Many Americans think of female circumcision and clitoridectomy as cultural or religious practices that have taken place primarily in other parts of the world — not as medical procedures performed by doctors in the United States for the past 150 years. And though scholars of gender, sex, and medicine have noted the significance of clitoral surgeries, we have been missing a historical monograph on the subject. Sarah B. Rodriguez’s new book, Female Circumcision and Clitoridectomy in the United States: A History of a Medical Treatment, fills this gap in the scholarship and, more importantly, explores the relationships between clitoral surgeries, social prescriptions for female behavior, and cultural approaches to sexuality and marriage. It’s an important book, and many Nursing Clio readers will find it fascinating.
Until last week, Jill Abramson, the executive editor of the New York Times, was considered the nineteenth most powerful woman in the world. She was the first woman ever to hold that particular job, and she managed it during a challenging period, as the Times moved to embrace digital technology and cope with the changing face of American journalism. On Wednesday, May 14, however, the newspaper’s publisher, Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr., announced unexpectedly that he was firing Abramson. He replaced her with Dean Baquet, who thanked Abramson for her work and noted that he was taking over “the only newsroom in the country that is actually better than it was a generation ago.” And just like that, Abramson — who played a major role in making those improvements at the Times — was out of a job.
Last Tuesday, February 11, the German athlete Carina Vogt became the first woman to win an Olympic gold medal in the women’s ski jump event. The sport itself is not new; ski jumping dates back to the early twentieth century, and men have been competing in the event at the Olympics since 1924. But until these 2014 games in Sochi, the International Olympic Committee refused again and again to allow women to participate – even when faced with mounting pressure from female skiers who wanted to compete in the 2006 and 2010 games.
And their rationale for denying women entry was incredibly stupid.
Can we all just finally agree that the ratings system currently used by the Motion Picture Association of America is misguided, outdated, and increasingly irrelevant?
I realize I am not saying anything particularly original or revolutionary here, as people are basically complaining about the MPAA everywhere and all the time now. These complaints vary, but most of them fall into two major categories. First, there’s the inconsistency issue: the ratings sytem seems to be applied subjectively and arbitrarily. So, for example, using the word “fuck” more than once is supposed to result in an R rating, except sometimes, as with The Social Network, it inexplicably doesn’t. Meanwhile, the sexually explicit The Wolf of Wall Street avoids the NC-17 rating for no perceptible reason aside from being directed by Martin Scorsese, while less explicit (but sadly Scorsese-less) films either have to cut material for an R or else accept the NC-17, knowing that the NC-17 typically results in much lower profits. This situation was discussed perceptively by director Jill Soloway, who was forced to make a number of cuts to Afternoon Delight in order to avoid an NC-17.
Researchers at the University of Montreal recently reported that female physicians consistently outperformed their male counterparts when it came to providing high-quality care to elderly patients with diabetes. The study was extremely specific in its focus – it evaluated doctors’ level of compliance with three particular guidelines for long-term diabetes treatment – and fairly nuanced in its findings, attempting to account for factors like the ages of the physicians in question. It concluded that female doctors were more likely than male doctors to schedule regular eye exams, insist on frequent check-ups, and prescribe the combination of medications recommended by the Canadian Diabetes Association.
I am almost finished with my Ph.D. This fall I’ll defend my dissertation on the history of gynecology and obstetrics in the late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century United States, and then – barring some unforeseen disaster – I’ll finally be able to make everybody I know call me “doctor.” At this point, I should be a genuine expert on my topic, and in some ways, I guess I am. Want to hear about the dangers of childbirth in the Gilded Age and Progressive Era? Curious about the history of surgeries like clitoridectomy and hysterectomy? Want to talk about racism and eugenics as applied to female bodies? I’m your girl. Let’s have coffee. Just don’t blame me when you start having horrific nightmares about vesicovaginal fistula and pubic symphysiotomy.
In 1963, Sylvia Plath stuck her head in an oven, turned on the gas, and committed suicide as her children slept. Her friend and fellow poet, Anne Sexton, memorialized Plath with a poem that linked them as suffering women who both had “the suicide inside” them: Thief / how did you crawl down into, / crawl down alone / into the death I wanted so badly and for so long, / the death we said we both outgrew, / the one we wore on our skinny breasts, / the one we talked of so often each time / we downed three extra dry martinis in Boston, / the death that talked of analysts and cures, / the death that talked like brides with plots, / the death we drank to, / the motives and the quiet deed.” *
By Carrie Adkins
Listen up, people: Republican men have had A LOT to teach us this week about sexuality, reproduction, and abortion. For one thing, you can all breathe a deep sigh of relief about the possibility of rape leading to pregnancy; apparently, that happens only very rarely, so really, we should probably just overturn Roe v. Wade. Oh, and in case you need a second reason to ban abortion, here’s one: male fetuses masturbate! Also, not to be homophobic or anything, but it seems that gay people are likely to show up at work wearing tutus. Now what would you have done without all of this edifying information? You’re welcome.
In 2009, the historian Jill Lepore told an interviewer that “as an obsessive reader of newspapers and watcher of news,” she was struck by “how impoverished our historical perspective is on most contemporary problems.” She was absolutely right. In 2012, as we, the co-founders of Nursing Clio, began to conceptualize our project, the news was making me want to lose my mind. Every day, I watched as Republicans proposed – and sometimes passed – new bills that limited access to safe and affordable abortion. And, to my horror, they didn’t stop there but instead started attacking contraception as well. Lawmakers worked to eliminate insurance coverage for birth control; Rush Limbaugh called Sandra Fluke a “slut” because she opposed those measures; and the presidential candidate Rick Santorum went so far as to state that contraception itself was “not okay.” Watching these developments, I went from bemused to angry to downright scared. We were supposed to be living in the twenty-first century! What on earth was happening here?
North Dakota has become a very dangerous place for women. On Tuesday Republican Governor Jack Dalrymple signed three anti-abortion measures into law. The first, HB 1305, bans abortions performed because of genetic abnormalities or for the purpose of gender selection; the second, HB 1456, bans abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat; and the third, SB 2305, requires any physician performing an abortion to have admitting and staff privileges at a local hospital. Individually, each of these bills makes it much more difficult to secure a safe and legal abortion in North Dakota, effectively policing patients’ reasons for electing an abortion, shortening the legal time period for seeking that abortion (fetal heartbeats can sometimes be detected as early as six weeks into pregnancy), and limiting the number of qualified abortion providers in the state. Taken together, they constitute a full-scale assault on the rights secured by Roe v. Wade. I have questions. Who gets to decide whether a woman wants an abortion for acceptable reasons? How will the presence of a fetal heartbeat be determined — perhaps through a medically unnecessary transvaginal ultrasound? And with a single clinic currently operating as the only safe and legal facility for abortions, doesn’t this hospital-privilege requirement effectively eliminate abortion in North Dakota anyway? What are the class implications of making abortion available only to those who can travel out of the state?