Laurie Toby Edison

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Laurie Toby Edison by Carol Squires

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Gorgeous Photos: Smithsonian Contest

Laurie says:

The Smithsonian Photo Contest often has exquisite and powerful photos. This year is no exception.

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Fish nets:  Pham Ty from Vietnam
Sewing the fishing net, Vinh Hy bay, Ninh Thuan, Vietnam. Photographed by Pham Ty from Vietnam
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Young buddhist novices playing in Hsinbyume Pagoda, Myanmar. Photographed by Sergio Carbajo Rodriguez from La Garriga, Spain
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From Alan Taylor in Focus:

The editors of Smithsonian magazine have just announced the finalists in their 12th annual photo contest, selected from more than 26,500 entries. They’ve kindly allowed me to share several of these images here from the competition’s six categories: The Natural World, Travel, People, Americana, Altered Images and Mobile. Captions were written by the photographers. Be sure to visit the contest page at (Smithsonian.com) to see all the finalists.

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Onno, a teenage girl from the Arbore tribe in Ommo Valley, Ethiopia. Photographed by Matjaz Krivic from Ljubljana, Slovenia
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Green iguana:  Lorenzo Mittig

A green iguana surfaces for air in a sea cave of the Caribbean island of Bonaire. Photographed by Lorenzo Mittig
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I really like Alan Taylor’s taste. Check out all of the photos on his site.

Beautiful or Average? We Pick Door #3!

Laurie and Debbie say:

What’s wrong with these options? Liz Dwyer, writing at Take Part, discusses “Choose Beautiful,” a commercialized “positive body image campaign” from Dove, in which “women participating in a social experiment suddenly had to decide whether they’d walk through a shopping center entrance labeled ‘Beautiful’ or one labeled ‘Average.’

Dove has been on the commercialized, dishonest “positive body image” trail since 2005, and we have been right there calling them out for just as long. This campaign, however, sets a new, even lower, bar.

The basic assumption of the campaign is that women with a positive body image will walk through the “beautiful” door, and there is something wrong with women who choose the “average” door.

If a woman didn’t want to label herself as beautiful, according to the ad, she might have low self-esteem. Indeed, in the clip we see and hear some of the women explaining their decision. … Causing a woman to doubt herself doesn’t exactly seem empowering. Yet plenty of women are applauding Dove for the feel-good-about-yourself-no-matter-what tone of the ad. There are comments across social media that the clip had people in tears. Meanwhile, other women see this latest campaign from the company as a driver of poor self-esteem.

Of course there is value in encouraging women (people!) to feel beautiful. However, there are so many ways to love your body without identifying as beautiful. Our favorite is, “I’m just fine, thank you!”

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Maybe I’m “striking.” Maybe I’m “fascinating.” Maybe I’m not the least bit conventionally attractive, but the people who know me well can’t take their eyes off me and I like what I see in the mirror. Maybe I’m beautiful in some way that isn’t generally recognized.

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Maybe I’m in some category (old, disabled, disfigured) that automatically exempts me from “beautiful.” Maybe I have some feature or characteristic that is generally considered to be not beautiful but I’ve learned to use it creatively and turned it into a form of beauty. Maybe I’m considered beautiful in my country and not in yours.

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Maybe, although Dove would be terrified to hear it, I don’t give a rat’s ass how I look. Maybe I’m beautiful in some contexts and some styles, but not in others. Maybe I’m actually “average,” even though Laurie and I don’t know what that means.

Most important, maybe I’m just fine the way I am and I don’t care about your damned door labels, or your dollar-driven social engineering.

And let’s not forget who’s doing the social engineering. Remembering that one of the five cities where this experiment was tried is Delhi,

Dove’s parent company, Unilever, has a long history of wanting some women to feel downright unattractive in order to move its products. In India, Unilever makes hundreds of millions of dollars a year selling bleaching creams for skin under the brand name Fair & Lovely. The brand’s notorious advertisements have long depicted darker-skinned women whose lives are miserable—they only get jobs or dates after they’ve whitened their faces with the product. 

So which door should these women with darker skin walk through? How about after they use bleaching creams? What would happen to Unilever’s products if they were “just fine, thank you.”

What would make more women feel beautiful, or just fine, thank you? Stop pouring billions of dollars into trying to make us worry about which door we should walk through. That would be a just fine start, thank you.

 

Want to Reduce Risk of Dementia? Don’t Diet!

