Laurie Toby Edison

Photographer

Resurfacing

Debbie says: Have you missed Lynne’s voice around these parts? Laurie and I certainly have

Lynne Murray says:

I am starting to come back from several months of sickness. I had to seek out medical care even though a house-call doctor visit took a big dent out of what was once my savings.

I’ve been without medical insurance more often than not in my life and now I can’t afford more than Medicare, Part A–so, no coverage for doctors, tests, etc. That was not a problem so long as I wasn’t in intolerable pain. Only in spring of this past year did that situation arise. I had wounds that were not healing and pain that kept me up at night.The doctor was helpful and open to collaboration and experimenting with different strategies to improve my health. He didn’t say that the slow healing might be due to diabetes, but he took my blood and the test result was that I do indeed have diabetes.

I would say that we don’t have a history of diabetes in our family, but we don’t have a history of regular medical care in our family, so who knows? Anyone I might ask is dead already.

As a fat person who already deals with some disabilities, I felt like the diabetes diagnosis was an indictment. The doctor agreed that I would work on lowering my blood sugar first without medication.

I looked for resources. I didn’t want to talk to people I knew or met about diabetes. I didn’t want any advice, I wanted facts, but some people nonetheless shared strange suggestions with me, like it or not. One woman, who was terrified that she would develop diabetes after watching her mother’s horrible death from it told me her doctor advised her to lose 40 pounds through calorie restriction (a soup diet!) and walking. The doctor told her to stay away from the gym until she had lost the weight because the increased muscle mass would get in the way of her weight loss goals. This incredibly stupid prescription ranks very high on my list of least helpful doctor’s advice of all time.

After looking at and discarding several books, I found Jenny Ruhl’s website and her book, and they really resonated with me.* She writes:

I was diagnosed with diabetes in 1998. Since then I’ve kept my A1cs in the 5.0-6.0% range using the techniques you’ll find explained at [the website], where you’ll also find extensive discussion of the peer-reviewed research that backs up the statements you read here. …

While people with diabetes often are seriously overweight, there is accumulating evidence that their overweight is a symptom, not the cause of the process that leads to Type 2 Diabetes.

Even so, it is likely that you’ve been told that you caused your diabetes by letting yourself get fat and that your response to this toxic myth is damaging your health.

Blaming you for your condition causes guilt and hopelessness. Even worse, the belief that people with diabetes have brought their disease on themselves inclines doctors to give people with diabetes abysmal care. They assume that since you did nothing to prevent your disease, you won’t make the effort to control it. So they ignore your high blood sugars until they have lasted long enough to cause complications and then they prescribe the newest, most expensive, potentially dangerous but heavily marketed drugs, though the drug-maker’s own Prescribing Information makes it clear that these drugs cannot lower your blood sugar to the levels that reverse or prevent complications.

Ruhl examines all the scientific literature with a clear eye and demonstrates a viewpoint close enough to my own Health at Every Size philosophy to make sense to me. She demonstrated to me that such approaches to lowering blood sugar have been around on the internet for some time:

The advice you will find below is an edited, updated version of the excellent advice written by a lady named Jennifer, which she posted for many years on the alt.support.diabetes newsgroup. It has helped thousands of people bring their blood sugars down to the level that gives an A1c test result in the 5% range. Note: The Jennifer who wrote the advice is not the Jenny Ruhl who maintains these pages. (Home/How to Lower Your Blood Sugar)

Her suggested method of lowering blood sugar included beginning by eliminating most carbohydrates, and adding them back, testing your blood sugar with a meter one then two hours later, and adding back the ones that have the least effect on you personally.

Ironically, all my early years of dieting proved useful during the first part of severely limiting carbohydrates. I reached back through the decades to all the times when I had changed my eating patterns overnight. Easily done.

A week later I finally got my hands on a blood sugar meter and test strips and started testing. The numbers were low and they’ve gotten lower, so I am hopeful to be able to manage without medication. The stakes are high enough that so far I am motivated to do it.

Ruhl writes:

Almost everyone diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes has a long history of trying to diet off weight and failing miserably. If you believe that your health depends on even more dieting, it is easy to give up hope.

But it turns out that a diabetes diet is very different from a weight loss diet of the sort you can see illustrated in the photo above. The point of a diabetes diet is not to lose weight. The point of a diabetes diet is to bring your very high post-meal blood sugars down into the normal range. You can eat as much food as you want on a diabetes diet, as long as the food you eat is food that doesn’t raise your blood sugar. (Diets/A Diabetes Diet is Different from and Easier than a Weight Loss Diet)

After the initial “get rid of the usual carbo suspects” purge, I called upon my post-dieting years of learning to respect, listen to and nurture my body. The challenges were unexpected–e.g., figuring out how to get enough fiber without the standard carbohydrates. Health food web sites offered some strategies (high-fiber-low-carb crackers, ground flax seed, etc.).

