Archive for the ‘Body Image’ Category

October 13, 2010

Invitation to Participate in Study of Body Image in Women 50 and Older

Readers are invited to participate in a study being conducted by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Eating Disorders Research Program. Participants will complete an online survey about body image and weight concerns in adult women 50 years old and and over.

From the researchers:

In contrast to extensive knowledge about body image and weight concerns in young women, we know very little about how body image and weight concerns change as women mature. We would like to develop a deep understanding of how women age 50 and above feel and think about their bodies, both in terms of appearance and function.

If you are a woman age 50 or older, we invite you to follow the link below to answer 45 questions to help us understand the concerns that women have with their body, their appearance, and their health. We feel that this is an important topic that is central to the health and well-being of a growing and influential segment of the American population and hope to use the responses to inform service development for women over 50.

Your participation in this research study can take from 10-30 minutes depending on how many open-ended questions you would like to address. We very much appreciate your time and your help in addressing this important topic.

The survey is available at, which also provides information on the privacy of participants and the study’s contact personnel and institutional review board approval.

July 6, 2010

Media Gone Wild: The Continuing Sexualization of Girls and Multiple Strategies to Stop It

Back in 2007, we reported on the release of a devastating report from the American Psychological Association’s Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls. Its findings about the impact of sexualized images on young women weren’t necessarily revelatory for long-time activists, but the thoroughness and precision with which it outlined the cultural crisis provided a renewed foundation of evidence and authority.

Inspired by the report, a coalition of organizations — Hardy Girls Healthy Women, TrueChild, Women’s Media Center, Hunter College and the Ms. Foundation for Women — is convening the SPARK Summit: Challenging the Sexualization of Girls and Women, on Oct. 22 at Hunter College in New York City.

getting real: challenging the sexualization of young girlsThe event will include “girls and media professionals, thought leaders and funders, researchers and activists” and “serve as a national call to action and campaign for change.”

You can follow the build-up to the summit on Facebook and on Twitter (@SPARKsummit). You can even help decide on the meaning of the SPARK acronym by voting on the Hardy Girls blog.

A recent collection of essays out of Australia, “Getting Real: Challenging the Sexualisation of Girls,” edited by Melinda Tankard Reist, also strikes a tone of urgency in its insistence that the problem is only increasing and activism must rise to meet it.

Noni Hazlehurst writes in the preface:

The insistent and ubiquitious presentation of this unbalanced view of the world is nothing less than a form of child abuse. Why is it we kick up such a fuss about junk food and obesity, but are unwilling or unable to tackle the lack of quality sustenance for child’s minds and spirits? [...]

In my view our children’s imaginations are dying. Their sense of themselves as worthy, strong individuals who are valued because they are unique is constantly being undermined. Only a few can withstand that sort of pressure. And very few will be in a position to be encouraged to be different, as many of today’s young parents don’t remember when there were alternative ways of looking at the world and other ways to value an individual’s noteworthiness.

Media critic Jean Kilbourne, among others, provides a rousing endorsement of “Getting Real” — and Kilbourne has just updated her landmark film series, “Killing Us Softly,” on the same subject. “Killing Us Softly 4″ can be previewed and purchased at Media Education Foundation. From the film’s description:

The film marshals a range of new print and television advertisements to lay bare a stunning pattern of damaging gender stereotypes — images and messages that too often reinforce unrealistic, and unhealthy, perceptions of beauty, perfection, and sexuality. By bringing Kilbourne’s groundbreaking analysis up to date, Killing Us Softly 4 stands to challenge a new generation of students to take advertising seriously, and to think critically about popular culture and its relationship to sexism, eating disorders, and gender violence.

Kilbourne also continually updates her definitive list of “Resources for Change” — which provides an exhaustive, clearly categorized set of links to useful reports, websites and allied organizations.

Miley Cyrus Can't Be TamedDespite the availability of all these resources and the continual, varied calls to action, however, many young women on the frontlines of this cultural crisis remain conflicted and confused, caught in an impersonal media machine. Possibly the most prominent example of this struggle is, yes, Miley Cyrus.

In his review of her latest album, “Can’t Be Tamed,” Jon Caramanica of The New York Times discusses the difficulty 17-year-old Cyrus has coming of age as a woman and an artist, negotiating her well-established Disney “Hannah Montana” identity and her need to assert her adulthood.

In her now infamous 2008 Vanity Fair photo shoot (remember the outcry — and response to the outcry?), and in the literally wild video for the title track of her new album, the seemingly inevitable sexualization of her image is well underway.

But Caramanica sees a much more hesitant and haphazard construction of identity. Instead of solidifying a new sexualized Miley, the album as a whole reveals the “frayed seams of her identity”:

Ms. Cyrus’s metamorphosis isn’t nearly as radical as “Can’t Be Tamed” — the title track, the video, the title — would suggest. Rather, she’s evolving into something far less controversial: a pop star, confused like all the rest of them.

This confusion is most clearly evident in one of the later songs:

On “Permanent December,” written with Claude Kelly — who also helped write “Party in the U.S.A.” — Ms. Cyrus tries out a sneering type of sing-rapping, à la Fergie: “Don’t call me a Lolita/’Cause I don’t let ’em through.”

On a more coherent album, that idea would be explored further. But the fact that Ms. Cyrus feels little need to assert her sexuality, or lack thereof, is consistent with her rejection of a single new identity in favor of a cluster of experiments. Perhaps she hasn’t had time to think it through, or maybe she’s realized that evading the subject for now is a more flexible strategy than tackling it head-on.

Of course, presuming that Miley’s original Disney identity didn’t involve its own form of sexualization would be naive. And I’m not just talking about the crazy Mickey Mouse underwear ads that debuted in China a couple of years ago, or the “dive in” underwear for girls that Disney wrote off as an “oversight.”

Last month, according to the Orange County Register (more here), the YWCA of Australia sought “a PG rating for tween magazines Disney Girl, Barbie Magazine and Total Girl, saying that the publications teach young girls that their bodies need to be improved upon.”

UPDATE: The New York Times reports that young fans of Miley Cyrus aren’t super thrilled with her new path. Also, see the comments for great information about the Healthy Media for Youth Act, H.R. 4925. The Girl Scouts is a strong supporter.

