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Adventures in the Archives: The Living Past

By Adam Turner

The stereotype of historians isolated in archives with dusty papers and dim lighting has more than a grain of truth to it. Granted, my archive experiences have been more ice cold and brightly lit than dank, but the isolation can be striking. I've spent entire days immersed more in the past than in the world around me. History work can be lonely and leave you feeling cut off from the present. This can actually be useful when it means closer connection with historical actors and their worlds. But you run the risk of getting cut off from everything -- both the past and the present -- during the at-times mind-numbing search for that single piece of valuable evidence within reams of irrelevant material.

After hours of paging through letters, newspaper clippings, and magazine articles unrelated to my own project, I start seeing paper rather than people. At these times, it is easy to forget that the "useless" sources are snippets of people's lives. Even if only momentarily, they intersected with the lives of one or many individuals -- people with full, rich lives outside of my own area of research interest. Because zoning out like this over so many scraps of paper can be such an issue, it's both welcoming and jarring when a source wrenches me out of that funk: when it forces me to come face-to-face with the lived experience of the past.

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Female Sexual Dysfunction: “Pink Viagra,” A Dysfunctional Approach to Treatment

by Nicole Foti

You may have noticed the recent hype surrounding the “little pink pill” or “pink Viagra,” a pill used to treat female sexual dysfunction, or FSD, a condition affecting nearly 50 million women nationwide. The FDA’s latest rejection of the drug flibanserin has caught the attention of a number of media outlets and women’s groups, including the National Organization for Women (NOW), who are questioning the motives behind this decision. Why does the FDA refuse to approve any drugs for women with sexual dysfunction, while men have five to choose from, plus another nineteen generic brands of these drugs? After reading many articles indicating that FSD was, in fact, an epidemic affecting millions of women (possibly myself included) and that the FDA was being outright sexist in their reluctance to approve drugs to treat it, I decided to do a little research. Instead of finding answers though, I seem to be left with questions. One in particular is: what are we treating here anyways?

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Sunday Morning Medicine

By Jacqueline Antonovich

-Lab-grown vaginas.
-Visit Disneyland in 1982.
-A hospital stay in 28 poems.
-The toxic history of soda pop.
-100-year-old message in a bottle.

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Sportscasters Advocate Elective Cesarean Section

By Lara Freidenfelds

Last week, Momsrising.org and others excoriated sportscasters Boomer Esiason and Craig Carton for obnoxiously opining that baseball player Daniel Murphy should have told his wife to have an elective cesarean section, so that the birth would be done before the season started. Boomer and Carton were annoyed that Murphy missed two games to take 3 days’ paternity leave, to be with his wife after the birth of their child.

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Circumcision Debate: Cut the Hyperbole

By Elizabeth Reis

What frustrates me about the circumcision debate is that both sides exaggerate their claims. Maybe this happens with most controversies, but I am particularly attuned to this one because I have been researching the history of circumcision in the United States. A recent article by Brian J. Morris and others in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings overstates the health benefits of circumcision and downplays the risks. They argue that the public health benefits (i.e. reducing sexually transmitted diseases) are so great that circumcision should be mandatory. Mandatory?

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Sunday Morning Medicine

By Jacqueline Antonovich

-Walden Pond: The video game?
-Darwin's pros and cons of marriage.
-Dead men's teeth: A history of dentures.
-12 bizarre medical remedies from history.
-Before workplace harassment had a name.
-What was it like to discover laughing gas?

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Periods, Consumerism, and My Gentle Menstrual Activism

By Jenna Tucker

The Camp Gyno ad sparked debate this past fall in the feminist blogosphere about menstruation and feminine care products. When I watched the ad, it managed to evoke just about every contradictory emotion I could feel in relation to periods, gender, and feminism. I felt everything from shame to '90s girl-power pride to anti-capitalist rage. I'm a tiny arena in which contradictory personal and cultural history plays itself out.

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Misunderstanding Miscarriage

By Lara Freidenfelds

Miscarriage rarely makes the news, except in tabloids. But last year, Virginia state Senator Mark Obenshain’s ill-advised attempt to require Virginia women to report all miscarriages to the police contributed to his failure to become Virginia’s state attorney general. The bill, introduced in 2009, haunted his race for the position. Obenshain was trying to demonstrate his moral outrage over the case of a frightened teenager who had given birth to a premature stillborn baby, and disposed of it in a dumpster. It was a tragic case, to all observers. But instead of asking how his state could better provide sex education and contraception, or provide support to teens who get pregnant, he wrote a bill aimed at surveillance and punishment. On penalty of up to a year in prison, women would be required to report all incidences of fetal demise occurring outside a physician’s supervision to the police. They were to report the pregnant woman’s name and the location of the remains, and would not be allowed to dispose of them without police supervision.

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Obama, Ryan, O’Reilly, and the Poverty of the Political Imagination

By Austin McCoy

President Obama, Paul Ryan, and Bill O’Reilly walk into a bar. Rather than engage in abstract conversations about the role of America in the world or the federal government’s role in the market, they decide to talk about an issue where they can forge some common ground. What issue could the three men come together around? It is probable they would likely converge around trying to explain and address the poverty of black men and women in the United States. This common ground is possible because national conversations about public policy never seem to escape the orbit of culture, meritocracy, colorblindness, and normative understandings of gender and family. More specifically, Ryan’s, Obama’s, and O’Reilly’s recent comments on the subject revolve around two political archetypes—the heteronormative family and the black male. When considered together, they take a special place in our nation's "gendered imagination."

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Clitoral History: A Tale of Love, Loss, and Discovery

by Nicole Lock

I didn’t discover my clitoris until I was a freshman in high school. It may have been mentioned in some measly sexual education class, but it definitely failed to register as the only organ with a purely pleasurable function. If the teacher had mentioned that over 8,000 nerve endings exist on the clitoral glands alone, while the internal structure had bulbs and legs that were also sources of pleasure, my ears definitely would have perked up. The clitoris has a history of being glossed over, not just in sexual education courses, but also in medical research. It wasn’t until 1998, when urologist Helen O’Connell published her findings regarding the internal structure of the clitoris, that the medical world finally had a true understanding of its size and scope. The organ, so central to female pleasure, has endured a long history of cultural and social norms that have hindered its appreciation and understanding. The Western history of the clitoris has many lessons to teach us about the ways female sexuality has been misled, discounted, oppressed, and even enjoyed.

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