I was too sick with the infections that I’ve been battling to develop any cravings. Around the same time I was figuring out what to eat, I started on a particularly aggressive antibiotic, so low carb eating was only one goal–the other was to get through the day without throwing up.

For most of the past year I haven’t able to think or engage with ideas very effectively. Even reading posts on Facebook was sometimes too much.

In the past few weeks, my mind seems to be clearing! I could tell that my energy was coming back when I encountered a woman who came to my house to get a household item I was giving away on Craigslist. She showed up unable to lift the 22-pound spin dryer and demanded rope. I managed to get some thick string and helped to tie it to the wheeled suitcase she proposed to use to haul it home on the bus. I helped her because clearly, getting her out of my space without the free item she had come for would be more difficult. During the time I helped her, she produced a grubby piece of candy and offered it to me for some unknown reason. I made the mistake of telling her I was diabetic and she unleashed a torrent of fat-shaming remarks until I lost my temper and told her that my body was none of her fucking business. in those exact words and a rather loud voice. She looked around (the door was open to the hallway) and said something about neighbors. I told her I was cutting the string and she should tie the last damn knot and go on her merry way.

I was still angry for a long time after she left. Then, somehow, I managed to switch my mind onto another track. For the first time in months, I started to ponder some plot problems in a manuscript that had seemed just too much to pick up for the better part of a year. Surprisingly (to me anyway) I thought of a solution and I went ahead and started writing it.

Doing that reminded me why I write fiction. It takes me into another life even more powerfully than reading (which is pretty powerful). I was afraid that writing might not come back, but it has!

So here I am, still wounded, and not back 100%, but starting to surface.

* Jenny Ruhl doesn’t have separate URLs for the different essays on her sites. The name in parentheses after her quotations tell you where to find the context on bloodsugar101.com)

It’s Thursday: Have Some Links

Debbie says:

Danielle at One Black Girl. Many Words. has some words for the New York Times, in particular the comment that Viola Davis is not “classically beautiful.”

vdavis

I suppose I dislike two things: (1) that the need to be “classically beautiful” is held over the heads of women due to patriarchy and (2) that dark skinned women such as Viola Davis are automatically cast outside of “classic beauty” because of white supremacist standards.

It shouldn’t be my or any woman’s job to be classically beautiful. And yet, classic beauty shouldn’t be denied of any woman.

I’m right there with Danielle on both counts. Davis is, of course, an absolutely stunning woman by most standards. “Classically” is an interesting word. Dictionary.com gives a lot of definitions, only a couple of which are at all relevant. One is “modeled upon or imitating the style or thought of ancient Greece and Rome,” by which standard no one with particularly dark skin can be classically beautiful. Another is “of or adhering to an established set of artistic or scientific standards or methods,” which only works in this case if there is an established set of artistic standards.

So we can only conclude that the New York Times columnist was 1) sloppy with her words, and 2) not looking at the real Viola Davis.

***

MariNaomi at Midnight Breakfast has a long collaborative piece on “Writing People of Color (if You Happen to be a Person of Another Color).”  In the same vein as Kristen Radtke’s “Women Cartoonists Draw Their Bodies,” which Laurie and I wrote about in September, MariNaomi enlisted a wide variety of cartoonists for advice. Most of the pieces are too large to reproduce here, but here’s a lovely one by Maré Odomo:

11mare-odomo

Odomo says:

Don’t make your Asian character carry a katana and don’t put chopsticks in their hair (this isn’t a real thing, by the way). Ask your PoC friends to read your stories. If you have to ask if something is racist, it probably is. Base your characters on real people, but don’t just project your own feelings into a stranger’s life. Don’t assume that because someone is a minority that they’ve lived a certain kind of life.

Basic advice, always worth following. (For a less visual resource, don’t forget Writing the Other: A Practical Approach by Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward, currently on sale from Aqueduct Press.)

***

Here’s a cautionary tale illustrating “nothing about us without us.”

Sarah Silverman, a prominent comedian, made a video for the National Women’s Law Center’s Equal Payback Project, in which she pretends to be considering a sex change to increase her income. As Zack Ford points out at Think Progress, mainstream (progressive) media thinks this is the bomb.

E! Online praised the ad as “humorous” and “thought provoking.” US Weekly joked that Silverman found the “perfect solution” for beating the “vagina tax.” Even Time Magazine highlighted the “risqué” ad, describing its plot as Silverman deciding that “it’s easier to just get a penis.”

But transgender people frequently see the question differently:

Rachel See, a transgender lawyer in Virginia, told ThinkProgress that “being used as the punchline of a fundraising campaign by a group that should be our ally made me sad.” Though the ad suggests Silverman’s salary would go up, See explained that “transgender people routinely face discrimination for transitioning. Many lose their jobs, or find that they have a harder time getting a job.” Indeed, the National Transgender Discrimination Survey (NTDS) found that in 2011, transgender people were four times more likely to be living in extreme poverty than the general population and faced double the rate of unemployment. As activist Janet Mock quipped on Twitter Wednesday, tagging the NWLC and Silverman, “Sex reassignment doesn’t help one advance in workplace. Ask one of the most underemployed populations: trans people.”

