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The Nanny State on Your Plate?

By Rachel Louise Moran

In late-November, the FDA finalized new rules for calorie counts on menus. In about a year, all food establishments with over twenty locations will need to post the calories of regular items directly on the menu. Other nutrition facts must be available on request. In about two years, vending machine companies owning more than twenty machines will need to display a poster listing items' calories. When the rules were released, few of the responses were shocking. The Center for Science in the Public Interest described the rules as "the culmination of a decade-long movement for better nutrition." Fox Business hosts called the rules "a little bit ludicrous." Is "Obamacare affecting what you eat now?" asked Fox host Charles Payne. The Chicago Tribune editorialized that calorie counts are the "nanny state" at work. Media voices are portraying the calorie counts as a battle between public health and personal freedom, just as they did with smoking regulations, jumbo soda rules, and bans on trans fats.

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Adventures in the Archives: The First Time

by Audrey Smith

The possibility of having an “adventure in the archives” always seemed a bit far-fetched. My perceptions of academia, particularly as related to notions of adventurousness, were dominated by images of Indiana Jones holding a dirty artifact and marking the X on the map. When Professor Carolyn Lewis (the adviser to whatever academic adventures loomed on the horizon for me) suggested that the archives were a time-warping place of magic and discovery, I conjured visions of swashbuckling conflicts amongst dueling historians, perhaps a diverting romantic intrigue amongst the dusty stacks – anything less than that couldn’t be an adventure, and to call it so seemed simply and woefully inaccurate.

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Worlds of Rape, Words of Rape

By Sharon Block

Stories of rape again fill the news. Rolling Stone featured an article by Sabrina Rubin Erdely about University of Virginia's responses to rape at a fraternity party. The resurrected history of Bill Cosby's sexual assaults on women has dominated headlines. Of course, October also had campus rape news: Columbia University student Emma Sulkewicz' "Carry that Weight Project" brought national attention to colleges' woefully inadequate responses to sexual assault. Come to think of it: in 2013 we heard plenty about disbelieving judges and police reticence to take student rape seriously. 2012? Let's just call it the year of Republicans and Rape and move on.

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Not Done Yet: Midwifing a Return to Social Birth

By Jordan Taitel

As a doula, I have the privilege of attending other women's labors and deliveries. Recently I attended a delivery assisted by a midwife at a large-scale hospital. The midwife and the nursing staff supported the fearless mama as she labored away in a large room with a wall of windows looking out on a beautiful river. The room was decorated with pretty pictures of flowers and soothing paint tones. Most of the medical equipment remained hidden in easy-access drawers. Everything in this beautiful birthing suite was designed to make it feel more like home for the women who would deliver there. As a student of medical history, I felt thankful for the room's design because it was a far cry from the maternity wards of the 1950s and 1960s. This hospital did everything it could to create a comfortable, personalized, and supportive environment. Still, it was a hospital, and the presence of medical intervention was inescapable. From the constant rise and fall of the heart monitors to the list of restrictions so complex that I was required to call for a nurse every time the patient wanted food, this was an environment controlled by the medical field.

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A Short History of the Penis, Masculinity, and American Feminism

By Lauren MacIvor Thompson

If you haven't heard of Claire Wyckoff, the San Francisco woman who copywrites by day for a global advertising firm and in her spare time maps runs that look like penises (or other stuff) around town using the NikePlus app, head over to her Tumblr right now. Seriously, right now. We'll wait.

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The Body as Archive

By Andrea Milne

Trying to become a public historian and freelance writer in grad school is requiring me to walk a difficult tightrope. I want to be as authentic as humanly possible, but I'm also a professor-in-training; I don't want to put anything out into the world that I would have trouble explaining to a hiring committee, to my colleagues, or to my students. As a result, I often find myself debating the merits of a post. The problem with this particular brand of censorship is that it's entirely too fuzzy. I haven't articulated to myself what constitutes fair game. How personal do I want to get? How personal do I need to get? That's why, on August 28 -- after much hemming and hawing -- I ultimately decided to write about a medical procedure I was about to undergo. I want to live in a world where academics living with disabilities aren't afraid to "come out" for fear of the cultural and institutional ableism to which it would expose them. Telling my own story is a risky, but necessary, step in that process.

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Advertising Hormonal Contraception: Medicalizing the Natural

By Nicole Lock

In recent years, there has been great debate about access to contraception, particularly the hormonal birth control pill. In 1957, the first hormonal birth control pill was approved by the FDA for severe menstrual disorders, in 1960 it was approved for contraceptive use, and by 1965 it had been legalized for married couples by the Supreme Court. It wasn't until 1972 when the Pill was approved for adult women regardless of marital status.

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Adventures in the Archives: The Dangers of Legal Abortion

by Kimberlyn Kasperitis

This summer I worked with Professor Carolyn Herbst Lewis and three other students on a research project in which we explored the history of reproductive health care in Chicago. Part of our summer included a trip to Chicago to do archival research on our subjects, and, after a month of pouring over secondary research, I was nowhere near having a thesis or a direction for a paper, which was supposed to have something, anything, to do with abortion services. I knew going into the project that, given the socially charged and complicated nature of the subject, it would challenge me both academically and emotionally, but I had no idea of the frustrations that this project would give me. When we arrived in Chicago, I made the decision to take a step back and see if any of the primary sources I was interested in would speak to me and steer me in the right direction. Even so, as I stepped into the unexpectedly warm and brightly lit Northwestern University archives, I was admittedly pessimistic about whether any of the sources I requested would be of any use. What I did not expect to discover were materials that would give me chills and move me as emotionally as some of these materials did.

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Is Pop Culture Replacing Sex Education?

By Corinne Yank

According to the documentary, “Lets Talk About Sex”, 10,000 teens catch a sexually transmitted disease, 2,400 teen girls get pregnant, and 55 young people are infected with HIV in the US every day. Meanwhile, despite these alarming statistics, our educational and political culture blurs, obscures, and shrouds discussions of sex with denial, systematically oppressing comprehensive and preventative sex education within institutional settings. According to a study done in 2002 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, comprehensive sex ed is declining in middle and high schools across the majority of the United States. And despite the fact that around 46% of high schoolers were found to be sexually active, many state programs focus primarily on promoting abstinence, rather than providing teens with real answers and options to reduce their risk and engage in safer sex.

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Collective Fat Awareness in 1950s America: Wishful Shrinkers or Cheerful Cherubs?

By Jessica Parr

I recently returned to New Zealand, the country where I grew up and met with a childhood friend for a long overdue catch over coffee. The conversation turned to my doctoral research and how my recent research trip to the Midwest had gone. As I recounted my archive adventures and my delight at finding such a wealth of popular literature concerning obesity from the late 1940s, my long-time friend looked up and exclaimed: was obesity a problem in the 1950s? This is not the first time this question has been posed to me with such surprise. We can be forgiven for assuming that widespread concern for weight management is a relatively recent phenomenon with World Health Organisation and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention fact sheets presenting obesity as a health conundrum from the late twentieth century.

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