Sinead O’Connor

Cross-posted from: Cheryl SELLOFF
Image from Guardian
Image from Guardian

Sinead O’Connor is reacting appropriately as she faces what happens to gifted, accomplished, generous, tireless, beautiful, courageous, honest, brilliant women as we age. She is demonstrating wild, unfiltered, righteous, completed understandable fury. Having supported everyone all of her life financially — partners, husbands, children, manager — never asking for a penny from any of them (she is currently being sued, in fact, for $450,000 by the manager who discovered her when she was an abused, traumatized kid, fresh out of one of the horrific Magdalene homes), she is now effectively abandoned by all of them, treated as an embarrassment. That alone would do anyone in; in the words of the Ani DiFranco song, “How could you take everything/and then come back for the rest?” She laid bare the entirety of her heart and soul by way of her magnificent music, offering it up to the entire world, holding nothing back, bearing up under endless criticism for her willingness to speak and rage honestly, with a beauty that forced people to listen and hear. The same artistic and intellectual giftedness which created an empire and legacy, or should have, now becomes the weapon turned against her. There is nothing mentally, emotionally or spiritually wrong with Sinead O’Connor that a world that valued the lives of women would not relieve and heal. She did make a terrible mistake in believing the world would forgive her for living authentically once she got old. It does not. The best a woman like Sinead can hope for is a forgiving eulogy once she’s passed. She is a woman betrayed and scorned and brave enough to demonstrate the way hell has no fury like this fury. I wish she recognized all of this with healing clarity, but that’s not the way she’s ever moved or confronted horror in her life. Sinead responds gut and viscera first and devil take the hindmost. As has been true all of her life, she continues to walk in her own magnificent integrity. I am in awe of her courage.

 

Cheryl SELLOFF is a 65 year old radical feminist writer and old school activist who farms 6.5 acres of women’s land in the Pacific Northwest.

 

What we’re reading: on women’s health, radical feminism, and Wonder Woman

Women in Labor Stop Pushing, See Amazing Results by Kama Lee Jackson

… If you’ve ever seen a woman delivering a baby in a movie or a television show, you have heard the rallying cry: “Push!” If you’ve had a baby yourself, you’ve likely heard it too.

The staff at Medway Maritime Hospital in Kent initiated a project to stop telling women to push. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and the Royal College of Midwives put out a call for action after seeing a sharp rise in severe perineal tearing affecting nearly 14,000 women in 2013 to 2014.

Over a 12-month period after the program was implemented, the incidence of women with severe tearing went down from 7% to 1%. How have they gotten such amazing results? Largely, simply by not asking women to push when they are in labor. …

Grasping Things at the Root: On Young Women & Radical Feminism  via @ClaireShrugged

Radical feminism isn’t popular. That’s not exactly a secret – Pat Robertson’s infamous Holy Cow! Too Funny!!!!!!claim that the feminist agenda “…encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism, and become lesbians” has set the tone for mainstream discussions of radical feminism. While Robertson’s perspective on radical feminism verges upon parody, his misogyny served with a side of blatant lesbophobia, it has also served to frame radical feminism as suspect.

If radical feminism can be written off as something sinister or dismissed as the butt of a joke, none of the difficult questions about the patriarchal structuring of society need to be answered – subsequently, power need not be redistributed, and members of the oppressor classes are saved from any challenging self-reflection. Rendering radical feminism monstrous is a highly effective way of shutting down meaningful political change, of maintaining the status quo. It is, therefore, predictable that the socially conservative right are opposed to radical feminism. …

French translation here. 

Women Are Dying Because Doctors Treat Us Like Men by 

The best day of Starr Mirza’s life was the day she went into cardiac arrest. To understand why a then 23-year-old would be overjoyed at a life-threatening condition, one that would require a device to be implanted permanently in her chest, we have to start at the beginning of her medical history.

