What Women Really Think

July 28 2014 12:06 PM

The Anti-Vaccination Movement Has Become an Anti-Vitamin Movement, and Babies Are Suffering

It’s hard to believe it was possible, but anti-vaccination fanaticism has taken a darker turn, as Chris Mooney reports for Mother Jones: Now, it's not just vaccines that parents are foolishly rejecting for their children, but also a simple injection of vitamin K that has been a standard part of newborn care since the 1960s. Some parents now find themselves rushing to the emergency room with babies sick with vitamin K deficiency bleeding. “This rare disorder occurs because human infants do not have enough vitamin K, a blood coagulant, in their systems,” Mooney writes. “Infants who develop VKDB can bleed in various parts of their bodies, including bleeding into the brain.” Bleeding in the brain can cause brain damage and, in some cases, death. 

The problem started to attract attention this spring, when Tom Wilemon, writing for The Tennessean, reported that seven babies had been admitted to the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt in a mere eight months with vitamin K deficiency bleeding, which doctors believe may be on the rise because of parents refusing the vitamin K shot at birth. That certainly seems to be the case with Mark and Melissa Knotowicz, who refused the vitamin K shot when Melissa gave birth to twins because they heard that the shot causes leukemia. As Wilemon writes: “An old study did draw a correlation between the preservative and leukemia, but followup studies disproved that theory, according to Vanderbilt doctors.”

When one of the twins got sick, doctors first assumed it was some kind of blood poisoning, but quickly learned about the vitamin K shot refusal. Both babies were diagnosed with vitamin K deficiency and given the shot, but for the baby who had bleeding, damage had already been done:

The tests showed the baby had suffered multiple brain bleeds. He spent a week in the hospital and is now undergoing physical therapy for neuromuscular development issues. Doctors do not know yet whether he will suffer problems with intellectual development.

Mooney profiled pediatrician Clay Jones, who is working to raise awareness of the dangers of refusing the vitamin K shot. Jones points out that the shot is even more necessary for women who want to breast-feed exclusively, which is darkly ironic, considering how breast-feeding has been elevated to a near-religious status in the same circles that tend to be hostile to vaccinations and now the vitamin K shot. Mooney writes:

VKDB comes in two versions, an "early" form (occurring in the first week of life) and the much more dangerous "late" form, which tends to strike infants between two and 12 weeks old who have not received Vitamin K, and who are "exclusively breastfed" by their mothers. The problem, writes Jones, is that "levels of vitamin K in breast milk are low, much lower than in infant formula."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, infants who do not receive a vitamin K injection have an 81 times greater chance of coming down with late stage VKDB. Even then the risk remains small: Between 4.4 and 7.2 infants out of every 100,000. But a Vitamin K injection is "virtually 100 percent protective," Jones explains.

Mooney also chronicles the various crunchy websites trying to scare parents into opting out of the vitamin K shot, with the usual gobbledygook accusing the shots of having all sorts of scary ingredients—or else arguing that a little needle prick is some kind of great trauma for babies. The anti-vaccination movement has morphed into an anti-shot movement, and it's children who are paying the price.

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July 28 2014 11:17 AM

Sarah Palin to Sell Her Real American Lifestyle for $10 a Month

On Sunday, Sarah Palin announced on YouTube that she is starting a new venture for those who can't get enough right-wing misinformation packaged in a chirpy Midwestern accent. (See also: Glenn Beck’s The Blaze.) For a mere $10 a month, subscribers to the Sarah Palin Channel can gorge on the typical conservative news reports and anti-Obama hysteria offered by her competitors, with a twist: She’ll also serve up plenty of videos of the Palin family doing stuff around the house and probably shooting at things. “Believe me, it is fun,” Palin says in the introductory video. “Because it’s real life.”

Like Beck and Rush Limbaugh (who also offers a members-only website, for a fee), Palin has built a personal brand around right-wing grievance: The Man is oppressing Real America, and Palin alone is brave enough to tell is like it is. “Are you tired of the media filters? Well, I am. I always have been,” explains Palin, a known victim of not being asked to be on TV as much as she'd like. “Together, we'll go beyond the sound bites and cut through the media's politically correct filter, and things like Washington, D.C.'s crony capitalism,” she continues. “We'll talk about the issues that the mainstream media won't talk about. And we'll look at the ideas that, mmmm, I think Washington doesn't want you to hear.” She's kicking off that promise with a video demanding the impeachment of Obama. (“Enough is enough from the years of abuse from this president,” Palin says in the video. “His unsecured border crisis, for me, is the last straw. It makes the battered wife say, ‘No mas. That’s enough.’”)

