my mother's sister worked as a nurse at our local Planned Parenthood and so my mother and I both had plenty of confidence in the clinic.
I had high school boyfriends who, no more sexually experienced than I, were equally urgent in the fumbling explorations we pursued while never making me feel guilty for not “going all the way.” The aforementioned 22-year old boyfriend was sweet and gentle and playful when I decided I was ready for intercourse, and afterwards we drank milk out of wine glasses and read the comics in his most recent Playboy.
In college I felt free to explore sexually with my bisexual boyfriend and later came to realize my attraction to women in an environment that was open and supportive to that. When I introduced my first girlfriend to my family they were welcoming, and later when I married a man while disavowing monogamy they were accepting of that too.
When I was at Woodhull Freedom Foundation's National Sexual Freedom Day press conference on September 23rd I participated in a video interview project exploring what sexual freedom means to people. To me, sexual freedom means the freedom to be my whole self instead of having to hide the parts of myself that relate to my sexuality.
Paul Berese, the videographer (from quimera.tv) asked me for an example of a place where I don't feel free to be my whole self. The first place that came to mind was "at work." I stumbled around a bit trying to explain. At work I do not discuss the lovers I have but to whom I am not married. I do not have many family pictures out, but the ones I do have are only of my legal family. If I am invited to a campus event and Will, my life partner and the person to whom I am happily married, cannot come, I do not bring another partner. I have a few friends at work to whom I am out as polyamorous, but it is not something that is easy to share routinely.
There are much starker examples of where people have had their freedom limited because of their sexuality. This week alone I read about Melissa Petro, 30-year-old New York City school teacher who was removed from her classroom and placed on administrative duty because she had the audacity to write freely about her past experiences as a sex worker and about, Anderson Cooper reported on Michigan Assistant Attorney General ... writing a blog that stalks the openly gay student body president of University of Michigan, including an image of a rainbow flag superimposed with a swastika and the word "resign" (YouTube here, with image at :48), and a college student who killed himself after his sexual interactions with another man were broadcast live via iChat without his knowledge (and this in a month where at least 5 gay teens have committed suicide.)*
Simply speaking about your sexuality can cost you your job. Shame and stigma surrounding sexuality can cost one one's life.
I was thirteen when I first began starving myself, but you’ve heard stories like mine before. Like genital mutilation and date rape, anorexia has had its recurring moments in the spotlight, an issue sensational enough for TV movies and the serious columns in women’s magazines, and a problem too ingrained within our culture to go away any time soon. Anorexia is old news and in many ways anti-feminist. Anorectics, after all, are among the most obvious slaves to the evil manipulations of media imagery, knowingly killing themselves to obtain the impossible ideal portrayed by models and celebrities. It’s sad, yes, but come on already and break free of the chains! Celebrate your powerful, womanly curves! Eat something!
If only it were that simple.
Anorexia is an issue that has been glossed over again and again. The easy answer is the surface one – she feels bad about her body because our media-fueled culture has made her feel that way. To solve this problem, we need to: a. make her feel better about herself; b. change the ideal portrayed in the media; and/or c. teach her not care about media images in the first place. All of these are very nice ideas and have led to girl power messages and bans on Barbie dolls that may or may not have a positive effect on the psyches of little girls. But they do not address the underlying issues of power and control that make anorexia so pervasive and difficult to overcome.
One of the things that's kept me from blogging recently - aside from family concerns, work, and all the ordinary stuff that keeps people from blogging - is this paralysis that comes when I find a story I want to blog about and then think "oh but there've been SO MANY I've missed, and some have been WAY more important than this..." and then this one gets missed as well.
Not today. Today a story got me angry me and I'm going to blog about it despite the fact that many other much more important stories have happened. I'm going to blog about this one because it grabbed me and if I don't dive in I might never blog again.
I learned it from Dr. Petra Boynton and as I read her post I heard Garrison Keillor's voice in my head and instead of being soothed I was outraged, and so now I'm blogging.
What I heard in my head: That's the news from Dallas/Fort Worth, where the breasts are too droopy, the faces are too wrinkly, and all the labia are above average.
The real story: A news anchor at the Dallas/Fort Worth CB 33 tv station read a story featuring a local woman and a local plastic surgeon. Here is a link to the video and story.
From Leonore Tiefer, via the NYU Gender Studies listserv:
THE NEW VIEW CAMPAIGN announces its THIRD Conference, to be held at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, on Sunday, September 26, 2010.
FRAMING THE VULVA: GENITAL COSMETIC SURGERY AND GENITAL DIVERSITY
While the vulva surgeons are holding a conference on the Las Vegas strip, the New View, in collaboration with the UNLV Women's Studies Department and Petals, will hold a counter-symposium to examine the personal and political complexities of the new female genital cosmetic surgeries.
On July 17 at 2:00 p.m., I'm appearing on a teleseminar produced by Evolver.net and realitysandwich.com. It’s called an Evolver Intensive, and is titled "The Sexual Evolution: How to use advanced techniques of ecstasy to improve your love life and reach higher states of health and happiness." I'll be interviewed by the fabulous Jamye Waxman, who Wired.com dubbed "the nexxxt generation of sex educator," and I'll be talking about what else? the clitoris. Go to this link to get details about the seminar and the other stellar participants, Candida Royale, Barbara Carrellas, and Patricia Taylor.
Here's the link for full information on the entire series: http://www.evolverintensives.com/Evolver5. There's a discount available to my friends. Discount Coupon code: ECSTASY (20% off : $50 - $10 == $40).