As a teenager growing up in Lake Los Angeles, a small town an hour outside of L.A., Mirza loved softball, even though she wasn’t any good. The running joke among her teammates was that she couldn’t make it from first base to second base without falling. “I don’t know why they kept me on the team,” she says. “I think it was more my spirit than my skill.” She didn’t know what was wrong with her body, only that she would frequently see stars, hear a ringing sound, feel tingly, and then pass out. When she was a preteen, she went to see a doctor. “I remember it like it was yesterday—I walked in, and right away, I got the eye-rolling,” Mirza recalls. “They asked me what I had eaten, if I had issues with my weight, if I had a problem with my brother getting better grades in school than I did. They were trying to say, ‘Look, she’s doing this for attention.'” …

You aren’t imagining it, #WonderWoman really isn’t being well promoted by Donna Dickens  via @UPROXX

Did you know Wonder Woman arrives in theaters a little over a month from now? On June 2, 2017, Princess Diana of Themyscira will get her first live action movie. Wonder Woman will be the first superheroine to have her own solo film since DC and Marvel reinvigorated the genre and started their own Cola Wars™ for audience eyeballs and wallets. This is a big deal. Wonder Woman has been around for over three-quarters of a century. Yet, unlike the other two pillars of the DC Trinity (Superman and Batman), she’s been relegated to animated films, television, and a minifig appearance in The LEGO Movie franchise. Even folks who have never picked up a comic book in their life know who Wonder Woman is and that she stands for feminism. Or, if the F-word freaks you out because you bought into a toxic idea of what feminism is, she stands for equality.

But if you didn’t know Wonder Woman starring Gal Gadot was coming out in 36 days as of today, no one could blame you. Warner Bros. has been weirdly reticent about the marketing campaign for one of the most iconic superheroes in the world. The hype should be off the charts. But, as Shana O’Neil points out over at SyfyWire, it isn’t. When Suicide Squad came out, you couldn’t escape the world’s worst heroes. They were everywhere, despite the average audience-goer knowing only who Harley Quinn and the Joker were due to pop culture osmosis. Everyone knows who Wonder Woman is. Yet a quick look at the playlist for Suicide Squad vs. Wonder Woman on the official Warner Bros. YouTube page is as different as night and day.

On Self-Care and Working Smarter by @Durre_Shahwar.

Cross-posted from: Durre Shahwar
Originally published: 25.09.16
About a month ago, I was a blubbering mess. Everything in my life was seemingly going well, but I felt restless and dissatisfied from within and I couldn’t work out why. I even tweeted a few HELP ME statuses that I deleted, yet not before a friend of mine saw them and reached out to me, asking if I was alright. I tried explaining to her how I was swamped. How really, there was nothing wrong, but I was just feeling swamped and somewhat vulnerable to the world. We had an open conversation and I realised I’ve been doing this self care thing all wrong. In fact, I hadn’t been doing it at all.

Self care; those words that get hashtagged at the end of an seemingly indulgent Instagram photo so we feel we are justified in doing whatever pleasurable experience or activity we photographed. And that is important. Pleasure is important. Having a day off and going to the spa is important. But I was making self-care into another task on my to-do list, without setting aside time for it. I was working harder, not smarter, because society applauds women who are able to work 5 days a week, keep house, husband and still look fabulous. (“NO IT DOESN’T”, I hear you scream. Yes, it does. Read this article).

I had been working harder because I thought ‘working smarter’ was just another one of those trends that sound good but make no sense. I had been working harder because that has been my motto ever since I was a teenager, mapping out exactly the amount of degrees I would do and in what and what jobs they’d lead me to, because I believed that’s what I had to do if I was to ‘make something of myself’. I’ve been seeing fun as instant gratification, and working hard as future gratification that I can cash in later. Except the harder I work, the quicker time goes by and I don’t get much closer to what I want. And I carried on doing this because I didn’t know what ‘self care’ or ‘working smarter’ really meant.


Lorna Simpson, 5 Day Forecast, 1991


Read more On Self-Care and Working Smarter by @Durre_Shahwar.

What we’re reading: The Handmaid’s Tale, Capitalism,Rachel Dolezal, & Women’s Health

MP accuses BAME book prize of discrimination by @sunnysingh_n6  via @WritersofColour

Equalities and Human Rights Commission demands justification from Jhalak Prize, following complaint from Philip Davies MP

March 17, 2017: The date that the very first Jhalak Prize for Book of the Year by a Writer of Colourwas awarded. It was an evening that all of us involved with the prize had been preparing for with much anticipation and joy. One of the judges had flown out from Berlin. Writers – and not just those shortlisted – had told us how excited they were. Publishers, agents, readers had reached out privately and on social media to share their enthusiasm.

