Friday, February 26, 2010

"The Glass Grandstand"

I listen to NPR practically every day, and while I love all of their commentators, I must say that their sports contributor Frank Deford is my absolute favorite. He has the amazing ability to seamlessly combine sports and society issues so that even though you might think you are listening to a story about basketball, you really are getting deeper insight into how our society operates, even when it comes to gender.

For example, one of Deford’s most recent stories headlines “Women’s Team Excels; Will America Notice?” This story focuses on the success of the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team for impressively winning “65 games in a row — and, incredibly, all 65 by double digits.” Deford also notes that players Maya Moore and Tina Charles may possibly be the two best players in college and “[w]hen has that been the case, in any sport, ever?”

Deford then goes on to discuss how while this historic team is dominating the sport of basketball, the rest of the country does not seem to notice. Indeed he wonders why women’s team sports seem to get far less attention than men’s when it is perfectly willing to rally around individual female athletes like Lindsey Vonn at the Olympics, Danica Patrick on the NASCAR track, and Serena William’s at the Australian Open.

In a way that only Deford can, he coins this phenomenon as the “glass grandstand” because even though more and more women are entering the world of sports and excelling at it, no one really seems interested in watching as they climb.

Well thank you Mr. Deford for helping to shatter the glass grandstand, and bringing this to our attention…

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Solo Traveling

Women young and old have all experienced a bout of wanderlust, but have safety concerns put traveling on the back burner? Is the fact that you are a woman stopping you from exploring the world? As of late, there have been a number of films depicting horrific crimes against women travelers (e.g. Hostel or Taken ), thus fueling the idea that traveling is no longer safe. Although there is some truth communicated of the storylines of these films, one must be smart and realize that in order to stay safe, your greatest tool is research and education.

Rick Steves, an author, historian, and travel show host also tackled the subject of females traveling alone. Steves says, “As a solo woman, you're more approachable than a couple or a solo man. You'll make friends from all over the world, and you'll have experiences that others can only envy. When you travel with a partner, you need to compromise, your focus narrows, and doors close. When you're on your own, you're open to the moment.”

Although Steves sells solo travel rather well, even the most independent women can find traveling alone intimidating. Do not fret, there is advice for nervous female globe trekkers, and traveling alone is possible. A few tips I found to be very useful, and I myself have used include:
· Start out cautious and figure out as you travel what feels safe to you.
· Read up on the country’s current events.
· Look like you know where you are going. If you look flustered, you may be making yourself and obvious target to watchful eyes.
· Do not be afraid to ask for help, if anything, ask other females nearby.
· Research, research, research! Learn about customs, common phrases, appropriate attire, and even body language. You would not want to be by yourself in a country, only to find out that your entire outfit has offended the last twenty people you passed on the street.
· Lastly, if you decide to stay at a hotel, I would discourage you from putting the “please clean” sign up. Allowing someone to go into your room unattended is risky for a number of reasons, just don’t do it and stay tidy.
The world is in fact your oyster, so don’t be afraid and go find that pearl.
By: Marina S. WRC Volunteer

Bullet-Proof Boob

Some women use their boobs to get out of speeding tickets, obtain free drinks, or just to get some attention. According to a Beverly Hills cosmetic surgeon, Lydia Carranza’s boobs helped accomplish an even more useful thing: they saved her life.

Last summer, a gunman stormed the dental office where Carranza works and shot her in the chest. Her surgeon claims that her D- implant absorbed most of the bullet’s impact, and that bullet fragments were “millimeters away from her heart and vital organs.” Carranza’s surgeon is making this claim in an effort to get an implant company to donate materials for her reconstructive surgery; he is planning to perform the surgery himself for very cheap. As a result of the injury, Carranza’s breast is scarred, and the implant deflated.

The spokeswoman for the hospital where Carranza was treated after the incident, however, says that the emergency physician was “not aware of the breast implant having any impact on whether or not it saved her life.”

Carranza said she got the implants because she “couldn’t wear any dress that didn’t make her breasts look saggy,” so she went from a B-cup to a D-cup. Interestingly, she felt good about herself when people admired her at family reunions and social outings. If anyone at a family reunion admired my bosom, I would probably puke in my mouth a little bit.

