Valley of the Dolls, Stepford edition

This creepy doll by Hans Bellmer, 1935

I can’t let the coincidence of this pass me by, since we’re talking about dolls and the objectification of girls’ and women’s bodies againSquadratomagico has a great post up on the off-label hormonal engineering of baby girl fetuses who have tested positive for (gasp!) Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia, which means that they frequently have ambiguous genitalia, may possess a strong interest in softball, and “as a group have a lower interest than controls in getting married and performing the traditional child-care/housewife role.” 

(Well, what thinking woman doesn’t agree with that last bit?  Seriously:  if you dig scrubbing crusty surfaces and wiping snotty noses and bums, that should be a symptom of clinical depression, not normative behavior in any adult, male or female.  Most of us do that junk because we don’t want the state condemning our houses and taking our kids away.)

Click immediately on this link to join the discussion.  I left a comment over there, so I’ll be following that thread.  Something else I didn’t mention in my comment is the odd equation of childhood behavior with adult predisposition for motherhood among these alleged sufferers of CAH:  “As children, they show an unusually low interest in engaging in maternal play with baby dolls, and their interest in caring for infants, the frequency of daydreams or fantasies of pregnancy and motherhood, or the expressed wish of experiencing pregnancy and having children of their own appear to be relatively low in all age groups.”  What a stupid way to think about children or the importance of play.  Continue reading

Sick day, the method medicine way.

Not me–it’s Fratguy who’s under the (rather cool and rainy) weather, and another family member is undergoing a surgery today!  It’s going around, apparently.

Fratguy has experienced malaria-like fevers for the past 36 hours or so, which is a little too much Stanislavski-like method medicine and/or method colonial American history for me, but there you go.  He says it’s just a virus, which I think is a ruse designed to get me off his back rather than take him to see a physician.  Back in 1991 when he was in medical school and broke, Fratguy enrolled in a medical experiment for a malaria vaccine funded by the U.S. Army.  It was just like that old OFF commercial:  after getting the vaccine, he had to stick his arm into a tank full of falciparum-infected mosquitoes and get bitten by them!  Well, guess what?  The vaccine didn’t work, so he got malaria.  (And when you’ve had malaria, that’s a lifetime get-out-of-jail-free card for blood donation!)  But, he also got a ski trip to Whistler out of the deal, and I get a great little anecdote to trot out whenever I’m lecturing on the horrors of Jamestown or on the early English settlements in the Chesapeake and Caribbean in general.  Score!  Continue reading

Saturday Round-up: smoke & fire edition

Well, it’s been a busy exam week.  And I’m still not done with my grading!  While I’m firing up the grill here at the Hell’s Half-Acre Ranch this afternoon, here are a few links and treats to keep you busy while you’re avoiding your grading, or writing, or reading, or whatever work it is you’re trying desperately to avoid:

  • Tenured Radical has some interesting thoughts on the politics (and rampant paternalism) of egg donation in the high-tech fertility industry, and the deep, deep concern that some bioethicists have for the medical procedures involved in egg harvests and, of course, for women being paid to hand over their ova.  She notes how funny it is that no one expresses the same deep, deep concerns when women are injected, poked and prodded for their own eggs, which will be then used in fertility treatments in their own bodies:  “When was the last time you saw a front page article about the long-term risks associated with thirty-something and forty-something women juicing up their ovaries with dangerous chemicals over a period of anywhere from one to five years?  But that’s cool because they become mothers, as opposed to becoming unnatural, selfish women whose only goal is to pay for college and graduate school.”
  • Roxie at Roxie’s World has been on fire about Elena Kagan and the question, is she or isn’t she?  (A natural brunette, that is–what did you think I meant?)  Tenured Radical addressed this last weekend, in case you missed it.
  • Historiann wonders:  Continue reading

Sexuality and cancer surgeries: what's mine is yours, apparently

DePaul-ReplacingHere’s an interesting article in Salon by Ann Bauer, “Sex Without Nipples,” about the differential between counseling and treatment offered to cancer patients about sexual issues in men’s versus women’s cancer surgeries.  Sadly, I’m not surprised–as we’ve seen before, somehow it’s all about teh menz and their feelings and their sexual satisfaction, no matter whose body has the cancer.  Whereas prostate cancer patients are counseled heavily about the sexual side-effects of their cancer treatments, women who opt for mastectomies are never advised about the possible consequences to their sex lives.  Bauer writes:

This is particularly true, it seems, when the topic is nipples. Virtually none of the literature or education around the topic of breast cancer covers the sudden disappearance of erotic sensation in the breast. There is no attempt, as there is in a prostatectomy, to preserve the nerves. Modern mastectomy simply hacks off the offending tissue and creates a blank area where there once was tingling current.