On a personal note, it felt as if I had been waiting for the evening for nearly five years. Yes, that is how long the Jhalak Prize had been gestating since I had realised the structural barriers that writers of colour faced in the UK.  After 2015’s Writing the Future report, funded by the Arts Council, laid out the statistics in stark detail, the idea for the prize took wings.  It had to be set up. And it had to be set up now.

We launched the prize at the Bare Lit Festival in February 2016 and the relief, passion, even possibly belief that we could change things was palpable from the first moment. The Bookseller’s diversity in publishing report in November 2016 further confirmed the sorry state of equality in the publishing industry. The judges, our anonymous benefactor, the prize director, Nikesh Shukla, and I – and beyond us, the wider reading community – believed that we were doing the right thing. That we were going to improve the world – our world – just that little bit. And so no amount of hard work disheartened us. We stole time from work, family, writing commitments and poured ourselves into the inaugural round of the prize.

Margaret Atwood on What ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Means in the Age of Trump  via New York Times

In the spring of 1984 I began to write a novel that was not initially called “The Handmaid’s Tale.” I wrote in longhand, mostly on yellow legal notepads, then transcribed my almost illegible scrawlings using a huge German-keyboard manual typewriter I’d rented.

The keyboard was German because I was living in West Berlin, which was still encircled by the Berlin Wall: The Soviet empire was still strongly in place, and was not to crumble for another five years. Every Sunday the East German Air Force made sonic booms to remind us of how close they were. During my visits to several countries behind the Iron Curtain — Czechoslovakia, East Germany — I experienced the wariness, the feeling of being spied on, the silences, the changes of subject, the oblique ways in which people might convey information, and these had an influence on what I was writing. So did the repurposed buildings. “This used to belong to . . . but then they disappeared.” I heard such stories many times.

Having been born in 1939 and come to consciousness during World War II, I knew that established orders could vanish overnight. Change could also be as fast as lightning. “It can’t happen here” could not be depended on: Anything could happen anywhere, given the circumstances.

Why We Need to Take ‘High-Functioning’ Anxiety Seriously by Erica Chau  via @TheMightySite

When you imagine anxiety, what do you see? Shaking, crying, screaming? Panic attacks, hyperventilating, incoherent sentences? For some people, this is what it is like. But it’s not always the case.

What does “high-functioning” anxiety look like?

It looks like you have your life together. You smile, your clothes are freshly pressed, your hair is shiny, your arrive on time. You try your hardest, finish your work on time, help others and have hobbies. High-functioning anxiety makes it look like you’re busy living your life — and you are — to a certain extent.

For me, it’s keeping busy so I don’t lose my mind. The more I do, the more tasks I assign myself and the more things I can keep in control, the more I can control my anxiety.

Pregnant women are being legally pimped out for sex – this is the lowest form of capitalism by Julie Bindel

Whenever news of the Bunny Ranch brothel in Nevada pops up on my social media I can rarely resist a read. I spent time in 2012 in this brothel, accompanied by America’s biggest pimp, Dennis Hof. I met women in his brothels who were as sad as they were desperate, and so disappointed that legalisation had made it worse for them, rather than better. One woman, who was heavily pregnant, had asked the brothel manager if she could take off six months to have her baby and come back without having to reapply for her old job. The manager told her that she would be far better off working throughout her pregnancy, “because there are plenty of men who want to squeeze pregnant ladies boobies”.

When I read an article entitled “A Woman’s Right to Choose to be a Pregnant Sex Worker” on the Bunny Ranch Blog, written by a prostituted woman named Summer Sebastian, who is unfortunate enough to work there, I figured that Dennis Hof had simply cashed in on yet another way to make money from women’s bodies.

The last story you will ever need to read about Rachel Dolezal. by Ijeoma Oluo

I‘m sitting across from Rachel Dolezal, and she looks… white. Not a little white, not racially ambiguous. Dolezal looks really, really white. She looks like a white woman with a mild suntan, in box braids—like perhaps she’d just gotten back from a Caribbean vacation and decided to keep the hairstyle for a few days “for fun.”