November 23, 2009

Special Issue on Risks of Cosmetic Surgery

The current issue of the journal “Clinical Risk” has of a series of articles commenting on risk and cosmetic surgery, from reputation and regulatory risks to physicians to clinical outcome risks for patients.

Because the journal is based in the UK, much of the discussion of the regulatory environment is focused there, but the articles also address the trend of cosmetic surgery tourism between nations and general perceptions of and risks to patients seeking cosmetic surgery.

In the editorial for the issue, plastic surgeon Nigel Mercer writes that “We have reached a stage where public expectation, driven by media hype and, dare one say, professional greed, has brought us to a ‘perfect storm’ in the cosmetic surgical market.”

He also describes a “massive increase in ‘marketing’, including discount vouchers, 2-for-1 offers and holidays with surgery! In no other area of medicine is there such an unregulated mess. What is worse is that national governments would not allow it to happen in other areas of medicine. Imagine a ‘2-for-1’ advert for general surgery?”

Another author, Khoo, notes the “grey area between advice and advertising” when surgeons provide information to prospective customers (patients). Similarly, Bradbury writes that cosmetic surgeons should be prepared to decline to do procedures, to say “no” or “not now,” and should avoid pushing extra procedures on a client.

The idea that cosmetic surgery carries minimal risk is also criticized. Mercer writes that “the media and both published and broadcast ‘marketing’ have wittingly or unwittingly given the public the impression that cosmetic surgery procedures are quick fixes and carry no risk of downtime or complications. Nothing could be further from the truth and it defies common sense to think otherwise.”

The BBC has additional coverage of the issue. On a related note, The Guardian published a story last Friday on labiaplasty and the increase in the number of these procedures in the UK in recent years.

November 6, 2009

New Blog, Weightless, Critiques Media While Promoting Well-Being has launched a new body image blog called Weightless. From the site description:

Weightless is about well-being, not weight; about fostering body image, regardless of your size. It’s about exposing women’s magazines, other mediums and so-called experts, when they’re touting unhealthy tips and promoting restrictive standards.

The goal of Weightless is to help women develop a better body image and work toward accepting themselves as they are, while being healthy and happy (fad diets and skinny-mini standards prohibited!); and to become sharp consumers, who can pick apart a commercial or magazine article and know which advice is helpful or harmful.

In one of the site’s first posts, writer Margarita Tartakovsky identifies seven signs you may be suffering from a poor body image and suggestions to help readers be less self-critical. In the aptly titled “Minding Women’s Magazines: Asinine Advice,” Tartakovsky pulls out “tips” from magazines including Women’s Health, Self and Cosmopolitan and deconstructs the messages. To wit:

3. “Your fear: ‘I overeat at parties.’ Celebratory spreads make it easy to stuff yourself. But obsessing over every bit will ruin your night. ‘Ask yourself, How do I want to feel tomorrow? Bloated and disappointed or proud and healthy?’ Beck says. Strap your watch on the wrong wrist as a visual reminder of your goal; you’ll automatically eat less.” {Self, November 2009, pg. 87}

As I was reading the first few phrases, I found myself nodding in agreement — especially the part where we shouldn’t be obsessing about food — up until the value judgments rolled in. So what if I do enjoy one too many appetizers at a holiday party, instead of saying to myself how delicious the food was and acknowledging that I did overeat and will try to avoid that next time, I should feel like a bloated, disappointed failure. Thanks Self!

Since women are often made to feel like they’re overeating anytime they’re enjoying their food, I wish the response first questioned why we think we’ve crossed the line. For some, overeating at a party might mean consuming more than one tiny appetizer.

But though it sidesteps this question, I appreciate that a popular and respected website on mental health considers body image a topic worthy of its own blog. And I’m glad  Weightless launched in time to confront  the holiday weight smack-down.

Ralph Lauren digitally altered modelPlus: Last month, Randy Cohen, who writes The Ethicist column for The New York Times, asked whether ads using electronically altered images of models — making them ridiculously skinny — should  be banned or come with a warning label. The model pictured here was digitally altered for a Ralph Lauren window display in Sydney, Australia.

Speaking of Australia, a federal government advisory group comprised of educators, psychologists and media folks have put together a national strategy on body image (pdf).

One of the group’s members, Danielle Miller, writes about the recommendations, including the proposed educational curriculum and voluntary code of conduct for advertisers and fashion companies. In this frank discussion, Miller acknowledges the shortcomings of the proposal and the difficulties that lie ahead.

July 8, 2009

One Easy Way to Be Beautiful (Just the Way You Are)

Picture this: You walk up to a magazine rack at your favorite bookstore and you’re confronted with numerous self-improvement suggestions: “10 Easy Ways to Lose Weight” … “Exercises to Get a Bikini Body” … “Fashion Tips to Look More Like [Someone Else] … OK, you’ve been here before. You know exactly what this looks like.

Now imagine that instead of walking away frustrated, you reach into your Super Activist Bag and pull out a new, empowering cover — it rereads: “BEAUTIFUL just the way you are.”

You slip it in front of one of the make-over-you magazines and walk away, satisfied for having spread a new message.

This newly launched “art action” is more than a good story. It’s the brainchild of Massachusetts artist Lillian Hsu, who created the website to protest the objectification of girls and women — and to do something about it.

Beautiful Just The Way You Are

Hsu encourages placing one of the BJTWYA posters “over every stack of magazines that uses the female body to sell something — to sell the magazine, or to sell an article, or to sell a product, or to sell a lifestyle, or to sell a promise, or to sell the idea that you need to match your body to the picture. You decide which covers qualify. You place a poster over them. Then you walk away. That’s it.”

All you need to participate is a supply of posters, which you can get by emailing “bjtwya AT yahoo DOT com” with your name, mailing address, contact information, and number of posters needed. The posters are printed on 8.5×11″ paper, heavy enough to stand up on a magazine rack.

If you have a color printer or can’t wait for delivery, print your own copies of the poster (PDF).

Either way, be sure to visit to learn more about how Hsu came up with the art action. You’ll also find links to organizations and activists that address media and body image issues. And if you’re anywhere near Gloucester, Mass., an exhibition related to Beautiful Just The Way You Are is at the Jane Deering Gallery through Aug. 3. The opening reception is this Thursday, July 9, 6-8 p.m.