But Palin is also building a lifestyle website, which requires her to present an image of an enviable home life (one that has, against all odds, survived all these ostensible attacks from the left). The Sarah Palin Channel will pick up where Palin’s one-season TLC reality show, Sarah Palin’s Alaska, left off, with Todd, Sarah, and the kids snowmobiling around America; Bristol will have her own blog, on “life,” “family,” and “Alaska.” This is where Palin can really distinguish herself as a woman on the right: Subscribers to Rush Limbaugh’s website can pay to watch a live video recording of his radio show, but nobody really wants to go home with him. Palin’s one-two punch offers viewers both an outlet for their victimhood and a vision of the life they’re fighting for.

So while the $10-a-month paywall may seem like a bad idea in a world where video advertising has proved a more reliable way to make money while getting views, the subscription model may actually work in Palin’s case. Palin’s audience is composed of people who are steeped in the paranoid belief that everyone else is out to get them, a paranoia she's happy to stoke at every turn. The paywall offers a sort of protection, then: A safe space to communicate without the fear that outsiders are listening in, and a rare enclave where a life that looks like “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” still persists.

July 25 2014 5:04 PM

Keith Olbermann Wonders Why the NFL Doesn't Think Women Are Worthy of “Basic Human Respect”

On Thursday night, ESPN’s Keith Olbermann delivered an on-point condemnation of the NFL’s pathetic sanctions against the Baltimore Ravens’ Ray Rice. Rice was charged with assault after being caught on video dragging his unconscious fiancée from a casino elevator. As my colleague Ben Mathis-Lilley noted, "Rice was indicted by a grand jury on a felony assault charge, but avoided further prosecution by agreeing to participate in a pretrial intervention program." Many assumed that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell would issue a severe punishment of his own. After all, this is the league that issues four-game suspensions for marijuana use. In this case, however, Goodell handed Rice a fine and a two-game suspension.

Olbermann paused for 45 seconds during his ESPN monologue to show the silent surveillance footage of Rice removing his then-fiancée, now wife, from the elevator. Olbermann then notes that defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth was suspended five games for stepping on a player’s head during a game—an infraction the NFL took very, very seriously.

By being so lenient with Rice, Olbermann argues, the NFL displays an offensive disregard for women. As Justin Peters reported in Slate two years ago, 21 of 32 NFL teams “had employed a player with a domestic violence or sexual assault charge on his record” during the 2012 season.

While Olbermann’s points about the NFL are well-taken, I am particularly impressed by his attention to the responsibilities of sports journalists. Yes, pro football has a woman problem, but so do many other sports, as well as the people who comment on them. Olbermann took the opportunity to highlight comments about Marion Bartoli’s looks, Brittney Griner’s gender identity, and Gabby Douglas’ hair, noting how each of them “lowers the level of basic human respect for women in sports.”

A change in attitude across an industry does not come easy. On Friday morning, not long after Olbermann’s segment ran, his ESPN colleague Stephen A. Smith opined that while, sure, domestic violence is bad, women should make sure they don't do "anything to provoke wrong actions.” In such a climate, Olbermann’s words are not only refreshing, but incredibly important. Well done, Keith.

July 25 2014 3:23 PM

Republican Congressional Nominee: A Woman Can Run for Office With Husband's Permission

Just because Tea Party favorite Chris McDaniel lost to incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran in Mississippi doesn't mean that conservatives are done using the primary system to drive the Republican party further to the right. Finding someone more right wing than the Rep. Paul Broun of Georgia may have seemed impossible.  Conservative group the Madison Project gushed, “It is not an exaggeration to say that Congressman Paul Broun (R-GA) has sustained the most conservative voting record over the longest period of time of any sitting Republican in Congress.” But as Think Progress reports, Georgia's 10th District voters did it on Tuesday, booting Broun and awarding Baptist minister and bizarro talk radio host Jody Hice the Republican nomination to Congress instead.

July 24 2014 5:09 PM

Republican Strategy on Women: "Rape Is a Four-Letter Word. Purge It From Your Lexicon."

In the New York Times, Jeremy Peters covers the next chapter of the continuing saga of Republican efforts to appeal to women without having to give up warring on women. This time it’s about conservative strategists' efforts to help Republican politicians talk about abortion.

"Our self-mute strategy permits the Democrats to frame the issue on their own terms," says a report written by the Republican group American Principles in Action. On the other hand, Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president of the anti-choice Susan B. Anthony List, thinks the self-mute button could be hit more frequently. "Two sentences is really the goal" when talking about abortion. "Then stop talking." (For what it's worth, hers is probably the right answer, as the more people hear about conservative views on abortion, the less they like them.) 

Rape is another subject to play dumb about. "Rape is a four-letter word,” Peters reports that a Republican consultant advises. “Purge it from your lexicon." How Republicans are supposed to do that when rape exceptions in abortion legislation are real issues in campaigns is a mystery.

July 24 2014 1:56 PM

The Scientific Case for Decriminalizing Sex Work

This article originally appeared in The Cut.

Arguments in favor of decriminalizing prostitution often rely on empathy for sex workers themselves: Journalist Melissa Gira Grant contends, for example, that criminalizing sex work implicitly condones violence against sex workers, who are often afraid to go to the police to report violence and are frequently ignored when they do. Current laws (sex work is illegal in 116 countries) require that sex workers render themselves largely voiceless and invisible—which makes their interests easy to ignore.