She is also smaller than I expected, tiny even—even in her wedge heels and jeans. I’m six feet tall and fat. I wonder for a moment what this conversation might look like to bystanders if things were to get heated—a giant black woman interrogating a tiny white woman. Everything about Dolezal is smaller than expected—the tiny house she rents, the limited and very used furniture. Her 1-year-old son toddles in front of cartoons playing on a small television. The only thing of real size in the house seems to be a painting of her adopted brother, and now adopted son, Izaiah, from when he was a young child. The painting looms over Dolezal on the living-room wall as she begins to talk. I try to get my bearings and listen to what she’s trying to say, but for the first few moments, my mind keeps repeating: “How in the hell did I get here?”

EVAW launches Activist Guide for 4 May local elections

On 4 May 2017 there are elections in many parts of the UK. Six large regions in England will elect mayors for the first time, and other parts of England, Wales and Scotland have important local council elections.

Many of those who are elected will have a say in funding decisions and will be well placed to encourage local public services – like the police, health and transport – to prioritise tackling violence against women and girls.

You can find out if you have an election in your area here.

You can use our Activist Guide to help locate candidates and for advice on what to say; you can use our template letters to Local Council candidates and to the new Metro Mayor candidates; and there is a VAWG Factsheet if you want to get try and get hold of local VAWG data for your campaigning.

EVAW is available to help activists locate and write to candidates, and is asking anyone who receives replies to copy them to us for us to share on our website and social media.

Plus size and Pregnant by @NurseBlurg

Cross-posted from: I'm Sorry I'm Like This
Originally published: 20.08.16

bump1On Monday I’ll be 15 weeks pregnant. You have to count it in weeks because the constant terror that something might go wrong means you need weekly milestones.

Anyway, I’m not here to talk about my constant terror. Saving that for another blog post. I’m here to talk about clothes. I love clothes. I’ve not bought any in nearly 4 months now which if you know me at all you’ll know that I am clearly  very ill.

Plus size pregnancy options are, well, limited. I guess they think that pregnant people just want to wear nighties all the time, which we DO, OBVIOUSLY but also we have to go outside to our jobs. So where can we shop? WHERE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD CAN WE SHOP?
Read more Plus size and Pregnant by @NurseBlurg

BITCH MEDICINE by @_ssml

Cross-posted from: Fish without a Bicycle
Originally published: 11.12.16

Over the past year or so I have been thinking about a story of my first and favorite dog, Lady. I don’t know where she came from but she was a constant companion to me from the time I was four until I was about seven and my family made the move from rural Nevada to rural Illinois and my parents elected to adopt her out to some family friends who owned a nearby ranch. But while she was living with us, Lady got pregnant and delivered a litter of pups. My parents sequestered her in our attached garage and informed me that under no terms was I  to approach her. They made it very clear that she was an animal who had just given birth and that her instinct would be to protect her new babies. It was likely that if I went to her pen and got too close that she would bite me. I could not get myself to believe them. And so day after day I snuck into the garage to be near her and her litter. At first I simply sat next to the pen. And then I dangled my hand over the side. And then there was the day that I stepped over the side of the pen and placed myself in a corner. sitting there with all  the pee soaked newspaper and the tiny floppy puppies climbing on top of one another eager to nurse. Lady did not bite me. Ever. And in those moments I learned something about approach, trust, and quiet company keeping.
Read more BITCH MEDICINE by @_ssml

The power of words in an age of anxiety by @AliyaMughal1

Cross-posted from: Aliya Mughal
Originally published: 19.02.16

“The magic of escapist fiction is that it can actually offer you a genuine escape from a bad place and, in the process of escaping, it can furnish you with armour, with knowledge, with weapons, with tools you can take back into your life to help make it better. It’s a real escape — and when you come back, you come back better armed than when you left.”

Neil Gaiman beautifully articulates the essence of why reading is such an indispensable pastime in those moments when reality lets us down.

Gaiman was referring to how his 97-year-old cousin, a Polish Holocaust survivor and teacher, had escaped into the world of books during the Nazi occupation. For her and the pupils she secretly read stories to, books, forbidden at the time, provided a soul-saving gateway into a place that for a few precious moments, freed their minds from the shackles of their daily existence.

Liberating the mind can be both a vital and yet seemingly impossible task in the worst moments of mental anguish. Depression, for instance, has the overwhelming capacity to trap people in a vicious cycle of interminable horror.

The question of whether books can provide relief in the context of mental health is one that’s usefully being explored in Future Learn’s latest course, Literature and Mental Health: Reading for Wellbeing, a surprisingly rare offering that combines a traditionally academic field with the psychological element of the health sciences.

