by Karla Erickson
Some mornings I wake up very early with my son, Erik. In those quiet pre-dawn hours, I imagine that I can hear the human world awakening: a truck driver trudges out to his truck amidst the hissing of the engine; a farmer wakes before the roosters to spread feed for her chickens and goats; a coffee shop worker switches on the lights, grinds the beans, brews the coffee; parents like me who rock babies or stroke fevered foreheads, and all the people—children, spouses, home care workers and elder care workers—rise to care for the old and ailing. Chaplains sit with those who may not live until dawn, nurses’ aides who raise beds, pick out clothes, slide on shoes, offer water and coffee, and inquire “How did you sleep, Gloria? Was it a good night?” I think about the rustling of bodies, old and young, who are being helped lovingly and willfully to rest comfortably as the sun rises.
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 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 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 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.
Consider two diseases: Disease A and Disease B. Children with Disease A are described as being “excitable” and “precocious,” at risk of being “overstimulated.” Thus, they are unable to balance “academic, intellectual, and physical growth.” [Schuster, 116] Children suffering from Disease B, on the other hand, are “active, restless, and fidgety” and have difficulty “sustaining attention to tasks, persistence of effort, or vigilance.” [Barkley, 57] At first glance, the symptoms of the two diseases in children seem oddly similar. Yet these are two wildly unique diseases that have never overlapped in time.
by Rachel Epp Buller
Once upon a time, AIDS was a focal point for artists in the United States.
My design students and I recently read Maud Lavin’s Clean New World: Culture, Politics, and Graphic Design, in which she discusses the rise of political art and design in the 1980s after the election of Ronald Reagan.[i] The Eighties – the decade when the rich got richer, the poor got poorer, and social services were cut dramatically. Lavin asserts that, because the liberal mainstream seemed to disappear almost completely during the years of Reagan popularity, a variety of artist collectives took on the mantle of politics, social action, and public health.
By Carrie Adkins
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.
By Carrie Pitzulo
Recently, Marjorie Ingall, writing for the Tablet, discusses the complicated – but sometimes very simple – feelings women have about their abortions or miscarriages. In “My Abortion, My Miscarriage, and My Right To Have My Own Feelings,” Ingall presents a sensitive, levelheaded rendering of her own spectrum of reproductive experiences. She describes the relief she felt at terminating a pregnancy in her youth, and the overwhelming sadness she felt at a later miscarriage, before having two healthy children. Ingall points out the lack of cultural acceptance of women’s wide variety of feelings about their own lives: “No matter what we feel—sadness at a miscarriage, relief at an abortion—women are told their feelings aren’t legitimate. Someone—a politician, a friend, a member of the clergy—invariably tells us to buck up if we’re devastated by the loss of a wanted pregnancy, and/or to hate ourselves if we’re not devastated to end an unwanted one.”
By Heather Munro Prescott
In an interview about his new film "Behind the Candelabra", actor Michael Douglas told the Guardian that his throat cancer was caused not by years of smoking but "by HPV [human papillomavirus], which actually comes about from cunnilingus." Douglas said, "I did worry if the stress caused by my son's incarceration didn't help trigger it. But yeah, it's a sexually transmitted disease that causes cancer." He shrugs. "And if you have it, cunnilingus is also the best cure for it. . . It giveth and it taketh." When I first heard this story, I thought Douglas was compensating for playing a flamboyantly gay character by boasting of his heterosexual male prowess (and/or showing that despite his age and illness, he can still satisfy his much younger wife).