This sounds like a case for the Mythbusters--though I’m not sure how they’d execute the experiment.

For more discussions about boobs, be sure to check out this WRC program next week:

Tuesday, March 2
Breast Obsessed? Exploring the Western Fixation

Titties. Fun bags. “The girls.” Whatever you call them, they are part of a dialogue that pits biological function against sexual pleasure. Our “breast fetish” impacts all of our lives in many ways, including the way we think about sexuality, plastic surgery, public nudity, and breastfeeding. If you want to learn more about our society’s fascination with breasts, join the WRC for a discussion about the causes, implications, and future of this national breast obsession.
Time: 7:00 – 9:00 p.m.
Location: Women’s Resource Center
Co-Sponsored by: Women’s Rights Alliance

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Injustice Olymipc Style

It's Olympic time yet again, but one sport is missing: women’s ski jump. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) ruled that women’s ski jump was unsuitable for women. Gian-Franco Kasper claimed that “it’s like jumping down from two meters on the ground about a thousand times a year, which seem not to be appropriate for ladies from a medical point of view.” Kasper is not a doctor, and, to my knowledge, there has not been a lot (if any) medical research on the potential health problems that could occur for women athletes participating in the ski jump. Additionally, if there were medical problems that could arise, would it not seem reasonable to suspect that such health issues could affect men as well, after all whose body is really MADE to do that?

To me, it just seems like a clear cut case of gender discrimination. See the video below for more info on the story -

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Monday, February 22, 2010

Have Justice Will Travel

Wynona Ward, a 58-year-old trucker-turned-lawyer, has turned her own childhood abuse survival story into a determination to serve inaccessible parts of Vermont. With her SUV has her traveling office, she travels 30,000 miles annually to the remotest and most isolated homes of domestic violence survivors, some of whom do not even have electricity. HJWT provides a wide range of services including in-home consultations, transportation to and from court hearings, and free legal representation for protective orders and family law issues for low income battered women and their children. Ward’s organization was also recently honored by the CNN Heroes series.

I would love to do this type of work when I graduate (and if the job market does not improve, perhaps will get my chance!). I am constantly amazed by women who manage to drastically change the course of their lives, not only for themselves, but for others. The mind-set it must take to overcome personal obstacles is truly impressive and inspiring.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Life: Limited to a Fetus?

Today, a blog published by entitled “Pro Life, Pro War, Pro Death Penalty—What’s Wrong With This Picture?” caught my attention. More specifically, it eloquently addressed many ideological flaws I have been attempting to rationalize through my acquired experiences as a somewhat prominent pro-choice advocate on a college campus. The author of this piece, though not identified beyond the screen name of “The Christian Humanist,” expresses in written word much of the confusion that has been thrust upon me throughout my dealings with issues of reproductive healthcare and access. While I don’t wish to intricately explore the arguments of each side, I do want to share a passage from the blog that caught my attention:

“I find it curious that those who say they are pro life are not consistently in favor of life on other issues where positions in favor of life seem relevant. Being pro life implies a larger agenda than just being anti-abortion. If they were really pro life wouldn’t they oppose the death penalty [because the innocent are condemned more often than most realize], oppose war [because the innocent are often collateral damage in military conflicts], oppose manufacturers who poison our environment, contaminate our air and water, and sell defective products, etc. [because this affects the quality of life]? However, most who say they are pro life are conservative Republicans who support war and the death penalty and oppose environmental policies that limit what businesses can do or that impose costs on them, so it is difficult to see what they mean when they say they support a pro life agenda. I think it is safe to say that they misuse the pro life label—they are not pro life, they are anti-abortion.”

The rest of the blog is certainly worth examining, as is the contributing website and associated website

Much could be said on this topic, but for now, I leave it at that.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Rights of Pregnant Women Non-Existent Compared to the Unborn

I found an article titled “Pregnant? Don’t Fall Down the Stairs” on Alternet. The article describes a horrible chain of events that happened to an Iowa woman, Christine Taylor.

