All posts by Debbie

Single Payer Health Care: There’s Really No Comparison

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Debbie says:

Since the middle of last year, Laurie and I have veered somewhat away from our roots as a body image and photography blog to delve into other political issues. We’ve never written about health insurance and health care policy. Nonetheless, access to care is an essential body image issue as well as being a political issue on other fronts. Having (or not having) the freedom to take care of our bodies certainly affects how we live in your bodies, which is at the root of our body image.

In California, where Laurie and I both live, a single-payer proposal is gaining some serious traction. The proposal has passed the state senate in theory. With dollars attached, it will need more votes than it has so far. And the state assembly is somewhat more conservative than the state senate, though both have supermajorities of Democrats, so it could theoretically pass without any Republican defectors. It has a well-funded well-grounded budget study which says it will save California $40 billion/year. It has a sensible, nonburdensome revenue stream.

No one in their right mind wants the horrible American Healthcare Act (“AHCA”) to pass.  As much as I want good single-payer coverage in California — and everywhere — I would give it up in a hot second if I could trade it for keeping “Obamacare” for the rest of the U.S. However, if the AHCA does pass, that will help California move toward this proposal … and maybe that will help move the rest of the U.S., at least the parts of the U.S. that retain some semblance of sanity and some awareness of the needs of actual humans. (New York and Vermont also have proposals moving along through their state legislatures.)

My friend JP Massar has created a starkly informative chart of the contrast between the Republican’s AHCA (as passed by the House of Representatives) and the California proposal. We can’t say how the Senate might change the bill, since they’ve decided to keep that secret. Here are just a few of his points:

Under the AHCA, how much will it cost you for insurance? Variable, depending on age. For some older people,  coverage could well cost more than their annual income.

Under the California proposal? Nothing, ever.

How much will it cost you if you get sick (AHCA)? Potentially everything you have, and more. States can define what is covered (“essential benefits”) and your illness may not be covered. There could also be yearly and lifetime limits on what your insurance will pay.

(California): Nothing, ever.

If you are able to get insurance, what will your deductible be (AHCA)? Thousands of dollars. Possibly much more than now because the infamous cost-sharing subsidies would likely go away.

(California): Nothing, ever.

If you have to visit a doctor, or fill a prescription, what would your copay be (AHCA)? Whatever your insurance company thinks they can get away with.

(California): Nothing, ever.

There’s lots more, ending with:

What if I go insance because Republicans are running the country (AHCA)?> Too bad! That’s clearly a pre-existing condition.

(California): You’re covered!

Single payer health care: It’s affordable, it’s comprehensive, it’s compassionate, it’s sane. The Republican “alternatives” offer none of the above.

Every body needs care. Not to mention what we can do for, by, and with our bodies with the money we wouldn’t be spending on doctors, prescriptions, and insurance.

Manhood? Or Penis-hood?

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Debbie and Laurie say:

Photographer Laura Dodsworth has completed a major project on penises (following a project she did on breasts). She calls the project, and accompanying book, Manhood: The Bare Reality, saying “One word for penis is manhood, so it seemed a perfect starting point to talk about being a man.”

Dodsworth did some admirable things for this project: she went looking for a wide variety of models, including trans men, men with micropenises, disabled men, and at least one strap-on. If you want to learn about the variety of penises, this is great. The Guardian article linked here includes interviews with several of the models, and the book probably has interviews with all of them.

This is a project we want to like. Familiar Men taught us both a lot about men and their penises, and the subject is under-explored, especially visually. But Dodsworth made two choices which deeply undercut the value of her work:
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First, she chose headless, and surprisingly bodiless, photography. Because all the men are standing in the same position, the same distance from the camera, with their hands in the same positions, the message is that the penis is the only differentiation, and thus the penis is the man. Anything else that might be of interest about each man is invisible, and thus unimportant. (Her breasts project is done in exactly the same format, equivalently making the breasts the only interesting thing about each woman.) In the same vein, she chose to make all the men nameless: not only no full names, but no first names, no initials, no handles, no aliases. Just their age, and the picture of their penis. Dodsworth succeeds in dehumanizing her models, reducing them to a single view; the interviews dispel this a little, but not enough.

Part of Dodsworth’s narrative about both of these projects is how brave these people were to have un-airbrushed pictures of their sexual organs shown in public. It’s always brave to tell your story; nonetheless, when we read these stories and the only visual context we are given is a picture of the penis that goes with the story, we lose track of the full humanity of the person behind the interview.
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Familiar Men exemplifies photographs of men of a wide variety of ages, ethnicities and body types, showing their entire body and face to the world. In Laurie’s photography and our joint work, the penis is not the man. Where Dodsworth anonymizes, we strive to personalize.

Thanks to Lisa Hirsch for the pointer!