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Posts by Tina M. Kibbe

Eugenics and Genetics in the News in 2013

By Tina M. Kibbe

Happy New Year! As another year ends, I wanted to take a look at three news stories involving eugenics and genetics in 2013 that you may have missed.

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Eugenics: It’s Good for You!

By Tina M. Kibbe

A recent report from the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) disclosed that physicians, under contract with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, performed tubal ligations on nearly 150 female inmates while they were housed at two of the institutions under its authority. Between 2006 and 2010 148 women at the California Institution for Women in Corona and Valley State Prison for Women in Chowchilla were sterilized without the required state approval. The CIR reports that there may be as many as 100 additional women who were sterilized dating back to 1997. Moreover, some of the women at these institutions have claimed that they were coerced or badgered into having the sterilization procedure while they were pregnant. While some women were able to resist the pressure, others were not, and some stated that they were made to feel like they were “less than human” or “bad mother[s].”

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A Historian’s Guide to Summer-The Beer Edition

By Tina M. Kibbe

Now that I am back in my home state of Texas after being gone for several years, I wanted to write about a topic that might touch upon summertime, gender, and the history of medicine . . . so obviously, I decided to write about beer! Beer and barbeque in the Texan summer are about as ubiquitous as heat and humidity. While I’m not really going to focus on the summer specifically, I primarily wanted to use it as a springboard of sorts to begin this post on the history of medicinal beer.

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Just Add Water . . . and Sperm

By Tina M. Kibbe
As an historian of science and medicine, I am always interested in both the histories of and the latest innovations in genetic and reproductive technologies. It is unbelievable how far we've come in such a relatively short period of time. These technologies are usually met with a mixture of awe and fascination or resistance and fear—it seems as if sometimes we are witnessing a glimpse into the future, yet it is actually happening in the here and now. I recently came across an article that actually made me stop and say, “Wow, really?” It’s about research into a new reproductive technology, but before I get to it, I want to do a brief background of revolutionary reproductive and genetic technologies that have sparked some intense ethical and moral debates. Specifically, three groundbreaking developments which have women/gender at their very core. Three developments that, as they were occurring, perhaps seemed like they were only futuristic, fantastic things that could never really happen . . . until they did.

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What I Learned in Third Grade

By Tina M. Kibbe
Originally I envisioned this post as a commentary on labels or stereotypes, and how they serve to sort and categorize individuals. We all do it….give labels to people in an attempt to construct an orderly inventory in our minds. However, while they can sometimes be helpful and provide a common vocabulary, labels can often limit our understanding and obstruct our view of the whole individual. I specifically wanted to address labels in relation to gender as a follow up to Ashley Baggett’s excellent post on masculinity and Adam Turner's awesome post in which he talks about sorting and categorizing people. In the course of my writing, however, an unexpected turn-of-events occurred. I was asked to temporarily teach a third-grade class. So, I decided to look at gender and labels from a different perspective--from a third-grade point-of-view. It turned out to be an excellent source of material and I thought I would share some things I've learned from these plain-talking third-graders.

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HPV and the Importance of Planned Parenthood

By Tina M. Kibbe
While doing research for a new project, I was doing some reading about sexually transmitted infections and came across a couple of interesting articles about the HPV vaccine and Planned Parenthood. The article on the HPV vaccine deals with the concern over the vaccination increasing the sexual activity of young women. And the article on Planned Parenthood surrounds the controversy over whether or not the organization would remain part of the state-run Women’s Health Program in Texas. My interest in these articles stems from my research in the gendered aspects of healthcare, particularly in relation to sexual transmitted infections. Also, I am originally from Texas and I think it is inane to restrict access to affordable healthcare resources.

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What’s So Bad About Eugenics?

Surprisingly, I have been asked that question on more than one occasion. I have had students ask me during class and once after a conference presentation. The last time I was confronted with this question was in my summer class, when an earnest young student asked, "If you take the racial prejudice out, what's wrong with eugenics?" The student continued to press his point: "What's wrong with a program that has the goal of improving the human race and now that genetics is so advanced, surely we could make sure that people have the best genes and traits. Wouldn't that make for a healthier, happier population?" Hmm. So much to think about here. A program that uses cutting edge science to improve the human race by ensuring that individuals have only the best genes or traits so that people will be healthy and happy? Indeed, what is so bad about that? Who can say, "NO" to having the best genes, being healthy, and being happy? This is precisely the reason why eugenics was fairly easy "to sell" in the early twentieth century. For the sake of brevity, let's set aside the vast complexity of the science of genetics and pretend that we could just pluck out the "bad" genes and insert the "good" ones on DNA strands so that in a few generations we might have a utopian world filled with people swimming in the luxurious, healthy, and happy waters of the "best" gene pool. At this point, I have two questions. What determines which genes or traits are the “best,” and in this program of improving the human race, who makes the determination of which ones are the best? Me? You? Or what about a panel of experts? Afterall, we are talking about using science and a panel of objective scientific experts seems like an appropriate choice to make these important decisions. Or is it? While we ponder that for a moment, let's take a look back.

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