Saturday, September 29, 2007

For all you Lovers out there

Today I went to the Charlottesville Vegetarian Festival. While there I stopped by the Food Not Bombs' table and picked up some of their materials and signed up to be called to help out. The Charlottesville Food Not Bombs' group serves vegetarian/vegan meals to people in need of food at Tonlser Park at 1pm on Sundays. I have wanted to get involved with Food Not Bombs (this one will take you to their home page) for awhile. (I remember trying to during the summertimes in Pittsburgh to find a Pittsburgh chapter, but I must not have tried very hard [or they must have recently got things up and running] because a quick search took me to this page.) Anyway, check out the Food Not Bombs links above; the group has had some interesting history.

(Thinking about Food Not Bombs today lead me to search for mention of "Better than Television," in Charlottesville. I don't think they exist anymore. Does anyone know? Anyway, that lead me to Slingshot "a quarterly, independent, radical, newspaper published in the East Bay since 1988 by the Slingshot Collective." [And I take issue with the first person's statement that cervical cancer is easily cured if detected early--what about people who do not have access to annual cervical exams?])

Finally, on two totally unrelated notes, I am in the midst of a cold and had my first nose bleed ever today and I'm reading "Remembrance of Things Past" and thought I would share this passage,

At this time of life one has already been wounded more than once by the darts of love; it no longer evolves by itself, obeying its own incomprehensible and fatal laws, before our passive and astonished hearts. We come to its aid, we falsify it by memory and by suggestion. Recognizing one of its symptoms, we remember and recreate the rest. Since we know its song, which is engraved on our hearts in its entirety, there is no need for a woman to repeat the opening strains---filled with the admiration which beauty inspires---for us to remember what follows.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

I can't think, the TV is on

Lately I've been feeling way too wired into television and the internet. For me, it's akin to feeling full or even like a glutton after a huge (unhealthy) meal. I have several websites that I check multiple times a day throughout the day everyday. And now, with the fall television season starting up again, I've been spending a lot of time letting my eyes glaze over as I practically slump over on the couch in front of the t.v. I am one of those people who cannot watch tv and carrying on a conversation at the same time; I get completely engrossed in whatever is on. I guess it's all those bright and shiny colors flying by me at a fast rate.

I watched Heroes last season and I'm going to continue to watch it again.

Spoiler alert **if you haven't watched the first season of Heroes and want to stop reading now, even though I'm only going to talk about it in a general way**

Last season focused good battling the evil of "progress at any cost." The Company was willing to sacrifice the lives of most of the people in New York City in order to unite the country under Nathan, ushering in a new era of progress and prosperity. Because the cost of the Company's idea of progress was millions (thousands?) of deaths through a nuclear explosion (in New York City), I initially thought that the show was trying to say something about terrorism. But I think that there is something else there, namely I think the Company represented the ideas of Social Darwinism*, (the concept that the rule "survival of the fittest" applies in economic and social situations).

On an individual level it's easy to see that, Social Darwinism is ridiculous; it requires us to consider a man who had the happy accident to be born into a wealthy family morally superior or more deserving of his wealth than a man who was born into poverty (it also requires us to think that the man born into poverty deserves to be poor). But I think that Social Darwinism lives on in some of our business practices. More and more companies are turning to global outsourcing as a means of cutting expenses. It is cheaper to make products in foreign countries that have less strict (or no) environmental or labor regulations. Those cheap costs of production are then (somewhat) reflected in lower costs to the United States consumer.

How can it be fair to pay someone with the same skill sets as an American worker less money just because they are born in a foreign country? I know there are complicated reasons why less money is seen as acceptable in these cases, but is one of those reasons based on a Social Darwinian idea? That those who work hard enough, no matter where they start, can and will achieve wealth and therefore, people who are poor are poor because they did not work hard enough (and do not deserve equal treatment)?

If progress in this case is cheaper goods for American consumers then the cost might be companies must engage in unethical business practices. Are we asking ourselves if progress is worth the cost? I know they are in academia, but is this question being asked by business leaders? Is it being asked by consumers? How can consumers even ask if progress is worth the cost if they don't even know what the ethical costs are? Is it the consumers job to stay informed about global business practices of the companies they use? Or is it the government's job to prevent unethical global business practices to begin with?