Here’s an excerpt from Hsu’s smartly worded and compelling statement:

The magazine rack is only one of many locations where we are taught the lessons of our culture, but it is one that is ubiquitous throughout our towns and cities and reaches every stratum of the population. At the magazine rack words and pictures work together seamlessly, like a good children’s book, to teach and tell a story of who we are. The covers shout their messages with surprising confidence that we will know these commands are for us. Before we are ten, and then without pause throughout our lives, we internalize the lesson that our bodies are how we will be first judged as individuals, and that there is a body type that we must attain to be judged worthy of attention. We learn that the female body can be used to sell anything — tangible or intangible — to women, men, and children. The use of a motorcycle, a deodorant, a vacation, a necktie, or a beverage implies ownership of the woman’s body pasted into the advertisement. Although all humans are born with beauty and power, our early unquestioned self is quickly corrupted. We adopt an anxiety in navigating a path towards a culturally dictated state of beauty and power.

BEAUTIFUL Just The Way You Are seeks to intervene in the space between all who stand before the magazine rack and the engine of advertising and mass culture. In that space of daily life it places an alternative.

June 15, 2009

Double Dose: NOW to Elect New President; Celebrity Weight Battles & Alternative “Lessons From the Fat-O-Sphere”; “Nurse Jackie” Appalls Some Nurses; Barbara Ehrenreich on the Invisible Poor …

NOW’s Future: The 2009 National NOW Conference kicks off June 19 in Indianapolis. At issue is who will replace current NOW President Kim Gandy, who is stepping down after eight years: Latifa Lyles, a 33-year-old black woman who has been one of Gandy’s three vice presidents, or Terry O’Neill, 56, a white activist who was NOW’s vice president for membership from 2001 to 2005.

Feministing’s Jessica Valenti is quoted in this Associated Press story on the election and NOW’s generational divide.

Plus: I don’t think I’ve linked yet to Katha Pollitt’s excellent piece in The Nation on feminism’s false waves. It begins:

Can we please stop talking about feminism as if it is mothers and daughters fighting about clothes? Second wave: you’re going out in that? Third wave: just drink your herbal tea and leave me alone! Media commentators love to reduce everything about women to catfights about sex, so it’s not surprising that this belittling and historically inaccurate way of looking at the women’s movement — angry prudes versus drunken sluts — has recently taken on new life, including among feminists.

Losing Celebrity Weight Battles: When famous dieters like Kirstie Alley or Oprah Winfrey talk about being “disgusted” with their bodies, the comments have an effect beyond selling magazines.

“Kirstie looks the same as me, to the inch, height and weight,” Emily Schaibly Greene, 29, recently told The New York Times. “It took me a long time to get there, but I’m feeling good with how I look. But it’s difficult to keep liking the way I look when I’m reading that it’s gross.”

Lesley Kinzel, who writes for the blog Fatshionista, said, “When you have famous people turning their weight tribulations into mass-media extravaganzas, they’re contributing to a culture where passing comments on strangers’ bodies is considered O.K.”

lessons_from_the_fatospherePlus: Nia Vardalos, who rose to fame after starring in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” says her recent weight loss is all people want to talk about these days, pushing aside her personal and professional achievements. Her column is awesome.

And if you haven’t yet boughtLessons From the Fat-O-Sphere,” go. Author Kate Harding – founder of Shapely Prose and contributor to Broadsheet — is still on the book tour this month and is looking forward to speaking at colleges in the fall. 

Summer Reading List: From Women’s eNews: From sensational memoirs to serious sociology, check out what women are writing about and the prizes they’ve been snapping up so far in 2009. Sarah Seltzer has the goods.

Women’s Health Clinic to Close: The University of Chicago Medical Center is closing its women’s health clinic, an essential community health resource, at the end of the month. Ironically, this is being done under the Medical Center’s Urban Health Initiative; U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush has called for a congressional investigation into whether the Medical Center has engaged in “patient dumping” by steering the poor to other health facilities.

“Medical center executives have said the steep downturn in the economy has forced them to trim $100 million from the hospital’s budget to maintain running a prestigious hospital, research center and medical school. They also have said the Women’s Health Center, which cares for thousands of Medicaid patients, is a money loser,” reported the Chicago Tribune last month, in a story on protests against the closing.

Plus: While looking up information about the closing, I came across a 2008 New York Times story on Michelle Obama, who at that time was on leave from her job as vice president of community affairs at the University of Chicago Medical Center. Stories like this made me wonder what she could/would have done about the closing:

When the human papillomavirus vaccine, which can prevent cervical cancer, became available, researchers proposed approaching local school principals about enlisting black teenage girls as research subjects.

Obama stopped that. The prospect of white doctors performing a trial with black teenage girls summoned the specter of the Tuskegee syphilis experiment of the mid-20th century, when white doctors let hundreds of black men go untreated to study the disease.

Too Poor to Make the News: Over on The New York Times op-ed page, Barbara Ehrenreich has written the first in a series on how the recession affects people who don’t neatly fit the downwardly mobile narrative: the already poor.

“This demographic, the working poor, have already been living in an economic depression of their own,” writes Ehrenreich. “From their point of view ‘the economy,’ as a shared condition, is a fiction.” She continues:

The deprivations of the formerly affluent Nouveau Poor are real enough, but the situation of the already poor suggests that they do not necessarily presage a greener, more harmonious future with a flatter distribution of wealth. There are no data yet on the effects of the recession on measures of inequality, but historically the effect of downturns is to increase, not decrease, class polarization.

The recession of the ’80s transformed the working class into the working poor, as manufacturing jobs fled to the third world, forcing American workers into the low-paying service and retail sector. The current recession is knocking the working poor down another notch — from low-wage employment and inadequate housing toward erratic employment and no housing at all. Comfortable people have long imagined that American poverty is far more luxurious than the third world variety, but the difference is rapidly narrowing.

Edie Falco as Nurse JackieHealth Care & the Arts: NPR interviews Anna Deveare Smith about her show “Let Me Down Easy,” which is based on interviews with doctors and patients (previously discussed here). Her newest role: artist in residence at the Center for American Progress, which Smith will use as a perch for studying changes in Washington. Smith also plays a doctor in the new Showtime series “Nurse Jackie.”

Speaking of “Nurse Jackie,” David Bauder of the Associated Press notes that the ethically challenged nurse at the head of the show (wonderfully played by Edie Falco) has appalled some nurses — but is that a bad thing for Showtime? Well, no.

