Tag Archives: feminism

Audre Lorde in Germany

What a nice clip.  Thanks A.L..  You inspire and motivate!

Get up and get ’em!

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Filed under art, documentary, feminism, learning, race, representation

Overpopulation fear-mongering, Structural adjustment and Peru

The simplistic blame-game associated with over-population is ridiculous.  The dynamics of what happens when people have children are more complicated than the traditional privileged environmentalists articulate in their ‘more babies mean more trees get cut down.’

Consumption of things that are made out of trees is why trees are cut down.

I almost always credit Betsy Hartmann whose insights have helped me to better understand population and consumption issues.  Here is Betsy explaining the distinction:

Don’t get me wrong. I support the provision of contraception and abortion as a fundamental reproductive right and as part of comprehensive health services. What I’m against is turning family planning into a tool of top-down social engineering. There’s a long and sordid history of population control programs violating women’s rights and harming their health. That’s why feminist reformers in the international family planning field have fought hard to make programs responsive to women’s — and men’s — real reproductive and sexual health needs. A world of difference exists between services that treat women as population targets, and those based on a feminist model of respectful, holistic, high-quality care.

via On The Issues Magazine: Fall 2009: The ‘New’ Population Control Craze: Retro, Racist, Wrong Way to Go by Betsy Hartmann.

Of course, the enthusiasm for reducing population translated into devistating programs of sterilization around the world.  Most recently this history of sterilization is impacting the election in Peru.  Paid for with United States Agency for International development money, the Peruvian dictator Fujimori sterilized almost 300,000 women against their will.

The sterilisation program came about as a poverty reduction strategy. In the early 90s Peru had, under Fujimori, put in practice one of the most aggressive structural adjustment policies ever implemented. It was so forceful that even the World Bank advised the Peruvian government to slow down. As a result of prolonged economic crisis and neoliberal reform, 50% of Peruvians lived under the poverty line and population control was an ideal to aspire to. The UN population conference in Cairo in 1994 and the women’s Beijing conference of 1995 provided Fujimori with inspiration, and his government received funding from USAid to undertake the ambitious project.

via Peru’s sterilisation victims still await compensation and justice | Natalia Sobrevilla Perea | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk.

That’s right.  We have to lay some of the responsibility for this systemic violence against women at the feet of the United Nations and the leaders of first world nations.   The forced structural adjustment policies, and the US-funded United nations overpopulation projects also deserve blame.

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Filed under capitalism, colonialism, human rights

The conscience of meat eaters: suicide food

I have taught the ideas of Carol Adams connecting feminism to vegetarianism for the last fifteen years.  I believe Carol Adams and other ethical vegetarian thinkers provide important insight into the most persuasive articulation of compassion and for animal rights.  These thinkers provide help exploring the questions  associated with ethics, violence and killing.

One key insight I’ve drawn from Carol Adams is to scrutinize the language of representation.    How living animals are re-articulated to become advertisements for their own obliteration.  Unpacking the driving justification for violence itself involves interrogating the artifacts that sooth the conscience of human animals.

Suicide food is a humorous attempt to pinpoint images which represent animals as happily giving their lives for human consumption.   Here is the commentary on the angelic pig advertisement above:

If we could hear the thoughts of this pig, this newly minted angel, he might say, “At last! I am delivered at last from the stinking life into which I was born, and which was bequeathed to me as a necessary precondition for my ascendance into blissful eternity!” (Getting killed and grilled really brings out the poetry in a pig.) “Ill will? I bear the humans—my betters from their soles to their souls—no malice, for they have engineered my deliverance! And the only cost was a brief—so, so very brief—lifetime of worthlessness!”

Which is why the haloed food wears a beatific smile. Through his suffering and utter abnegation, he is clarified into his essence. And now, on ornamental wings, he soars to his last and best destination, and the life beyond life that his death and consumption made possible.

via Suicide Food.

I like the concept of suicide food — the term itself.  It provides a moment of critique to those who eat meat without reflection.  It also mockingly brings forward the image of the tools (confined animals, slaughterhouses, butchers) used to actually produce meat.

Smart and useful.  Thanks to Lisa Wade at Sociological Images for the connect.


Filed under feminism, food

Kids and their feminist moms

Cool interview with both Erica Jong (Fear of flying) and her daughter Molly Jong-Fast.  It is obvious that they are close, although they scrap in the interview!  Both are authors and they have an exchange in this interview that highlights the differences between the language of generations.  Check out the embarrassment about the lack of thought over word choice.