Ford goes on to further recomplicate the question and bring up important related issues. Read the whole thing.

***

Speaking of transgender issues, Tim has put together a fine collection of links about why (and how) biological sex is a social construct. Here’s just one quotation, from Natalie Reed writing at skepchick:

In truth, sex is a loose aggregation of a variety of variables. Chromosomes, yes, but also hormonal levels, genitals, secondary sexual characteristics, skeletal structure and so on. We consider each of these traits to be male, female, or not quite either, then collectively make some kind of rough, relatively subjective determination as to whether it is a male body, a female body or an intersexed body. This is not unlike the daily process of gendering we engage in every time we come across another human being. We make a quick, subconscious, intuitive weighing of the feminine cues against the masculine ones and make a judgment call on how we should mentally categorize that person. But even in a medical situation, where we are strictly looking at an individual’s anatomy, it can still be just as much of a subjective judgment call based on the relative weight being given to individual traits, and there’s no real reason to say the karyotype gets the final say.

Bookmark Tim’s list for your next pitched battle on this topic.

***

Finally, Harris O’Malley at Kotaku takes on some gender stereotyping, and gets it mostly right. In response to a letter from a man who believes he’s not finding dates because of his weight, O’Malley says, in part:

First: you’re assuming that women are a monolith and all want the same thing.

… Just as with men, women as a whole have a wide range of body types that they find sexy, from the skinny geek to big – not just husky but fat men. Look at how many women went absolutely bugfuck over Prince Fielder’s nude pictoral in the ESPN “Bodies” issue. [I wrote about that Prince Fielder phenomenon here in July.] The man is rocking a 50 inch waistline, and there are a lot of women who want to rub themselves all over that.

He goes on to talk usefully about the complexities of attraction. He’s too glib, and too locked into the physical nature of attraction as if it were a whole story, but he makes enough important points clearly enough to be worth reading.

Most links you find here are from Feministing, Feministe, io9, Shakesville, and Sociological Images, plus assorted other blogs I read (including Tim’s journal).

Sojourner Truth and Underground Railroad Sculptures

Laurie says:

I’m finally writing the second chapter on my trip to Detroit and Battle Creek. In addition to my amazing visit to the Sojourner Truth archive in Battle Creek, I also saw two sculptures that were an important part of the history.

After we left the archive we were taken to see a stunning 12 foot high sculpture of Truth in the central downtown park square in Battle Creek. Created by sculptor Tina Allen, it’s the center piece of the amphitheater-like park. It was a community project began by the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women, and funded by community out-reach, including, of course, the Archive. It was completed in 1999. The community parade that marked the dedication of the statue was led by the University marching band.

Sculptures like this are usually created with a sense of reverence that idealizes the actual person. The statue of Sojourner Truth has a powerful energy that feels like the real woman.  She towers above you but you can walk up to her and touch her, see her gnarled hands and powerful expression. There is an intimate quality to the work that is reflected in the fact that children are comfortable with it.

struth_94

sojourner head

Then we went to the Kellogg estate (yes, the home of the cereal king) where there is an impressive sculpture (one of a series of works by Ed Dwight) on the Underground Railroad. Battle Creek was an important stop for escaped slaves on their way to Canada. The escapees are shown heading in to hiding places.

UGrailroad-Battle Creek

I was fortunate to find the next sculpture in the Underground Railroad series on the river park near where I was staying in Detroit. It faces Canada and freedom, and the escapees are hopeful.

Detroit URR front

Detroit URR back

This is the statue on the Canadian side, celebrating the arrival to safety, that I hope to see someday.

Windsor URR safe

Going out to dinner one night I saw a bookshop across the street from the Greek restaurant we were heading for, and of course I went in. It turned out to be the book store of the Second Baptist Church, another stop (the last) on the Underground Railroad. It specializes in books on the subject. Escaped slaves were able to rest in secrecy at the Second Baptist Church before crossing the Detroit River on their final step to freedom in Canada on a boat owned by a church member.

I got to talk to Bobbie Fowlkes Davis, director of their tours of the Underground Railroad sites in Detroit. I bought my copy of Sojourner Truth’s narrative from them.

Altogether a trip that will always stand out in my memories.

The Only Black Woman in (Republican) America

Laurie and Debbie say:

Under the #IAmRepublican hashtag, the Grand Old Party is trying to advertise its diversity and the wide range of people who support it. Unfortunately, apparently they couldn’t find a single African-American woman to pose for the pictures, so they took an effectively free stock photo from istockphoto.com’s “happy portraits” series. And here she is …

gop-ad

And here she is as a Georgia Black Woman attorney with no party affiliation …

Georgia Black Woman Attorneys

And here she is as a payday loan customer …

payday loan ad

Why is this a body image issue? Because the Republicans would not have done this with a white man, and they probably would not have done it with a white woman. The nature of racism in this country in particular is such that any individual African-American person stands in for all black people. This is true of President Obama, of the woman in the stock photo, and of Michael Brown (among millions of others).