Debbie says:

I know I’m not alone in being more frightened of old-age dementia than any other thing that could happen to me. Everyone is different about these things, but for me, my mind is me, and without it I do not want to survive.

That fear, a lifetime of body image activism, and my hatred of junk science combine to make this the best science news possible.

The analysis of nearly two million British people, in the Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, showed underweight people had the highest risk. …

Dementia is one of the most pressing modern health issues. The number of patients globally is expected to treble to 135 million by 2050.

At least by basic criteria, the science is impeccable. There were 1,958,000 subjects.

Compared with people of a “healthy weight,” underweight people (BMI <20 kg/m2) had a 34% higher (95% CI 29–38) risk of dementia. Furthermore, the incidence of dementia continued to fall for every increasing BMI category, with very obese people (BMI >40 kg/m2) having a 29% lower (95% CI 22–36) dementia risk than people of a “healthy weight.” These patterns persisted throughout two decades of follow-up … [quotation marks added]

In other words, it’s not just that low BMI correlates with greater dementia, but higher BMI, well into the categories that modern medicine continues to describe as “morbidly obese,” correlates with even less dementia. The difference between having an “underweight” BMI and an “obese” BMI is a 54% (!) reduced risk of dementia. That’s a gigantic number.

Of course, BMI is and always has been a bullshit benchmark. Also of course, the scientists are thrown for a loop by their own findings, because they went in assuming that fat would fry your brain, just as their counterparts continue to insist (against evidence) that fat destroys your body. They really have to grasp for their “faith sentence” here, and what they came up with is:

… the findings were not an excuse to pile on the pounds or binge on Easter eggs.

“You can’t walk away and think it’s OK to be overweight or obese. Even if there is a protective effect, you may not live long enough to get the benefits,” he added.

We know from other large-population studies and analyses that this isn’t true.

Of course,  no one is suggesting that these results suggest that low-BMI people should try to gain weight. Just to be clear, I’m not suggesting that either; people find their own weight and everything, including dementia risk, has multiple complex factors. But you do know what they would be saying if the study had gone the way they expected!

For me, I will continue to live the way I live, to follow my doctor’s advice (“Whatever you’re doing, keep doing it”), to appreciate my fat body, and I will breathe just a little easier when fear of dementia sneaks up and ambushes me.

Exquisite Kimono

Laurie says:

I saw these exquisite kimono at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco this week. I have seen kimonos this beautiful in museums in Japan but not in the US before. The delicate complexity of the work in stunning in itself, but the way the asymmetry creates balance in the designs is what I love best. I know from my own work just how difficult and satisfying it is.  Examine each robe closely.

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Red Kimono

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Red Kimono detail: the design is stylized clouds and wisteria
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Cloud Kimono

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Cloud Kimono detail: the design seems to include water, lilies, cages and clouds.
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Raven Kimono

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Raven Kimono Detail: the design seems to include flowers, crows and nets.  I love the crows!

Some of these are as old as 250 years. They were serious luxury goods of their time.  The technical skill is only surpassed by the art.  I find the work inspiring. Again, examine them closely.

Cole Takes on the Real Problems

Debbie says:

Laurie and I generally stay away from discussions about activism theory, sexism in interactions, and many other topics that engage us both, because this is primarily a body image and photography blog, and it’s stronger to focus on our own topics.

Every once in a while, something comes along that’s outside of our central themes, but also too good not to share. In this case, through the kind offices of Angus Johnston writing at Student Activism, Cole (who is 25) brilliantly takes down some of the common complaints of the white male progressive movement of our time. You won’t need much background, but if you want to delve deeper, the specific posts Cole (and Johnston) are responding to are here and here and are by Frederik deBoer.

Most of my post is Cole’s words:

It is completely bizarre to me to see all this concern about people being driven away from the left during a moment where we are seeing one of the largest and most sustained social movements in recent history. How can we have a conversation about the State of the Left without taking into context the Black Lives Matter movement? It is especially bizarre given that queer black women who helped lay the backbone for this movement embody the kind of unapolegtic radicalism that deBoer and friends take issue with. Like you all gotta understand how silly it looks to see a white dude talking about how the left is too mean and driving people away when in the middle of winter in Boston we are still having 1000+ people marches around Black Lives Matter. I frankly don’t even know how to process it.

She actually knows, I’m sure, that deBoer doesn’t consider #BlackLivesMatter the “real left,” because it’s not about him, and that’s the part he can’t tolerate. But she’s being kind.

it also is confusing given the scale of the problem. I can’t really say anything publicly, online or in organizing spaces without risking at least threats of violence and attacks. A simple request for men to be please be more aware of talking over women can easily escalate to male leftists screaming in my face and threatening to rape me. Fuck, I have even been shoved in meetings before. And then this has escalated into other forms of violence.