I honestly do not know if global outsourcing has a net positive or negative effect on foreign countries. I have heard arguments from Americans on both sides. I would like to hear from the foreign workers as well, because I don't want to be Whitey McPriviledged spouting my opinion about what's best for other countries. I do think, however, there are clearly some costs to global outsourcing.

I'm leaving this entry the scattered mess it is. I don't really know enough about this stuff to be writing about it, and clearly I have more questions then answer. If anyone has any good books/links in regards to globalization that they'd like to share, please do.

*A note about Social Darwinism: the theory of evolution defines success by a species ability to adapt to a given situation; the ability to adapt is measured first by the number of offspring a species successfully raises to reproduce and secondly, the number of new species that spring from the original species. Social Darwinism, on the other hand, measures success in terms of wealth acquired and the idea of "progress and civilization." One of the reasons that Darwin's theory of evolution was so threatening at the time he wrote his books is because there is no "progress" in Darwin's evolution; there is no end goal, there is only randomness. In college I took a class called Origins of Contemporary Thought where Allan Megill argued that this was Darwin's real challenge to religion; a world that works without an end goal, without progressing, implies that there is no God.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


Yesterday morning I heard this segment on NPR's Morning Edition about the rising cost of dairy products. As the segment explains, although milk is generally a local product, the price of skim-milk powder, which is used in many products, has risen. Dairy producers may focus on making skim-milk powder, increasing the shortage in milk production (which is already increasing for many reasons as the NPR segment explains). As supplies go down, prices go up.

After hearing this piece, I realized I had no idea where Harris Teeter, one of the local grocery stores, gets its milk. A quick google search didn't get me any closer to finding out, but I did run into Majesty Farm's Cow and Goat Share Program. As the link explains, the cow and goat share program allows people to buy "stock" in a goat or cow; the price of the stock includes the farm boarding and feeding your animal, regular vet visits, daily milking, and 1 gallon of milk a week per "cow share" or 3 quarts for a "goat share." The program allows people to get around laws prohibiting buying and selling raw milk (it's not illegal to own/drink milk from animal you own). It's too expensive for me, but I thought it was an interesting idea worth sharing.

Also, if you're like me, you may have run out of This American Life episodes to listen to. If so, I highly recommend Radio Lab.

Monday, September 24, 2007

On their backs

I worked nine hours today, which is about average for me. For some reason today felt particularly long, but then, while I was waiting for the trolley this evening I was reading "A People's History of the United States" and I came across this,

1835, twenty mills went on strike to reduce the workday from thirteen and a half hours to eleven hours, to get cash wages instead of company scrip, and to end fines for lateness. Fifteen hundred children and parents went out on strike, and it lasted six weeks. Strikebreakers were brought in, and some workers went back to work, but the strikers did win a twelve-hour day and nine hours on Saturday.

And then later,

A three-month strike of 100,00 workers in New York won the eight-hour day, and at a victory celebration in June 1872, 150,000 workers paraded through the city.

So that nine-hour day that wore me down today? That was bought on the backs of strikers, who sometimes gave their lives when militia were brought in to break up strikes in the 1870s. All of the things I enjoy in my working life; a lunch break, a paycheck instead of coupons at the company store, health insurance, workman's comp should I be injured on the job, sanitary and physically comfortable working conditions, were fought for at the ballet box and on the streets.

Zinn also writes,

...[After the Civil War] political elites of North and South would take hold of the country and organize the greatest march of economic growth in human history. They would do it with the aid of, and at the expensive of, black labor, white labor, Chinese labor, European immigrant labor, female labor, rewarding them differently by race, sex, national origin, and social class, in such a way as to create separate levels of oppression

I think much the same is going on today, a wealthy few is exploiting many, with separate levels of oppression being used "to stabilize the pyramid of wealth," but I also think it's important to recognize the backs we are standing on, as we continue to push against the classist, racist, sexist, and xenophobic forces that are expressed in our country's working life.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The more you know

Via Feministe, I came across this alarming (to me at least) report about a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) program to collect and keep record of the personal items people are carrying with them when they travel. The article says that the DHS is "retaining data on the persons with whom they travel or plan to stay, the personal items they carry during their journeys, and even the books that travelers have carried, according to documents obtained by a group of civil liberties advocates and statements by government officials."