Karen E. Fields and Barbara J. Fields, writing in Racecraft: The Soul of Inequality in American Life say:

Even as commentators at the time of Obama’s election claimed to discern the coming of a “post-racial” era, their very harping on Obama as a “black president” reprised an ageo-old feature of racecraft: the turning of one person of African descent into a synecdoche for all. The classic historical instance is Booker T. Washington, anointed by powerful white persons to speak on behalf of all Afro-Americans, because disfranchisement had robbed them of the democratic prerogative of choosing spokesmen for themselves.”

Reducing an entire population to a single real person is shameful; reducing that same population to a nameless, uncredited, falsified figure is even worse. What the Republican party is really saying with this advertisement is,

“We want you to believe that this happy woman is an American citizen, an African-American, and a Republican. We want that in a way that has absolutely nothing to do with who she is, what matters to her, or why she’s happy.”

That’s what the Georgia Black Women Attorneys and the payday loan people want, to reduce all of black America to one smiling anonymous woman.

Links on the Brink of October

Debbie says:

I was struck by these very diverse images of women giving birth around the world.

Midwife Dorothy Igoro Chinyere examines a patient immediately fo

The photographer, Alice Proujansky, gave birth herself in 2012.

Although she didn’t set out to become a natal photographer, Proujansky is interested in working on projects about women and said for one reason or another, she finds herself photographing in the delivery room.

“It’s so interesting to me,” she said. “It’s so exciting to be part of a transformational process; it has a rhythm to it in that there’s a probable series of events … but every time it’s different.”

***

On a related note, Tracy Moore has something to say about what she teaches her four-year-old daughter … even if the child’s schoolteacher doesn’t approve:

HOLY SHIT WHY IS NOT OK TO SAY BABIES COME OUT OF VAGINAS? To be clear, I haven’t told her how the baby is made via a penis and vagina, or artificial insemination, or by reading The Secret. And to be extra clear, I could’ve also told her that babies also come out of stomachs sometimes, too, and via adoption, but we just haven’t gotten that complex about it. Apparently she simply said at school that babies come out of vaginas, and was told to only speak of this with mommy or daddy. And she got upset, because she now believed she was in trouble.

It happens in state senates, and it happens in pre-schools. What is so wrong with using the correct words?

***

It must be pregnancy-and-birth week here at the link source. In March of this year, I wrote a post about breast pump (and durable medical goods) design, and now there’s highly positive action on that front (pun intended):

10 harried but happy teams of hackers shared their inventions in Shark Tank-style five-minute presentations. The goal? To reinvent a clunky necessity of modern parenting: the breast pump.

Engineers, healthcare workers, students, moms, and lots of babies gathered at the MIT Media Lab hackathon to tackle this sticky problem. The vibe was motivated, inclusive, and positive, but that’s not to say anyone was shy about explaining the problems with the breast pumps on the market today—even with manufacturers like Medela, Lansinoh, and Ameda present among the sponsors of the event. …

When kicking off the event, Catherine D’Ignazio, one of the event’s organizers, encouraged the teams to think bigger.

“Rethink the spaces where people pump, and how they feel when they are pumping, and who supports them and their pumping and breastfeeding,” she said. “Hack more of the systemic problems that new families face, like the lack of paid maternity leave and early childhood education.”

***

Moving away from baby-making, here is an extremely interesting report on a study of sex worker experiences in Canada.

Canada’s first nation-wide survey of sex workers has some interesting findings the government should, but probably won’t, listen to. Over the five-year study, which was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, researchers interviewed 218 sex workers, 1,252 clients, 30 spouses or intimate partners of sex workers, 61 managers of escort or massage businesses, and 80 law enforcement officials in six cities throughout Canada. The study did not, however, look at undocumented sex workers or children, and probably captured neither the best nor the worst of the industry. 

the study found that 82 percent of workers felt appropriately rewarded, 70 percent were satisfied with their jobs, and 68 percent felt they have good job security. According to [Cecelia Benoit [one of the study's lead authors], “Sex workers are average Canadians. They’re Caucasian, in their 30s and 40s, and have education and training outside of high school. Most of them don’t feel exploited, they don’t see buyers as oppressors…. They are people trying to do the best they can with the tools they have to live their lives.” Researcher  Mikael Jansson added, “They talk to us about the amount of control they have over their work situation… They have a lot more control over the timing of their work, the pace of their work than journalists.”