Apologies from California: I meant to post this next one when it first came out, but I still think it’s amusing — San Francisco Chronicle columnist Mark Morford would like you to know California is really, really sorry about the whole Prop 8 thing.

Meanwhile, tony Greenwich, Conn., has become wedding central for same-sex New York couples who no longer have to drive as far as Massachussetts. California sure could have used money spent on wedding bliss.

February 14, 2009

Double Dose: Chemicals in Toyland; IVF Provides Clues on Nature vs. Nurture; Recession Affects Botox Sales; Happy Valentine’s Day …

Chemicals in Toyland: The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) took effect this week, mandating stricter enforcement of lead and phtalates in children’s products and toys.

“While the ban was hailed as a victory for children’s health, it’s no guarantee that the products are safe,” reports NPR’s “Morning Edition.” “That’s because companies currently aren’t required to publicly disclose the chemicals they use in place of phthalates — and little is known about the health effects of one of the most widely used alternatives.”

Pthalates have been shown to affect the development of the male reproductive system in lab animals. They’re also present in some cosmetics, personal care products, pharmaceuticals, food packaging and cleaning and building materials — making them almost impossible to avoid. Check out NPR’s timeline of phthalate regulation and an interactive look at chemicals in the home.

IVF – New Lab for Studies: “In addition to helping thousands of infertile couples have children, ‘test tube’ babies are offering scientists a novel laboratory for resolving one of the most vexing debates in science: nature vs. nurture,” writes Rob Stein in the Washington Post.

In the first study of its kind, British researchers have studied children conceived through in vitro fertilization (IVF) to examine whether children whose mothers smoked during pregnancy were more likely to develop behavioral problems because of the toxic effects of smoking — as has been suspected — or because their mothers passed on a genetic predisposition to antisocial behavior.

The study, which appears to debunk the notion that smoking’s effects on the brain of a developing fetus result in antisocial tendencies, could be the first in a series of attempts to use the approach to disentangle whether genes or various prenatal exposures are responsible for later behavioral problems.

Friends Don’t Let Friends Get “Booty” Injections: And definitely not from a woman who administers shots without a medical license. Two women are now hospitalized in critical condition in Tampa, Fla. “It almost is bootleg cosmetology here,” said sheriff’s office spokesman JD Callaway.

Plus: The economy is having some effect on cosmetic enhancements, reports The New York Times. Natasha Singer writes that doctors and pharmaceutical executives thought antiwrinkle shots like Botox would be resistant to the downturn, but the latest earnings report from Allergan, the maker of Botox, fell almost 9 percent compared with a year earlier. Allergan’s sales of breast implants were down 12 percent.

“You could forecast that with implants, but the bigger question was, ‘How have injectables been holding up?’” said Gary Nachman, an analyst with Leerink Swann, a health care investment bank. “Now, even the injectables have been impacted significantly.”

Maternal & Child Health in the Obama Administration: “[...] President Obama has lauded and pledged to expand presidential initiatives to fight HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria — recognizing the sizeable effect they have had not only in saving hundreds of thousands of lives, but also in improving U.S. foreign policy. Now is the time for President Obama to elevate the issue of global family health to that high level,” argues Maurice Middleberg, vice president for public policy at the Global Health Council.

Council members, including global maternal health, child health and family planning organizations, are developing a framework for a Global Family Health Action Plan.

On Their Own Terms: “[B]etween the clinic demonstrations, the political discussions and the imprecations from the pulpit, too many American women have come to feel that their pelvis is public property. Slowly, quietly, a new abortion method has become part of the landscape, and it’s no accident that those women who have chosen it often cite reclaiming privacy and control as the reason,” writes Anna Quindlen at Newsweek, describing how RU-486 has allowed women to keep abortion private and personal.

Plus: Glamour magazine recently featured a whole section on abortion, acknowledging that one in three women will have at least one abortion by age 45. Eight women share their personal stories.

Salma Hayek Sparks Breastfeeding Discussions: By now you’ve probably heard about Salma Hayek breastfeeding an infant in Sierra Leone. ABC’s “Nightline” filmed Hayek during a trip to Africa to spotlight efforts to eliminate tetanus through vaccinations. The infant’s mother had no milk, so Hayek did what came naturally. Tracy Clark Flory nicely sums up some of the respectful and sophmoric public reactions.

Hayek, who is still breastfeeding her 1-year-old daughter, said, “I actually think my baby would be very proud to share her milk. And when she grows up I’m going to make sure she continues to be a generous, caring person.” Read more reactions and more about Hayek’s journey. The full “Nightline” episode is quite moving.

Happy Valentine’s Day: Some feminist advice from RH Reality Check. Plus, researchers at the University of Iowa report on what college-age men and women are looking for in a mate and how priorities have changed since the 1930s. While it’s nice to see that “chastity” is no longer an important characteristic, I’m surprised “similar political background” is considered unimportant as well.

And here’s the best act of defiance I’ve seen mentioned for Valentine’s Day — members of the Facebook group “A Consortium of Pub-going, Loose and Forward Women” are encouraged to “Join us on Feb. 14, Valentine’s Day, the day on which Indian women’s virginity and honor will self-destruct unless they marry or tie a rakhi. Walk to the nearest pub and buy a drink. Raise a toast to the Sri Ram Sene.” Swati Prasad explains the rebellion against the right-wing Sri Ram Sene.

January 27, 2009

I Choose My Choice! Cosmetic Surgery and Roe v. Wade

OBOB readers may have heard about, a site developed by internet celebrity Julia Allison and friends (if you haven’t, you’re doing just fine — really). I normally wouldn’t point to it, but Mary Rambin’s post — titled “My Body, My Botox” — deserves mention, if only to note that this is what passes for reasoning when it comes to cosmetic surgery. Fortunately, Amelia at The Frisky pretty much has the outrage covered.

On the subject of acceptance, Mary, who admits to starting Botox at age 23 for forehead wrinkles (she is 26 now), writes that while breast implants once had a stigma, today “women are proud to not only admit to this procedure, but some women will also rave about their doctors and ask you if you would like to feel his/her handiwork. Furthermore, as the NY Times pointed out the other day, boobs are now a standard high school graduation gift (and in my experience they have been for years now). Breast implants are now socially acceptable. ”

And to what do we owe thanks for this advancement? Here, with all its glorious typos, is the answer:

I site Roe v. Wade because it serves as a marker of people accepting (maybe not respecting) a woman’s right to choose. Although abortion is still an issue at the forefront, it’s notable the Supreme Court recognized women should be able to do what they feel is right for themselves.