But new research suggests that existing legislation against sex work may also be harming society at large—and that decriminalizing sex work could help slow the spread of HIV.

July 24 2014 8:13 AM

Blake Lively Launches a Lifestyle Website and You Will Hate Yourself

The actress Blake Lively is following in the Prada-shod footsteps of Gwyneth Paltrow, Jessica Alba, and Lauren Conrad: She launched a lifestyle website.  It’s called Preserve, and in her editor’s letter, Lively says her new website isn’t a new website, per se. It’s a “new street. A sort of greatest hits of ‘Main Street, USA’. While the whole world races to keep up with technology, we tighten our laces, join the race, but our end goal is to preserve what's already there.” So far, Preserve includes a paean to the art of letter writing, a recipe for “kick ass” baby back ribs, and a featured artisan who makes leather goods through a distressing process described as “sensual.”

At first blush this is not a predictable move for an actress best known for her role as the uber-wealthy Upper East Side vixen Serena van der Woodsen on Gossip Girl. But, if you think of Lively as part of a generation of women that turns the DIY  ethos into a quest for perfection, it makes a strange sort of sense that she would take a few years off from acting to devote herself to launching such a project.

July 23 2014 5:18 PM

Why Can’t We Stop Talking About "Bikini Bodies"?

This article originally appeared in The Cut.

Every summer, tabloids and women’s magazines bombard us with news of “bikini bodies,” a predictable ritual with an equally predictable response: Jezebel recently dismissed the term as “infuriating bullshit,” while a Huffington Post quiz promised women that having a “bikini body” requires just a bikini and a body.

Yet, despite these efforts, the fact remains that bikini body conjures a specific image: a thin, fit female body, perhaps belonging to Gisele or Beyoncé, and almost certainly not belonging to you. The women whose figures we idolize have changed over time, but the idea that only certain bodies are worthy of the title bikini has been used in articles and advertising language for over 50 years.

The term bikini body was first popularized in a 1961 ad campaign by a chain of weight-loss salons called Slenderella International, according to linguists consulted for this story, as well as public records. “Summer’s wonderful fun is for those who look young,” read a Slenderella ad that ran in in outlets like the New York Times and the Washington Post in the summer of 1961. “High firm bust—hand span waist—trim, firm hips—slender graceful legs—a Bikini body!”

July 23 2014 2:44 PM

NRA Commentator: Kids Should Be Required to Learn How to Shoot a Gun in School  

Media Matters snagged a rather startling example of what passes for thought-provoking commentary at NRA News, which is a news-and-commentary site for the National Rifle Association. The video is called "Everyone Gets A Gun" and features regular NRA commentator Billy Johnson musing about an ideal world in which the government would promote gun ownership. (The NRA includes a disclaimer indicating that Johnson's commentary "does not necessarily" reflect the larger organization's.)

"But what would happen if we designed gun policy from the assumption that people need guns—that guns make people's lives better. Let's consider that for a minute," he says. "Gun policy driven by people's need for guns would seek to encourage people to keep and bear arms at all times." Johnson even suggests that it would be cool to have "gun-required zones" instead of "gun-free zones." That's deep, man.

July 23 2014 1:13 PM

True Blood May Be a Lot of Things, Ted Cruz, but It's Not Misogynist

Ted Cruz, once again demonstrating that he has an ego too tender to be in politics, threw a tantrum on Facebook Tuesday upon learning that the HBO schlock-fest True Blood made fun of him in a recent episode. “Sunday night, they aired a misogynist and profanity-ridden episode where Texas Republicans are murdered attending a ‘Ted Cruz fundraiser,’” he wrote, not even giving his followers the courtesy of a spoiler warning.

It was a masterful display of completely missing the point, and not just because he complained about the profanity in a show whose sex and violence make Game of Thrones look like Sesame Street. Still, at least that complaint was accurate enough. But “misogynist”? It’s like Cruz heard somewhere that “misogynist” was a bad thing to be and just started flinging words around to discredit the show. I mean, sure, one of the characters in the clip in question uses the words “Republicunt,” but considering that she’s a self-identified “asshole” who murders people for fun, it’s a stretch to argue the show is endorsing her language choices here.

True Blood may be a muddled mess that riffs on touchy political issues without having anything coherent to say about them. You can definitely ding the show for having some racially unsavory moments or for accidentally perpetuating the homophobia it seems to want to denounce. But the show isn’t misogynist, and not just because you can see Alexander Skarsgård or Ryan Kwanten in the altogether in any random episode. (Though having a show that panders to the female gaze as much as the male gaze is a quiet triumph.) No, it’s because in the topsy-turvy, screwed-up world of True Blood, female characters are allowed to be just as crafty, evil, autonomous, and straight up horny as the men.

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