The sex work debate is usually oversimplified, often on the two leading “sides.” I appreciate the authors pointing out that they didn’t capture the worst of the industry. The study could be bigger, though it is reasonably substantial within its limits. Nonetheless, it’s good to have some numbers to toss into the generally highly opinionated but not very quantitative conversation about whether sex work is exploitation or not. (Answer: it’s both. Depends on where you look and what you look for, like almost everything else.)

***

I usually stay away from sexual assault response articles, just because the subject is so huge, and there is so much to say. But a regular reader sent this link, and I agree that both Roberta Smith’s article about Emma Sulkowicz and the artwork are outstanding:

JPPROTEST-articleLarge

You can, for the moment, call Emma Sulkowicz a typically messianic artist, and she won’t object. I used the phrase, sitting in her tiny studio at Columbia University on Thursday, as we discussed “Carry That Weight.” This is the succinct and powerful performance piece that is her senior art thesis as well as her protest against sexual assault on campus, especially the one she says she endured.

“Carry that Weight,” which is beginning its fourth week, involves Ms. Sulkowicz carrying a 50-pound mattress wherever she goes on campus (but not off campus). Analogies to the Stations of the Cross may come to mind, especially when friends or strangers spontaneously step forward and help her carry her burden, which is both actual and symbolic. Of course another analogy is to Hester Prynne and her scarlet letter, albeit an extra heavy version that Ms. Sulkowicz has taken up by choice, to call attention to her plight and the plight of other women who feel university officials have failed to deter or adequately punish such assaults. The carried mattress also implies disruption and uprootedness, which call to mind refugees or homeless people.

***

And finally, if you ever wanted a superhero women’s bathing suit designed for a real human and not a male comic artist’s wet dream, Suckers Apparel has you covered (well, partially covered):

winter-soldier

Each suit is hand made to order and they also do plus size and custom orders with no additional charges.These are temporarily available now, but will be generally available next year.

Most common link sources: Feministing, Feministe, io9, Shakesville, and Sociological Images, plus assorted other blogs I read. Thanks to Lisa Hirsch for Emma Sulkowicz’s story.

Voluntary Puberty Delay for Transgender Pre-Teens Looks Promising

Debbie says:

Until I saw this rather brief article, I hadn’t heard about hormonal puberty suppression as an alternative for young transgender people. I am especially interested because I have a (very) young transgender person in my life, and it has been fascinating to watch how completely this child is committed to a gender identity different than their physical conformation. And, of course, I wonder how puberty (many years in the future) will affect them.

Dutch scientists closely monitored 55 young adults who had been previously diagnosed with “gender dysphoria,” which meant that they identified as transgender and were experiencing mental health consequences as a result, such as anxiety, emotional distress, and body image concerns. At an average age of about 14, they each used hormones to block puberty and prevent the development of sex characteristics. The study found that this gave them “the opportunity to develop into well-functioning young adults.”

Lead Author Dr. Annelou de Vries explained to CBS News that puberty suppression is a “fully reversible medical intervention” and the extra time allows the young people to work out their struggles related to gender dysphoria before taking permanent steps toward a transition. As a result, they “have the lifelong advantage of a body that matches their gender identities without the irreversible body changes of a low voice or beard growth or breasts, for example.”

As the champion of calling out junk science, I will start by noting that 55 test subjects is hardly conclusive, and the Netherlands is a small country, increasing the likelihood that the sample of young people was not very diverse. Further, although Dr. De Vries is calling this “fully reversible,” when I follow the links to more information, I learn that she is aware that she did not study side effects of puberty suppression. If this was something I or my own child was considering, I would want to do a lot more research on side effects and what “fully reversible” means. It would also appear that all 55 subjects elected gender reassignment, which is something else that would benefit from more attention. Nonetheless, instead of explaining something about human behavior based on a small sample, these researchers are exploring a possible intervention, and reporting positive early results.

One issue here is that the Endocrine Society and the World Professional Association for Transgender Health recommend that gender-dysphoric or transgender teens do not take hormones before age 16, which pretty much ensures that they will experience puberty as a person of their biological gender rather than of their identified gender. De Vries’ study leads the way to earlier intervention, which makes it possible to delay puberty until after gender reassignment surgery, and never develop in a body that they experience as wrong. (Yes, transgender experiences, teenage and otherwise, are much more complicated than “growing up in the wrong body,” but then not every trans teen will need, or choose, this path even if it turns out to be as positive as these early indications imply.) Another positive feature is that many trans people who start hormones later in life experience a second puberty, and have both the fun and the no-fun-at-all experiences of puberty twice; some people might be delighted to only go through that once.

For now, I’m filing this study under “good to know,” “needs more information,” and “hopeful for good experiences for trans children and teens.” And that’s good enough for me.

 

Elder Sexuality Is Funny or Gross Because It’s Transgressive

Laurie and Debbie say:

aging sex

The extraordinary s.e. smith has a predictably excellent post on elder sexuality:

… what is so gross about older adults being sexually active? And what’s so funny about it? Because I don’t see anything particularly remarkable in it, and thus I’m either missing something — or my cohort is. The frankly juvenile attitude towards older adult sexuality doesn’t do us any credit, and if anything is gross in this conversation, it’s the disdain for sexually active elders. As long as everyone is consenting and enjoying themselves, who cares? Why are we so fixated on this?