Cosmetic procedures should be viewed in the same light. Not to mention the procedures are in no way effecting another human being, so the severity of the issue is considerably less. But as with breast implants, time will have to pass before others view cosmetic procedures as acceptable. I won’t say “the norm” because I do think artificial enhancement should carry with it serious consideration before you undergo any sort of procedure. Other things like manicures and pedicures, dental work, highlighting your hair, are all “procedures” that are completely unnatural but we consider normal.

And may God bless the United States of America!

(Commence head-banging.)

January 24, 2009

Commodifying the First Daughters

The first daughters have hit the market.

For just $9.99, you can own your own set of “Sweet Sasha” and “Marvelous Malia” dolls.

“They’re such adorable girls,” Ty Inc. spokeswoman Tania Lundeen said Wednesday of the Obama sisters — Sasha, 7, and Malia, 10. “How can we resist?”

But by the end of the week, Ty Inc. — the company that created Beanie Babies — announced the names were chosen because “they are beautiful names,” not because they resemble the first daughters.

Whatever. Sadly, these dolls lack agency in their own world. Malia doesn’t even have her own camera.

Instead, they “come with a password to an online ‘virtual world’ where real girls can decorate their dolls’ room, change their clothes or go shopping,” reports the Chicago Sun Times.

Michelle Obama is not impressed with the 12-inch pseduo-replicas.

“We believe it is inappropriate to use young private citizens for marketing purposes,” Obama’s press secretary, Katie McCormick Lelyveld, said in a statement today.

Also this week, Mattel announced it will launch its first complete line of African-American Barbie dolls.

Plus: There’s a new blog on girls as media producers. Mary Celeste Kearney writes that she created Girls Make Media “because I’ve been researching girls’ media production for over a decade now, and wanted to pull together in one place information about girl media producers, as well as programs for and research about girls’ media-making.”

Kearney — an associate professor of radio, television and film, and women and gender studies at the University of Texas at Austin — is looking to link to other programs (in and outside of the United States), so let her know if you doing something interesting in this field.

cross-posted from PopPolitics

January 17, 2009

Double Dose: Mass. Mothers Get Breastfeeding Protection; NABJ Conference on Health Disparities; A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Clinic; The Cutting Edge of Opera; Studies on IVF, Fosamax …

Who Decides? A State-by-State Analysis: NARAL Pro-Choice America has released its 18th edition of “Who Decides? The Status of Women’s Reproductive Rights in the United States.” The report summarizes the state of women’s access to reproductive healthcare nationwide, including legislation considered and enacted in 2008. This year’s edition also examines attacks on choice in the states and in the courts and highlights pro-choice legislative and non-legislative victories, including NARAL’s Prevention First initiative.

Trading in “Barefoot and Pregnant” for Economic and Reproductive Justice: “The relevance of barefoot and pregnant remains central to an inclusive and just America,” writes Gloria Feldt. “Economic parity and reproductive justice are still intertwined, not only in the lives of individual women; they are indivisibly connected to our economic recovery as well.”

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Clinic …: That’s the title of an essay in Exhale’s latest issue of its bilingual abortion zine, “Our Truths/Nuestras Verdades” (download the pdf). Yes, it’s the humor issue. As Exhale founder Aspen Baker writes in the intro to the issue:

Abortion is a serious personal issue that is hotly debated in public while real women have abortions in private, often in secret, and with little social support or understanding.

What could possibly be funny about that?

In this issue of Our Truths, we aim to find out. We witness funny women who use humor to get through tough times, truth-tellers who bust ridiculous myths about women who have abortions, and discover laughter that heals the soul. We also question humor that hides what’s real, judges or hurts others.

Check it out.

Massachusetts Adopts Breastfeeding Law: Massachusetts this month became the 48th state to offer legal protection to women who breastfeed their children in public. The Massachusetts Breastfeeding Coalition will provide mothers a “license to breastfeed” card with details of the new law and instructions on how to report violations, according to the Patriot Ledger.

The state Legislature passed the bill, “An Act to Promote Breastfeeding,” in December, and the governor signed it into law Jan. 9. Up to this point, women could have been prosecuted for indecent exposure or lewd conduct.

North Dakota and West Virginia remain the only states without breastfeeding legislation.

The Cutting Edge of Opera: “Skin Deep,” a new production opening in the UK, looks at the work of an unscrupulous fictional plastic surgeon: Dr. Needlemeier. At this BBC video slideshow, composer David Sawyer describes the opera as a story about “fear of death, vanity and the wish for immortality.” The “Skin Deep” website is far from superficial.

NABJ Conference on Health Disparities: The National Association of Black Journalists is hosting a conference on health disparities Jan. 30-31 at Morehouse School of Medicine.

The purpose is to “give journalists insight into health disparities affecting the African American community, resulting in significantly higher mortality rates. Learn how to cover major health and medical stories that make an impact. Topics include obesity, heart disease, stroke, HIV/AIDS, mental health and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.”

IVF Doesn’t Restore Fertility in Women Over 40: “A study involving more than 6,000 women who underwent the treatment at a large Boston clinic found that while [in vitro fertilization] could give infertile women younger than 35 about the same chance of having a baby as women typically have at that age, it could not counteract the decline in fertility that occurs among those older than 40,” writes Rob Stein at the Washington Post.

“Even as effective as IVF is, it can’t reverse the effects of aging,” said Alan S. Penzias of Harvard Medical School, who led the study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine. “We cannot reverse the biological clock.” Here’s the study’s abstract.

Kidney Transplants Less Likely to go to Women: A new study indicates that women over 45 are significantly less likely to be placed on a kidney transplant list than their equivalent male counterparts, even though women who receive a transplant stand an equal chance of survival. The study appears online in the Journal of the America Society of Nephrology.

“As woman age, that discrepancy widens to the point where woman over 75 are less than half as likely as men to be placed on a kidney transplant list,” said lead researcher Dorry Segev, M.D., a Johns Hopkins transplant surgeon. “If the women have multiple illnesses, the discrepancy is even worse.”