Christine Taylor has two children and is pregnant with her third. Her husband left her after she told him she was pregnant with their third child. She recently became upset after speaking on the phone with her estranged husband. When she got off the phone she was feeling light headed and she fell down the stairs. Paramedics came and checked out Ms. Taylor and said that she was healthy. However, since she was pregnant she wanted to go to the Emergency Room and make sure her fetus was alright.

After receiving treatment, she confided in a nurse that she was scared and didn’t know if she wanted to continue the pregnancy.

"I never said I didn’t want my baby, but I admitted that I had been considering adoption or abortion," she said. "I admit that I said I wasn’t sure I wanted to continue the pregnancy. My husband sends me money, but money doesn’t make a parent. I don’t have anybody else to turn to."

Taylor was at the beginning of her second trimester, but her chart noted that she was in the first week of the third trimester. The nurse told the doctor, who in turn called the police. Ms. Taylor was arrested and charged under Iowa’s fetal homicide law.

The law makes a violent act committed against a pregnant woman in her third trimester criminal. Thirty-seven states currently have fetal homicide laws. The laws are an attempt to gain personhood for fetuses before they are viable. The law that Christine Taylor was charged under “makes it a felony to intentionally terminate a pregnancy ‘with the knowledge and voluntary consent of the pregnant person after the end of the second trimester,’ unless it is done for the life and the health of the mother.”

The charges were eventually dropped, but only because Taylor is actually in the beginning of the second trimester, not the third.

The question here is how did this become a legal matter in the first place? How did the police obtain a statement that a patient made to a medical provider during the course of treatment?
As the article points out, this law was enacted to “protect the life of the unborn.” But that is not what’s being done here. If it was about protecting the unborn, then it would provide access to contraceptives and abortion services so that women who are pregnant want to be pregnant, it would provide access to prenatal care for pregnant women, adequate parental leave, policies protecting breastfeeding mothers, keeping women away from abusive partners, and making sure that women make enough money to be able to support a family.

“This is about innocent lives being trampled upon though. This is about the lives of the women and children who are here now: living, breathing, laughing, struggling, nurturing, being. It’s about making sure families like Christine Taylor and her two children have the means to live safely, free to make the best decisions they can about their health and lives, without fear of prosecution or retribution from anti-choice advocates aiming to criminalize pregnant women’s choices.”

What can this mean for pregnant women? Are there no good options? Christine Taylor made the choice to confide in someone, to seek help from someone who was supposed to help her. Instead, she got put jail. Does this mean that pregnant women can’t seek help without fearing that they too will be subjected to the agendas of conservative anti-choice persons?

If there is anything we can learn from this it is that perhaps we should concentrate more on the legal and social rights of those that are already here as opposed to those who will be.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Targeted Women Talk About Women as Targets....

I know that I always revert back to Sarah Haskins as the authority on just about everything, but I felt that this episode of "Targeted Women" was especially entertaining; Sarah talks about home security systems, and how they “protect the helpless woman.”

These home security system videos all depict a woman being comforted by a company operator within seconds of a home intrusion and suggest a burglar will be deterred simply by a loud noise. I don't buy it. So, rather than investing $99/month in a home security system and lulling yourself into a false sense of security, my recommendation would be to take a self defense class and enact other measures to protect your home and yourself...such as deadbolts and flood lights.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Only Time Will Tell....

A NY Daily News article about an internal bra system was recently brought to my attention, and I’m not sure how I feel about it yet. This new type of cosmetic surgery involves placing a cone-shaped piece of mesh called Breform just below the surface of the breast tissue. Over time, the mesh incorporates into the breast when fibrous breast tissue is produced to hold the mesh in place acting like and internal bra that supports and shapes the breast. The purpose of this procedure is to offer an alternative to women who are unhappy with the shape of their breasts, but do not want to undergo a breast lift or augmentation.

When I first read about this new surgery, I was annoyed because it seemed like just another way that women are told to feel bad about their bodies or that their bodies need “fixing”. But as I explored other articles about the Breform implant, I discovered that some women sought out this type of surgery as more of a reconstructive remedy than a I-need-bigger-sexier-boobs surgery. One woman described her pre-surgery breasts as “hanging down as far as the bottom of my ribs, with the nipples misshapen and cooked.” For this woman, the surgery gave her confidence and made her more comfortable sexually. That is a sentiment that I can get on board with.