I find it particularly notable that deBoer says “I’m not censored or harassed or bullied. I’m just criticized,” without noting that this is not true of women or people of color on the left, though unless he’s been living under a progressive rock, he must at least be aware of the tribulations of women involved in Gamergate. And Cole herself is remaining semi-anonymous because she has recently been doxxed, something else that isn’t happening to deBoer.

Cole also incisively addresses class issues:

The idea that PC language is inaccessible to working class people needs to die in a fire. I’m poor, but I ain’t stupid and being poor doesn’t mean I’m more cruel than the cultured academic. If someone tells me that using a certain word hurts them, I stop. I’m perfectly capable of understanding the ideology behind various types of language uses — because in case you didn’t realize this, a lot of this ideology came out of working class movements. Academics chiding each other over inaccessible language has to be one of the most patronizing and belittling things I have experienced in my own organizing.

Beyond the fact that assuming poor people can’t understand this is bullshit, it is also a way for academics to not hold themselves accountable for shitty institutions they are involved in. Like you know what barriers I as a working class organizer actually face? Its not language or callouts — believe me, my family is old school Italian, I can handle people yelling. It’s the fact that for all paid organizer positions, you need a higher degree. It’s that for my org to get money, I need to navigate a grant system that is hostile to young, grassroots organizations and that requires a certain kind of language and presentation. It’s that feeing when you show up to a coalition meeting and you are the only one not dressed in business casual.

And she tackles the “each one teach one,” “be patient with us” philosophy of the privileged:

… let’s use one of deBoer’s examples — say this dude shows up to a meeting and claims there are innate gender differences. Okay, so what next? I could spend time, resources and energy educating him but there is no guarantee he’ll listen or how long it will take to get him up to speed and due to past experience, I know this could likely end in violence for me. But let’s say I take this task on. I would first have to figure out the best way to teach him, I would have to research and present materials, maybe I would have to dedicate whole meetings to this project — and if we are being honest, this project could take months to years. And at the end of it, there is still no guarantee he would accept leftist views on gender or that he would then be interested in long term organizing. How exactly is that a good movement-building strategy?

Or let’s say we don’t say anything and just let him organize with us. I’ve been in groups like this and I’ll tell you what happens. Over time, women will leave. Some will leave yelling and screaming and trying to draw attention to the issue while others will leave so quietly that no one notices. And before you know it, your organization has lost membership of people already on board with your message for someone who holds shitty beliefs, all for the sake of movement-building.

There’s even more, and all of it is as good as what I’ve quoted. Read it, think about it, bring it to your next activist project (or your classroom, or your nonprofit board meeting, or whatever you might happen to do with your energy to help change the world).

Thanks to Rich Dutcher for the pointer, and Angus Johnston for pulling Cole’s screed out of his comment thread. But most importantly, Cole, thank you.

Time to Stop Deferring the Dream of Black Women

Laurie and Debbie say:

We’re coming in at the very end of an inspiring project, #HerDreamDeferred, sponsored by the African-American Policy Foundation and a host of other social justice organizations.

Black women have long mobilized against the multiple forms of discrimination they have faced in the pursuit of better lives for themselves, their families, and the well being of their communities. Black women’s activism has been marked by their high levels of civic engagement, robust voting participation, and their leadership of racial justice movements.  Black women have led campaigns against lynching,   segregation, voter suppression and state violence. They have also been at the forefront of movements against sexual violence, sexual harassment and other forms of discrimination in the workforce, and have led efforts to expand the contours of reproductive freedom and political representation.  Yet even as Black women’s advocacy continues to reflect commitments to an inclusive vision of racial and gender justice, many of the specific challenges that Black women face are relegated to the margins of racial justice campaigns.   

Acknowledging the centrality of Black women to our history and social fabric while recognizing the uniquely gendered and racialized challenges they face is critical if we are to build  movements that are fully inclusive and successful. 