Fosamax Linked to Two Diseases: “Two recent reports have linked the osteoporosis drug alendronate (Fosamax) with rare but serious side effects,” reports the L.A. Times.

“In a letter to the New England Journal of Medicine published Jan. 1, a Food and Drug Administration official reported that since Fosamax was first marketed in 1995, 23 cases of esophageal cancer in patients taking the drug — including eight deaths — have been reported to the agency. And a USC study published in the January issue of the Journal of the American Dental Assn. reported that nine patients who were taking Fosamax suffered osteonecrosis of the jaw — a bone-killing infection — after having teeth extracted at USC dental clinics.”

January 10, 2009

Double Dose: House Passes Bills Improving Access to Equal Pay; Blogging for Lesbian Health; Is There an Easy-Bake Oven in Your Vagina?; Nine Easy Steps to a New You (Ha!); And Much, Much More

Job Bias Bills Pass the House: The House on Friday passed two bills related to sex discrimination and workers’ pay. From The New York Times:

One, approved 247 to 171, would give workers more time to file lawsuits claiming job discrimination.

The bill would overturn a 2007 decision by the Supreme Court that enforced a strict 180-day deadline, thwarting a lawsuit by Lilly M. Ledbetter, a longtime supervisor at the Goodyear tire plant in Gadsden, Ala. Three Republicans voted for the bill.

The other bill — passed 256 to 163, with support from 10 Republicans — would make it easier for women to prove violations of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, which generally requires equal pay for equal work.

President Bush threatened to veto both bills, saying they would “invite a surge of litigation” and “impose a tremendous burden on employers.”

The sentence that follows the Bush quote is the best: “Congress will not give him the opportunity.”

That’s because in less than two weeks there will be a new president in town who is enthusiastic about signing both bills.

Plus: Jill Miller Zimon has a good wrap-up and points to this NWLC page, from which you can contact your senator and urge support for these bills.

Health Issues at the Top of the List: Women’s eNews looks at the to-do list of the Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues. In addition to reintroducing a bill to address heart disease in women, the Caucus intends to focus on human trafficking, sexual and domestic violence against women, women in the military and the backlog of DNA evidence in rape cases.

Lesbian Health Day & Summit: Jan. 5 was Blog for Lesbian Health Day. In response, Jane, a community health nurse and nurse practitioner student who blogs at Fallacy Findings, wrote an excellent post that includes discussion of “lesbian neglect” — which “refers to the fact that many lesbians fail to get Pap smears, do not get them regularly, and/or do not think they need to get them” — and lesbian health as a much-needed topic in nursing and medical schools.

The blogging event was organized as a lead-up to the National Lesbian Health Summit 2009 taking place March 6-8. Organized by the Lesbian Health & Research Center at the University of California, San Francisco, among other groups, the summit “approaches health issues from the perspective of those who face disparities and discrimination and who also generate health and resilience everyday. We will engage in deep thinking and extended discussion to create new responses and innovative programming that reflect our lives.”

Should a TV Doctor be Surgeon General?: Well looks at what health and science blog are saying in response to the news that Sanjay Gupta, a neurosurgeon and CNN’s chief medical correspondent, is Obama’s pic for U.S. surgeon general. Rachel weighs in with some concerns. Here are more links from Shakesville.

The Easy-Bake Oven in My Vagina: Over at Womanist Musings, a reflection on motherhood, race and class includes this gem:

How many of you have run across the vagina equals Betty Crocker syndrome? If you have not, then you probably soon will.  The education system seems to think that this is still 1950 and that mothers are at home with tons of time on their hands to participate in bake sales.  This request is never gender neutral, even though Daddy has two perfectly good hands himself.  Why is this still the norm when most women work a double day?  Even if a woman is a stay at home mother how does a vagina translate into the ability to bake? Do I have an easy bake oven stashed somewhere in my vaginal opening that I was not aware of?

Pull Up a Chair: On my to-do list was to write about the blog The Kitchen Table, a dialog between Princeton University professors Melissa Harris-Lacewell and Yolanda Pierce. Miriam beat me to it and sums up why it’s an essential read.

In this post, Harris-Lacewell discusses violence against gays and lesbians, in the context of the movie “Milk” and the brutal gang rape of a woman who may have been targeted because she is openly lesbian. She writes:

As much as I appreciated Milk, the story has the unfortunate effect of reinscribing an image of gay identity as primarily white, male, urban, and childless. The American imagination of “gay people” as childless, white, men living in cities can render invisible lesbian mothers of color like the woman attacked in Richmond. [...]

Harvey Milk understood that “straight folks” needed to feel our interconnections with gay men and lesbians. We have to know that our destinies our intertwined. We cannot be a great and free country while we sanction violence against and degradation of our neighbors. I consider it a sacred and politically necessary task to speak out for the rights and equalities of others, because they are not truly other. We are all one.

Information on sending contributions or cards of sympathy and solidarity is also provided. Four suspects in the case were arrested last week.

Eye-Rolling Quote of the Week: Ann Coulter refers to single motherhood as “a recipe to create criminals, strippers, rapists, murderers.” Remind me again why she is considered a suitable interviewee?

The Deeper Truth: A new study that looked at the five most popular women’s magazines in Canada found that articles commonly portray cosmetic surgery as an empowering option that improves women’s emotional health, even though there’s no scientific consensus that it does anything of the sort. Here’s Reuters’ take, and the abstract:

Content analyses show the articles tend to present readers with detailed physical health risk information. However, 48% of articles discuss the impact that cosmetic surgery has on emotional health, most often linking cosmetic surgery with enhanced emotional well-being regardless of the patient’s pre-existing state of emotional health. The articles also tend to use accounts given by males to provide defining standards of female attractiveness.

Inside the Medicine Cabinet: Chicago Tribune health writer Julie Deardorff lists essential items to keep in your medicine cabinet (courtesy of the American College of Emergency Physicians) and chemicals found in personal care products that you might want to consider keeping out.

Look Your Best in the New Year: Writing in The New Yorker, Amy Ozol reveals her secrets to “a trim and attractive physique” in just nine easy steps. She spent years perfecting this system, as you can tell. A sampling:

Step 5: Surround yourself with thin people. This will naturally encourage you to emulate their healthy habits. Weigh your friends on a regular basis, then weigh yourself. Do you have a friend who weighs less than you? If so, consider gastric bypass surgery.

