Monthly Archives: September 2007

Speaking the Unspeakable

Debbie says:

(Apologies for the delay in posting. The Jewish holidays intervened when this was 3/4 written.)

Shapely Prose gave time and space to guest-blogger Heidi to talk about why she hates weight-loss surgery, and why she’s having it. I urge everyone to read this powerful and moving piece.

I believe weight loss surgery (WLS) is dangerous, invasive, and overly performed. I hate that something created as a last resort has turned into magical cure-all for everyone over 200 pounds…. I always have been and always will be highly, highly critical of weight loss surgery.And I’m having mine next month.

It’s the hardest decision I’ve ever made because doing something that’ so completely at odds with what you believe in is a massive mind-fuck. I’ve been called a traitor and a sell-out and I guess I can’t really argue with that; I believe strongly in size-acceptance and I’m electing to have my stomach sliced open and my organs rearranged. It’s something I never thought I’d do. Me? Having weight loss surgery? That’s crazy talk–I don’t even believe in dieting, for god’s sake!

There’s more, and it’s even more powerful and more taboo. This piece is getting a great deal of emotional reaction, which it well deserves.

For me, one very important piece of why I appreciate Heidi’s writing, and why people are responding so strongly, is that she talks directly and clearly about toileting issues. These issues come up not just around fat but also around a variety of illnesses and conditions, not to mention simply aging, and it is absolutely culturally forbidden to ever mention them.. Here’s Heidi’s story:

(Warning: This may be hard to read.)

I don’t remember when it started. Because I didn’t talk about it and I sure as hell didn’t write about it. Probably a year ago, I’d guess. ( I can’t do it. I just can’t. It’s too embarrassing. I don’t want people to see me differently. I don’t want them to be disgusted by me. I don’t want to–please don’t make me say it. It’s too much. I haven’t even written it and I’m already crying–please–) I was no longer able to clean myself after going to the bathroom. Every time I went to the bathroom, I had to take a shower.

While I was at work I would try to hold it. I frequently made myself sick and gave myself painful stomach cramps doing so. I had IBS to begin with and that didn’t help matters. Worse, it didn’t always work. So I’d go to the bathroom and have to spend the rest of the day sitting in my own shit. Sometimes for one hour, sometimes eight. The physical discomfort was awful but nothing in comparison to the shame. Fuck. The shame. Wondering if you smell, wondering if people know, wondering if they talk about it when you’re not in the room. Hoping that no one says anything so you stay as far away from everyone as possible. I felt so disgusting and so embarrassed that I just wanted to die. And I truly felt I would rather die than admit it to anyone. (Oh my god, what are people going to think of me now? I don’t want to do this at all. Please let’s stop Please, it’s too much.)

I can’t stand for more than a few seconds which made the frequent showering very difficult and painful. So, now my mom cleans me. I’m 28 years old and my mom has to wipe my ass. It’s been a few months and I still apologize every time. Every single time even though she keeps telling me to stop. Because I’m just so embarrassed that I can’t take care of myself.

The Western cultural taboo against discussing these things is almost as strong as the cultural taboo against being cleaned as an adult, the one that makes Heidi keep apologizing. And yet tens of thousands of people in America, millions around the world, deal with these issues every day.

I’d like to write a longer piece about toilet issues in general, and about discussing the subjects. If you’re interested, New York Times health writer Jane Brody wrote about an aspect of this subject last May. (You may have to go through an ad–skip button in the top right-hand corner–to see this.)

For the moment, I’m far less interested in discussing Heidi’s personal decisions than I am in giving her credit: she’s willing to speak the unspeakable–and to let us see how hard it is for her to do so. The more of such bravery we see, the less incomprehensibly brave we will have to be.
The days when no one could imagine discussing STD status before sex with a new partner are not all that far in the past. In 2007, those discussions may not be the norm in most communities, but they are the norm in some, and the possibility exists for a lot of people. The only way to take the shame off the unbearably shameful is to have it spoken about. I just hope Heidi knows how many other people she’s helping by telling the truth.

I read Shapely Prose, but Lynn Kendall pointed this one out before I had a chance to find it for myself. And she wasn’t the only one to do so. And Lisa Hirsch mentioned the Jane Brody article at a very opportune moment.

fat, weight loss surgery, size acceptance, weight loss, WLS, bathroom, toilet, taboo, Body Impolitic

A Crockus of Shit

Debbie says:

If junk science is equivalent to, say, potato chips or Hershey bars (both of which I am perfectly capable of enjoying), then what do we call pseudoscience made up out of whole cloth? No, really. Science so bad it would embarrass the Bush administration.

Laurie and I are familiar with the movement to make us believe that boys and girls are essentially different, and to redefine education to suit boys (because girls are already getting what they need). This movement likes to rely (as so much else does in these times) on brain chemistry, brain anatomy, and brain function.

Apparently, a reasonably respected lecturer in early childhood education has simply invented a nonexistent part of the brain to shore up his arguments about gender differences in brain morphology.

Much of [Hodgins’] talk [at a large urban public school system] was the standard stuff of current pop neuro-indoctrinology (“science has revealed that boys’ brains are made of snips and snails and puppy-dog tails”), but one bit stuck out: the idea that a brain structure called “the crockus” is four times larger in girls than in boys.

The drawing of the brain is not labeled on the handout, and it wasn’t labeled in Hodgins’ PowerPoint presentation, but the drawing indicates that it’s from and I just located it here.

Hodgins referred to the small royal blue area, which is labeled “pars opercularis” on the web site PPslide, and he said that’s the size of the crockus in males, and he referred to the motor cortex (somewhat lighter shade of blue) and said that’s the size of the crockus in females.

If you’re curious about what the crockus does, apparently it does two different things at different sizes: “Girls see the details of experiences… Boys see the whole but not the details.”

You’re with me by now, right? There is no such thing as a “crockus” in the brain. There is no such thing as a crockus at all. Google yields mis-spellings for “crocus,” some material in other languages, and (score!) Dr. Hodgins’ astonishing “explanation” of his claim. Mis-spellings are in the original.

The Crockus was actually just recently named by Dr. Alfred Crockus. It is the detailed section of the brain, a part of the frontal lope. It is the detailed section of the brain. You are right, it is four times larger in females then males from birth.

This part of the brain supports the Corpus Callosum (the part of the brain that connects the right and left hemisphere. The larger the crockus the more details are percieved by the two sides of the brain.

Just to belabor the obvious, a Google search on “Alfred Crockus” yields the links given above in this post, and nothing else.

So, hey, gals: enjoy the details that your big crockus lets you see. Meanwhile, I guess men can be jealous because ours are bigger? Me, I think Dan Hodgins’ brain should be examined in the name of science.

Thanks to Alibi Shop for the links, and to Language Log for picking this up at all.

science, junk science, gender, neuroscience, brain science, junk science, Dan Hodgins, brain, Body Impolitic