Sunday Morning Medicine

-New photograph of poet Emily Dickinson discovered.
-“Bullying, Masculinity, and the Spectre of the Fag.”
-Does breastfeeding cause droopy breasts? (thankfully, science has the answer.)
-Speaking of breasts . . . a breast washing machine circa 1930s!?
-Stock photographs of sad babies with their feminist mommies.
-Art, the brain, and neuroscience.

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.

First Comes Love, Then Comes Marriage: A Night at the Drive-in

Sex education is tricky stuff. We’ve heard some about it already here on Nursing Clio. And many of us awkwardly shuffled through it one way or another in public school. The only real “talk” I remember from my parents was a noticeably scientific explanation from my microbiologist father, which pretty much cleared up my curiosity at the time, I recall. The public school side of it was mostly anatomy

Feminist Conversations: Elizabeth Reis Talks Intersex

Elizabeth Reis is a professor of women’s and gender studies at the University of Oregon and is the author of Bodies in Doubt: An American History of Intersex (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009). This year (2012-2103) she is a visiting scholar in the History of Science Department at Harvard University. This interview originally appeared in Feminists for Choice and is reprinted with permission.

1. What was the motivation behind writing Bodies in Doubt?

So much of the “history” of intersex begins in the mid-1950s with a critique of John Money and his colleagues at Johns Hopkins University. This was an important period, of course, because Money’s protocols became widely adopted, but it was hardly the beginning of the story of the medical management of intersex. As an early American historian, I wondered what happened to those born with unusual bodies in earlier eras. I wanted to find out how the gradual process of medicalization affected our understanding of how male and female bodies were supposed to look.

Sunday Morning Medicine

-Sex and polio in the movies.
-Your condoms are not made in Condom, France.
-Oldest message in a bottle found.
-Why abortion apologies hurt the pro-choice cause.
-Ancient Korean love letter unearthed.
-The dangers of deconstructing women.

Meeting Death–Notes from a Living Historical Artifact

I have recently experienced a good deal of (mostly good) healthcare services here in Northern Illinois. For the last three and a half years I have been a patient in and out of various hospitals, undergoing small and large “procedures,” experiencing rehabilitation and a large number of outpatient services. It wasn’t always this way. I am/was a nurse. I was the one giving the care, staying calm in emergencies, answering those difficult questions and doling out reassurance like sandwiches at a picnic. My recent experiences as a patient have brought back a lot of memories and the sudden realization that I am a living, historical artifact. The apprentice-style nurse training I received in Britain in the early 1980s is now defunct and has been replaced by a University degree, higher wages and a level of professionalism even Florence Nightingale could only dream of in 1860 when she established her training school for nurses in London.[1]Britain, the whole world now knows, reveres the National Health Service as a national icon (remember the opening ceremony at the 2012 Olympics in London–dancing nurses in archaic-looking uniforms and nimble-footed doctors prancing around the stadium with their bedded patients?). I think it was watching the NHS tableau that triggered the memory of the time I first met death.

The Blame Game in Autism

The interwebz have been abuzz this week, debating Moises Velasquez-Manoff’s editorial in the New York Times on autism and immune function. Although Velasquez-Manoff is a little late on the autism/immune function thesis (which has been posited in research projects since at least 2005), it’s his use of autism stereotypes and ableist language that put this article on my radar. It’s the assumption that autism is a sign of a broken or damaged child that has made me question both his interpretation of that thesis and the implications for the families of children with autism – and the autists themselves.

Democrats’ Success and Gender Equality Depends Upon Identity Politics

Women speakers made the greatest impact on the first night of the Democratic National Convention. Clearly the Democrats aimed to exploit the Republican Party’s woman problem. Women like veteran Tammy Duckworth, republican defector Maria Ciano, NARAL president Nancy Keenan, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Lily Ledbetter, citizen Stacy Lihn, and Michelle Obama, all ventured to speak explicitly about a range of policies that the Republicans remained vague about during the RNC last week. Many of them explicitly placed very controversial issues like income equality, contraception, and Obamacare on the table, and not just during the early evening speeches, but during prime time.

Now It’s Everybody’s Fault

By Adam Turner

Welcome to the second in a series of posts discussing genetics, prenatal testing, and genetic counseling. In this post we’ll be thinking about blame and birth atypicality. Earlier this month the New York Times and other news media reported on the findings of a recent study published in the journal Nature. In some cases, the study suggested, the increased genetic mutations found in older men’s sperm could make it more likely their offspring might develop autism or schizophrenia.

Sunday Morning Medicine

-19th century beauty secrets revealed!
-The history of New York in 50 objects.
-When they were young – 30 famous historical figures.
-The controversy over the long-awaited Thalidomide apology.
-The gay artist who defined american masculinity in the early-20th century.
-Do we need to redefine the term “disability?”
-Mysterious new virus found in middle America.