Lauren at Feministe already covered how I feel about this (that the government is become more and more creepily intrusive), so I won't go into that. The article did make me wonder about how the civil liberties advocates got their information. They must have used the Freedom of Information Act (that link is the actual text, please see here where the Department of Justice [DOJ] breaks down how to actually use the act).

The DOJ says,

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which can be found in Title 5 of the United States Code, section 552, was enacted in 1966 and generally provides that any person has the right to request access to federal agency records or information. All agencies of the Executive Branch of the United States Government are required to disclose records upon receiving a written request for them, except for those records (or portions of them) that are protected from disclosure by the nine exemptions and three exclusions of the FOIA. This right of access is enforceable in court, and it is supported at the administrative agency level by the "citizen-centered and results-oriented approach" of a presidential executive order (see below).

The FOIA does not, however, provide access to records held by Congress or the federal courts, by state or local government agencies, or by private businesses or individuals. All states have their own statutes governing public access to state and local government records; state agencies should be consulted for further information about them.

Here are the nine exemptions referred to above. (I wonder how much case law there is around these exemptions, because they seem like they could be invoked pretty broadly by the government and completely take the teeth out of the FOIA).

It seems pretty straight forward; requests must be in writing, you should try to send it to the correct component (and make sure what you're looking for isn't already public record), and it might cost you up to $25 (for copying). The FOIA doesn't require the government to interpret data or create new reports to answer your question.

The most interesting part to me was that you can request information about yourself or about someone else (provided they give their permission or you can prove that they are dead). It looks like that's how the civil liberties groups got their information about the extensiveness of the DHS record collecting in this case, by requesting the records on specific travelers. Maybe it had to be done that way to get around one of the exemptions, namely, exception number 7 (see link to the exemptions above).

Now that I know how it works, I really want to take advantage of this act. But I have no idea what records I would like to be released. What would you ask about?

See here for more info about how to use the FOIA.

UPDATE: See this article (via Majikthise) about a federal agent using DHS records to cyber-stalk his ex-girlfriend for just one reason I don't want the government to be collecting detailed records about me.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Have no fear, Breyer is here

This morning my mom and I were discussing Jeffrey Toobin's new book "The Nine" which is about the "Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court" (subtitles are so helpful, aren't they?). It got me thinking about the different personalities on the Supreme Court, particularly how much I enjoyed reading Justice Stephen Breyer's opinions and dissents while I was in law school.

In 2005 Breyer wrote a book called "Active Liberty," where he lays out his views on constitutional interpretation, argues that "strict constructionism" often ends up thwarting democratic tradition, and elaborates on his opinions about some controversial cases that had recently come before the Supreme Court. While promoting his book, he went on Fresh Air. You can listen to the interview here.

In other words, if you're feeling blue about the Supreme Court these days, remember that there are still some great justices on it, even if they are the minority voice at the moment.

Friday, September 21, 2007

France Wright, an Early American Feminist

For my birthday this year Jake gave me Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States, 1492-Present" (Lauren's recommendation).

In the first chapter of the book Zinn writes,

...this book will be skeptical of governments and their attempts, through politics and culture, to ensnare ordinary people in a giant web of nationhood pretending to a common interest. I will try not to overlook the cruelties that victims inflict on one another as they are jammed together in the boxcars of the system. I don't want to romanticize them. But I do remember (in rough paraphrase) a statement I once read: "The cry of the poor is not always just, but if you don't listen to it, you will never know what justice is."

I really can't recommend this book highly enough. Zinn's writing is intelligent and engaging and I feel as though I learn something new each time I pick it up.

For example, in his chapter "The Other Civil War," Zinn mentions Frances Wright "an early feminist and utopian socialist," who, according to Zinn, addressed Philadelphia labor unions on July 4th, 1829.