One of the movers and shakers behind this project, which finishes tomorrow (April 3) with a radio interview on the topic of “Are Racism and Patriarchy Making Us Sick? Black Women, Societal Inequity and Health Disparities,” is Kimberlé Crenshaw. In an interview with Carla Murphy at Colorlines, Crenshaw calls the lack of information about Black girls and women an “information desert.” She says:

The fact of the matter is that our communities are made up of the life chances of men and women. Many of the circumstances that we’ve come to accept as justifying an exclusive focus on men and boys are in fact directly related to the social-economic challenges facing their mothers—and those [in turn] are directly related to some of the challenges facing girls. …

We shouldn’t back into this idea of racial justice by thinking that programs that go to boys will somehow solve the most critical problems and we can allow girls to receive trickle-down impact. Trickle-down racial justice doesn’t work anymore than trickle-down economics….

As long as people believe that black women and girls are doing fine—which they will as long as black women and girls are excluded from public dialogue—then the call for inclusion will be heard by some as a call to exclude or marginalize the boys. We just have to fight back and say that’s a silly argument. We’re the last people that should be endorsing a zero-sum mentality for social justice.

These are important truths, rarely spoken and even more rarely heard. Whether or not black women and girls are “doing fine,”  is difficult to find out, because of the information desert. What’s more, nothing about “black women and girls” is universally or even stereotypically true; looking at real black women and girls is the only way to find out what’s happening across a broad spectrum.

Crenshaw and her colleagues view #HerDreamDeferred as a way to start a conversation that desperately needs to be started. When asked what they hope to accomplish, she says:

We hope to raise awareness about the social and economic status of black women and its relation to the well-being of the black community as a whole. And we’re starting with the assumption that there is a desire to lift up members of our community who need attention, and that the real issue is that people are just not aware of it. So this is a beginning.

This assumption is at least as important as the crucial conversation about black women and girls. You can go months in America without ever hearing anyone say that we believe, or assume, or even hope that people care about each other, that there’s a social desire to address this kind of problem, that anyone in the country (except for a few “bleeding hearts”) gives a damn about anyone outside of their own families.

You will hear a hundred news stories about how people hurt each other before you read one about how people work together. If you Google “Detroit water liens deferred,” you will not find this story anywhere, even though it was a national outpouring of phone calls and emails, supporting strong local action, that won this temporary victory. Heartwarming news is “dog finds family,” or “girl selling lemonade gives money to charity.” The big, life-changing ways in which people pitch in every day to make things in their school, or their neighborhood, or their church, or their friend network more fair are kept under the radar. Because we never hear about them, we don’t believe in them. And because we don’t believe in them, we often don’t act in accordance with our impulses to be part of a movement towards fairness. (And, just to be clear, black women and girls have been in the forefront of so many efforts to make things more fair for everyone.)

In fact, that’s what Kimberlé Crenshaw and #HerDreamDeferred are doing right now.

Hidden Zackheim Social Justice Murals

Laurie says:

I had a rare opportunity to see Bernard Zakheim’s murals at UCSF in San Francisco. They are on all the walls of a lecture hall that’s for medical students and so usually not available. When I read that they were open to the public for three days this spring.  I made sure to go on the first day.

Zakheim was a social justice artist who studied and worked with Diego Rivera. He’s best known for his murals at Coit Tower in San Francisco. Three of the four photographs here are mine. I was really glad I shot them but if I had realized that there was so little on the web I would have shot more extensively.
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From the article in the San Francisco Chronicle by Carl Nolte:

The murals, painted over four years by the celebrated — and controversial — artist Bernard Zakheim, had kind of an underground reputation. They cover much of the walls of a large lecture room at Toland Hall. The 10 murals, which show the history of medicine in California, are colorful and vibrant.
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Mural: Bernard Zakheim's History of Medicine in California (1937-39) - UCSF Toland Hall

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…They are in the classic Mexican muralist style in the tradition of Diego Rivera,” who Zackheim worked and studied with. The UCSF murals, …are part of a tradition of mural fresco art that flourished in San Francisco during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Other examples are the murals at Coit Tower, in the lobby of Rincon Center, on the ground floor of the Beach Chalet at the western end of Golden Gate Park and a huge mural painted by Rivera himself that is now mounted at the little theater at City College.
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The murals begin in an era before European contact and run up until the mid-20th century.

It is clear that Zakheim had strong views — the Spanish missionaries, for example, are presented in a harsh light. And he shows a different side of the Gold Rush of 1849 and later — a man amputating his own leg, a shooting involving a medical man and a quack doctor, a panel showing the great San Francisco plague scare of 1906.
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Zakheim’s heroes are medical pioneers, among them Dr. Hugh Toland, who founded the medical school that eventually became UCSF. The villains are crooked politicians and other enemies of good medicine. It is powerful stuff.