There are also body-image issues after breast cancer surgery and reconstruction, for patients and their partners.  But, one young woman who tested positive for BRCA1 and chose to have a preventive double mastectomy makes it sound like her partner’s discomfort and even disgust with her surgery, recuperation, and new body were another problem for her to solve, a problem she didn’t handle well enough.  “Jessie”‘s own mother had died at age 30, and she had five other maternal relatives die from the disease–so she figured, why take the chance?  Continue reading

Women's bodies in the crosshairs of "health care reform"

Female_MannequinIt’s interesting (and sadly unsurprising) to me that two of the most powerful and emotional arguments the right-wing is mounting against health care reform have women’s bodies–or, more specifically, their uteri–at the center of them.  First of all, of course, the faithful are being scared to death that increasing government involvement in and funding for health care will mean that Godly taxpayers will be forced to underwrite abortions.  Secondly, we’re told that health care reform will force all American taxpayers to pay for the health care of illeeeeegal alieeeeunnnns and their hoards of anchor babies!  (And characteristically, it looks like most Dems are happy to pander to these boogeymen, rather than defending privacy rights.) 

On the one hand, right-wing opponents of health care reform claim that they shouldn’t have to pay for anyone else’s abortion, even indirectly.  On the other hand, they complain that health care reform will force them to pay for the health care of undocumented immigrants.  In both cases, some people, somewhere are having sex and making decisions about their own bodies and families of which others disapprove and don’t want to underwrite with their tax dollars.

I agree!  I don’t want to have to pay for any medications or procedures of which I disapprove on religious grounds, either.  So, here’s what we’ll ban next:  Continue reading

Food, identity, and personal virtue

vanillaicecreamI have colleagues who have written articles and books on food history.  I don’t consider food history one of my main subfields, but I’ve learned a lot from food historians, and their work has been incredibly useful to me as a historian who works on the intersections of ethnicity, religion, gender, and identity.  I’ve learned a lot recently, for example, on the consumption of dog meat by Native peoples in the Americas, and how Wabanaki people might have survived on gathered foods in the Maine woods, winter and summer.  (If you find yourself in need of a North woods cure for scurvy, I’m your gal.)  The pretext for all of this Survivor Woman:  colonial edition research is that I’m writing some book chapters about a little girl right now, and I’m interested in her food ecologies because I think food would probably have been something of urgent and pressing interest to her, especially because I’m coming to the conclusion that she was probably hungry more often than she wasn’t.   

All of this seems connected to Anglachel’s “A Taste of Things to Come,” a personal essay about food, social staus, and identity.  Here are a few excerpts, but you should just read the whole thing:

I think a lot about food.

I think about what it was like to grow up not being able to afford the kind of food “normal” people ate.I think about cans from charity. I think about having to shop at cut-rate food stores, buy day-old (“used” in my family’s lexicon) bread, have only non-fat dry milk on the shelf, cheap off-brand margarines on sandwiches, big cans of peanut butter we had to stir to keep the oil from separating, and lunch boxes that had books in them because sometimes there wasn’t lunch. I think about a mother too far gone in depression to care what she served her family. I think proudly about eating Hamburger Helper because I could make it myself and have it ready when Dad got home. I think about the way our meals improved as Dad finally got seniority at his job and his pay inched up. I look at the pantry shelf and wonder if I’m hoarding again.

I think a lot about food.

I think about the varying quality of produce between the IGA, the Trader Joe’s the Ralph’s and the Henry’s Market where I live. I remember, living in New York as a grad student, walking around Balducci’s, eyeing the perfect red bell peppers, then sighing and going to D’Agostino’s or the A&P.
.       .       .       .       .       .       .       .       .      

I think about the way in which grocery stores and shopping lists become political markers of having “made it.”

.       .       .       .       .       .       .       .       .      Continue reading

Dr. Str!pper T!ts, I presume?

NOTE:  This post was edited from an earlier version.  My apologies for those of you who might have come back here in the past few hours and found this post had temporarily “disappeared.”
Here’s one for all of the laydees out there in Historiann Nation:  Have you ever considered elective cosmetic surgery?  Now, don’t panic:  because of my natural beauty, enhanced only by vigorous exercise and protected vigilantly against the sun on the high plains desert by SPF 30+ at minimum, I’m certainly not considering “having some work done.”  I’m just wondering if educated, successful women such as yourselves have either thought about plastic surgery or have had it done. 

The reason I ask is that I have heard stories recently about highly successful professional women (that is, in professions nowhere near the entertainment industry) having serious plastic surgery–as in, massive breast implants and obvious facelifts.

Continue reading