Are You Outraged That the UK Forced an Italian Woman to Have a C-Section? It Happens Here Too.
Pregnant women are sometimes cautioned against travelling abroad for health and safety reasons, but here's a new one: Don't travel abroad while pregnant because you could have your baby forcibly removed from your womb. That's what seems to have happened to an Italian woman who, while pregnant and on a business trip to Britain, had some sort of mental health episode and was forcibly committed. While in the psychiatric hospital, Essex social services obtained a court order to force a C-section on the woman and take the newborn into custody. Now, 15 months later, the British still have the baby and the Italian woman, who says her bipolar condition is under control, is trying to get her daughter back, through both the Italian and British court system.
This is a crazy story—thank goodness it could never happen here! Except: In the U.S., declaring a fetus a "child" and using that status to deprive pregnant women of their right to control their own medical care has become downright routine. Susan Faludi sounded the alarm in her book Backlash, when she covered the 1987 case of Angela Carder, a cancer patient who died after George Washington University Medical Center obtained a court order to force her to have a C-section at 26 weeks gestation against her family's wishes. (Unsurprisingly, the baby died within two hours after her birth.)
The Worst Sex Writing of the Year Features Statisticians, Superheroes, and Brie Cheese
This week, The Literary Review will award its annual Bad Sex Award to the novelist responsible for publishing the year’s worst depiction of sexual intercourse. What makes for terrible fictionalized sex? In some cases, it’s the deployment of delusional metaphor, as in 2013 nominee Manil Suri’s The City of Devi:
We streak like superheroes past suns and solar systems, we dive through shoals of quarks and atomic nuclei. In celebration of our breakthrough fourth star, statisticians the world over rejoice.
Other times, crass accessories are to blame, as in Jonathan Grimood’s The Last Banquet: “I found the Brie and broke off a fragment, sucking her nipple through it.” (Another reason to never bring Brie to a dinner party). And sometimes—as in Woody Guthrie’s long-lost 1947 novel House of Earth, which was just published this year—the honor goes to a particularly horrifying interpretation of basic human anatomy. Guthrie writes: “inside the door of her womb she felt her inner organs and tissues, all her muscles and glands, felt them roll, squeeze, squeeze, and roll, and felt that every inch of her whole being stretched, reached, felt out, felt in, felt all around the shape of his penis.” (If the womb does have a door, it just slammed shut).
Will Someone Just Please Tell Me How to Lie About Santa? Thx.
When I said in an earlier post discussing how irreligious American Jews are, that my daughter’s observance was an open question, I thought it wouldn’t come up for a while. After all, she’s not even one. My biggest faith-based fear about her this holiday season is that she will knock over a menorah and set our apartment on fire. But that was before my husband and I started talking about the bearded, rotund, elephant in the room: Santa.
I am unabashedly pro-Christmas tree, but Christmas trees don’t necessarily come along with any sort of story. Big tree you decorate pretty, the end. Santa, on the other hand, requires that you tell your children an elaborate lie. It’s not just that I’m reluctant to relate a sweet story about a red-leisure-suit wearing guy who lives for breaking and entering (though as Melinda Wenner Moyer pointed out in Slate, the Santa lie is not destructive for kids). I also don’t love the message of Santa—he only rewards Christian boys and girls. “What are we going to tell her about the other children?” I asked my husband. “Why doesn’t Santa come to their house?”
Parents of Grown Children: Why Not Try Visiting Your Kids for Christmas This Year?
Hope you enjoyed your Thanksgiving because now it's time for the biggest, baddest, most stressful holiday of them all: Christmas. Across the country, grown adults are preparing, materially and emotionally, for that grand American tradition of returning home for the holidays. Visiting one's aging parents, often sleeping in one's childhood bedroom, is as much a part of the Christmas tradition as Santa Claus and that damn train set with the tracks that don't line up. It's also one that needs to be sorely questioned. Parents of adults, I beseech you: This year, why not consider visiting your grown children instead?
No, the New York Times Did Not Sexualize Breast Cancer
Earlier today, my colleague Amanda Marcotte wrote about the New York Times’ decision to run an A1 above-the-fold photograph of an Israeli breast cancer survivor, her tank top lowered to expose a lumpectomy scar and part of her areola, to illustrate a story about breast cancer screening. Marcotte laid out three ways of looking at the image, but came down hard on the side of a single interpretation: “It's grossly inappropriate to sexualize breast cancer, which is a serious and deadly disease.”
How did the Times objectify this woman, according to Marcotte? Because she’s wearing a tank top. Because lowering her tank top to show part of her breast “is reminiscent of a strip tease shot.” Because a strip tease shot to illustrate a story on breast cancer is part of “the sexualization of discourse around breast cancer,” which “strongly implies that the main reason to keep women alive is as life support for their delicious breasts.” With this shot, Marcotte says, the Times “proved that they’re as dependent on WTF traffic as everyone else.”