They were covered up as “distracting” for may years… The late ’40s and ’50s were the height of an anticommunist hysteria, and Zakheim had been one of the left-leaning muralists who worked at Coit Tower, a piece of art regarded with suspicion by the political right. They were finally uncovered in 1963.

The amazing part of the experience is being in the small lecture hall surrounded by these vivid powerful political art.

They are at UCSF in Toland Hall, 533 Parnassus (Room U-142), up a flight of stairs and down a hall. Though the building is open to the public, there are no signs to indicate the artistic treasure inside Room U142. They can be seen Friday, April 17th:  3 – 5 p.m and Friday, May 22nd:  3 – 5 p.m.

Afro-American Women’s Tennis: Beyond Venus and Serena

Debbie says:

Laurie and I have blogged a few times over the years about Venus and Serena Williams, so I was especially interested to read about Margaret and Roumania Peters, two sisters who aced women’s tennis together in the American Tennis Association, the first black sports league to include women.

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It’s not surprising that many people don’t know much about black women’s tennis before Althea Gibson, since the black sports leagues didn’t accept women, and the white women’s sports leagues didn’t accept blacks. Where was a black women player, let alone a pair of talented sisters, to go?

According to Steven J. Niven, posting at The Root (link above):

The Peters sisters grew up in a predominantly black, working-class section of D.C., a few blocks from the Rose Park playground at 26th and O streets, an area described by one historian as central to black community life in Georgetown between the world wars.

It provided a rare communal space where young men and women played basketball and volleyball, and where the Peters sisters played on one of the few tennis courts open to African Americans in the city. As an adult, Roumania Peters Walker recalled that the court was covered in “sand, dirt, rocks, everything. We would have to get out there in the morning and pick up the rocks, and sweep the line and put some dry lime on there.”

After doing well in a tennis tournament at historically black Wilberforce University, the sisters were recruited to Tuskegee University in Alabama.

During their time in Alabama (1937-41) and for a decade after leaving, Margaret and Roumania would dominate the women’s game at the end of the Jim Crow era. Their victories at the ATA were shown at black movie theaters, including the Mott in their home city of Washington, and they became local heroes back home in Georgetown. … their fame on the tennis court largely derived from the 14 doubles titles they won between 1938 and 1941 and between 1944 and 1953. Roumania also won ATA national singles titles in 1944 and 1946. In winning her second title, she defeated the up-and-coming Althea Gibson, who later won 10 ATA national singles titles.

The Peters sisters apparently weren’t still playing when Gibson desegregated the Grand Slam tournaments. Maybe their names would be familiar now if they’d had a chance on the courts of the wider tennis world. They died in 2003 and 2004, and Margaret lived to see herself and her sister inducted into the Mid-Atlantic Section Hall of Fame of the U.S. Tennis Association.

From now on, I’ll be thinking of them in the same breath as Venus and Serena. A quick internet search reveals no famous pairs of tennis-playing sisters who were not of African descent. Am I missing some?

Thanks to Maya Dusenbery at Feministing for the pointer, and to Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham’s monumental African-American National Biography for the source material.

How to Suppress Women’s Clitorises–And How Not To

Laurie and Debbie say:

Although we are almost a decade apart in age, both of us learned a lot about female anatomy during the surge of feminist knowledge in the 1970s. In that period, Betty Dodson, the artist, became a well-known sex educator and teacher of masturbation skills for women; consciousness-raising groups everywhere encouraged women to examine their own vaginal anatomy with a speculum and a mirror, photographer Tee Corinne published The Cunt Coloring Book. If you were around the feminist world, cunts and labia and clitorises and vulvas were discussed, and examined.

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Under constant barrage from a masculinist culture, feminist language and discussion never went away, but in the mainstream, women’s issues were dismissed, trivialized, and suppressed. Joann Loulan’s Lesbian Sex, published in 1984, had the first diagrams of a clitoris that really explained how you feel your orgasms so far away from where you thought your clit was, and it came out from a small feminist press and was pretty much available only through small women’s bookstores.

When AIDS became an epidemic, we started hearing phrases like “anal sex” and “fisting” in at least semi-public discourse, and male sexual choices became the subject of subway billboards.  In the mid-1990s, thanks to the bizarre husband-maiming performed by Lorena Bobbitt, “penis” became an acceptable mainstream news word.