Here is Erica Jong describing what she thinks is the biggest challenge to feminism today. And her daughter’s retort.

EJ: Waking up the women who don’t realize the risk they’re in. Getting the conversation going again. It’s hard to get the conversation going again, because people think they have it all. And meanwhile all these states are going to outlaw not just abortion, but birth control, which is what they were always about. If you read successive UN reports on the status of women, there is one thing that leads to prosperity in poor countries, and it’s controlling fertility. Once women can control the number of children they have, everybody’s life gets better – economically, and healthwise, and in every other way. It’s been proven. So to see our country going backward in this way is ridiculous. There are probably many unconscious factors, like the fear of being outnumbered by brown and black people.

MJF: You can’t say it like that. It sounds inherently racist when you say it like that. “Fear of being outnumbered by” – it’s not a race war! First of all, you can’t say it like that. To say someone’s “brown” or “black,” you can’t say that. Every liberal bone in my body cringes. And the reality is that it’s not; America’s going to be more Hispanic, but it’s not going to be more “brown.” I don’t know what “brown” is. Is that tanned people? You can’t, I mean, what planet do you live on, “brown?” Mulatto? Did you mean Mulatto? Quinteroon? You can’t say that.

via The Feministing Five: Erica Jong and Molly Jong-Fast.

For the record, I don’t think that Erica Jong said anything all that unsettling.  But I appreciate the willingness of her daughter to challenge the simplistic language.   It is a loving call-out — one which asks her mom to reflect on the simple story of race.  I suspect that Erica Jong’s last sentence is spoken in the-voice-of-other-people.  Good artifact and good luck on the next linguistic clash!  Thank you feministing for the interview.

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Filed under feminism, race

Thinking ‘crazy’: DSM5 and women’s periods

I have been trying to get the word “crazy” out of my daily vocabulary.  I tend to use it to mean something surprised me, and that seems to be a little insensitive and it doesn’t actually convey what I’m trying to communicate.

But the American Psychiatric Association actually publish a book that defines mental illnesses/disorders in the US: the DSM.  This is the authority that creates new disorders that get wide-spread pharmaceutical advertisements.  This is where new diseases are constituted and where old disorders are reorganized.

It is the DSM’s that have first labelled gay sexual desire as being a mental illness later to change their mind after years of shock therapy.

We should be clear that the development of labels for mental illness come with material impacts.  When we name human beings as ill, we also submit them to treatment or scorn.  This is the development of societal exclusion and hierarchy in visible language.  Creating the category of treatment is itself a displacement of individual voice and experience.

According to the LA Times, a posse of psychiatrists are meeting in Hawaii and debating the creation of new categories of mental illness for addition into the fifth edition of the DSM.  In addition to deciding that gambling, obesity, and a few other clunky new categorizations of human behavior  are apparently driven by mental illness they are wondering whether:

• Is there a distinct mood disorder that occurs in some women prior to their periods?

• Is hoarding a brain-based illness?

• Can the sorrow accompanying bereavement swell into a certifiable mental disorder?

via Psychiatric disorders: Deadline nears for next edition of diagnostic manual – latimes.com.

Pretty interesting questions.  I wish folks could investigate these questions without the goal being to come up with a crisp ‘diagnosis’ for medication, treatment and ‘cure.’

Noting that the article says that the DSM5 draft is is visible, I swung by to see about the return of “Premenstrual dysphoric disorder” (the ‘mood disorder’ referred to by the LA Times) in the next draft of the DSM.   The draft has a handy rationale with some interesting ideas visible. Here is the bottom two paragraphs from their rationale.

It should also be mentioned that there is already some acceptance for PMDD as an independent category from Federal regulators in that several medications have received an indication for treatment of PMDD.

There may be concerns on the part of some stakeholders that this category is proposed as a new diagnosis. In particular, some groups have felt that a disorder that focuses on the perimenstrual phase of the menstrual cycle may “pathologize” normal reproductive functioning in women. Relatedly, only women are at risk for the condition and this may be of concern to some in that they feel women may be inappropriately stigmitized. Some women’s health advocates were concerned that designation of a category for PMDD would insinuate that women are not able to perform needed activities during the premenstrual phase of the cycle. Our group reviewed this literature. We felt that the prevalence statistics clearly indicate that PMDD is a condition that occurs in a minority of women. As such, it would be inappropriate to generalize any disability to women in general. In fact, a DSM diagnostic category for women who experience marked symptoms and impairment perimenstrually highlights the fact that most women do not experience such symptoms. Analogously, while most individuals experience the feeling of sadness at some point in their lives, not all individuals have experienced a mood disorder.

via APA DSM-5 | D 04 Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder.