One of the questions posed in the opening survey for learners is that of why and where they read, “to pass the time” being one of the multiple choice answers.

It’s interesting to explore what is meant by this. The act of reading as means of passing the time sounds at first like a passive one, pursued for the sake of just getting through the day.

But for many people who suffer under the “daily rain” of depression, simply getting through the day can be a major victory.

Pause for thought

The social and psychological value of books isn’t a new idea. It was raised in Aristotle’s Poetics, where the concept of catharsis was explored in terms of the impact of tragedy to purge us of emotions, specifically pity and fear. The definition of catharsis is still debated but the essential idea of using the words of others to reveal something of ourselves to ourselves is one that has prevailed through the ages.

Jack Lankester, an English teacher for whom the sonnets of Philip Sidney provided a sense of fellowship and solace when he experienced heartbreak, describes the restorative power of poetry in a way that reflects this idea of a cathartic experience:

“I believed in my naivety that no one had ever been as heartbroken as I was. No one understood… When I started reading him, the penny dropped in that instant, I felt wildly less alone. And the fact that he had been writing these poems 500 years ago, really did make me realise that being heartbroken or sad or lost is in many ways inevitable. And it’s a part of the human condition.”

Far from being a passive experience then, reading poetry is a means by which we can intimately and consciously engage with the essence of what it means to be human. It’s a precious counterpoint to the modern day fixation on lives that ought to be in continual motion, racing from one day, one achievement, one love, one, one feeling, one thing, one experience to the next.

One of the poems I find myself going back to again and again for this very reason, and for its own wonderfully lyrical sake, is Dew Light, by WS Merwin:

Now in the blessed days of more and less
when the news about time is that each day
there is less of it I know none of that
as I walk out through the early garden
only the day and I are here with no
before or after and the dew looks up
without a number or a present age

As Stephen Fry, who also features in the Future Learn course, says: “There is so much nutrition inside the best poems.”

 

Aliya Mughal : I’m a dedicated follower of wordsmithery and wisdom in its many guises. Reader, writer, storyteller – if there’s a thread to follow and people involved, I’m interested. I’ve built my life around words, digging out the stories that matter and need to be told – about science, feminism, art, philosophy, covering everything from human rights abuses in Sri Lanka, to famine and the aid game in Rwanda, to how the intersection of art and science has the power to connect the disparate forces of humanity with the nanoscopic forces of our sacred Earth. Find me @AliyaMughal1

Toxic best friend: Glossy magazines and me by @glosswitch

Cross-posted from: glosswitch
Originally published: 14.11.16

I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with glossy magazines. The reason this blog is called Glosswatch is because I originally conceived of it as a place where I’d go to rant about the publications to which I was still, inexplicably, subscribing in 2012.

I knew how these magazines functioned. I could see the way in which, like a toxic best friend, they eroded your confidence by drip-feeding you advice on ways in which to improve yourself. I knew that the solutions they offered were to problems you hadn’t even realised you had. I knew they didn’t really want you to be happy with yourself, since a woman who is happy with herself does not spend vast amounts of money on trying to make herself look like someone else. But I bought them all the same. I’d been buying them for decades.
Read more Toxic best friend: Glossy magazines and me by @glosswitch

The Big Bad Anti-Diet Brigade by @MurderofGoths

Cross-posted from: Murder of Goths
Originally published: 06.06.16

This is a subject that comes up a lot within the body positive plus size community, a hell of a lot. And it’s always controversial.

Weight loss.

There tend to be two camps.

On the one side – weight loss has no place within the body positive community, we are bombarded daily with messages from both society and the media about how we should be losing weight, about how weight loss is Great Goal and how losing weight is an amazing applause worthy achievement. Can we not just have one bloody space where our bodies are loved and cared for without having to dodge diet talk?

On the other – it’s a personal choice to lose weight, and therefore no one else gets a say.
Read more The Big Bad Anti-Diet Brigade by @MurderofGoths

Bounty should be banned from maternity wards by @lisaaglass

Cross-posted from: Femme Vision
Originally published: 21.10.16

Commercial organisations should not be allowed access to vulnerable women and newborn babies on hospital wards. Back in 2013, the Guardian published an article calling for Bounty to be banned from maternity wards and a petition was started, but this has since closed and the situation remains changed . Bounty reps are still allowed free rein among the hospital beds of new mothers. A 38 degrees petition was recently launched to raise awareness of the issue once again.