Wright was an advocate for "socialism, the abolition of slavery, universal suffrage, free secular education, birth control, changes in the marriage and divorce laws." In 1858 Ernestine L. Rose described Wright as "the first woman in this country who spoke on the equality of the sexes." (My source for this info is here.)

Wright is probably the most famous for attempting to establish a utopian society, made up of slaves she bought and then freed and whites, called Nashoba. (The community was founded in 1826 and fell apart four years later.) Wright believed that free love (if you get what I'm saying) was one solution to racism. Nashoba's ultimate failure was a result of financial mismanagement, but, in a way, it was a failure from it's inception. Whites still held the power in the community in the form of a board of trustees and overseers. Please check this out for a brief critique of Nashoba.

As a woman who went to college, I want to recognize that I would not have been able to get a secondary eduction, let along a college education, were it not for Wright and other activist like her pushing for universal equal opportunity for education.

In 1829 Wright said,

Your political institutions have taken equality for their basis; your declaration of rights, upon which your institutions rest, sets forth this principle as vital and inviolate. Equality is the soul of liberty; there is, in fact, no liberty without it.

How are men to be secured in any rights without instruction; how to be secured in the equal exercise of those rights without equality of instruction? By instruction understand me to mean knowledge - just knowledge; not talent, not genius, not inventive mental powers. These will vary in every human being; but knowledge is the same for every mind, and every mind may and ought to be trained to receive it. If then, ye have pledged, at each anniversary of your political independence, your lives, properties, and honor, to the securing of your common liberties, ye have pledged your lives, properties, and honor, to the securing of your common instruction.

All men are born free and equal! That is: our moral feelings acknowledge it to be just and proper, that we respect those liberties in others, which we lay claim to for ourselves; and that we permit the free agency of every individual, to any extent which violates not the free agency of his fellow creatures.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Without a paddle

Today my friend Jake sent me this post about the hostile (towards gay people and it sounds like towards women too) work environment at the New York Post. This sent me digging around on the current state of federal discrimination laws.

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2007 (ENDA) (which would include sexual orientation and gender identity in the categories that the government protects from work place discrimination) was introduced to the House in late April of 2007. A couple weeks ago, the House held subcommittee hearings on ENDA; supporters of the bill are hoping to pass the ENDA before the end of the year.

The ENDA is intended to protect gays/lesbians/transgendered people from workplace discrimination in the same way that the the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (CRA) protects workers from discrimination based on race, color, religion, or sex. The CRA also created the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which identifies harassment in the work place as a form of discrimination that violates the CRA. The EEOC says,

Harassment becomes unlawful where 1) enduring the offensive conduct becomes a condition of continued employment, or 2) the conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive.


Petty slights, annoyances, and isolated incidents (unless extremely serious) will not rise to the level of illegality. To be unlawful, the conduct must create a work environment that would be intimidating, hostile, or offensive to reasonable people.

The Federal Communications Commissions breaks it down for us a little more, with examples of harassment here.

However, the CRA does not explicitly state that harassment is a form of discrimination (and neither does the ENDA). In Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson, the Supreme Court held

A claim of "hostile environment" sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that is actionable under Title VII [of the CDA]

(Sidenote: I really think that it should be a requirement that every Supreme Court opinion has a numbered list right at the beginning of whatever the Court is holding in that case. It would save us a lot of trouble.)

Although I think that were the question to come up (and were the court to follow precedent and legislative intent), courts would be forced to hold that the ENDA protects gays/lesbians/transgendered people from a hostile work environment, I think we can't be sure because it's not explicitly stated in the legislation. (If there are any lawyers/law students out there who think/know otherwise, please correct me.)

I hope it passes. And I hope gays/lesbians/transgendered people are protected from a hostile work environment. In other words, I hope New York Post winds up floating up shit creek.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

On why I hate To Catch a Predator

There have been a lot of posts recently on Wonkette about the (alleged) sexual misconduct/crimes of elected politicians (they appear regularly lately under this tag). These include posts on the crazy antics of Larry Craig and that wacky Bob Allen as well as some light gay-bashing (literally) by Tucker Carlson. But in addition to all of that, they also include a couple posts (which I'm not going to link to, but you can find pretty easily) about reports that a legislative staffer for a state assemblyman and council chairman sexual molested children (in different states, in unrelated incidences). Several comments on these two posts refer to the above mentioned bathroom-sex seeking politicians in a kind of, first-this-and-now-this?! way.