January 3, 2009

Double Dose: More Proof Virginity Pledges Don’t Work; Genetic Testing and Ambiguity; Cut Health Care Costs, Not Care; The Year in Medicine …

Well, it Wasn’t All Bad: “Although the number of uninsured and the cost of coverage have ballooned under his watch, President Bush leaves office with a health care legacy in bricks and mortar: he has doubled federal financing for community health centers, enabling the creation or expansion of 1,297 clinics in medically underserved areas,” reports The New York Times. Kevin Sack writes:

For those in poor urban neighborhoods and isolated rural areas, including Indian reservations, the clinics are often the only dependable providers of basic services like prenatal care, childhood immunizations, asthma treatments, cancer screenings and tests for sexually transmitted diseases.

As a crucial component of the health safety net, they are lauded as a cost-effective alternative to hospital emergency rooms, where the uninsured and underinsured often seek care.

Despite the clinics’ unprecedented growth, wide swaths of the country remain without access to affordable primary care. The recession has only magnified the need as hundreds of thousands of Americans have lost their employer-sponsored health insurance along with their jobs.

In response, Democrats on Capitol Hill are proposing even more significant increases, making the centers a likely feature of any health care deal struck by Congress and the Obama administration.

(Another) Survey Says: Abstinence Pledges Ineffective: “The new analysis of data from a large federal survey found that more than half of youths became sexually active before marriage regardless of whether they had taken a ‘virginity pledge,’ but that the percentage who took precautions against pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases was 10 points lower for pledgers than for non-pledgers,” reports the Washington Post.

“Taking a pledge doesn’t seem to make any difference at all in any sexual behavior,” Janet E. Rosenbaum of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, whose report appears in the January issue of the journal Pediatrics, told WaPo. “But it does seem to make a difference in condom use and other forms of birth control that is quite striking.”

Abortion Battle Brewing in South Carolina: “Abortion foes in the Legislature have sown the seeds of what could develop into another battle over regulating abortion in South Carolina,” reports The State. “Seven S.C. House lawmakers have prefiled a bill that would require women seeking abortions to be given a list of clinics and other facilities that provide free ultrasounds. That list could include pregnancy crisis centers — many run by antiabortion groups — that actively discourage abortion and encourage women to choose other alternatives.”

Genetic Testing and Ambiguity: “‘Information is power,’ has become a common mantra. But for many people seeking answers through genetic testing, all the DNA probing ends in this twist: Less certainty, not more,” begins this NPR report. The story focuses on Nashville novelist Susan Gregg Gilmore, who sought testing for mutations in the genes BRCA 1 and BRCA 2, which are associated with an increased risk of breast and ovarian cancers.

Cut Costs, Not Care: The L.A. Times has published the first installment of an ongoing feature on reducing health care costs. Part one covers drugs, doctor visits, surgery, flexible spending accounts, preventive care and insurance. Scroll down for links to online resources.

The Year in Medicine A-Z: Time magazine offers its annual alphabetical roundup of health stories and breakthroughs that made the news. (Ed. note – reading through it all requires clicking through 37 pages. “Single page” feature, anyone?)

Don’t Blink: Via Feminist Peace Network: “As we come to the final stretch of 2008, plagued as we are with the usual collection of horrors–Gaza burning, Tennessee buried in toxic ash, women and children being raped and killed in the Congo, and on and on, I’m sure y’all were just as relieved as I was to know that the FDA is considering approval of a glaucoma drug for eyelash enhancement, an idiocy I would have previously thought would be confined to the cable shopping networks.”

Missing on TV: GLBTQ Women: “Though 2008 comes to a close with word of possible new queer female characters on the horizon in the coming year, the prospects for lesbians and bisexual women on television over the last twelve months have been somewhat grim,” writes Karman Kregloe at “This has been particularly true for lesbians, whose numbers on scripted network television have now dwindled to zero.”

Deep Thoughts for the New Year: “As the country plunges into recession, will financial hardship demote the pursuit of physical perfection?” asks The New York Times. A classic response:

“There comes a point when you are putting too much time and money into your vanity,” said Peri Basel, a practice consultant in Chappaqua, N.Y., who advises cosmetic doctors on marketing strategies. “For me, the vanity issue is: Where does it stop? If you are going for buttock implants, do you really need that?”

December 30, 2008

Fending Off the Post-Holiday Diet Marketing Machine, One FDA Warning at a Time

Dear readers, I am home, taking a bit of a vacation with a stack of library books. I have also been watching an unseemly amount of television. As a result, I’ve noticed that post-holiday weight-loss advertising is in full swing, primarily featuring and targeting women with commercials for “improving” your abs, mail-order diet food, and other products you don’t need.

This is the usual follow-up to the pre-holiday news about avoiding overeating — now they assume you ignored all of that annual advice, something is wrong with you, and buying stuff will fix that. Harumph.

Yesterday morning, a more specific warning against this post-holiday marketing came in the form of a post from The F-Word that alerts us to an FDA warning about a number of “weight loss” pills.

According to the agency:

An FDA analysis found that the undeclared active pharmaceutical ingredients in some of these products include sibutramine (a controlled substance), rimonabant (a drug not approved for marketing in the United States), phenytoin (an anti-seizure medication), and phenolphthalein (a solution used in chemical experiments and a suspected cancer causing agent). Some of the amounts of active pharmaceutical ingredients far exceeded the FDA-recommended levels, putting consumers’ health at risk.

The FDA alert includes a list of the products and additional details.

To remind yourself that you’re not alone in rejecting the advertising onslaught, you may also want to check out our content on body image and media, and bookmark some blogs such as The F-Word and Shapely Prose.

December 11, 2008

Quick Hit: Dear Oprah

Oprah may never read this letter written to her (fingers crossed, a devoted assistant will leave it on her desk, with a bouquet of flowers), but you should.

Kate Harding, always a delight to read, has written one of the best posts ever about body image, diets and fat acceptance.

Bonus: Harding spoke with Oprah. Kinda. Hopefully she will again.

What are you still doing here? Seriously, go. Read it now.

November 23, 2008

Double Dose: Pharmacies Agree to Prescription Translation; Timing Right for Healthcare Overhaul; NCAA Guidelines on Pregnancy; Hairstylists Trained to Recognize Domestic Violence …

Women’s Health Activist Newsletter: Check out the November/December issue of the Women’s Health Activist newsletter, a publication from the National Women’s Health Network, and you’ll see some familiar names.