Smith elaborates on this at some length, and as with everything on this ain’t livin’, you should read the whole thing.

However, Smith does not answer the title question, and we thought it was worth examining.

The media, and particularly the advertising industry, spend an inordinate amount of time and money convincing us that we can stay youthful-looking and youthful-feeling forever. If we take the right drugs, we can play with our grandchildren as athletically as we want, and everyone will think we are their parents, not their grandparents. If we use the right skin products, we can keep the wrinkles at bay. If we have the right medical procedures, no one will ever know that we are (*gasp* *choke*) over 50.

But that is all a lot of work. It’s also expensive, so you can’t have it all unless you have economic privilege. It’s time-consuming, so you can’t have it all unless you don’t have to work two jobs, or work 9 hours a day, or raise kids with insufficient support. People have to be afraid of getting–and looking–older or they won’t do the work or make the financial sacrifices. Along with the “stick” of fear of aging, there also has to be a reward–a carrot–for all the time and money and effort. And the reward is that you get to stay attractive. And “attractive” means “sexually attractive.”

So if you can’t pull together the time, money and effort to keep yourself youthful or–and they don’t ever even hint at this part–when it stops working, then the carrot of being sexually attractive gets yanked away, and you are thrown out of the sexuality sweepstakes. You just don’t get to be a person who has sex any more.

When anyone shows that, by having a good time in bed with a wrinkled, spotty body (or having a good time in bed while disabled, for that matter), they pop the balloon. They confuse the simplistic message. They break the illusion. And the Good Consumer might, just might, notice that she or he is spending time and money for not much. So elder sexuality must be mocked, or the advertising, cosmetics, and pharmaceutical industries could suffer.

Like everything else about appearance, this happens sooner and more dramatically for women than for men–a woman with mild signs of aging is as far out of the acceptable age range as a man who is unmistakably elderly; also, an older man having sex with a younger woman is way less funny or gross than an older woman having sex with a younger man. This is why the whole concept of predatory “cougars” was born.

Shining a light on sexuality among older adults is yet another way of making the invisible visible, showing (and telling) us what’s really true, rather than what the corporatized culture wants us to believe.

 

Mid-Week Links

Debbie says:

 

3035331-inline-i-1-play-tampon-run-an-adventure

Any fan of “subvert the dominant paradigm” (like me) will be delighted by Tampon Run, a new online game, created by two high-school students, Andrea Gonzalez and Sophie Houser, who met at a Girls Who Code summer program. They say, “”Although the concept of the video game may be strange, it’s stranger that our society has accepted and normalized guns and violence through video games, yet we still find tampons and menstruation unspeakable.” I’m lovin’ it.

If they’re not playing the game in India, at least Indian women have Menstrupedia. Priti Salian at TakePart has a feature article on Aditi Gupta, an Indian woman who started out with a “Menstrupedia” comic book for Indian women who are shamed into not talking (or learning) about their periods, and has now built it into an amazing online resource. India is a big country, but I hope Gupta is in touch with Arunachalam Muruganantham, whom I wrote about in a links post earlier this year. And if the two of them connect with Gonzalez and Hauser, well, I sense some world-changers on the horizon.

***

African-American artist Kehinde Wiley has mostly done paintings of black men in poses from Western paintings, but recently he has turned his eye towards paintings of women.

Juliette_Recamier_zpsf7154030

This one is “Juliette Recamier,” a 19th-century salon hostess, taken from a painting by Jean-Louis David.

Jacques-Louis_David_016

I really appreciate how some things in the two paintings are very similar, and others are very different. Wiley makes me look, and look back, and look again, which I suspect is exactly what he wants his viewers to do.

***

On a related note, Vanessa Willoughby and Stacia L. Brown both have things to say about the “white beauty myth.” Willoughby writes both about her own life, and in the naming of actress Lupita Nyong’o as People Magazine’s Most Beautiful:

To be “colorblind” is to adopt a non-confrontational method of deflection and denial. The ideology of “colorblindness” encourages the persistence of colorism and Western beauty standards. Based on her speeches and the progression of her career thus far, Nyong’o understands the unspoken implications of her success and what it means to have achieved such widespread visibility. She is not an exception to the rule. She is a woman that has defied the rule. Her presence in the film, fashion, and beauty industries decimates the idea that black beauty can only mean a light complexion and/or white physical features.

Brown is thinking about Vogue, black history, and erasure:

“Vogue” writer Patricia Garcia seems to think that Rihanna’s arrival at the CFDA Awards with her backside exposed was made possible because of J.Lo. She does not account for the hundreds of thousands of black women in the history of the world who were stripped of their agency, placed “fully on display” against their wills, and sold to enslavers who used their free labor to feed the textile industries that have fueled the fashion market.

