Monday, May 31, 2010

Shocking news about labor induction and preterm birth rates

Labor inductions may be boosting rate of earlier births 

In fact, it's a "likely cause" of earlier births and lower birth weights.  No shit.  Seriously.  They had to do a study to figure out that the more labor inductions there are the more early births (and accompanying complications and risks) there are.  Ya know what else increases as the induction rate increases?  Medical interventions.  And medical bills.

Oh, and one more thing.  As far as I've seen, all the MSM reports on this simply report the study group as pregnant women in the US.  In fact, the study specifically focused on white pregnant women in the US.  But, ya know, since white is the default, that seems like an irrelevant detail, doesn't it?

Read more here.


Louise Bourgeois: "Femme, 2007", gouache on paper

Saturday, May 29, 2010

My daughter went out to play in the yard this morning and brought this bird up to the porch, so beautiful and so dead.

Happy Memorial Day weekend y'all.

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

What I'm Reading

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

Crazy Like Us by Ethan Watters
I'm really into the idea of this book, but I'm only partway through and I'm losing interest fast.  I just have too much on my plate right now, I think.

Over and over and over again.  Every night.  It's awfully good - I'll give her that.  But lord almighty will I be glad when it's due back at the library this weekend.

The Trauma Myth by Susan A. Clancy
This book...this book...has been a long time coming.  It says some things that really needed saying, but somehow I doubt they'll have the impact they should, which is tragic.  It's very accessible, although not quite as meaty as I had hoped.  Clancy recaps her grad school research on the experience of child sexual abuse as described by adult survivors.  The dominant model holds that child sexual abuse is traumatic, and this trauma accounts for all the negative effects that frequently occur in the lives of abuse victims years later (such as depression).  Trauma here means extreme fear, shock, violence, fear of bodily harm or death, etc rather than the more watered-down meaning it takes on in everyday conversation.  So in the trauma model, one can expect the outcome of child sex abuse to be very similar to or identical with that of PTSD.

Of course, there's a political history behind this.  Before child sex abuse became a form of trauma, it was widely dismissed or underestimated.  Even worse, victims were often blamed and viewed as unnaturally mature and sexual, as seducers of their adult "partners" (think Lolita, here).  Clancy notes that child advocates and feminists reacted strongly against this and pushed to change social views in order to get people to take child sexual abuse more seriously, procure funding for treatment and public awareness campaigns, etc.  Unfortunately this went too far, and resulted in a tragic victim silencing of another sort.

It seems like there are two main forces at play in this dynamic.  For one thing, those who are studying and treating victims of child sexual abuse are adults, and thus tend to understand sexual assault through an adult lens.  In an adult understanding of the world, sexual assault most definitely is a traumatic experience.  An adult has a much more complex understanding of sexual behavior, and a more fully developed sense of autonomy.  But of course, children don't, so their immediate experience of sexual abuse is rather different from an adult understanding - and therefore experience - of it.

Second, the dominance of the PTSD model in other areas such as in the treatment of soldiers returning from war and adult survivors of sexual assault lent itself easily to the new push for protection, awareness, and treatment of sexually abused children.  The PTSD train was already rolling with some pretty hardcore momentum, so it made sense at the time to hitch the child sexual abuse car to it.  Except...

In the vast majority of cases, the trauma model doesn't fit.  Only something like 14% of child sexual abuse cases involve violence, bodily harm, extreme fear, etc.  In contrast, most are perpetrated by family members or close friends, and do not involve intercourse or penetration or physical force.  The most common emotions experienced by the victims at the time are confusion and discomfort.  But in our shared conceptual framework, child sexual abuse is generally the violent kind.  This adds to the confusion of many victims, because they have a hard time conceptualizing it as abuse after the fact.  They only hear the trauma model and are treated by therapists as if they were typical PTSD sufferers.

Thus the trauma model unintentionally adds to the victimization of survivors of child sexual abuse because they're left feeling like there is something really wrong with them because they didn't feel what they were supposed to feel.  They didn't feel terrible fear or shock at the time, because they didn't really understand what was happening to them, and they weren't being physically threatened or harmed by the abuser.  They didn't resist or run away, because at the time they didn't conceptualize it as abuse and had been taught to respect the authority of adults and therefore didn't see themselves as free to resist.  But nobody tells them that this is actually a far more common abuse experience than the violent one sensationalized by the media and public advocacy campaigns.  So it's like a double tragedy - that of being abused and having to spend the rest of your life sorting it out, and that of basically being silenced and alienated by the model we use to conceptualize the abuse and treat the victims.  And I know that every word of this is true, because Susan Clancy, who has never met me, described my experience exactly.

Based on her research, Clancy advocates for a more realistic and effective approach.  In the rare cases where force and violence did occur, the trauma model is fine.  But in the more common case of non-violent coercion, the victims need most of all to hear that they're not alone, that many others have had the exact same experience, and that there is absolutely nothing wrong with them.  This is normal.  You are not fucked up, your abuser is.  Your feelings and responses are totally normal, and your cooperation with something you did not understand and were not equipped to resist was totally understandable.

One would hope that in cases like this, actual interpersonal realities would trump political and economic concerns.  One would hope that common sense and a desire to not silence or further victimize those who have been abused would be the driving force in the treatment of child sex abuse victims.  One would hope.  I'm not very hopeful.  But I am very glad this book is out there.

So...I didn't really intend for this post to become a full-blown book review.  It was supposed to be one of those quick li'l "this is what I'm reading what are ya'll reading" kind of posts.  But the coffee's hot and the moon is full and the baby's sleeping sweetly on the couch and I just got a little carried away.

What are y'all reading these days?  Anything good?

Video of the Day

Environmental Toxins FTW!

This week Pediatrics published the results of a new study linking pesticides with ADHD.  The abstract can be found here, and the following is an excerpt from the full article:
We report an association between urinary DMAP metabolite concentrations, which are indicators of exposure to dimethyl-containing organophosphate pesticides, and increased odds of ADHD for children 8 to 15 years of age. There was a 55% to 72% increase in the odds of ADHD for a 10-fold increase in DMAP concentration, depending on the criteria used for case identification. This association was not explained by gender, age, PIR, race/ethnicity, fasting duration, or creatinine concentration. Whether DAP metabolite concentrations are more strongly associated with a specific subtype of ADHD is unclear, because of the small numbers of cases, although the association was stronger for the predominantly hyperactive/
impulsive subtype. This study should be generalizable to the US population because the NHANES sample is nationally representative, unlike previous studies of groups with higher exposure levels.11–15 With respect to the importance of these findings, organophosphates are among the most widely used pesticides, and the concentrations of DAP metabolites among children did not decrease from 2000 to 2003–2004.
I cannot wait to hear the pesticide industry's response to this.  I cannot wait to see what measures are taken by their representatives to prevent federal regulatory agencies and Congress from taking any action to limit our use of and exposure to pesticides.  If it wasn't so sad it would be downright amusing.

Sunday, May 23, 2010


Let's start by saying I kind of hate comment moderation on blogs.  It leads to stilted conversations and adds up to a lot of work for the blogger.  Sometimes I'm up for a great conversation, and sometimes I want to just dump my thoughts out and leave them there.  Having moderated comments makes you revisit old posts you're just sort of done with, and it ties you to your blog in a way that makes me slightly uncomfortable.


For the first time ever I've turned on the comment moderating feature here.  And this is because I finally had to, after being cyberstalked and threatened by an Angry Entitled Asshole of a Commenter. 

And blog etiquette seems to dictate that now I have to articulate a Comment Policy, right?  If you're going to moderate comments, it's only fair that you clearly lay out what flies and what dies, it seems.  The thing is, I'm not going to do that.  Mostly because I don't want to, and forcing myself to do something that I won't enjoy and don't feel like I should have to do just sort of feels like doing homework.  But also because this is my. fucking. space. and allowing a misogynistic entitled bullying asshole to come in here and force me to do things I don't want to do feels sort of ... out of line with feminist ideals, to say the least.  Beyond that, I'm not sure why any blogger owes a Comment Policy to the public at large.  If you're coming into my home, and your shoes are all muddy, and you demand an explanation of me when I ask you to take your fucking shoes off, then you're not really the kind of person I want in my house, anyway, so please leave.  Now.

That's all.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Tobacco products: totally not marketed to kids.

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Friday, May 21, 2010

Video of the Day

Spongebob and Tiny Tim.  What could be better?

Have a great weekend y'all.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Score Card

Number of Catholic priests excommunicated for sexually assaulting young boys: 0

Number of Catholic nuns excommunicated for allowing an emergency life-saving abortion: 1

Also, when did Woody Allen become a bishop? Nobody tells me anything anymore.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Sex and Religion and Moral Responsibility

Hopefully this post won't be as heavy as the title suggests.

First, a couple texts I wrote to a friend last night, motivated by recent events among my circle of friends in which certain people have behaved very badly:
I’m thinkin: Some people (name redacted, e.g.) go from one bad relationship to another because they’re in love with being in love. They’re taken with the image of themselves with wind in their hair being gazed at adoringly. Others cheat incessantly because they’re taken with the idea of an attraction so intense it defies convention and exempts them from the rules that ordinary mortal folk have to follow. I’m not sure where the rest of us stand.
And later:
The “swept off your feet” phenom exempts one from moral responsibility, right? When you’re in the grip of something so much bigger than yourself… So it seems that you and [mutual friend’s] ladyfriend have this in common. It just takes on a dif form. And it fits the description of a religious experience…in the grip of an epic force in which you are transformed from the ordinary. Ecstasy. The drug. The religious experience. The orgasm. Whatever.
So I've been thinking about this in more detail as it applies to a broader pattern of behavior and not just to certain people I know.

In the first instance we have the romantic-love-as-spectator-sport that's so prevalent in romantic comedies and reality shows and wedding culture. And this has the odd effect of making people bystanders in their own relationships in a way. Just like the cultural preferencing of the male gaze leaves women constantly examining themselves from a harsh patriarchal stance (always watching ourselves perform femininity), the fetishization of hetero relationships, and a particular type of hetero relationship, causes many people to value the existence of a romantic relationship itself over the quality of their actual experience in that relationship. Which is not as clear as it sounded in my head. I'll try again. I think in our culture we (especially women) are so in love with the idea of being in love (and all the accouterments of romantic love), and so committed to the idea that there is no fulfillment outside of a romantic relationship, that we're willing to endure all kinds of ridiculous indignities for relationships that are ultimately unfulfilling, while we miss out on relationships that are potentially very fulfilling simply because we're not taken with the image of ourselves in those relationships. A friend said to me once "I'm not so sure I was in love with her. It was more like I was in love with the idea of myself as the guy who was in love with her." I think this is sort of what he was getting at. Anyway, this seems to be one cultural script we can follow when it comes to romantic relationships.

Then there's this other dynamic that's much more destructive. I have a number of acquaintances who can only manage to be attracted to someone if one or both of them are cheating. And a lot of lip-service is given to how wrong and shameful cheating is in this crowd, but really, most of it just seems to be lip-service. It's a script they've learned to appease a society that doesn't officially approve of cheating. But deep down, I suspect they don't feel that they've done anything wrong, or that they're responsible for the damage they routinely do to others. And I think this is due to another cultural script we have.

You see it all the time in movies and books. Two star-crossed lovers meet and are so attracted to each other instantly that they have to be together, no matter how many people they have to betray to do so. And it's passionate and intense and they're swept away by the experience. It's The Bridges of Madison County or the English Patient, in one form or another, over and over again. "This kind of certainty comes but once in a lifetime" and a whole lot of other ridiculous nonsense that sounds kinda like that. And the experience is epic and life-changing and soul-consuming. You become more fully yourself when you're with this person, whatever that means: "I was acting like another woman, yet I was more myself than ever before." Well, you were acting like a treacherous asshole, so apparently that's who you really and truly are. And this person helped you discover that, and that's a good thing?

Except that in the end it isn't epic and life-changing and soul-consuming, and the passion burns out and you're left with a couple of inconsiderate schmucks who just fucked up a lot of people's lives. But the thing is, the experience is constructed (and no doubt experienced) as this thing that's bigger than you, bigger than the two of you. It's this Force of Nature, and you're just a helpless leaf caught up in the whirlwind of it all. And leaves don't have agency. Moral responsibility cannot be attributed to mere leaves. So you are excused of all wrong-doing.

But the experience is transformative in other ways, right? You become this new person within the body of the illicit relationship. You're passionate and poetic and so special and unique that you're totally worth taking huge risks for. It's exciting and an escape from everyday life. And it sets you apart, because the same rules that apply to ordinary people don't apply to you. If someone suggests that the rules do apply to you, you dismiss them with a sneer, thinking that they've just never experienced the depth of passion you're experiencing (or something along these lines). If your bf/gf/husband/wife/partner, who you're cheating on at the time, were to cheat on you, you would be outraged and wounded. But this is not hypocrisy, because in this script you are special - the rules don't apply to you - while they are ordinary people and thus governed by the laws of convention.

And what does all of this sound just exactly like? Religious experiences. A transcendental reality. Epic, transformative, irresistible, intense. So I suppose in this framework, being in the grip of a religious experience exempts one from moral responsibility as well. Think Abraham sacrificing Isaac here (sorry Kierkegaard, I think I just finally really got this, because, seriously, I was way too young when I first read you anyway). And maybe the chronic cheaters are looking for the sculpture: the ecstasy of saint teresatransformative religious experience that's a perennial object of obsession in our culture. But dontcha think by now we should get over the whole immature "I need to be swept off my feet and have a transformative (change you can believe in) experience or I'm just standing outside the fire and missing out on the real experiences" thing and realize already that love is what you do, not what you feel in the moment that will change in a heartbeat, and that mature people live with their feet on the ground and their loved ones' best interest in their heads at all times, not just when it feels good? In other words, Jesus Christ I am sick to death of immature self-absorbed people. But also, this is another way in which the ridiculous cultural scripts and expectations we cling to are much more than harmless entertainment, and do very real damage to real people in the real world.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Birthday to the Pill

And happy Mother's Day.


You wined me and dined me
When I was your girl
Promised if I'd be your wife
You'd show me the world
But all I've seen of this old world
Is a bed and a doctor bill
I'm tearin' down your brooder house
'Cause now I've got the pill
All these years I've stayed at home
While you had all your fun
And every year thats gone by
Another babys come
There's a gonna be some changes made
Right here on nursery hill
You've set this chicken your last time
'Cause now I've got the pill
This old maternity dress I've got
Is goin' in the garbage
The clothes I'm wearin' from now on
Won't take up so much yardage
Miniskirts, hot pants and a few little fancy frills
Yeah I'm makin' up for all those years
Since I've got the pill
I'm tired of all your crowin'
How you and your hens play
While holdin' a couple in my arms
Another's on the way
This chicken's done tore up her nest
And I'm ready to make a deal
And ya can't afford to turn it down
'Cause you know I've got the pill
This incubator is overused
Because you've kept it filled
The feelin' good comes easy now
Since I've got the pill
It's gettin' dark it's roostin' time
Tonight's too good to be real
Oh but daddy don't you worry none
'Cause mama's got the pill
Oh daddy don't you worry none
'Cause mama's got the pill

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Almost Missed It

Between being home sick and having a ton of stuff to do and dealing with the load of email from my recent childbirth posts, I almost missed International No Diet Day. The thing is, I still feel pretty much the same about dieting and fat-shaming as I did last year, and have no time to write a new post, so I'm going the lazy route and reposting last year's post. Enjoy.

Happy International No Diet Day!

According to Wikipedia, the goals of INDD are to:
  • Doubt the idea of one "right" body shape.
  • Raise awareness to weight discrimination, size bias and fatphobia.
  • Declare a free day from diets and obsessions to body weight.
  • Present the facts about the diet industry, emphasizing the inefficacy of commercial diets.
  • Show how diets perpetuates violence against women.
  • Honor the victims of eating disorders and weight-loss surgeries.
And these are all great goals. But it's depressing to me that we need a day for this. And it's depressing that a lot of women see this as a day to take a break from their diets. Some of the ways we're encouraged to celebrate INDD include:
  • Enjoy a food that you typically deny yourself
  • Eat at least three healthy meals and two snacks today
  • Give away clothes you've been waiting to be thin enough to wear
  • Don't compare your body to anyone else's. Remind yourself that you are unique
  • Pay someone a compliment based on something other than weight-related qualities
  • Do something you've been putting off until you're 'thin' enough to do it
  • Make a top ten list of things you love about your body
I think you should eat three healthy meals and a couple of healthy snacks every day. I think you should find things to appreciate about yourself every day. And I try to avoid complimenting people on weight-related qualities every day. There are so many way more important characteristics to a person than their weight.

When I was a personal trainer, clients would come in and tell me their goals and ask for a exercise and diet regime that would help them accomplish these goals. Often, toward the end of the first consultation they would ask "what would you do if you were me?" At the risk of them never taking me seriously as a trainer again, I would reply "I would avoid dieting." I would go on to explain that changing your eating habits to be healthy, moderate, and balanced should be a lifetime thing, and shouldn't require starving yourself or refusing to allow yourself an occasional treat in moderation. If the goal is fueling and nourishing your body in a healthy way, weight loss often happens as a secondary effect.

For one thing, getting your 5-9 daily servings of fruits and veggies and drinking a reasonable amount of water doesn't leave that much room for giant portions of fatty foods full of simple carbs and refined sugars. But also, telling yourself that you can have any reasonably healthy food in moderation as long as it's balanced by other healthy foods takes off the pressure and allows you to nurture your body instead of punishing it. And the fact is, when you stick to a healthy balanced diet and get a moderate amount of exercise, your body will return to the weight it wants to be (which may not be the weight you want it to be, or the weight our culture tells you it should be), and you'll sleep great, have tons of energy, and have strong and glowing hair, skin, and nails. In other words, health is beautiful at any size, and valuing and caring for your body rather than punishing it gives you a sort of confidence and centeredness that are visible and very appealing to others.

So regarding the first recommendation for celebrating INDD, I think the only foods you should be denying yourself on a daily basis are foods that are inherently unhealthy to begin with. I avoid foods with ingredients like hydrogenated oils (trans fats) and high fructose corn syrup everyday, but I don't deny myself a little bit of chocolate (real chocolate) or the baked goods I crave all the time or any other foods that are thought to be off limits because of their calorie content. I do eat them in moderation, but I don't deny myself althogether. But avoiding the trans fats and HFCS means that you can't eat the cookies and muffins from the bakery or the grocery store. It generally means if you want a cookie or muffin or piece of carrot cake, you're going to make it at home. And that means you can control the ingredients, tweak the recipe to be healthier, and control the portion size. It also means that you'll find yourself baking a batch of healthy cookies and muffins on the weekend and putting them into baggies in individual servings and freezing them so that your family can dole them out all week. But having access to healthy treats in reasonable portions is a huge benefit for someone like me who craves the baked goods but shuns the unhealthy crap used in industrial baking. And it changes your approach to food and to your body. Instead of shaming yourself for wanting treats and denying yourself constantly, you took the time to care for yourself at the beginning of the week and provide a healthy treat for yourself each day. And it makes the giant muffins at the coffee shop lose their charm when you know you have a healthy, reasonably-sized muffin or cookie tucked in your lunch just waiting to be savored with your afternoon coffee. So I intend to celebrate INDD not by allowing myself to eat some pre-packaged snack that's full of unhealthy crap (since these are the only foods I typically deny myself), but by eating the same way I eat every day.

Happy International No Diet Day!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Quote of the Day

Anyone who knows anything of history knows that great social changes are impossible without feminine upheaval. Social progress can be measured exactly by the social position of the fair sex, the ugly ones included.

Karl Marx. Before he got all beardy.

Also, happy Cinco de Mayo.

Rachel goes on about mothering and childbirth and breastfeeding and supported choices again

Considering my recent thoughts and posts on these topics, check out the great timing on the posting of the list of The Best and Worst Places to be a Mother by Save the Children. It's already been all over the news this morning that America places pretty low for a wealthy developed nation (28th), and this is largely due to the high maternal mortality rate and our lack of support (like maternity leave) for mothers. And this is precisely my point.

It is a fact that choices can be curtailed in multiple ways. You can give all kinds of lipservice to the benefits of breastfeeding, but as long as medical professionals don't give real help to new mothers trying to get into a good nursing routine, and women are expected to carry most of the domestic labor burden within the home, and pumping is frowned upon in the workplace, and maternity leave is short, and people continue to think of breastfeeding as some repulsive thing that ought not to be done in public, and women experience serious career limitations for altering their work schedules to accommodate breastfeeding and pumping, and formula is pushed as the nutritional equivalent to breastmilk ......we can't really view breastfeeding as a viable option for most mothers. It's not that anyone is explicitly telling them that they can't or shouldn't breastfeed. But there are other ways to constrain a person's choices other than through legal or social prohibitions and physical constraints. And this is a really important distinction we overlook.

When there are multiple barriers to your success in a particular endeavor, then we cannot view that as a choice that one can freely choose in the same way they can choose the options without similar barriers. Take abortion, for example. In my state, abortion is legal. Nobody can legally stop you from terminating a pregnancy. But you can't get an abortion here. There simply are no providers. You can come up with about $500 and drive several hours (depending on where you live) to get to clinics in neighboring states that provide abortions. And then a week or two later you'll need to arrange for transportation to drive back to that clinic for follow up. So if a teenage girl or an unemployed woman or any woman who is financially (and/or transportationally) dependent gets pregnant, it makes no sense to talk about her choices. Unless she can find someone to drive her to an out-of-state clinic and pay for it, she's gonna have that baby. And this is true in more geographical locations than most people realize.

And what of natural childbirth? In some places homebirths are an option. In some places there are birthing centers that are woman-centric and support mothers in whatever informed decisions they make. But most women will give birth in a hospital, either because these choices aren't available where they live or because they aren't covered by their insurance. And new guidelines for midwifery have even further restricted these options in some places. So that leaves most women who desire a natural birth with the sole option of making it work in a hospital setting.

And let me tell you about how that generally goes. From the minute you step through the doors you will be fighting off medical interventions. It will be you against a doctor and several nurses, or possibly you and your midwife and/or doula against a doctor and several nurses. Although you've clearly written in your birthplan that you do not want an epidural, nurses will breeze in all cheerfully right when you're in the middle of a contraction and ask you if you're ready for your epidural yet. Repeatedly. Instead of supporting you in your goals and talking you through the hard stuff, they hit you when you're down, when you're most likely to give in. I'm not the only one with this experience. When you start comparing notes with other women it's astonishing to realize the similarities. It's as if they're working from a script. So women who attempt natural childbirth will not only be dealing with the stress and pain of childbirth, but they will often also be fighting a constant battle to fend off the medical interventions that they have already clearly communicated a desire to avoid in their birth plan. And this is frequently true even in a fairly uncomplicated, quick birth.

In my experience, it took slightly less than an hour from the time I started pushing until my daughter was born. She was in a great position. She was not a particularly big baby. Her heart rate was good. There were no indications whatsoever of any danger. And yet, just as she was crowning the doctor (my midwife was out of town when I went into labor early) decided that I needed an episiotomy. This seems to be prompted by the fact that, when the pressure suddenly ratcheted up, I said "Oh fuck" and then to my partner "I'm not sure this is such a good idea." I was joking in a grim sort of way, because that's how I handle these things. But it said very clearly in my birth plan that I didn't want an episiotomy. In addition, it's generally accepted in the medical community that the vast majority of episiotomies are not only unnecessary, but harmful to women. You heal slower and are more likely to sustain permanent damage to surrounding tissue. But none of this mattered. My consent didn't matter. And let me tell you that seeing someone come at your genitals with a knife that big would be somewhat traumatizing no matter what the context was. But when you're struggling to manage the pain, and ignore the nurses who are cheerleading and babytalking you in spite of your repeated requests that they not do this, and to think your way through this tough process, it's even worse. It's like one of those days when everything is going wrong, and then truly ridiculous shit starts happening, and you're like "what's next, the locusts?" Because having to fight this shit off when you're already handling so much and feeling pretty damn vulnerable is really too much, and they know it. They've dealt with lots of women in labor. They understand the psychology of it. They know that saying no and standing up for yourself is really damn hard in that moment. And sometimes even saying no isn't enough. At first I just looked at the knife and said "I don't want an episiotomy. Is that what that is?" She still held the knife. Then my partner said "absolutely not - she wrote that in her birth plan." She still held the knife. Finally I sat all the way up and looked her squarely in the eye and said "I do not consent. If you cut me I will sue your ass." Then another contraction hit me and I felt that urge to push that kind of drowns out everything else and so I leaned back on my elbows and started pushing again. She made an exasperated "hmmph" sound and set the knife down hard on the table. About 10 minutes and 3 or 4 pushes later my daughter was born. My partner thought she had scared/angered the baby right out of me with that knife. It could have been that the additional adrenaline rush sped things up. I don't know. But I remember how ironic it was when she cheerfully told me after the fact that I had only had a very minimal amount of surface level tearing, and that I didn't need any stitches and it would be all healed up in a day or two. And it was. But I remember thinking, "well, if I had just tried to cut you with a giant knife against your will I would certainly not be talking about how you clearly didn't need to be cut at all in a totally pleased tone of voice." You'd think you would be sort of embarrassed and apologetic.

But if you put my experience in context, it seems pretty minor. So I had to fight off an unnecessary episiotomy and the minor damage that would have accompanied it. But think of all the women who are told they have to have a c-section, and they don't want one, and wonder if it's really necessary, but are bullied into shutting up and getting it over with already. And finding out later that it probably wasn't necessary, and wondering if there was anything more you could have done to prevent it, has got to be a hurty thing. And so the overwhelming feeling you take away from your childbirth experience is impotence and a complete loss of control, because in your vulnerable moment, there was nobody there to support you and take your side and argue your case. Of course your friends and family can try, but their voices get drowned out very quickly in the context of the medical juggernaut, which is backed by our cultural attitudes toward doctors and childbirth.

So that's why I keep yammering on about supported choices. Live options. Robust agency. Because merely having the choice to do something (technically, legally, whatever) doesn't mean shit if it's not viable for you due to the lack of support and the cultural forces against it. And this applies to all of the "choices" women make concerning mothering. If you're clearly going to experience setbacks in your career by choosing to have children while your male counterparts will be unfazed by it, then the choice to have children is not a free one. If it's going to be a constant struggle everyday to breastfeed and deal with social negativity and pay the price for arranging your schedule to accommodate it, then breast vs. bottle is not a free choice. And this, my friends, is why America scores so low when it comes to mothering.


According to Elisabeth Hasselbeck, once you've been stalked and had nude videos taken of you in private, against your will, without your knowledge, you must take a pledge to dress like a nun henceforth. Otherwise, you're giving the peeping Tom exactly what he was after. In other news, women who have been raped must forever abstain from having sex, and men who have been mugged must never carry any valuables in public or give to charitable causes. Otherwise, we'll know that they weren't really victims in the first place.

Dear Elisabeth,

There's this little thing called consent. It's kinda important. You might want to read up about it before you open your mouth on national television and defend the behavior of sexual predators.


In Pictures

Like I've said before, nothing gives a cop a boner like getting to tase someone.

And in case you need to hear the song again: Don't Tase Me Bro.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Video of the Day

The Shortwave Stall from Jeffrey Bowers on Vimeo.

Last weekend David Lightbourne died in his sleep. He's featured in this video starting at about 1:10. David was a musician and a musicologist and a cultural historian and a sweet, warm, passionate soul. I've spent many an evening sitting in a booth at the Buckhorn Bar listening to David tell stories of the old days and expound on his theories about music and culture and art and politics. He was a one-of-a-kind sort of guy, and this town will never be the same without him.

You can read more about him here and here.

And here, for your viewing pleasure, is David with the Metropolitan Jug Band, back in the day:

Monday, May 3, 2010

Monday Miscellanea

Saturday was Blogging Against Disablism Day, and I suck at blogging on the weekends, so I didn't contribute anything. But a lot of other people who don't suck at blogging on the weekends did contribute a buncha good things, so go read them. You'll find a comprehensive list right here.

And here's a Monday morning riddle for you. What would you get if you combined Dr. Seuss with Schoolhouse Rock with bad corporate behavior? Litigation Mitigation of course. BP, who has yet to send a contractor out to begin the coastal cleanup project in Louisiana that local environmental groups have been told to abstain from, has already sent out their litigation mitigation team. They're authorized to hand out up to $5,000 to local businesses and property owners who will be impacted by the spill in exchange for a signature on company paperwork. And what do you bet that paperwork includes? I'd be willing to bet that there's some sort of carefully worded release of liability hidden somewhere in that paperwork. And as long as we as a society keep pretending like oil spills are tragedies that can neverthless be cleaned up and recovered from in a relatively short time frame, BP will experience a slight, temporary blow to it's public image, write a few checks, send out a contractor to "clean up" the beaches and local wildlife, and then move on to the business of cranking out a few ads that will repair their image and put this all behind us. And the media will quickly move on to more interesting stories. But what will happen to the coastal communities that will be impacted by all this? Well they might look to Alaska to know what to expect. Yep, in Alaska there are still communities and businesses and families that are feeling the impact of that one oil-spill that happened when I was a wee teenybopper. I suspect that BP has learned a thing or two from the Exxon disaster (the PR one, not the environmental one), and the quickness of their litigation mitigation teams is a reflection of this.

Besides being Blogging Against Disablism Day, Saturday was also May Day. The fact that we don't celebrate May Day (we have Labor Day instead) in America is ironic and speaks to the power capitalism has in our cultural framework. Most Americans don't even know the history of May Day in America, so here's your chance to read up and educate yourselves.