Fellow OBOB writer Rachel Walden discusses the American Psychological Association’s report that found no solid scientific evidence that abortion causes mental distress in women. And OBOS Executive Director Judy Norsigian and Web Manager Kiki Zeldes explain why OBOS added a new title, “Our Bodies, Ourselves: Pregnancy and Birth,” and its relevance as an advocacy tool as well as a practical resource. Find those and other great articles here.

Love and Violence: “Even though India legalized inter-caste marriage more than 50 years ago, newlyweds are still threatened by violence, most often from their families,” writes Emily Wax in the Washington Post. “As more young urban and small-town Indians start to rebel and choose mates outside of arranged marriages and caste commandments, killings of inter-caste couples have increased, according to a recent study by the All India Democratic Women’s Association.”

Lost in Translation?: PAL, the Prescription Access Legislation Blog, praises the move by pharmacy chains CVS and Rite-Aid to offer spoken and written translations of prescription information, as required by New York state law. But PAL raises some good questions, such as: Who is responsible for the content and accuracy of the translated label? And how do small independent and community pharmacies fulfill this obligation?

Senators on Our Side: Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Patty Murray on Thursday introduced legislation to block the “provider conscience” regulation that Health and Human Services is expected to propose any day now.

“In the final days of his administration, the President is again putting ideology first and attempting to roll back health care protections for women and families,” said Sen. Clinton in a statement. And in a piece published at RH Reality Check, Clinton writes:

As many of you know, the rule being proposed by the administration would limit patients’ access to basic reproductive health care services and information. The Protecting Patients and Health Care Act would prevent HHS from implementing this ill-conceived, midnight regulation.

Senator Murray and I have been speaking out against this rule since July when word of this regulation first came to light. The rule, as it was then proposed in August by the Department of Health and Human Services, is a serious threat to patients’ access to information and care.

Then in September, Senator Murray and I had a very frank conversation with Secretary Leavitt about how this rule could create a slippery slope leading to patients being denied access to contraception and other important information or care. However, despite the important concerns we raised to the Secretary, a recent news report indicated that HHS is planning to release a final regulation in the coming days.

Plus: With all Clinton has done for women’s health as as senator, what might she do for women worldwide as secretary of state?

Timing Right for Healthcare Overhaul: “When Barack Obama steps into the Oval Office in January, healthcare reform will join a list of priorities crowded with two wars, a ballooning budget deficit and an economy mired in one of the worst slowdowns since the Great Depression,” reports the L.A. Times. “But the bleak environment may paradoxically spur the kind of costly, sweeping overhaul of the nation’s healthcare system that has eluded policymakers in Washington for decades, many political strategists, industry leaders and economists say.”

Plus: “Seizing on the momentum of the presidential election and the promise of change on a historic scale, a grassroots ‘conversation’ about health care reform under the Obama administration began Thursday with town hall meetings around the nation, including several in the Bay Area,” reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

When Mom’s a College Athlete: “Last week the NCAA unveiled their new handbook on how to deal with pregnancy. No, it’s not a sports version of Our Bodies Ourselves, but rather a much needed policy. Stories about a pregnant woman on the basketball team pop up now and then in the press, but with no firm rules, each woman was pretty much on her own,” writes Veronica, who goes on to note that the “guidelines are gender-neutral to allow for men to take leave, if their school provides any leave for new moms, as well as prohibiting punishment to women for having premarital sex if men aren’t also equally punished.”

Continue reading for a smart take on pregnancy and women’s sports.

Enlisting Salons in the Campaign Against Domestic Violence: “The privileged, often therapeutic relationship between hairdressers and clients has long been the subject of magazine articles and movies,” writes Leslie Kaufman in The New York Times. “A growing movement in New York and across the nation tries to harness that bond to identify and prevent domestic violence, a pervasive problem that victims are often too ashamed to reveal to law enforcement or other public officials.”

Plus: Many women separated from abusive partners still experience high-disability chronic pain after almost two years, according to Canadian researchers. Their article was published in The Journal of Pain, the peer review journal of the American Pain Society.

In Search of the Female Ideal: “The sexualization and ‘adultification’ of girls is a troubling enough trend. But it’s bookended with an equally disturbing phenomenon: the extreme ‘youthification’ of older women,” writes Anne Ream in this Chicago Tribune op-ed. I really liked the ending and want to read the book mentioned:

In her groundbreaking book, “The Body Project: An Intimate History of American Girls,” Cornell University researcher Joan Jacobs Brumberg examined the diaries of adolescent girls in the U.S. over the past 100 years to better understand how they discussed self-improvement. While girls of earlier eras focused on improving their studies and becoming better-mannered, the diary entries of contemporary young women showed an almost exclusive emphasis on improved or changed physical appearance.

Feminist firebrand Elizabeth Cady Stanton, in her renowned work, “Our Girls,” once wrote, “I would have girls regard themselves not as adjectives but as nouns.” It’s a hopeful sentiment that feels, right now, more nostalgic than ever before.

Scaring by Example: New York Times writer Lisa Belkin, who pens the Motherlode blog on parenting, recently invited her former editor, Catherine Saint Louis, to guest-blog about her baby’s birth. Saint Louis gave birth via c-section following the diagnosis of severe preeclampsia. Belkin writes in the intro:

Until she left on maternity leave and I began this blog, Catherine was my editor in Thursday Styles. She has long been the healthiest, strongest person I know, so it was particularly jarring when she called last week and told me the story she is about to tell you. She called on the day an article ran in Styles about how home births are on the rise. Catherine had thought of delivering at home. As she writes, her decision to head for the hospital may have saved her life.

In response to the implication that a planned home birth would have been a fatal decision, a number of readers note that midwives who do home births are trained to recognize trouble and would have transferred  the mother to a hospital.

DNA Backlog: In response to the nationwide backlog of rape kits awaiting DNA analysis, The New York Times calls on lawmakers “to address this ongoing insult to women and the intolerable loss for effective law enforcement.”

Girls Not Exactly Gone Wild: “Fewer girls were arrested last year for violent crimes than a decade earlier, according to new government research prompted by a surge in female juvenile delinquency in the 1990s,” reports USA Today. The U.S. Department of Justice found that arrests for aggravated assault by girls younger than 18 fell 17 percent between 1998 and 2007.