While all this was happening, cunts and labia and clits and vulvas never made the news, never were permitted in public discourse. And, as a result which the male culture is perfectly happy with, women have to work hard to learn anything important about our bodies. That’s why Amanda Chatel’s article at connections.mic, “Here’s What the Clitoris Actually Is … and What It Isn’t,” is still important more than thirty years after Betty Dodson started her crusade.

While there are plenty of spots on both men and women that serve as pleasure points (oh hello, penis), they serve other purposes, such as means for reproduction. The clit, on the other hand, does not serve a reproductive purpose at all; it’s just there to give women pleasure. 

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Among other things, scientific knowledge about the clitoris has grown (slowly) in those thirty-plus years. And your clitoris has grown along with the knowledge.

it has been suggested that the smaller the clit, the more difficult it is for women to achieve orgasm. However, even those with a small clitoris can have hope for the future, because unlike the penis, the clit grows with age. At 32, a woman’s clitoris is four times the size it was when she reached puberty; after menopause, it’s seven times the size was when a woman was born.

That’s the fact in Chatel’s article that neither of us knew. But it does explain some things …

Although there hasn’t been a lot of scientific clit study (wouldn’t you think it would be irresistible?), a 2009 French study performed sonographic studies on five women who stimulated their “quiescent clitorises” with “voluntary perineal contractions and with finger penetration without sexual stimulation.” Conclusion? “The special sensitivity of the lower anterior vaginal wall could be explained by pressure and movement of clitoris’ root during a vaginal penetration and subsequent perineal contraction. The G-spot could be explained by the richly innervated clitoris.”

Each time a new set of clitoral studies comes into the light, three things happen: we learn more facts, more people gain access to the facts, and the masculinist culture gets more nervous. Every time we learn more about how our bodies–and particularly our sexual bodies–are put together and function, we learn more about how to notice, recognize, and appreciate what we like … and what we have a right to expect. And thanks to the internet, it’s going to be a lot harder to keep this information out of women’s hands.

Remarkable Portraits Of Older Transgender and Gender Variant People

Laurie says:

I recently saw these very impressive portraits of older transgender and gender variant people in photographer Jesse Dugan and scholar Vanessa Fabbre’s project To Survive On This Shore.

As an artist who believes in the importance of the words of the people she photographs, I really appreciate their use of text. (Only for some of the pictures – click on pictures and check the bottom to see if there’s text.)

From a post by by Jorge Rivas on fusion.net:

There’s something really powerful about portraits, especially when the subject is staring right back at you.
And even more so when that subject is “rarely visualized,” to use the words of photographer Jess T. Dugan. Starting in the fall of 2013, Dugan traveled the country taking photos of a group of people she says deserve to be seen more often: transgender and gender variant people over the age of 50.
Dugan’s work—a collaboration with Vanessa Fabbre, a scholar and professor of social work at Washington University in St. Louis—comes as older trans people are just barely beginning to break through into mainstream culture.
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From To Survive On This Shore:

Representations of older transgender people are nearly absent from both photography and social science domains, and those that do exist are often one-dimensional. To survive on this shore combines photographs of transgender and gender variant people over the age of fifty with interviews about their life experiences in regards to gender, identity, age, and sexuality and provides a nuanced view into the complexities of aging as a transgender person. By combining our experiences working as a photographer and social worker within the transgender community, we hope to create a project that is simultaneously highly personal and socially relevant.
Our project seeks to complicate the ways in which transgender older adults are portrayed and perceived in the arts, humanities and social sciences by combining formal portrait photographs with excerpts from biographical interviews. Within scholarship on aging, LGBTQ issues- especially transgender issues- have received little attention. Within the photographic realm, representations of the transgender community are lacking, and those that do exist tend to focus on the younger generation. Like any community, the transgender community is diverse in many ways, including across the spectrum of age.

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We combine text with images in our project in order to more fully tell the stories of our subjects. We intentionally seek out subjects whose lived experiences exist within the complex intersections of gender identity, age, race, ethnicity, sexuality, socioeconomic class, and geographic location. Though everyone in our project identifies somewhere along the transgender spectrum, there is no single narrative that captures the varied paths that lead to gender discovery or transition. Thus, we have chosen to conduct biographical interviews in a conversational format that allows subjects to prioritize the topics of identity and aging that are most salient in their lives. We then make selections from those interviews that elaborate on these topics and pair this text with the image so that these may be experienced together. The interview selections serve to facilitate an emotional and empathic connection to the person portrayed in the image and to highlight the diverse ways in which transgender adults think about and experience aging.
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When you go to the site and click on the images, many of them have text below them. Read the texts – together with the photos they have created an important story.
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