Laurie Toby Edison

Photographer

Sugar, Pregnancy, Kinky Sex, and More

Laurie and Debbie say:

It’s too close to WisCon 31, which Debbie is co-coordinating and at which Laurie is exhibiting a group of her Women of Japan photographs, to write a long post of our own. Fortunately, our web “stringers” have brought in fascinating material.

The incomparable Sandy Szwarc at Junk Food Science has been even more incisive than usual recently. This post on the city of Somerville’s attempt to eradicate childhood obesity should be required reading in every government office in the country. Here’s the heart of the matter:

[The study] was based on comparing the Somerville children in the program with those in two nearby communities — but … the Somerville group had more whites and Asians, whereas significantly more blacks and hispanic children were in the control groups. The control groups also had higher percentages of single, unmarried mothers and the Somerville kids had more highly-educated parents, with 4 to 5 times more parents with graduate school educations, reflective of higher socioeconomic status.

Despite all these predictors of success in school, “while the school year was absorbed in diet and exercise, (after the Shape Up program was completed in 2005) the average reading test scores among Somerville kids are 15.4% below state average, and their math test scores are a whopping 26% below those of kids in the rest of the state.”

Sandy is also saying the unsayable in “Science of Sweets”. Her column is a breath of fresh air in the “health dangers of high fructose corn syrup” mania that is sweeping our newspapers. We only wish she had also commented on the economic and social causes and effects of the boom in high-fructose corn syrup use, which we believe are far more disturbing than any nutritional scare issues.

We’ve written before about the work of Alison Lapper. Now, a British critic is objecting to the statue of Lapper in late-stage pregnancy, currently on display in Trafalgar Square in London. We couldn’t disagree more.

I’ve grown to loathe the Alison Lapper Pregnant statue (not Alison Lapper herself, please note, who I’m sure has overcome great challenges to become both an artist and a mother). The trouble is that the statue captures much of what is rotten in the heart of new Britain. … In truth, Alison Lapper Pregnant is about as challenging as old underwear. It is a drab monument to the backward pieties of our age.

It shows that we value people for what they are rather than what they achieve. In our era of the politics of identity we seem more interested in celebrating individuals’ fixed and quite accidental attributes – their ethnicity, cultural heritage or in Lapper’s case, her disability – rather than what they have discovered or done in the world outside of their bodies. We prefer victims to heroes.

Three guesses: the author is a) white or not? and b) male or not? Right on both counts. Brendan O’Neill seems to think that a) Lapper is a victim; b) there’s no achievement in becoming a successful sculptor with no arms; and c) that ethnicity and ability levels are “incidental” (which he thinks because his are apparently the norms. Worse than all of that put together is his underlying assumption that the human body is not of interest or worthy of celebration.

He wants to return to the days of celebrating war heroes, and he’s not even ashamed of this statement: “What you think of these men’s contributions to British history is not important; they are at least recognised for things that they did.” Notice how with one stroke of the pen, he turns both pregnancy and disability into victimization. If what we think of accomplishments isn’t important, let’s take down one of those war heroes and replace him with Oswald Mosley, the leading Nazi advocate in Britain during World War II–he was influential and effective, so why not?

Finally, for something completely different, Bitchy Jones on gender stereotyping and the primacy of the male gaze in the BDSM world. This one is clear, explicit, and direct (don’t click the link if you don’t like BDSM imagery or discussion. Here’s a quotation for a wider audience, just to give you a flavor:

Do you want to know something weird? Something that will freak you out? I don’t wear shoes when I am having sex. I don’t wear a duffle coat either.

But I might wear pyjamas or a T shirt and jeans and then if he’s naked and vulnerable and unable to hide his desire, well, that’s quite hot. Then we have vulnerable and uncomfortable in just the right spot.

We read Junk Food Science anyway, but Marcia mentioned the first of her posts, and Kathy Walton pointed out the second. The Lapper controversy comes from Lizzie Fox, and Lori Selke suggested the Bitchy Jones piece.

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2 Responses to “Sugar, Pregnancy, Kinky Sex, and More”

  1. Jessie says:

    Thanks for posting this. I live in Somerville, and I’m remembering now why I didn’t even read the whole “obesity” article when it came out–because although I know about many of the smaller parts of this project, I didn’t actually know it was “about” fat. The media reporting didn’t connect at all with the work I’d been paying attention to.

    As far as I know, this project was part of an ongoing local attempt to do a lot of health and equity-related work that has nothing to do with weight–we have almost no green space, a ton of the highways and transit roads for Boston commuters go through our city, we have eight train lines and one train stop (!), etc. A lot of the people mentioned in this project are bike or pedestrian or food activists, and are specifically working to connect with East Somerville, which is cut off from the rest of the city by a major highway and which is–surprise! poorer and less white.

    The more I think about it, the more this media representation makes me angry. We certainly don’t get this kind of coverage about the state’s attempts to wiggle out of their obligation to put mass transit into Somerville, or the air quality, or the fact that we’ve been working for over six years to try to get a few million dollars for a bike/pedestrian path. The Big Dig pours cars onto our roads very efficiently, though.

  2. Adrian says:

    *wave to Jessie* I live near Somerville, and I’m surprised by the article presenting it as a relatively rich, educated, community. There’s a gentrified section, but most of the people who came to live near Davis Square don’t have kids in school. Some have babies, but that’s different. A lot of Somerville is fairly poor. (Mostly poor white, struggling/working class. I don’t know if they count the Brazilian community as hispanic or white.) I wonder what they used for control towns. Medford would be a good one. Cambridge is a different sort of community, partly because of the scale, so I’d have less confidence in straight-up comparisons across that border.

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