1.  They are making the case to return this disorder to the mental illness book because “federal regulators” have already released drugs to treat this condition.   If there was ever a visible moment of the medicine before the disease, this is a pretty good one.

2.  The second paragraph is a stunningly avoidance of what seem to me to be some pretty good arguments.  If most women have periods and some of them come with discomfort, this official diagnosis expands the risk that women will think that their normal period is messed up.   In essence, these criticisms point to the difficulty in discovering whether you are experiencing “marked symptoms and impairment perimenstrually”or just having a rough period.

Now, I’m not a Psychiatrist.  But I looked at the list to see if I could distinguish what the “bright-line” was between having a period and having “premenstrual dysphoric disorder.   Well, you are supposed to have five or more of the symptoms a week before menstruation and then they clear up after your period is over.

As near as I can tell, five of them are vague descriptions of moods rather than physiological experiences. If you felt bummed, blue, depressed, alienated, sad, or frustrated at the patriarchy during your period and your boobs hurt, you’d easily trigger a diagnosis of this “disorder.”

(1) marked affective liability (e.g., mood swings; feeling suddenly sad or teaful or increased sensitivity to rejection)

(2) marked irritability or anger or increased interpersonal conflicts

(3) markedly depressed mood, feelings of hopelessness, or self-deprecating thoughts

(4) marked anxiety, tension, feelings of being “keyed up” or “on edge”

(5) decreased interest in usual activities (e.g., work, school, friends, hobbies)

(6) subjective sense of difficulty in concentration

(7) lethargy, easy fatigability, or marked lack of energy

(8) marked change in appetite, overeating, or specific food cravings

(9) hypersomnia or insomnia

(10) a subjective sense of being overwhelmed or out of control

(11) other physical symptoms such as breast tenderness or swelling, joint or muscle pain, a sensation of “bloating,” weight gain

via APA DSM-5 | D 04 Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder.

(Please note the typo of what I assume is supposed to read “tearful” in the first symptom description from the original site.  I wonder if someone who needs Earl Grey to get moving in the morning might mistakenly be diagnosed with this disorder because they were too “teaful.” )

Like horoscopes which are written with such vagueness as to apply to almost everyone, these descriptions can only help to lock in a sexist understanding of women themselves.  Like the phrase “she’s PMSing” used as a way to dismiss criticisms from women, if women cede the ground to the psychiatrists to define that their very cycle itself makes women sick, then the cultural impact will be massive.

Now, lets be super clear — I think that menstruation is a different experience for different women.  And I don’t mean for this discussion to suggest that some women don’t really hurt during their periods.  Many women find that their periods are enormously painful.  Inga Muscio’s wonderful book Cunt provided me with some thoughtful perspective on menstruation and the relationship between the labelled women’s body and that pain.   She notes that she appreciated the medical research discovering that women actually hurt during menstruation.

After all those days I vomited because the mid-section of my body was clenched in a fist of throbbing excruciation; when I sat in the bathtub crying for five hours straight; when I couldn’t get out of bed or leave the house for fear of fainting in public; suddenly, because a group of men took the time to study a group of women and found there was indeed a rational reason for these symptoms to wrack our bodies once a month, I was allotted the pale comfort of knowing this pain actually existed!

Oh Joy.

Cynic that I am in such arenas of contemplation, I wonder if perhaps this generous allotment wasn’t bestowed upon womankind because pharmaceutical companies came to the magnanimous conclusion that sales for pain relievers would skyrocket if only they invested in a little “research” to counter the “in her mind” myth and re-condition the general public into believing there was a veritable malady at hand.

– Inga Muscio, Cunt. p. 20

And of course, here is Prozac maker Eli Lilly pulling the PMDD description from UK prozac because “. . . it is not a well-established disease entitity across Europe.”


Filed under disability, feminism, health

Zombie Marie Curie dropping science

Thanks to feministing.com for the comic!

A short write up on the comic at the often-inspiring feministing.com.

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Filed under academics, feminism