The Food and Drug Administration has not approved the procedure in the United States and probably will not until the long term effects are studied. However, Given that Breform is a similar material the material that has been used for the last 40 years in Hernia surgery, the prognosis is good. But only time will tell….

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Best Is Yet to Cum Come

I stumbled across an article today on Alternet entitled “Why Sex is So Much Better Today.” As you can guess, the article discusses numerous valid and intriguing reasons why sex IS better today (while acknowledging that it isn’t quite yet perfect).

I really appreciated this article because I am currently reading Masters of Sex: The Life and Times of William Masters and Virginia Johnson, The Couple Who Taught America How to Love by Thomas Maier. As the title indicates, it tells the story of Bill Masters and Virginia Johnson, who were the first people to study and report in depth about human sexual response. Their first publication, the aptly titled Human Sexual Response, came out in 1966 and was the culmination of a decade of research. What set them apart from Kinsey was that they studied and experimented with human sexuality and response (documenting thousands of orgasms in the lab), while Kinsey gathered information from surveys. They were quite revolutionary- they worked hard to understand what other scientists and researchers failed to even recognize as worthy of understanding. Also, the male and female dynamic of their research partnership gave their work both a female perspective and focus. They were the ones who first discovered a woman’s multi-orgasmic abilities, which (arguably) helped fuel the sexual revolution.

It is interesting how different society was back then (when Masters and Johnson were conducting research) regarding attitudes toward sex. My mother told me how her own mother never discussed sex or puberty with her when she was a young woman, which made her want to be sure to educate my sisters and me on the subject. I also was fortunate enough to receive comprehensive sex ed in my middle school (though obviously, this is still a contested issue…).

It also makes me glad that my friends and relatives who are members of the LGBT community can “be who they are” much easier than if they’d lived a few decades ago. Now, I am not saying that things are perfect in regards to our society’s treatment of LGBT people; a lot of disparities and inequalities still exist. I am simply saying that Things Have Gotten Better. And it makes me hopeful; if we, as a society, have come as far as we have in such a relatively short amount of time, perhaps it won’t be too long of a wait for The Best, as it Is Yet To Cum Come.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Keep Your Audience Off Women’s Bodies

Drum roll please…..

And the winner for the most insensitive, disgraceful, degrading and purely sensational, web series goes to…

I first read about this series in an article on AlterNet. The web series about a fictional reality show that follows women who are struggling over the choice to have an abortion or see the pregnancy to term. The twist on the show, that demolishes any potential for progressive television, is that the viewers get to vote whether the woman should have an abortion or not. This crass show goes even further, using the tag-line:

“In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court gave women a choice. Thirty-seven years later, we're giving them a voice. BUMP+ is a provocative web series from Yellow Line Studio that follows the fictional stories of three women facing unintended pregnancies.”

Really? This show is “giving them [women] a voice” by allowing the audience to CHOOSE FOR THEM!!! It claims to be provocative, but really all that it is provoking is hate coming from the pro-life side and disgust coming from those who are pro-choice. This sensationalizes the intimate and PERSONAL decisions that a woman must face when dealing with an unintended pregnancy.
Just reading over the experiment section makes me want to laugh… The creators claimed that they were “inspired by President Obama’s call to people on both sides of the abortion debate to open the lines of communication and find workable solutions to the problem of unintended pregnancies…” Do not be fooled. There is nothing “inspired” about giving the choice over a woman’s bodies to the viewing audience.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Cesarean Sections: Friend or Foe?

As a follow up to the information presented within the documentary The Business of Being Born (screened by the Women’s Resource Center earlier this semester), I came across an article on which discusses the increased rates of maternal death in California. It begins by asserting that “The mortality rate of California women who die from causes directly related to pregnancy has nearly tripled in the past decade, prompting doctors to worry about the dangers of obesity in expectant mothers and about medical complications of cesarean sections.”

One physician attributed this increase to more consistency and accuracy in the reporting of maternal deaths. A study cited in the article, however, indicates that the increase of maternal deaths is strongly correlated with the increase of cesarean sections rather than obese mothers, older mothers and fertility treatments alone. “It’s hard to ignore the fact that C-sections have increased 50 percent in the same decade that maternal mortality increased,” stated Shabbir Ahmad, the scientist in California’s Department of Public Health who organized the task force that conducted the study.

The task force is attempting to take this information and find tangible solutions to the growing problem of maternal death in California from the approach that it is easier to improve medical care than to fix more overarching societal issues like poverty and obesity. In some places, maternal care is being improved through efforts to ensure that no elective C-sections take place before 41 weeks of pregnancy. According to a report issued by the advocacy group Childbirth Connection, “Six of the 10 most common procedures billed to Medicaid and to private insurers in 2005 were maternity related.”

This alarming, yet familiar, study of medicalized childbirth practices is but another example of the way in which the current healthcare system is favoring profits over patient care. At what point will the rate of maternal deaths be enough to invoke a full-scale overhaul of the way we choose to handle childbirth in this country? Perhaps we should take a page from the books of many European countries which have much lower infant/mother mortality rates and cesarean sections and, consequently, much high rates of home birth. Either way, something has to change.

Curious Mint?

No, I’m not referring to the latest and greatest mint from Altoids or a mint for your breath for that matter. But a new product claiming to give a minty flavor to a woman's vaginal secretions. As a follow up from my last blog and an extension of Megan’s recent post, I must bring to your attention a modern-day product geared at solving another “problem” with vaginas—the taste. A recent issue of the Women’s Health Activist featured a small comment on a new product marketed as a “vaginal mint”. Essentially, it is a regular mint re-packaged and re-marketed as appropriate to for vaginal use.

I see several problems with this, but first and foremost I don’t think this product is designed to be used as suggested. Without getting too scientific (because I don’t know exactly how it works), there is a delicate pH balance of a woman’s vagina that if disrupted can result in yeast infections. Linger can apparently get around this minor side effect by including a little warning that the product is only for novelty use and I’m pretty sure the FDA does not have jurisdiction over a product that is not ingested, at least not in the traditional sense.

Apparently we are no farther along in giving our vaginas a break and accepting them the way they are today than we were 50 years ago. I think put it best, “What sucks is that from vintage Lysol ads to more recent douching pitches and the oh-so-bizarre Waterworks commercial, women can never get away from the idea that there's something wrong with the smell — or the taste — ‘down there.’” Lastly, I must share the final thoughts of the Women’s Health Activist who questions “when suppositories to flavor semen will hit the market.” I think I'll pass...

Raging Grannies, Puppy Parties, and Emancipated Women

Thirsty Thursday Round-Up:
Perhaps these links will "quench your thirst" for entertainment.
$2,000 Trashbag
Holy crap, Rich People That Would Purchase This Item, you’re so ridiculous. I cannot believe you’d spend so much money on a Louis Vuitton bag that looks like a garbage bag. I have a few of those I could sell you! And I’m so generous, I'll even make sure they aren’t empty!
A Glimpse Into My Future
I dig these ‘awd biddies, and hope I am just like them when I grow up.
Super CUTE
Well, I think the Souper* Bowl is this weekend. If you’re like me and football isn’t your thing (even if you do come from a football family, haha), you can watch the Puppy Bowl on Animal Planet- complete with kitten halftime show – instead. Here is an adorable Puppy Party to tide you over ‘til then.
*name changed to protect the innocent
Trick of the Light (…and Make-Up, and Styling…)
Here is an interesting series of photos all featuring the same model photographed in a way that makes her look 10, 20, 30, 40, and 50. It serves as a reminder that things aren’t always what they seem.
What Little Girls and Boys Are Made Of
This page out of a children’s book from the 1970’s which illustrates some of the societal expectations for male and female vocations. It is interesting, to say the least.
These Colors Don’t Run
If you didn’t get a chance to vote in the primaries earlier this week, don’t you fret. You’re just as much of an emancipated woman if you do your laundry.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Whats Wrong With Your Vagina? A Lot!