I suppose the connection Wonkette readers see between the two things (closet-gay men trolling for sex in public places and child-molesters) is that all of the politicians involved presented themselves as "family values" people to the public. I think there's a couple of pretty obvious differences here though. The first and most obvious difference would be that gay people who publicly solicit other people for consensual sex are not hurting anyone, at least not in the same way that an adult hurts a child through years (or even one incident) of abuse. The second difference would be that though both groups are hypocrites (the closeted-gay men because they push legislation that would take away rights from other gay people and the child-molesters because presumably they present themselves to the world as straight and not mentally imbalanced), I don't really understand how someone who is a child-molester can not be a hypocrite (not unless they're a card carrying member of NAMBLA). They aren't just hypocrites; they're criminals and also, in my opinion, they have mental problems.

Um, I guess I'm just trying to state the obvious: Being a closeted-gay person (even one who takes away rights from other gay people) is different from (read: not even remotely in the same category as) being a child molester.

Besides not liking the lumping together of Craig et al. and child molesters, I'm not sure how I feel about Wonkette's posts and their commenters simultaneous disgust (at the child molesters' actions) and glee (at seeing them bought down), both of which I actually share. It made me think of the t.v. show "To Catch a Predator," which I hate (and it's not just Stone Phillips). Although I am glad that the issue of child molestation/statutory rape is being covered by the media, that show has some problems.

In addition to the legal problems mentioned in the link, I think it has some problems in its conception and execution. For instance, I think it feeds into a myth out there that your child needs to be protected the most from strangers on the internet, when the truth is 80% of the time the attacker is someone the child knows (please check out the right hand bar to see where I got my statistic--I was a little turned off by this sites take on pornography [unless they mean child pornography; it's not clear] so check this out if you want another look at some different, but related statistics.).

I do think it's great that "To Catch a Predator" has a spotlight on the perpetrators rather than shining the hot light on the victim, as is too often the case (what did *she* do to make him interested? is a question that is asked way too often--maybe more often in cases of rape then in child molestation, but in either case, the focus should be on the behavior of the perpetrator rather than that of the victim). But the problem is, the scope of their light is not big enough. "To Catch a Predator" asks parents to look outside of their home, schools, neighborhoods, and churches and into the bushes for that lurking stranger. And that makes sense, because it's actually a much easier idea to swallow then the idea that your children's step-father might be touching them inappropriately. It's easy to keep your kid off the computer. It's not so easy to confront a culture (whether the culture is a home or in a country) that treats women and children as the property.

I want the coverage of child molestation to be accurate. I want it to force us to examine a hard truth that people we know (and even love) could be abusers, not just that creepy guy in the library who is always heavy-breathing near the computers. And I want us to ask, what is it about us, as a culture, that makes otherwise ordinary, average people think they can do this kind of thing to someone else?

I don't know the answer to that, but I would guess it's related to power and systematic oppression.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Dr. Csikszentmihalyi and Flow

I was listening to This American Life this morning and one of the contributors mentioned Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and the concept of "flow."

Here's how Csikszentmihalyi describes flow in the interview linked above,
In the early seventies, I spoke with chess players, rock climbers, musicians, and inner-city basketball players, asking them to describe their experience when what they were doing was really going well. I really expected quite different stories to emerge. But the interviews seemed in many important ways to focus on the same quality of the experience. For instance, the fact that you were completely immersed in what you were doing, that the concentration was very high, that you knew what you had to do moment by moment, that you had very quick and precise feedback as to how well you were doing, and that you felt that your abilities were stretched but not overwhelmed by the opportunities for action. In other words, the challenges were in balance with the skills. And when those conditions were present, you began to forget all the things that bothered you in everyday life, forget the self as an entity separate from what was going on—you felt you were a part of something greater and you were just moving along with the logic of the activity.