Representation and historical context matter. The ways in which black women and their bodies are discussed in mainstream, predominantly white media matters. “Vogue” isn’t the only publication to frame conversation like this poorly. Just this month, The New York Times published a … multi-paragraph missive about the “new” trend of white women eschewing hair-straightening and “cultural bias” against white women with curly hair. One line is given to the discussion of black hair …

Especially if this topic is new to you, read all of both Willoughby’s and Brown’s articles; they go especially well together.

***

I hope no women are holding their knees together waiting for male birth control, but this is the most encouraging news I’ve seen on the subject in a very long time. According to Maya at Feministing, Vasalgel, a long-term reversible form of birth control that blocks sperm after a single injection, is entering human trials and could hit the market by 2017.

Of course, it may just fail in the clinical trials, but there are other, less defensible obstacles.

Long-term treatments like Vasalgel often don’t get much funding in a pharmaceutical industry that maximizes profits by selling us uterus-having folks hormonal birth control that must be taken regularly. “Why sell a flat-screen television to a man, after all, when you can rent one to woman for a decade?”

We can only hope that good sense and market demand will prevail, especially since Maya says that Valsagel “does not mess with testosterone.”

***

Binary This is always nuanced and thoughtful, as are a large number of feminists on the web, but no one is funnier. Here’s her take on Yang Liu’s Man Meets Woman.

e1c4f9baa50e84d3c7a7329f6135d35f

While looking through Liu’s work, I couldn’t help bristle at many of the reflections on offer. It seems to me that there is a fine line between reflecting stereotypes, and reinforcing them through replication. Liu dances on that line, and I’m still not sure whether I really like the project. Part of the problem is that Liu’s motivations are somewhat difficult to deduce – she states that the images are reflections on a world that she perceives, yet it is not clear whether she is challenging these stereotypes, or merely describing them (and perhaps, reasserting them).

But how are we to ensure that Liu’s book gets taken up in this way – as a challenge rather than a reinforcement of stereotypes (already there are a number of blogs reflecting on the “charming” and “witty” reflections of the book). Never fear – here’s a handy guide to using this small book to smash the patriarchy:

STEP 1: Visit parliamentary question time. Throw copies at the heads of known misogynists politicians. 
STEP 2: Go on a guerrilla mission Valerie Solanas style – throw the book at all known misogynist pop artists.
STEP 3: Get someone to bail you out of jail.
STEP 4: Reflect on the stereotypes of the book, and realise that we live in an unjust world where men and women are socialised differently and driven apart.
STEP 5: Become a revolutionary gender warrior. 
STEP 6: Use the book for kindling if you get cold while smashing the patriarchy. 
STEP 7: The book also doubles as a nice coaster if you need to stop for a refreshing drink.
STEP 8: Show other people the book and talk about how it doesn’t need to be this way. 
STEP 9: Work with others to fundamentally reassemble society into a world where gender is plural and fluid, not binary, and doesn’t separate us from each other. 
STEP 10: Read the book again, as a bizarre historical artefact capturing an inequitable time.

I’m starting the program as soon as someone gives me a free copy of the book.

***

In the “some people have too much time on their hands, and the evolutionary psychologists are lying in wait” department, we have the idea that online matchmaking can be done by smell. (What? You thought you couldn’t smell people through your computer? We have an app for that.)

Researchers had 44 men wear the same t-shirt for two consecutive nights without bathing, washing or otherwise preventing their stench from thoroughly seeping into their clothes. A group of lucky women then rated the pleasantness (or chose the least awful) of the shirts – and the study did indeed find a preference for men with dissimilar MHC-genes. Good news for Singld Out and their customer base, right? Well, no.

See, the researchers found a preference for dissimilarity, but only sometimes. It turns out that women who were using an oral contraceptive while assessing potential mates’ body odour were actually more inclined to prefer similar MHC smells. Further research has, if anything, only complicated interpreting how odour affects attractiveness.

If this ever comes to anything at all reliable or worth taking seriously, I’ll eat one of those t-shirts (with a clothespin over my nose).

***

And for a last bit of (not body-image-related) fun, check out the Taxonomy of Mansplainers Tumblr, which gets more hilarious every time I look at it. Here’s just one recent one …

If I were a woman I’d feel differently…

Him: If I were a woman, I don’t think I would feel that way.

Us: That’s an impossible statement.  You don’t and will never know what it’s like to be woman.  Your opinion on this topic simply doesn’t matter.

Him: You are excluding my voice.  Everyone deserves to have their voice heard.  I just want you to hear my side.  Any good feminist ideology should include everyone’s voice.  You can learn something from me.

Us: All we are hearing right now is the dry heaves of patriarchy, gagging out rubbish all over this intelligent conversation.

I get most of my links from Feministe, Feministing, io9, Shakesville, and Sociological Images, plus assorted other blogs I read. Special thanks to Lynn Kendall for the Menstrupedia link.