I came across an article on Alternet titled, “The 6 Weirdest Things Women Do to Their Vaginas.” Needless to say, I was intrigued. The article discusses 6 crazy “treatments” for things that are supposedly “wrong” with our vaginas.
“What's wrong with your vagina? If you answered ‘nothing,’ you're probably wrong. According to the beauty-industrial complex, it's ugly, and it smells bad. But don't worry-- there's nothing that money can't fix.”
The problems?
1.Your vagina smells bad
2.your vagina is dirty
3. Your vagina is too loose
4.Your vagina is ugly
5.Your vagina tastes bad
6.Your vagina is the wrong color

The soulutions?
1. Vaginal deodorant
2. Douching
3.Vaginal Rejuvenation
4. Labiaplasty
5.Vagina mints
6. Vagina bleaching and dying

Like most other people, I was of course aware of the wax/shave vs. natural debate, and I did know about several of these things but definitely not all of them. Vagina mints? Bleaching and dying one’s vagina? Seriously?

Iwish however that not only would one look at the outrageousness of someone using or doing any of these things but also look at why. There are women who undergo these procedures and use these products. Why? Because women are under constant pressure from society to look perfect. This doesn’t just include being a size zero, or always having the perfect hair and makeup, it now includes our vaginas. They must look, taste, and smell just right. No matter that vaginas actually naturally vary in almost every way just as women do. We need to stop putting pressure on women to all look exactly the same and let every woman be her own person from hair color to vagina color. After all, isn’t it scary to think what extremes women will go to next?

*A note of interest, look for information about your local production of the Vagina Monolouges. The Women’s Rights Alliance will be putting on the Vagina Monolouges at NIU on April 9th, 10th, and 11th.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Power of a Girl

I have always been a supporter of women’s rights (surprise, surprise), but it was not until a presentation about educating women and its impact on ending poverty that I realized the impact of education at the individual, community, and societal level. This video, found at, shows how a girl can change the world if you just give her an education.

I encourage you to take a look at the website and see how a girl can make a difference if she just gets an education. It is amazing how little it takes to make a monumental change.

Hysteria: The Most Interesting History Lesson Ever

According to The Technology of Orgasm, hysteria was a common medical diagnosis found exclusively in women during the Victorian era. Indeed the word “hysteria” comes from the Latin word for uterus and is the root for other words related to the female reproductive system, such as “hysterectomy”. The symptoms included faintness, nervousness, insomnia, fluid retention, heaviness in the abdomen, muscle spasms, shortness of breath, irritability, loss of appetite for food or sex, and may lead to a “tendency to cause trouble.” It was believed by the Greeks that hysteria occurred when a woman’s uterus had become too light and dry from lack of sexual intercourse and as a result had migrated through the body, compressing the heart, lungs and diaphragm. Physicians from the second century believed that the “disease” was brought on by sexual deprivation in exceptionally passionate women. The conclusion that sexual deprivation caused hysteria also lead to the diagnosis to be common for virgins, nuns, widows, and, sometimes, married women.

Given this ridiculous, disturbing, albeit a little funny diagnosis, it should come as no surprise that the treatments for hysteria included sex for married women and pelvic message for unmarried women. That’s right. The cure-all for this condition was essentially an orgasm. Not that doctors, husbands, or society was willing to admit that. Heavens no, in fact masturbation was discouraged in women during this time least they become unchaste or unhealthy (or bruise their husbands' sexual egos).

So what is a pelvic message? Well the pelvic message was basically manual stimulation by doctors or midwives that was performed until orgasm was reached…oh, I’m sorry, until "hysterical paroxysm" was achieved. This service turned out to be quite lucrative for doctors because there was little to no chance of death and some women needed continual treatments. As a result of such high demand, the vibrator was invented to assist medical professionals in maximizing the number of patients treated in a day.

After having this little history lesson, I must say that I find myself torn between the urge to cry and to laugh. It’s almost a virtual certainty that many women were sexually abused during these treatments. I’m sure there were women who did not want to be subjected to the pelvic message and were confronted with husbands and doctors who tried to convince them that it was good for them. It is also likely that some doctors became sexually aroused while performing the pelvic message and proceeded to rape their patients. After all they were “curing” the patient right?

At the same time, I can’t help but think of sexually frustrated house wives pacing around their Victorian parlors and insisting to their husbands that it was time to call the doctor for another “treatment”. I wonder if any husbands ever watched one of these sessions and thought….I could that…and we would save a lot of money if I took care of this myself.