Everyone said that it was like being carried by a current, spontaneous, effortless like a flow. You also forget time and are not afraid of being out of control. You think you can control the situation if you need to. But it's hard because the challenges are hard. It feels effortless and yet it's extremely dependent on concentration and skill. So it's a paradoxical kind of condition where you feel that you are on a nice edge, between anxiety on the one hand and boredom on the other. You're just operating on this fine line where you can barely do what needs to be done.

The entire interview is very interesting. I'm not sure I agree with/understand how he is using the term "evolution," but it's still interesting.

I have definitely experienced flow a few times in my life; during cross-country races in high school, when first learning to be a compositor at work, occasionally while writing, and often while reading a challenging book. I also think I attempt to create the conditions for flow, while doing boring tasks that must be done by creating games to challenge myself (like how many lines of data-entry can I get through in an hour...bleh.), but this doesn't usually work.

I think, though, this is what we mean when we say that someone loves their work. We mean that they are able to enter into "flow" while working.

When do you feel as if you are in "flow"?

Later in the interview,
Csikszentmihalyi says,
We are born with certain instructions to act, and then we are told by the culture how to act. And while we have to honor the reality of these things, at the same time, we have to reflect on the implications that carrying out these instructions would have.

There is the Hindu notion of karma, which should also be translated in modern terms, because it's true that everything you do, in a sense, has an impact on everything else. We are part of a system, and if we act in a certain way, it doesn't stop there. It will have an effect both now and through time. It will have an effect. So once you realize both that you're part of a system and that you are all these instructions, then you recognize that you have the responsibility of either endorsing all these instructions or trying to break out from them.

I really like the challenge in this quote; recognizing the reality of things, but at the same time seeing you have an active choice within that reality to continue as before or to reject your set of "instructions" in whatever way you can.

Monday, September 17, 2007

I'm so glad I don't live in medieval times

After remembering that I owe her a thank-you card for a birthday present, I started thinking about my maternal Grandmother (Grandma B) this afternoon. She and I started writing letters to each other on a regular basis about a year ago. When my paternal Grandmother and my maternal Grandfather died, I realized that I had a lot of questions I wanted to ask them that I never got to.

My Grandma B has told me a lot about her life in the past year, from the general details to her feelings at the times of some of the historical events that have taken place in her lifetime. She has lead a very interesting life. She recently wrote to me that her children are the most important thing in her life, which has got me thinking about my Grandmother and reproduction (er, not specifically, more generally: Women who were born in the 1920s and reproduction). My Grandmother was a practicing Catholic throughout her marriage to my Grandfather (and remains so today). She was pregnant nine times, had two miscarriages, and seven children. Because of her Catholicism and the number of times she was pregnant, I assume she practiced the rhythm method, but I was interested to find out what other methods of contraceptives were available during her lifetime.

Check this out for (as far as I can tell) a comprehensive look at the history of contraceptives, including information on how contraceptives have been used in the past in forced sterilization/forced population control efforts. (I would be remiss if I didn't mention the darkside of contraceptives' history.)

Here's some of the interesting stuff I ran into tonight while looking into the history of contraceptives. (All of the info comes from the above Planned Parenthood site, unless otherwise noted.)

The Condom - Using a new manufacturing process known as "dipping" (which as far as I can tell means dipping glass dildos into hot latex), the modern day latex condom was created in the 1920s. Before that they were rubber and had a large seam down the side (source).

The Diaphragm - Lemon halves may have been the modern diaphragm's medieval predecessor (source). In 1915 Margaret Sanger visited a Dutch Birth Control clinical and brought back with her their idea for a flexible diaphragm that was fitted by medical staff (source and also just a cool link about Sanger).

The Intrauterine Device (IUD) - IUDs have returned to the market and are considered safe, after a serious scare in the 1970s with the Dalkon Shield. (Speaking of the darkside of contraceptive history, the Dalkon Shield was dumped at a reduced price onto third world countries just before it was removed from the market in the U.S.)

Vasectomy -- In 1916 until 1940 (when the procedure for this purpose was discredited), a doctor began performing vasectomies to reduce the production of hormones that cause aging.

Birth Control Pills - In 1965, the Supreme court struck down a law banning prescribing, selling, and using contraceptives in Griswold v. Connecticut. The court held that there is right to privacy "created by several fundamental constitutional guarantees." (That whole right to privacy thing would come up again...)

Check out that main Planned Parenthood link above if you have time. There's a lot of really great info there.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Lookin' Good

I was reading this New York Times article this morning which lead me to this activist group, Be Bright Pink, mentioned in the article. One of the cool things about this site is that they offer a monthly email service that will remind women to conduct self-exams for breast cancer. The site allows you to select the week of the month when you are most likely to get your period and then it will send you an email that week (if your period isn't enough of reminder, which for me it isn't). I do wish that the site mentioned that a self-exam should take place a week after a woman's period starts and not during her period when her breast might be swollen. Check this out for more general information on self-exams.

I found the NY times article about one woman's decision to get a preventive mastectomy to be very interesting. At first I was disgusted with how the article repeatedly returned to the question "Would Lindner be able to get a man?" if she got the preventative surgery. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it would be my main dilemma with getting a potentially life-saving surgery that would radically alter my appearance. Would I still be attractive afterwards? And underneath that question, the other question, would anyone ever love me again?

I think those are real fears that speak to human beings need to be loved and to relate to others in a meaningful way. But even before the happy ending where Lindner's boyfriend supports her decision whole-heartedly, it's clear that she is loved and would continue to be loved deeply, by her family. So it's not just love that creates the tension behind the "will I still be attractive?" question, there are (at least) two other things there; first, another question: will I still be valuable to society if I am not sexual attractive? and secondly, the position that a romantic relationship's love has more value than other types of love.

I feel like these fears about appearance (which are linked a sense of diminished self-worth), stem from the real consequence people face when they do not meet normal body standards. And, I believe these consequences are a result a consumer-driven society, where acceptance of self means not buying new products, so corporations had better be pushing feelings of inadequacy onto people. Meanwhile, while we're worried about how we look, people in power are getting away with a lot.

Although I understand Lindner's dilemma in the article and also feel like it would be my dilemma too where I faced with that choice, the reason I initially balked at the "find a man" problem presented in the article is because I think society pushes successful romantic relationships as the ultimate goal in life (for women at least) devaluing women who do not find such relationships. I think that leads to ignoring the value of other love-relationships in people's lives (friendship, family, coworkers). It also contributes to the perception that women should be driven to "find a man" (or even just one woman to be a life-long romantic partner) rather than be involved in the public sphere of "real" work. In that way, this article reads a bit like a romantic comedy. Girl overcomes obstacle (serious risk of cancer) and on the way, lands herself a man.

I think it's fine if romantic love is an individual's definition of self-fulfillment, but I think that it is pushed on everyone. For example, those doctors mentioned in the article who would not perform the surgery because Lindner is too young in their opinion. Is "too young" code for "hasn't found a man yet and had babies with that man"? What if those things weren't in Lindner's life plan? I bet those doctors would still feel justified in telling Lindner that though she may think she doesn't want to marry and have babies she will at some point (just ask a young woman who has tried to get a tubal ligation).

Just some food for thought.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

First things first

Things you can expect from me (a non-exclusive list): bad grammar, terrible spelling, bouts of anger with sprinklings of rationality, inappropriate guilt, self-indulgence, an occasional funny story, political/feminist writing (probably poorly-informed political and feminist writing), deletion of comments that I just plain don't like, regular posting (my goal is daily), spurts of commenting and then silence, complaints, gratitudes, and a frustrating inability to follow the advice that strangers on the internet give to me.

Things you won't read here: specific work discussion and personal life stuff regarding friends' and family's private lives.

Things I expect from someone who reads me: All contents of this blog are copyrighted under the Author's real name (that's me). 2007. So please don't lift any of my contents without asking first. Also, I hate that I have to say this, but from watching the experience of other bloggers I think that I must, any comments of a threatening nature will be reported to the proper authorities, so don't bother with that. Other than all that serious stuff (and the fact that I don't even have any readers yet), do what you will and we'll work any kinks out later.