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?
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?
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.
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.
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."
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.
By Ginny Engholm
Recently, there’s been a lot of talk in both the political sphere and the blogosphere about the magic twentieth week of pregnancy. For some women, blissfully unaware of the fragility of modern pregnancy, it’s the date at which they find out if they should paint the nursery pink or blue. It’s the date that they schedule the “gender-reveal” party. It’s the date at which the baby goes from being an “it” to a “he” or “she.” For others, it is the thin red line of the abortion debate, the indisputable moment of personhood, the fractious moment where anti-abortion advocates can say, “Aha! It’s really a person after all. You couldn’t possibly think that having an abortion is okay now, could you?”, the moment at which so-called late-term abortion becomes unthinkable for a large majority of the public. For some unlucky women, women like me and like Phoebe Day Danziger, it’s both.
By Cara Jones
There is a problem with women’s health today. I’m not talking about breast cancer, menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, or menopause. I’m not even talking about violence against women, mental health, aging, or fitness and nutrition, some of the featured women’s health topics on womenshealth.gov. What I’m talking about is a language problem: the problem is that women’s health is called, well, women’s health. Don’t get me wrong. These are serious issues that require careful attention. And yet, I’m beginning to wonder if we should re-think the category of “women’s health” in general. There is something fundamentally flawed with the way “women’s health” issues are primarily sexual and reproductive, and centered around appearance and the home.
By Rebecca M. Bender
I recently came across this amazing vintage video "Family Planning," produced by Disney in 1968. Do yourself a favor and take 10 minutes to watch it. In addition to the frivolous use of Donald Duck and the caricature of a "simple" heterosexual couple who appear clueless as to how babies are made, this short film provides us with a wealth of information regarding attitudes towards reproduction in the U.S., and abroad, during the late 1960s. After doing a bit of research, for example, I found out this film was produced for the Population Council, a non-profit organization created by John Rockefeller in 1952.
By Carrie Adkins
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.