Ah, summer. There is so much to love about this bewitching season. The long, warm evenings on the porch, the tinkling of ice in a cold beverage, vacations to exotic locations, and a slower pace of life that seems to magically rejuvenate the soul. I think F. Scott Fitzgerald stated it best when he wrote, “And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.” Who am I kidding? Summer is also about kids out of school and underfoot, the dreaded bathing suit shopping trip, vacations to not-so-exotic locations (Dollywood, anyone?), and temperatures so hot and muggy that certain portions of skin stick together abnormally. Let’s be honest, summertime is a mixed blessing.
In the past few days, Americans (and I am sure many people around the globe) have read Angelina Jolie’s startling announcement that she recently underwent a preventative double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery (and as I understand she will also have her ovaries removed). Like most people, I was awestruck by her bravery, her straightforwardness, and her honesty. As a scholar of medicine and gender and women’s history, I was instantly struck by how her melodic narrative described her agency as both a patient and a woman. Her op-ed also conveyed a dream of perfect medical care, family support, and clarity in making a very profound decision that would have a major impact on her future health. But as much as I marveled at her decisions (as did so many other individuals), my academic training immediately brought a level of cynicism that I could not easily dismiss (and I am not alone). I almost instantly began to think about Angelina Jolie the celebrity, not Angelina Jolie the common woman.
I’ve been a little hesitant to write a blog about some of my experiences in a psychiatric hospital in 1980s Britain for a number of reasons. I am aware that those who suffer mental illnesses are some of the most vulnerable members of society. This was definitely true in the mid-1980s in Britain. I write this with the utmost respect for the patients I came into contact with and the nursing staff charged with their care.
My son is a bit obsessed with the game of Skylanders at the present moment. My husband and I were very late on the bandwagon of purchasing a Wii and even when we decided to; our son had to trade in his Nintendo DS and its games to purchase the game console and the starter package (we made up the difference). Since then, it has been a tug of war to maintain the number of hours he (and his sister) can play the Wii, while at the same time monitor what he is playing. When he first told me about Skylanders, one of the first things he said to me was, “Don’t worry Mommy, there are no guns and no blood,” and he was right, although I still think the game introduces him to mild violence. But then I remembered how many Saturday mornings I spent glued to the T.V. watching Bugs Bunny, while I ate a bowl of cereal. So I relaxed a bit. Yet, I was surprised that just as he mentioned Skylanders to me, he instantly reassured me that the violence included no guns and blood. At this point, you can guess that my husband and I are not gun enthusiasts by any stretch of the imagination and although my son has asked several times for a Nerf gun or something like that, we as good, but evil liberals, of course replied, “Hell no! Nerf guns will just lead you to the dark side of NRA worship,” or something like that. So by now, he knows that the question, “Mommy, Daddy, can I have a gun?” should never cross his lips. But I know very well that in many households that question would be met with a resounding, “Thank God our Johnny (or Jill) has seen the light!”
About damn time! Despite its bi-partisan support from its inception in 1994, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) lapsed in 2012. Republicans and Democrats engaged in an intense debate on the terms of the bill as did the rest of the country. But on February 28, 2013, the House of Representatives renewed it. Not the watered down one. They passed the all-inclusive VAWA that provides resources for Native American, immigrant, and LGBT victims. Now we can continue the fight against domestic violence without regressing decades in the larger campaign for women’s rights. While most agree much more has to be done to end the violence, governmental intervention through VAWA is crucial to solving the problem.
Well it’s the day after Valentine’s Day, faithful Nursing Clio readers, and what better way to nurse our romance hangovers than a good, old-fashioned chat about the history of porn. Now, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. I spent a good deal of this past semester looking at lots and lots and lots of porn. In fact, between September and December of 2012, I probably viewed more “pornographic” images than I have in my entire life. This immersion into “adult entertainment” was not something I ever envisioned as being a part of my graduate school journey, but it’s a funny thing where one finds herself on the way to a PhD. Don’t get me wrong, as a historian of gender and medicine, I have seen my fair share of historical lady parts and man bits – just not quite from this perspective. But you see, when acclaimed cultural anthropologist, Gayle Rubin offers a graduate seminar on the infamous Feminist Sex Wars of the 1970s and 80s, you don’t hesitate to jump right into the porn fire.
The bromance has surged in popular culture in recent years to such an extent that you could be forgiven for thinking this a relatively recent concept. Although Wikipedia dates the term ‘bromance’ (only) to the early 90s, Urban Dictionary’s oldest definition is from 2004. The ‘bromantic comedy’ genre (think I Love You, Man, Superbad, or I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry) seems to be the latest incarnation of this trend capturing enormous audience interest. Although the word might be new, however, the concept certainly isn’t.
Today I’ll be focusing specifically on the idea that a person, or a part of a person’s body, can be “ambiguous.” I’d like to start by noting that the word itself is fraught. As I mentioned, it can be both empowering and hurtful depending on how it’s used. The first question is: ambiguous to whom? Is this person ambiguous to themselves? Or are they just ambiguous to the person doing the looking? A person who, like many of us, is trying to sort and categorize the people around them into boxes labeled “male” or “female,” “gay” or “straight,” “black” or “white.” But — and this gets at one of the reasons I love Hedwig, with all its issues — ambiguity does not have to be a problem. Taken up dusted off and worn proudly ambiguity can carve out spaces for human difference in a culture and a history too often resistant to divergence from the “norm.”
My first job as a State Registered Nurse in mid-1980s Britain was night shift on an Acute Geriatric ward in Portsmouth. The shifts were long—eleven and a half hours—and it was hard, physical work. All sorts of strange things happen at night. At times it felt as though the ward was bewitched—sometime around midnight. Hospital patients who were perfectly sane during daylight hours became confused, frenzied and belligerent after darkness fell. Nakedness, for some reason and for some patients, became an urgent necessity as did climbing over bed rails or side tables. Zimmer frames (walking frames) and walking aids so benign on dayshift, transformed into fencing weapons at night as patients who had bottled up a lifetime of frustration finally let go. Keeping sparing patients apart can occupy nurses for hours at night. Hiding potential weapons does not always help as water jugs and cups can become flying missiles at night. Patients in Britain, unlike the United States, cannot be physically restrained in any way and so “sitting” with an agitated patient is the only action to prevent falls or the accidental maiming of another patient.
It’s been a while since I’ve posted here on NursingClio and up until the other day I had been planning on writing something incredibly exciting (I swear) regarding the history of prostitution. As it often does, however, life happened. The image below rolled across my computer screen and derailed that little nugget in favour of a conversation about our current obsession with the innocence of childhood and the possible impact it has on decisions that we, as adults, make regarding how best to guide children into adulthood. How much does adult-onset awkwardness about the fact that children do have a sexuality and are sexed influence the way we talk about issues relating to sex?