The government argues that the £90,000 it pays each year to Bounty to allow it to distribute Child Benefit forms is justified because that way they will reach 97% of new parents. Bounty itself insists that its reps play a crucial role in getting information to parents. It also argues that most parents are happy to talk to its reps and to receive the free goods and vouchers in its Bounty packs. 
Read more Bounty should be banned from maternity wards by @lisaaglass

9 Signs you may be living with childhood trauma – and what you can do about it via @WomanAsSubject

Cross-posted from: Woman as Subject
Originally published: 04.09.16

After I left home at 18, it took me a while to figure out that I was damaged. I had assumed my upbringing was normal and had no idea that I had spent years being traumatised by the violence and abuse I suffered at the hands of my father (which you can read more about here). I first discovered the concept of therapy at University when a friend recommended I went along. Talking about your problems was not something that working class people did and I don’t think I had any idea what counselling was. 20 years later, and I’m a qualified counsellor and have been working with trauma for many years. In the process I’ve learnt much about both the immediate and long term effects of childhood trauma and have unwittingly discovered a lot about myself.

Experiencing a single traumatic event such as an accident or the death of a parent may lead to the development of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) which you can read more about here, but this article is more concerned with what happens when you are repeatedly exposed to traumatic events as a result of living in a violent or abusive home. This can cause you to live with the effects of complex developmental trauma which may become so embedded that you consider them a part of your personality. You may be experiencing the effects of complex trauma without realising. You may even have been told that you have a personality disorder (borderline or schizoid) which might add to the feeling that there is something wrong with you. 
Read more 9 Signs you may be living with childhood trauma – and what you can do about it via @WomanAsSubject

The Racist and Sexist History of Keeping Birth Control Side Effects Secret

Cross-posted from: Bethy Squires at Broadly
Originally published: 17.10.16

In September, JAMA Psychiatry published a Danish study that found a correlation between the use of hormonal birth control and being diagnosed with clinical depression. The study tracked hormonal birth control use and prescription of antidepressants over six years for over a million women. They found that women who were on hormonal birth control—be it the pill or a hormonal IUD or vaginal ring—were significantly more likely to be prescribed antidepressants.

Since the news broke, many women reported feeling vindicated that science is finally catching up to their lived experience. “I’d used the pill for ten years,” says Holly Grigg-Spall, author of Sweetening the Pill. “One particular kind, Yasmin, had huge side effects —psychological effects, depression, anxiety, panic attacks. I didn’t make the connection between what was going on with me and the pill for two years.”
Read more The Racist and Sexist History of Keeping Birth Control Side Effects Secret

Employment and Support Allowance: Re-tests axed for chronically ill claimants

Cross-posted from: Jayne Linney
Originally published: 01.10.16

Both ‘Official’ and Social Media are buzzing this morning with the above news – at last those of us who are chronically ill will no longer have to perpetually be tested for our ESA. This is very welcome news but…until I know exactly what ‘Chronically Ill’ constitutes, what illnesses and diseases (as reported on the 8.00 am news) make up the list, I will refrain from using 3 hours energy getting excited. 
Read more Employment and Support Allowance: Re-tests axed for chronically ill claimants

When Friends Forget You’re Still Alive- the life of a sick person

Cross-posted from: bottom face
Originally published: 04.07.16

Every day I lie in bed. The TV chatters in the background telling stories I do not even listen to. The curtains swell like the sails of a yacht and the noises of the outside world drift in in a jazz breeze. Car doors slam, children holler and laugh, a mum scolds her child, a lawn mower hums in the distance. The noises of lives lived, so unlike my own it’s almost absurd that they should be so near. And I lie and I half listen, and I drift in and out of sleep.

I barely see friends anymore. Too many invites unaccepted, so the invitations stopped. Too many stairs, and hills and bumpy pathways on the journeys once-upon-a –time-friends take. Mostly I’m alone. Yesterday I spoke to a friend I haven’t seen lately. She told me a dozen stories about people she’s spent time with whilst she was too busy to spend time with me. “We’re going camping this weekend. It was just going to be me and John, but then I invited Tracey, and then Gemma, and Sarah, and now it’s just grown into an event.”  I wonder whether it ever occurred to her to invite me. She keeps the tent that I own at her house as she has more room than we do. The deal being that she can use the tent whenever she needs to.


