Friday, May 18, 2012

Friday Miscellanea

Happy Friday. Here are some things to mull over as you pursue your weekend activity of choice:

A shocking discovery has been made in China:  having more money doesn't make you happier. Which I think we knew from earlier studies, with the caveat that having enough money to cover your basic necessities does impact your happiness ranking, but once you're out of that ball park, it has little or no effect.

A group of rats that switched up their healthy drinking water for a sweet beverage (aka diluted high fructose corn syrup, or soda, or whatever the popular sugary drink currently being marketed to young children is) experienced a substantial decline in synaptic activity. In other words, sugar consumption appears to make you dumb. Which isn't terribly surprising. And I thought we already had enough other reasons to avoid sugary beverages - especially those with HFCS in them.  ...or any food containing HFCS, for that matter.

An interesting new study examines the relationship between teenage motherhood and economic status. In Why is the Teen Birth Rate in the United States so High and Why Does it Matter? Melissa Schettini Kearney and Phillip B. Levine challenge the dominant view that becoming a teen mom is what puts so many young women in the U.S. on a low-income trajectory. Rather, they argue that more teens choose to have babies when there is little economic opportunity or social mobility available to them. In other words, this study seems to show that the causal relationship (if there is one in this particular correlation of factors) goes the opposite way from how it's conventionally viewed. Girls don't become/stay poor because they get pregnant - they are more likely to get pregnant and raise a baby if they are already on an economically-deprived trajectory. I think this merits some serious conversation.

I've finally started reading Virgin: The Untouched History by Hanne Blank.  So far it's interesting, amusing, and fairly light reading. Here's an excerpt on the topic of the hymen:

There simply are no symptoms occasioned by virginity loss that are uniform enough to point directly and unequivocally to the existence of the hymen. One would in any case reason that if there were, or if human beings did possess some innate awareness of the existence of hymens-an awareness, again, that all other hymen-bearing animals appear to lack-it would not have taken us until 1544 to figure out exactly what the hymen was and where it was located in the body. Truly, human beings are not so different from all the other animals that have hymens. We too very rarely have any inkling that our hymens exist.

It seems much more probable, given the importance human beings attach to virginity, that our awareness of the hymen came into existence the other way around. In other words, we became aware of hymens because we are aware of something we call virginity. We found the hymen because we found reasons to search women's bodies for some bit of flesh that embodied this quality we call "virginity," some physical proof that it existed. Humans are not alone in having hymens. We're merely alone in knowing it, and in having given ourselves a reason to care.

What are y'all reading these days?

And finally, a video for your viewing pleasure:

Happy weekend!


  1. Love the video!

  2. Now that it's finally summer I've started reading Feminist Mothering, which I've been wanting to read forever.

  3. Anonymous5/22/2012

    I would argue that you most likely cannot get a strict one-to-one causal relationship between low-income trajectory and teen motherhood from the study. That sounds like a media-style spin. It probably does point to a cluster of social issues surrounding girls in certain socioeconomic groups that all contribute to the likelihood of teenage pregnancy and parenthood. It still merit serious conversation, as you say, and points to the ineffectiveness of preaching at and shaming teens.

    1. Yeah, it sort of reminded me of the whole culture of shame surrounding obesity:
      First we assemble a food system that encourages unhealthy eating, especially for those in tougher financial circumstances. We highly subsidize the stuff that's really not that great for you while refusing to subsidize a wide range of healthy crops.
      Then we fail to regulate many industrial and cosmetic substances - such that most people in developed nations are exposed to large amounts of obesogens.
      Finally, we ignore all the evidence that there is a large genetic component to body weight.

      Then we turn around and preach at people about their weight, and shame them incessantly... all makes very little sense to me.

  4. Serendipity5/23/2012

    I'm reading We Need to Talk About Kevin, since I want to read it before seeing the movie. I've heard great things about the movie, but the book is making me sad. :-(

  5. Anonymous5/23/2012

    I don't approve of rats drinking soda, but that picture is adorable.

    1. Imagine how shocked I was when I googled "rat drinking soda" and that was the first image hit! I didn't think there would actually be a picture like that - maybe a cartoon or something.