Ways of seeing are subjective, but to my eye, the Times picture—un-airbrushed, matter-of-fact—does not sexualize cancer. Or rather, it doesn’t sexualize cancer any more or less than breast cancer sexualizes cancer, because breasts are secondary sex characteristics and often play a significant role in a woman’s sexual health and fulfillment. If a woman sees her breasts as part of her personal and sexual identity, that doesn’t mean she’s somehow the self-objectifying victim of patriarchal social conditioning. To think otherwise is to suggest that a woman with breast cancer can’t be sexual, and by extension, that she shouldn’t allow a camera to capture her allegedly controversial sexuality. (To me, the only aspect of the picture that suggests objectification is the fact that the woman’s head is cropped out, but that was likely due to privacy concerns.)
Peeta May Be the Perfect Movie Girlfriend, but Katniss Still Wants a Hero
There is no universe in which Katniss Everdeen cares at all what the Internet thinks of her. But if she did, she might be happy to see so many posts and pieces in praise of her toughness and ferocity. I’m not sure if Peeta Mellark would be secretly wounded or warmed by the judgments of the Web, but support for him runs strong as well: He’s kind, brave, emotionally available, selfless, and giving. Over at NPR, Linda Holmes builds a great case for Peeta as the traditional movie girlfriend.
“Peeta is Pepper Potts and Gwen Stacy, helping and helping and helping until the very end, when it's time for the stakes, and the stakes are: NEEDS RESCUE,” she writes.
“He's better than she is, but softer. He's less knowing than she is. He's less cynical than she is. He's just as tough and as brave as he can possibly be with the skill set he has, and she's responsible for mopping up when that's not enough.”
Is That a Nipple on the Front Page of the New York Times? Yes, That Is a Nipple on the Front Page of the New York Times.
The New York Times may hold itself above the rest of the grubby news media, but Wednesday they proved that they're as dependent on WTF traffic as everyone else. Check out how the paper of record illustrated a story about breast cancer gene testing in Israel. Yes, that's a partial nipple you're looking at there. This image will, guaranteed, get far more discussion going online than the story underneath, which is about how common the breast cancer gene is in Israel and the impact that is having on Israeli society. But forget about all that. Within seconds of viewing this image, you will be expected to have an opinion about it. Here are the options to choose from:
College Men and Women Express Different Sexual Regrets. Could Cave People Be to Blame?
In a new study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, a team of evolutionary psychologists queried 200 American college students on their greatest romantic and sexual regrets. They found that the female students were more likely to express regret over sexual actions they’d taken—like “losing their virginity” to the “wrong partner”—while male students were more likely to feel remorse over actions they did not take—like being “too shy to indicate sexual attraction to someone.”
You might expect that this study could reveal interesting differences in how male and female college students express anxiety around early sexual relationships. It could lend insight into the gendered pressures that the campus sexual culture exerts on men and women. It could offer clues to college health providers on how to guide students toward healthier and happier sexual relationships. But no. This is evolutionary psychology. Whatever modern attitudes these teens are scribbling out for class credit don't just apply to the dorm room—they are also evidence of deeply ingrained sex differences that have been carved into our brains since the Stone Age. As the study’s authors put it, the results show that the “psychology of sexual regret” was shaped by “sex differences in selection pressures operating over deep time.”
Teenagers Are Bringing Dates to Thanksgiving Dinner? No!
Horrible holiday trend alert! NBC reports on the breaking news that some high schoolers are bringing dates to Thanksgiving dinner. Is this a new thing? Is it growing? Unclear from the report. But the more pressing question is: Why would teens—who under normal circumstances could not be more embarrassed by their crazy relatives—wish to initiate their dates into their family rituals? NBC spoke with a family psychologist in Maryland who explained this bizarre teenage behavior:
“What he or she is saying is, ‘Does this family have the capacity to demonstrate some elasticity or flexibility as I and my siblings begin to move out in the world, or is this going to be an airless dungeon in which we’re all consigned?”
So on this day that we give thanks for our blessings, some offspring are testing the limits of the airless dungeon that is their family by asking that guy from chemistry to swing by? Or are spreading their wings by rejecting their relatives and being grateful for the presence of other people? People who had nothing to do with changing their diapers or reading The Runaway Bunny to them 245 nights in a row. People who, if the tables were turned, would probably not stand for this.
Sheryl Sandberg Gives More Bad Advice to Working Women
At a conference last week, Facebook COO and Lean In author Sheryl Sandberg told employers that they should talk to their female employees about pregnancy. According to Lisa Belkin at the Huffington Post, she even offered a kind of script for managers:
“You may want to have kids one day. My door is open. Come talk to me anytime.
If you want to have children I'm not going to give the good [opportunities] to someone else because you're pregnant. And I'm going to help you take a leave and come back if that's what you want to do.”
First of all, this seems to somewhat contradict other advice Sandberg has given—which is “don’t leave before you leave” or don’t start thinking about how you need to alter your career to accommodate children before you have them. Secondly, putting aside the fact that this is just barely legal—you’re not allowed to ask a woman about her pregnancy specifically, though you can talk generally about pregnancy—Sandberg is not doing much to counter charges of being out of touch when she makes these sort of recommendations.