 

New Work From The Portraits

Laurie says:

I’m excited about the changes in my vision that create these new photos.

When we made Familiar Men: A Book of Nudes, the book included small images that were created from the larger photos. They were complete compositions in themselves as art.  Since Familiar Men was about masculinity, they were also part of its complex commentary.

Recently I decided to create photos (“framings”) that were composed from within the portraits and were not about the conceptual aspects of my work, but simply existed as fine art compositions.

This work is much more abstract than previously, and closer to my artistic origins. I was raised in museums in New York at a time when abstract expressionism was considered the pinnacle of art. It was the first art I was exposed to. There is a level of abstract composition that overlays everything I do.

You’ll see “framing” images below and a link to the original portrait they came from.

..

Segel Violin frame

portrait link
..

Hall frame

portrait link
..

portrait link

..

Joan Rivers: Icon, Mean Girl, and Feminist All at Once

Debbie says:

220px-Joan_Rivers_2010_-_David_Shankbone

I never liked her performances; I’m allergic to mean comedy–I see plenty of meanness out there without intentionally adding more to the mix. At the same time, I understand the role of mean comedy–for other people–as catharsis, as outlet for feelings otherwise repressed. So I try not to write off the Joan Rivers, and Richard Pryors of this world, especially when they come from some kind of marginalized, one-down perspective.

I certainly never liked her plastic surgery, but I always liked the way she was open about it. Since she died, a lot has been written about the documentary, Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work (full film available for free at the link). When Roger Ebert reviewed the film in 2010, he said:

She’s a woman who for various reasons depends on making audiences laugh. They walk in knowing all of her problems, knowing her age, eagle-eyeing her for the plastic surgery, ready to complain, and she forces them to laugh, because she’s so damned funny. I admire that. Bernard Shaw called it the Life Force. We see her in the film’s first shot, without makeup. A minute later, ” Joan Rivers ” is before us. Her life is a performance of herself.

Yes, she’s had plastic surgery. Well, why not? I think it’s wrong for most people. But show business is cruel and eats its old, and you do what you have to do. She talks about it. She talks about everything.

We’re short on women who talk about everything. We’re short on women who tell the truth about their own relationships to their bodies. And most of the ones we do have are political people with fairly small platforms, speaking mostly to audiences who already agree, or come close to agreeing. Rivers had the national stage. As a household word, she could tell (problematic) jokes about aging and millions of people would hear them, and some would think about them.

No more Botox for me. Betty White’s bowels move more than my face.

Nasty (or at least intrusively personal) to Betty White. Honest about Botox. Honest about bowels. Kind of funny.

My vagina is like Newark [New Jersey]. Men know it’s there, but they don’t want to visit.

Heterosexist. Racist and classist, since many or most East Coast people know how black and poor a town Newark is. Honest. Funny.

My breasts are so low now I can have a mammogram and a pedicure at the same time.

Honest. A little bit privileged (pedicures are a token of affluence, which may be part of why millions of women scrimp and save to get one). Quietly encouraging women’s health. Funny.

Philip Maciak wrote a fine piece about her at Slate.

But if show business was cruel to Joan Rivers—and it was—Joan Rivers was cruel right back. In 1994, just two years after Leno took over for Carson, Rivers founded the institution with which she will likely always be associated. The format of Fashion Police has evolved, it’s jumped around to various networks, and the fawning foils surrounding her have been cast and recast, but the basic idea has remained the same: Joan Rivers has a TV show where she mercilessly, gleefully denigrates what other celebrities look like. For 20 years the show has proven to be the perfect platform for Rivers’ one-liner-at-a-time battle with show business. Like Rivers herself, the show has a weird insider-outsider perspective. Is it the party organ of Hollywood’s systematic war on women? Or is it a suicide attack from within Hollywood itself?… At its best, Fashion Police was a fun, backhanded celebration of all the forms beauty can take in Hollywood from America’s premier insult comic. At its worst, the show was mean-spirited fluff. …

For her whole career, Rivers has been self-consciously pushing boundaries. In recent years she’s often spectacularly pushed the wrong ones, but we shouldn’t forget that, at one time, she was pushing the right ones—and doing it virtually alone.

After reading around to write this post, I’m going to make time to watch the whole documentary, which is a huge surprise to me.

I may not like mean girls, and maybe you don’t either. Writing Rivers off as “just a mean girl” isn’t a whole story; one of the things she did is forced us to see her as a whole, complex person who could not be easily written off or pigeonholed. I wonder what she would have to say about the fact that both writers I found to quote about her are male.

Thanks to Alan Bostick for insisting there was something worth writing about following Rivers’ death.

Body Impolitic is powered by WordPress

with FeedBurner

Laurie Toby Edison by Carol Squires

Blog Stats

There are currently 1,224 posts and 3,866 comments, contained within categories.



Themes: