What we’re reading this week, by @wordspinster @sianushka @slutocracy @SarahGraham7

The kids are alright , by Deborah Cameron at Language: A Feminist Guide

When I was a kid, I sometimes encountered adults who disapproved of the way I’ve just used the word ‘kid’. ‘A kid’, they would say, repressively, ‘is a baby goat’. They weren’t really objecting to the substitution of animal for human vocabulary. They just thought ‘kid’ was vulgar, a sign that the person who uttered it was uneducated and unwashed. They were using a spurious argument about language to proclaim their superiority to the common herd. They were also asserting their power, as adults, to hold young people to their standards of acceptable speech.

I was reminded of this last week when I read an article in Teen Vogue about the importance of using gender-neutral language. Clearly, I am not in the target audience for this publication, being neither a teen nor in any way voguish, and I can’t say I’ve ever looked at it before. But my interest in this particular piece was piqued after a number of people shared it on Twitter and commented on the absurdity of some of the terms it suggested—like ‘pibling’ and ‘nibling’ as gender-neutral substitutes for ‘uncle/aunt’ and ‘nephew/niece’. …

The obsession with “Boris’s blonde” has gone beyond public interest into misogyny, by Sian Norris for New Statesman

There were two not entirely unexpected things in the news this weekend.

The first was that Boris Johnson, the man who once boasted “I haven’t had to have a wank for 20 years”, has had a series of affairs during his 25-year marriage to lawyer Marina Wheeler.

The second was the obsessive and often sexist coverage that accompanied the revelations.

Perhaps the most egregious example was a line from Tim Shipman’s and Caroline Wheeler’s piece in the Sunday Times – photographed, highlighted, and tweeted under the caption “cracking quote” by BBC political correspondent Chris Mason – in which an unnamed ally referred to the skeletons in Johnson’s cupboard as having “skin and big tits […] walking around the West End.”…

It Was A Shadow Hanging Over My Whole Pregnancy’ – We Need To Talk About The C-Section Postcode Lottery, by Sarah Graham

Giving birth by caesarean section has long been seen as the “too posh to push” option for expectant mums. Either dismissed as “the easy way out” (which it isn’t; it’s major surgery!), or criticised for not being the “natural” or “maternal” way of bringing your child into the world, the C-section generally gets a pretty bad rap.

But for some women and their babies it is the best option – either in the form of an emergency caesarean following labour complications, or as a birth plan in its own right. Sadly, women pursuing the latter continue to face stigma and obstacles at what’s already a challenging and emotionally charged time. …

Sacha Baron Cohen’s Who Is America Proves Right Wingers Are Ignorant About The Political Left, at Slutocracy

Sacha Baron Cohen has duped lots of people on his TV show Who Is America? where, Borat-style, he plays different characters and fools his interviewees into reacting to those characters. He’s tricked lefties, he’s tricked righties. He’s tricked ordinary Joes and lawmakers, celebrities and folks working out their payroll. Baron Cohen isn’t targeting any particular group. But something surprising emerged from the very first episode: right-wingers fell for his lefty character far harder than lefties fell for his right wing character.

Baron Cohen’s Professor Nira Cain N’Degeocello character is the epitome of the right-wingers’ idea of a leftard snowflake: he apologises for being a white male, is obsessed with gender equality, immaturely emotional about Trump’s presidency, frets about accidentally engaging in cultural appropriation, and is judgemental towards Trump supporters while acting like he’s “healing the divide.” He uses words like “triggered” out of context, rendering them meaningless. N’Degeocello stretches sentences to breaking point to avoid mentioning gender, for example when asked if his partner Naomi is a woman, he responds that she “has a round vagina…she has nipples but they are attached to swollen mammaries” when even the most dedicated leftist could have stated that Naomi was born female, is a cisgendered woman or has XX chromosomes. But perhaps an extreme view of what lefties are like is unsurprising for right-wingers who live in a right-wing bubble. What is most surprising is that right-wingers seem to horribly misunderstand what the left stands for- to the extent that it’s easy to see why these misconceptions would lead them to choose right wing attitudes over left wing ones. …

Finn Mackay’s What’s Feminist About Equality for TEDx

The Un-Mother, by @MogPlus

Cross-posted from: Mog Plus
Originally published: 11.03.18

Four years ago I entered a writing competition on the theme of motherhood, at the time my daughter was 5 months old, and had only come home from hospital a few weeks before. So this is what I wrote. 

I never used to want to be a mother, in fact the very thought of it scared me. I couldn’t think of anything I wanted less, and yet, when I gave birth to my first child I felt love like I’d never felt before. From the very first moment his big blue eyes opened and gazed around him I was head over heels in love, my whole world was turned upside down by this massive rush of affection. This beautiful little boy was the most amazing thing to ever happen to me and my heart ached with the strength of the emotion. I’d had the most horrific pregnancy, I’d been sick every day right up until his birth, had spent the last three weeks of the pregnancy in hospital because of it, and still it all felt worth it. He was worth the horror.


Read more The Un-Mother, by @MogPlus

On being one of the #hiddenhalf at We Mixed Our Drinks

Cross-posted from: We Mixed Our Drinks
Originally published: 17.07.17


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“Some professionals just ask are you coping, are you OK? And think that is all they need to ask but this is a very closed question and too easy for a woman just to say yes when she could be crying out for someone to notice her or help her.” 
New research from the NCT has found that around half of new mothers’ mental health issues don’t get picked up by a healthcare professional. Consequently, the organisation has launched a new campaign – Hidden Half – to raise awareness and push for better postnatal care that will identify and treat more cases of postnatal depression (PND) and associated conditions. A key focus of the campaign is making sure the existing checkup that takes place six weeks after giving birth looks at the mental health of mothers – something that doesn’t always currently happen.
I want to talk about my own experiences in the wider context of postnatal mental health issues developing later on, after those first few weeks following the birth. I want to do this because I know from personal experience that it’s easy to dismiss symptoms when they’re not what you think PND looks like, when you’re busy and when very few people take the time to ask. I’ve never written about this in detail before, but having done a lot of processing of my experiences over the past few years having come to the point of understanding much more about how to practice good self-care, I’m hoping it will be useful, in some way, to at least someone.


Read more On being one of the #hiddenhalf at We Mixed Our Drinks

Getting pregnant won’t ruin your life: teenage girls, pregnancy and myths

Cross-posted from: Slutocracy
Originally published: 12.04.13

As Doortje Braeken noted in her telegraph column, “we’re not teaching young women about teenage motherhood because we don’t believe it’s a good idea because we do see that it reduces a woman’s future choices.” She went on to say that personal choice is absolutely sovereign. I fully agree with Doortje Braeken but I want to highlight the issue of believing that pregnancy limits choices.

Because the idea that starting a family at a younger age somehow magically limits a woman’s choices is absurd. If you’re under 16 it is the law that you have to go to school so even if a young parent wants to stay home with their child, they can’t. No university will ban you from attending because you are a mother or father and it’s the norm for older or mature students to be parents. If older students are often parents why are younger students assumed to be unable to cope? And that’s without considering the fact that while kids take up lots of time and attention, many students work while studying so it’s not like being childfree means you have unlimited reserves of time.
Read more Getting pregnant won’t ruin your life: teenage girls, pregnancy and myths

THE REALITY OF BEING A PREGNANT WOMAN IN YARL’S WOOD by @SarahGraham7

Cross-posted from: Sarah Graham
Originally published: 29.03.16

hero-landscape-rexfeatures_5613051kLucy was 23 when she fell pregnant, following a brutal gang rape by three men in her home country. After receiving threats on her life, she fled to the UK, believing she would be safe here – only to find herself locked up in Yarl’s Wood detention centre at five months pregnant. This is her story, as told to Sarah Graham.

After the attack, I knew people were after me. I was getting threatening letters, I saw men in front of our house, and my mum and I knew the police would not help. I told her it was too much for me; my life was in danger and I had to leave. We sold almost everything we had for me to escape, and friends and relatives contributed to the cost.

I didn’t know what to expect from England. I never thought in my life I would travel, so when it happened I didn’t think of anything except that I had to find somewhere safe for myself and my baby.

When I landed in the UK, they started interrogating me at the airport. They took my bag and my phone, so I couldn’t contact my mum, and the guy told me that if I didn’t tell him the truth, he was going to lock me up. I was really scared.
Read more THE REALITY OF BEING A PREGNANT WOMAN IN YARL’S WOOD by @SarahGraham7

Toilets are a feminist issue

Today is World Toilet Day. There are global events being held to raise awareness of the fact that billions of people lack access to basic sanitation. This lack of sanitation disproportionately impacts women due to biological realities of menstruation (and the consequences thereof), pregnancy (and the consequences thereof), and the risk of sexual violence.

These are some of the articles we recommend:

The Everyday Sexism of Women Waiting in Public Toilet Lines by Soraya Chemaly

If you’re a woman, chances are you’ve a) spent time fidgeting in a long line waiting to use a public toilet, b) delayed a bodily function because you don’t want to or haven’t the time to waste standing in line to use a public toilet, c) considered sneaking into a men’s room—illegal in some places, or d) cursed loudly because of all of the above.

Faced with a long restroom line that spiraled up and around a circular stairwell at a recent museum visit, I opted not to wait. Why do we put up with this? This isn’t a minor pet peeve, but a serious question. Despite years of “potty parity” laws, women are still forced to stand in lines at malls, schools, stadiums, concerts, fair grounds, theme parks, and other crowded public spaces. This is frustrating, uncomfortable, and, in some circumstances, humiliating. It’s also a form of discrimination, as it disproportionately affects women. …

Read more at Time Magazine


Read more Toilets are a feminist issue

Women’s health: the patriarchal paradox at FemmeVision

cross-posted from FemmeVision

orig. pub. 2012

‘Health – bounding saucy health – is the fountain from which all true beauty springs.’1

This quote, from The Girl’s Own Book of Health and Beauty, sums up the perception of girls’ and women’s health in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. A woman’s health was never just about her physical condition, but was related to her mental health and, most importantly, her appearance.

The commonly held view, propagated by ‘experts’ such as Dr. Henry Maudsley, was that girls had a finite store of energy, which needed to be reserved for the processes of pregnancy and childbirth. Any woman who was too active before marriage would exhaust this supply of energy, making for a weak, frigid and mentally deficient adult.

Some medical professionals and social commentators used this popular belief as an argument to petition against women’s education, for example, Maudsley, who wrote of the ‘excessive mental drain as well as the natural physical drain’ caused by school or college study.2 For women to reach the ideal of motherhood, therefore, and produce many strong and healthy children, the safest and most healthy pre-marriage lifestyle involved remaining in the home, inactive except when engaging in sedentary, non-intellectual pastimes.

The ‘New Girl’

In the post-First World War era, however, the ideal image of female health and beauty underwent a radical revision and the ‘New Girl’ emerged. Sport and outdoor activity were encouraged and beauty was linked with physical strength and the shapeliness that comes from regular exercise. Bodily beauty was linked with sexual attractiveness, and the role of the wife as a sexual partner, rather than as a mother, was emphasised, placing value on youth and women’s responsibility for their own lives and winning a husband.

The link between health and sexual attraction persists in our current popular culture. Newspapers and magazines promote diet and exercise, primarily in order to achieve a desirable body.  Even in supposedly health-focussed publications, physical shape and appearance, not intrinsic health, is the real subject of the advice, as a recent blog piece on the magazine, Women’s Health, points out.

Despite the more than 100 years that have passed since Gordon Stables published The Girl’s Own Book of Health and Beauty, we are still transfixed by the idea that health is linked with appearance. In the media, women promote health products to other women through their appearance; we should be attractive, active, always striving for self-improvement and always, always thin (yet still constantly engaged in an on-going effort to lose weight). Furthermore, we are also responsible for each member of our family’s health. Possibly the only indulgent product women are ever seen to promote is chocolate, which is represented as a guilty, sexualised pleasure to indulge in secretly (see every Galaxy ad ever made).

However, while women are placed as instigators and protectors of their own and their family’s healthy eating habits, advertising aimed at men encourages indulgence in laziness and greed through the consumption of unhealthy drinks, snacks and junk food.  But despite the preoccupation with women’s health in the media, it is the bad eating habits in men promoted by such gender-specific marketing that have been blamed for a far greater cancer risk in men than women. Yet the stereotyped images persist.

Doctor knows best

The late 19th century saw the development of obstetrics and gynaecology as discrete specialisms, opening a new market in the medical landscape. The effect of this was that doctors now had even greater control of women’s bodies, administering questionable and barbaric treatments for disorders such as epilepsy and ‘hysteria’. For example,  genital massage and the development of the vibrator for the treatment of hysteria, or Dr. Isaac Brown Baker, who claimed success in treating epilepsy and other nervous disorders in female patients by excising the clitoris. In the case of the development of the vibrator, as Rachel P. Maines highlights, ‘Doctors were a male elite with control of their working lives and instrumentation, and efficiency gains in the medical production of orgasm for payment could increase income.’

At this time, the female anatomy was shrouded in mystery. As Maines points out, Thomas Laqueur says that physicians writing of anatomy ‘saw no need to develop a precise vocabulary of genital anatomy because if the female body was a less hot, less perfect, and hence less patent version of the canonical body, the distinct organic, much less genital, landmarks mattered far less than the metaphysical hierarchies they illustrated.’ Therefore, treatment for women was much more fluid, experimental and ambiguous; for the female patient it all came down to trust in the physician’s knowledge and methods.

The image of the doctor as profit-focussed businessman, who capitalises on the lack of knowledge of his patients is reflected in the recent case in Bluegrass Women’s Healthcare Centre, where the owner pleaded guilty to misbranding non-FDA approved forms of birth control. In addition to the immorality and illegality of this action, the fact that these were intrauterine devices adds an extra level of violation. Women, against their will had had a potentially dangerous object placed inside them by someone they should be able to trust.

The paradox

Women’s health, therefore, has always been a strong preoccupation for patriarchal society. The womb is seen as public property and the health of its owner crucial to the that of the society as a whole. Though we are now somewhat more scientifically informed, many of the beliefs around women’s health of the late 19th and early 20th centuries persist today. We still equate women’s health with sexuality, and place the responsibility for the wellbeing of the family, and therefore society as a whole, on women’s shoulders.

Yet, ironically, it is often women that suffer the most when it comes to cuts in health services. Take this open letter from a resident of Ravalli county in the US, in which commissioners voted to eliminate funding to women’s healthcare. To these commissioners, the woman writes, ‘somewhere down the road you may meet a woman who has no hair and less hope due to an advanced breast cancer that, if you had voted differently, could have been caught earlier’. And elsewhere in the US, politicians have been accused of backing policies that are anti-women’s health.

In the UK, a discussion on the BBC’s Woman’s Hour on NHS funding for IVF revealed that 50% of those polled believed that, as a non-emergency treatment, the NHS should not fund IVF at all. Of course, access to IVF is not something that solely affects women but this is another area in which women can be attacked and made to feel guilty about their health. By taking away the universal right to fertility treatment (even just by raising the question in discussion), the message is sent that if you cannot conceive naturally your health must be at fault and you must live with the consequences. The technology that has been developed that could help you can only be accessed by the elite.

This shows that, when it comes to women’s health, there has really been very little progress made since Victorian times. Evidence shows that, when and where there are resources and a market in which to make a profit, women are made to feel their health is imperative, and that there is something inherently unstable in being a woman that makes her mind and body vulnerable to disease, which must be remedied with medicine without question. However, when resources are scarce, it is women’s healthcare that is the most dispensable.

References

  1. Gordon Stables, The Girl’s Own Book of Health and Beauty, London: Jarrold and Sons, 1891.
  2. Henry Maudsley, ‘Sex in Mind and in Education’, Fortnightly Review, 15, 1874, 466–83.

 

Women in prison: the cycle of violence

(Cross-posted from Women’s Views on the News)

The system is – still – failing the most vulnerable, and trapping half of women into reoffending. By Dawn Foster.

Most women in prison in Britain have experienced sexual or domestic violence, yet the system fails to address their needs and further victimises them. For some, it is the end of the road.

Over half of women in prison have experienced domestic violence, 53% have experienced childhood abuse, and more than a third have been the victim of sexual abuse. But with the prison system geared towards the fact 95% of prisoners are men, and 81% of women are imprisoned for non-violent offences, the system is failing the most vulnerable, and trapping half of women into reoffending.

In July 2013, the Justice Committee delivered its opinion on the governments probation reforms and pointed out one damning oversight: the changes to the justice system had been designed purely with men in mind and women in prison had been ‘ignored’.

Helen Grant MP, Secretary of State for Justice, Women and Equalities, acknowledged that women offenders are a “highly vulnerable group” who often commit crime because of their vulnerability, for example, as a result of domestic violence, sexual abuse and mental health problems, and because of earlier failures to protect and support them, and that they are more likely to be primary carers when sentenced.

Across Britain, 3,959 women are currently in prison, compared to 81,905 men.

Making up only 5% of the detained population at any one time, women’s needs in prison, and their rehabilitation and life chances on release are routinely treated as an afterthought.

Responding to a Ministry of Justice green paper on women’s experience of prison, a survey conducted by charity Women In Prison found former inmates listed a lack of police response to domestic violence incidents, and dismissal of sexual exploitation as major barriers to women’s rehabilitation.

Though most women are in prison for non-violent offences on short sentences, the small provision of women only provision means that whereas men’s prisons have various categories and group offenders together in terms of severity of crime and sentence length, women end up in the same facilities that are barely suitable for differing needs.

For women who give birth in prison, the choice over whether or not to have their baby with them is an important one: many women choose to have their baby looked after by family or social services, but equally removing the right to bond with a child due to financial constraints is particularly cruel.

Pregnancy in prison is often dangerous for a variety of reasons: many women are drug users when they enter, violence is an issue from other prisoners and guards, and access to medical care is limited.

In 2008, Johann Lamont came under fire after it was revealed prisoners in some institutions in Scotland were still double-cuffed during labour, a practice that has mostly been stopped in England and Wales.

While pregnancy and birth rates are recorded in prison, miscarriage rates are not: this is mainly due to Public Health England not collecting any statistics on miscarriages across the country. It does, however, mean we know little about how many women in prison miscarry, or the conditions that cause them to do so.

A 2012 report into conditions in New Hall prison, Wakefield, also raised concerns about unnecessary force used against women prisoners by guards stating ’there had been no justification for the use of force and there was a lack of managerial scrutiny relating to the issue’.

The report also admitted women ‘were routinely placed in strip clothing when they were being relocated to the special cell and too many had their clothes cut off when forcibly searched’. Even in prison, the women at New Hall found it impossible to escape male violence and harassment: ‘Women sometimes travelled with male prisoners and some complained that they had been harassed’, the report states, adding that the mother and baby unit was ‘supervised by a lone male member of staff, which was inappropriate.’

The social toll on women is also harder than for men.

Women are on average held 62 miles away from their home, as there are fewer prisons in total, which adds further logistical difficulties to visiting arrangements. In Wales currently, there are no women’s prisons, so any Welsh female prisoners are detained in England, several hours away.

Barnardos point out that for the 200,000 children in the United Kingdom with a parent in prison, the social and psychological effects are devastating: they are twice as likely to experience mental health problems, and three times as likely to be involved in offending activity as other children their age.

Prisoners families tend to be financially, as well as socially excluded, so the prohibitive cost in visiting women in prison lessens the chance and rate with which women receive visitors. The average monthly cost of retaining face to face contact with a prisoner was estimated at £6,200 over a 6 month period, the average women’s sentence. For many, this outlay is completely out of reach, which in turn has a knock on effect for prisoners’ chances of rehabilitation: regular visits and contact with families in prison reduces re-offending rates by up to 39%.

Two open women’s prisons, Askham Grange in Yorkshire and East Sutton Park in Kent, are earmarked for closure by the Ministry of Justice, and the Holloway prison mother and baby unit is facing closure due to ‘under-occupancy’.

The Ministry of Justice claimed the decision to close the open prisons was in order to allow women to relocate closer to their homes resulting in ‘small average reduction in distance’ between women and their families.

Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform countered that this was spin – shrinking the number of women’s prisons meant more women would be moved further away from their homes, because there are even fewer prisons that can accommodate them.

The open prisons were also successfully integrating incarcerated women back into communities: open women’s prisons are a rarity despite the non-violent nature of most women’s crimes, and the women in the two open prisons are now being moved to higher security prisons with fewer social rehabilitation facilties.

Similarly, the closure of the Holloway mother and baby unit forces pregnant prisoners to choose between relocating to one of the remaining prisons with a mother and baby unit, in Cheshire or the Welsh Borders, or separating from their baby at birth and staying closer to their family.

Aside from the financial burden of travelling and maintaining contact, women often find themselves more isolated than male prisoners for social reasons. The stigma associated with female offending is far higher than for men, and women entering prison often find their family support networks melt away, whereas male offenders have families rally around them, and visit regularly.

Part of this is also to do with the nature of the crimes women are interned for: of prisoners surveyed by the Ministry of Justice in 2012, 68% of women said they had been using drugs at the time the offence was committed, and 48% said the crime they’d been convicted of had been carried out to support the drug use of somebody else, compared to only a fifth of male prisoners. Half of women who injected class A drugs on admission to prison reported being initiated into doing so by their partner.

With 50% of women in prison reporting domestic violence and a third experiencing sexual abuse before conviction, coercion through violence and control is a major factor in the crimes women are imprisoned for.

As one ex-inmate succinctly put it in a Women in Prison report ‘Men use women to commit crimes and women are usually the victims’. The Chief Inspector of HM Prisons added in a 2004 report that this figure could be far higher as interviews revealed ‘women did not class some considerably violent acts as abuse’.

The far higher rate of drugs related offences amongst the female prison population has raised concern for decades on the role of detainment in rehabilitation.

Drug use in prison is still rife, so the impetus and opportunity for women to ‘get clean’ is low, and the environment isn’t conducive to any improvement in mental health. Female prisoners reported far higher rates of depression, self harm, attempted suicide and trauma symptoms, and analysis found high levels of childhood sexual abuse and violence.

Most drugs related offences such as shoplifting and non-violent theft, could be treated with community sentences and drug rehabilitation for far less fiscal cost for all involved.

The Corston report unequivocally stated ‘prison is an expensive and ineffective way of dealing with many women offenders who do not pose a significant risk of harm to public safety’. The chances of re-offending with community sentences is considerably lower, and risk of homelessness.

Of particular concern is the policing and criminalisation of sexually exploited young women and girls.

The Howard League for Penal Reform raised concerns that rather than identifying victims of abuse and exploitation, the police were arresting and prosecuting women, and girls over the age of criminal responsibility. Despite inquiries proving the rise in sexual exploitation in many UK cities, fewer than 400 people were charged with abuse of a child through sexual exploitation.

The Department of Health and the Home Office released a joint report in 2000, Safeguarding Children Involved in Prostitution, which recommended in the first instance that children are not prosecuted for soliciting or loitering for the purposes of prostitution. A 2009 report, Safeguarding Children and Young People from Sexual Exploitation notes that a child over the age of ten can be prosecuted for various prostitution related offences.

The Howard League are concerned that for many women and girls, police attitudes towards vulnerable people and a refusal to acknowledge coercion means that exploited individuals end up in prison, rather than having their abusers properly investigated and sentenced.

The benefits of moving away from carceral penalties for women’s crimes are unequivocal: re-offending rates are drastically decreased, rehabilitation is improved and social stigma reduced, and options that don’t involve detention are far, far cheaper both in the short term and the long run.

Women are unnecessarily detained, when domestic violence and rape services, and drug rehabilitation services could stop offending at an early stage. Cutting these services, and failing to address police dismissal of violence against women means more women are pushed into prison, and failed.

‘In our view there is general agreement that the majority of women offenders pose little risk to public safety and that imprisonment is frequently an ineffective response’, the report concludes.

Accepting that women offend because they are the victims of violence, and have already been failed by state support networks when they reach the courts, means we must treat women’s offending differently, if there is any chance of ending the cycle of violence these women are trapped within.

 

Women’s Views on the News (WVoN): is a women’s news, opinions and current affairs site, and our management team, writers and editors all work on a voluntary basis. Our aim is to redress the gender imbalance in global news reporting by telling the stories that the mainstream press ignores, while at the same time encouraging more feminist writers to become news reporters and editors. If you interested in volunteering for us as an editor or writer please contact: volunteers@womensviewsonnews.org

Fat woman and testing times by Fat Woman Fit

(Cross-posted by Fat Woman Fit)

Now that Fat Woman has Small Baby on board she is being treated by the NHS as an unexploded bomb. Rather than being regarded as an expectant mother Fat Woman is looked upon as a series of problems waiting to happen that must be managed in the most heavy-handed way possible. Fat Woman knew she was going to be in for it when practically the first thing she was given by the community midwife was a leaflet specially written for pregnant women with a BMI greater than 30. Fat Woman has said it before and will say it again: BMI is a statistical tool that is completely unsuitable for individual case management and unless you are going to talk body fat percentage with her she doesn’t care to hear it. Fat Woman scores very badly on the BMI scale thanks to all the weight lifting. Thin Husband delights in referring to Fat Woman as his dense wife. Fat Woman has actually read the policies held by the local NHS trust on dealing with fat pregnant women and is deeply unimpressed with the blinkered and frankly bigoted attitudes displayed. All this is covered in a veneer of “It’s for your own good” and topped with a good slice of “But think of the baaaaaby!” Fat Woman was most unimpressed by the decision that she should be on blood thinners. This was done purely because Fat Woman is fairly old for a first time mother and fat. Fat Woman then went through a huge palaver of getting the drugs, learning how to inject them, having horrendous allergic reactions, having to try two more brands in case she was allergic to the carrying solution and not the actual heparin, trying antihistamines to alleviate the effects, and then disposing of three lots of needles. Fat Woman was deeply annoyed at the hours she sunk into this only to find out that “double the risk” of blood clots meant the risk went from one in 6000 with the drugs to one in 3000. It turns out that exercise is a much more effective predictor of danger, but of course everyone assumes that fat women are lazy greedy couch potatoes.

Fat Woman would love to be a lazy greedy couch potato but can’t seem to get the hang of it.

One thing that came out of Fat Woman’s visit to the obstetric consultant was the request for a hospital administered glucose tolerance test. All pregnant women get a glucose test at their doctor’s surgery, but in the hospital they make you fast, give you a glucose solution and then make you sit down for two hours whilst they take blood at intervals. Fat Woman was rather pissed off at the form letter which said “You have been invited to take this test because you have shown signs of high blood sugar” because that was absolutely not true. Diabetes is the sword of Damocles that doctors and the media like to hold of the heads of fat people. It’s true that being fat and diabetic is a health issue that leads to complications but there is a convenient mis-thinking of the situation that means instead of referring to “fat people who have diabetes and who drink and smoke and take no exercise” as being a drain on the health system the media and the medical establishment have shortened that to “fat people”. Being fat in and of itself does not mean you have these problems, and if you are fat, have a healthy diet and take exercise you are going to be much more healthy than someone in with a lower body fat percentage who doesn’t look after themselves. Fat Woman has been mostly eating a diabetic diet for years because she eats food that is low on the Glycaemic Index. This mostly affects what carbohydrates you use- whole wheat everything, and brown basmati rice instead of any other – but also affects your choice of vegetables. Fat Woman doesn’t consider sweetcorn a useful vegetable because of it’s high sugar content and low fibre content. Fat Woman reckons that you might as well eat a boiled sweet and take a fibre pill as eat sweetcorn, This also means that Fat Woman doesn’t eat a lot of fruit usually, and certainly doesn’t drink fruit juice or smoothies on a regular basis. Fat Woman has managing her blood sugar down to an art, especially since she gave up Diet Coke, which was really fucking with her blood sugars, leaving crashing into sudden hypoglycaemia. Fat Woman hasn’t felt that awful, desperately empty feeling or the rage and fury that would come with it, since before Lent 2012, and is in no hurry to experience it again. Fat Woman is fairly sure that Thin Husband is grateful not to have seen it for a while as well.

Fat Woman consulted with her midwife and decided that she would take the Glucose Tolerance test at the hospital on the grounds that at least it could be properly measured whereas the one at the doctors’ surgery is rather hit and miss. The thing that Fat Woman was most worried about on the Glucose Tolerance Test was drinking the dextrose mix. Fat Woman can’t remember ever having had to do so before, but she really hates chemical drinks. It has been nearly fifteen years since Fat Woman was convinced that an electrolyte replacement packet (for diarrhoea sufferers) was a good cure for a hangover. Fat Woman was thoroughly ill after trying to drink the horrible stuff and avoids anything similar. There are numerous shared stories of women being similarly ill after drinking the dextrose solution at Glucose Tolerance Tests so Fat Woman was incredibly relieved when the blood tech gave her a bottle and a bit of Lucozade and said she had to drink that instead. Fat Woman fails to see the point of Lucozade as a drink in its own right, but it is at least reasonably inoffensive and doesn’t make her ill.

Fat Woman had to hang out in the hospital for two hour and get three blood tests in total, but despite feeling desperately hungry by half past ten she didn’t suffer too much and nor did those around her. Fat Woman had been briefed on the need to take food with her and had a careful schedule of eating and sleeping planned for the rest of the day so she could turn be functional at her shooting lesson. Fat Woman has found that low blood sugar means her shooting goes to utter shit.

Today Fat Woman got the results of her Glucose Tolerance Test. Fat Woman has learned to check the laboratory ranges for blood tests. Sometimes you can be told that you are “normal” when you are actually only just inside “normal” and will be left feeling utterly terrible when actually you could be greatly helped if your levels were considered as low or high in conjunction with how you actually feel. This is called “treating the patient clinically” rather than relying on laboratory results associated with a statistical distribution called “normal”. The lab print out stated that gestational diabetes millitus in pregancy is diagnosed by one or more results at or above the following:

Fasting 5.3 mmol/l
1 hour  10.0 mmol/l
2 hour 8.5 mmol/l

“mmol/l” stands for millimoles per litre. Fat Woman had to look this up, but her grasp of chemistry isn’t going much further than that so suggests you check out the wikipedia page if you want to know more.

Fat Woman’s actual results:

Plasma Glucose Fasting 4.2 mmol/l
Plasma Glucose 1 hour  5.4 mmol/l
Plasma Glucose 2 hour  3.9 mmol/l

What Fat Woman didn’t realise at the time was that the old blood sugar percentages are no longer used. Thankfully Diabetes UK provides a handy conversion form at http://www.diabetes.org.uk/Guide-to-diabetes/Monitoring/Testing/#HbA1c.

Plasma Glucose Fasting 2.5%
Plasma Glucose 1 hour  2.6%
Plasma Glucose 2 hour  2.5%

Fat Woman’s Glucose Tolerance Test results were so amazingly good that someone has actually written “Good result” in pen on the print out sent to her, with a little asterisk alerting her to the “normal range.”

Fat Woman was so pleased at this validation of her healthiness and the news that she is not any kind of diabetic that she ate a Rolo cookie and a piece of shortbread, partly because she likes cookies and shortbread but mostly because she could.

FatWomanFit: Fat Woman is a person. A fat person. A fat person who happens to be a woman. Fat Woman was the fattest person at the gym. Then Fat Woman met Personal Trainer. Now Fat Woman is an intellectual in a world where looks and lifts matter.

It’s only 9 months to save a life, by @Herbeatittude

(Cross-posted with permission from Herbs & Hags: Meanderings of a Hag)

“It’s only nine months! Isn’t that worth it, to save a human life?”

So goes the argument made by those idiots who are in favour of forcing girls and women who get pregnant with an unplanned foetus, to continue with the pregancy and give birth to it against their will.

As anyone who has actually been pregnant knows, it’s not 9 months, it’s 40 weeks, which is actually nearer to 10 months. The reason tradition has it as 9 months, is because in the old days most women didn’t know they were pregnant in those first few weeks.

There is a modern myth abroad which declares that “being pregnant is not an illness” and that it is in fact, nearly exactly like not being pregnant. Again, as anyone who knows anything about it knows, that is simply not true. However for many of us, we have NO IDEA, not a single conception, of just how unlike not being pregnant, being pregnant can be, unless we ourselves experience some of the risks and side-effects or know someone who has done so.

I did a little bit of research on this. Oh all right, I didn’t, I went on Mumsnet and asked them – this should not be taken as a comprehensive list or a serious meta-analysis. It’s just a list of things people on Mumsnet have had happen to them as a direct or indirect result of being pregnant and giving birth. Some of them are relatively trivial, some are vair serious indeed, like Death. Anyway it’s my starting point for a list of potential risks that women undergo, when they decide to keep a pregnancy. Or when somebody decides they have to keep it whether they want to or not. When you see it written down, you wonder how much hatred pro-forced-birthers have for women. For the real hardliners, none of this means anything, they hate us anyway and don’t believe our lives have any value. But for the thoughtless knee-jerkers who aren’t that committed to the forced-birth arguments, this list might be a useful thing to contemplate. Anyone wanting to add anything, I’d be interested to hear from you.

Anaemia
Anal fissures
Anal incontinence
Anaesthetic mistakes leading to permanent disability.
Asthma – 1/3 of women who have it finds that pregancy makes it worse.
Back pain
Bell’s palsy
Blindess (tearing retina during delivery because of pressure of pushing)
C-sec wounds getting infected, haematomas associated with C-sec wounds, keloid scarring.
Carpal tunnel syndrome
Cascade renal colic
Change in digestive system
Change of body shape – breasts and hips do not return to form prior to pregnancy. There are implications for psychological harm there alone.
Coccyx problems – some women have difficulty sitting down forever after.
Constant nausea sometimes for the whole 10 months
Cutting of bladder during caesarean
Death
Decreased suppleness (particularly bad for women who do sport).
Dental problems
De Quervain’s Syndrome or Mother’s Thumb?
Diarrhea and vomiting lasting for 2 or 3 years after the pregnancy.
Eclampsia
Eczema can be made worse
Episiotomy wounds can open up
Eye prescription changes.
Fistula
Gestational Diabetes. About 8% of women are affected by this.
Guilt and self-loathing from giving child up or not bonding if kept.
Gum disease and wobbly teeth
Haemorrhage
Hair colour change
Hands and/ or feet can grow and not go back to their old size.
Hernia
Hip pain
Hormonal effects on pre-existing conditions ie psoriasis, acne, etc
Hyperemesis, with severe dehydration
Increased risk of gallstones and kidney stones
Increased risk of osteoporosis
Increased risk 12 months post partum for Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (inflammation of the uterus, ovaries, FTs) – can leave permanent scarring, cause infertility, ectopic pregnancy etc
Iritis (a horrid auto-immune inflammation of the iris, which leads to blindness if not treated quickly and efficiently. A sudden change in hormones can cause an attack).
Less intense orgasms
Lochia can be retained, causing distention of the uterus.
Lowering of the immune system
Mastitis
Memory implications
Mental Health conditions are often exacerbated by pregnancy.
Months of sleeplessness. Sleep deprivation recognised as serious health risk by most medical authorities in the world.
Muscle tears
Multiple Sclerosis has been known to be triggered in pregnancy
Negative impact on finances that will affect mental health, lifestyle, access to jobs.
Nerve damage
Nipple thrush causing nipples to permanently invert. Leading to lack of confidence, lowered libido etc.
OCD can be triggered/get worse post partum.
Pain of the milk coming in.
Permanent increase in blood pressure
Piles
Plantar fasciitis
PND
Post partum hyperthyroidism, leading to the need to take thyroxine for the rest of ones days.
Post-birth complications. Poor stitching followed by repair operation months later.
Post natal psychosis
Pre-eclampsia
Pre-existing conditions like Arthritis, need drugs to control them. These drugs are harmful to foetuses and need to be stopped, leading to the woman with arthritis ending up in constant pain for years, possibly life and needing to use a wheelchair.
Pre-natal anxiety and depression is generally not discussed but common.
Prolapse
PTSD
Restless Leg Syndrome
Scarring
Sexual problems (libido, sensations)
Skin changes like patches, spots etc. Sometimes patches never clear up.
Snoring and sleep apnoea
Spinal migraine
Sore and painful joints, sometimes lasting months or years.
SPD – a syndrome which can lead to serious disability and pain, no cure.
Splitting of chest muscles (can’t remember term, but colleague could fit a fist in the space between her muscles)
Tears into urethra and clitoris as well as vaginal and anal.
Thrombosis- deep vein and superficial vein
Tokophobia
Urinary Incontinence – stress incontinence, urge incontinence and both. This would be considered a major effect in a man, but for some reason women are supposed not to mind. This can lead to lack of confidence, depression etc. (Which since this is how patriarchy likes women to feel, should possibly be seen as not a side effect at all, but a lovely womanly enhancement.)
Varicose veins
Women who suffer Gestational Diabetes are more likely than average to develop diabetes later on in life. Sometimes gestational diabetes will be permanent.

Only 9 months eh? I don’t think so. Now imagine telling a man that he should risk any of the more serious things on this list (or even some of the less serious things), in order to save the life of a child, because human life.

It just wouldn’t happen would it? Because unlike women, men matter.

HerbsandHags: Meanderings of a Hag: I have no fixed subject matter for my blog, it tends to be whatever grabs me, but for some reason lots that has grabbed me has been about rape or other male violence. It’s all with a feminist slant though. [@Herbeatittude]