Read more When Friends Forget You’re Still Alive- the life of a sick person

Blissful yoga via @jenfarrant

Cross-posted from: Jen Farrant
Originally published: 23.09.16

img_6770I have practiced yoga for over twenty years now, most of it at home on my own, sometimes attending classes and more off than on if I am honest. Since I got sick I have done yoga every morning as a way to help my body heal, gain strength and cope with stress, which has an enormous detrimental affect on me.

For the most part it has been quite difficult. Mornings can be tough for me and I am often incredibly painful and sore, getting moving is an effort of will and doing yoga would sometimes feel like it was something I had to force myself to do in order for my body to work and keep moving. 
Read more Blissful yoga via @jenfarrant

PIP – Permanently Irritation Persecution? by @JayneLinney

Cross-posted from: Jayne Linney
Originally published: 07.06.16

Recent experience leads me to ask the question what does is PIP – Personal Independence Payment OR Permanently Irritation Persecution?

In February  I wrote about how following the DWP rules resulted in my health deteriorating, since then it has been one thing after another. The report from Capita following this assessment  was dire, therefore it was back into the Mandatory Reconsideration process once again, and duly into the request for Tribunal.
Read more PIP – Permanently Irritation Persecution? by @JayneLinney

Growing old while female by @WomanasSubject

Cross-posted from: Woman as Subject
Originally published: 16.10.15

Aside from being a little bit wiser and having to admit that I have an informed opinion about washing machines, I don’t really feel much different to the 25 year old version of myself that I once was. I often think I have a bizarre mental condition where I look in the mirror and fail to see the fact that I have clearly grown older (age-o-rexia?) My mind erases the wrinkles and grey hairs, kindly photoshopping out the ageing process and helping me to pretend that the inevitable isn’t happening.  I’ll never forget my 75 year old Grandma looking me in the eye and telling me: “I don’t feel a day over 25 my dear. I often look in the mirror and wonder who on earth that old lady staring back at me can be” – a sentiment I am slowly beginning to understand.

Despite my inability to see it, I am clearly ageing however. The big 40 is looming and I can see the unwanted and mysterious figure of my future menopause waving at me from the horizon. In these times of extended adolescence, you can kid yourself that you’re still young at 30, but by the time you start to approach the next big birthday you really have to admit that you are definitely a grown up now. The fact that I am also responsible for two whole other people and seen as some kind of authority figure only adds to this ridiculous notion. Yes, I am definitely getting older.


Read more Growing old while female by @WomanasSubject

This is about my period, full stop

Cross-posted from: No Humiliations Wasted
Originally published: 24.04.14

Logo for the TV show True Blood, consisting of the first word in black angular letters, the second in red, on a pale grey background.Periods periods periods periods periods. Bloooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooood.

OK, the squeamish people should have left us now.

I’m super impressed that Mad Men showed us Sally Draper’s first period, but mine was nothing like that. Instead of the bright red stain I was expecting, I got a small brown smear. I was 11, and I had no idea what it was. After worrying for a while, I told my mum that I had something weird going on in the knicker department, and she gently broke it to me that this was my period.

“But it’s not red, it’s brown,” I told her, not having considered what blood looks like when it dries, and really hoping I could argue my way out of this one. “It’s your period,” she said again, softer this time.


Read more This is about my period, full stop

Silence Equals Death: Why Women MUST Speak Out About Illness by @VABVOX

I came of age as a journalist at the beginning of the HIV/AIDS crisis. Being a female reporter in a still-largely male profession, I got handed what then looked like a small beat that wouldn’t amount to much. Within a few years I was traveling across the U.S. covering breaking news on what was fast becoming an epidemic.

The mantra of AIDS activists in that period of the late 1980s into the 1990s was simple as it was graphic: Silence = Death.

Government officials refused to talk about HIV/AIDS, either at the federal level or the municipal level. I covered one demonstration outside the White House where AIDS activists kept chanting “say it, say it!” because then-President Ronald Reagan had refused to even say the word “AIDS,” even though his close friend, actor Rock Hudson, had become the first celebrity known to have died of the disease a few years earlier.


Read more Silence Equals Death: Why Women MUST Speak Out About Illness by @VABVOX

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.