Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

March 7, 2011

Odds and Ends

Call for Interviewees:
Reporter Molly M. McGinty is interviewing patients who were denied reproductive care at Catholic hospitals for a piece for Ms. magazine. Please contact her at or 212-531-1679 by Wednesday, March 9. Patients are welcome to use pseduonyms if needed.

Interventions to Reduce Early Inductions:
My local (Nashville, TN) newspaper has an article today on early inductions without medical indication. The paper reports that local hospitals implemented a pilot program that asked doctors to check a form if they were inducing labor for nonmedical reasons; rates of babies delivered at 37 to 39 weeks’ gestation with no medical reason subsequently dropped from 9.8% to 4.8%.

The Health Beat Blog also explored issues of inductions (including early inductions) and cesareans in a blog post last month.

Save the Date: Orgasm, Inc:
I expect we’ll have more on this soon, but readers are invited to attend a preview screening of the film Orgasm, Inc. at the Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline, MA on March 24. More event info is available on Facebook. The film focuses on the pharmaceutical industry’s attempts to produce and market Viagra-type drugs to women.

OBOS Stories: Submit Your Own!
Just a reminder that we are collecting readers’ stories of how OBOS has touched their lives, in conjunction with our 40th anniversary celebration. You can read the submitted stories on our blog, and submit your own here.

December 13, 2010

Quick Hit: Modern Lady Takes on “Bridalplasty”

I don’t really even want to talk about “Bridalplasty,” the new show in which women compete to win the “ultimate” wedding – complete with plastic surgery – because it’s too easy to ridicule the participating women without examining the larger issues that make anybody think this whole show and its foundational ideas about women and weddings are a good idea. It would take more than a blog post to deconstruct all of the problems here. Instead, I’m going to leave it to Modern Lady’s Erin Gibson (successor to Sarah Haskins), who concludes that everything about the show needs its own makeover:

If you can tolerate more, see the New York Times,, and Fornicating Feminists.

April 22, 2010

Educational and Cutting Edge: RH Reality Check

View all Women’s Health Heroes. Voting closes May 14. Background info here.

Entrant: Jackie Flores
Nominee: RH Reality Check, sexual reproductive health and rights blog

I’ve been an avid reader of RH Reality Check for years. They provide accurate coverage of issues pertaining to sexual reproductive health and rights. But what I love most is the thought provoking commentary offered by their wide variety of contributing writers. Any time I want to learn more about abortion, birth control, global perspectives on reproduction, or whatever the hot topic of the day is I know I can rely on them.

Lately I’ve been following their Earth & Birth posts, which focus on the environment, reproductive health and how they’re connected. The conversations and viewpoints have been fascinating, and I’m glad this stuff is being discussed. It makes me feel more connected to fellow reproductive health activists.

So thank you, RH Reality Check, for making my morning coffee educational and cutting edge.

January 25, 2010

New Documentary on Young Women’s Sexuality

I recently learned of a new documentary film that may be of interest to readers. In “Subjectified: Nine Young Women Talk About Sex,” director Melissa Tapper Goldman interviews nine U.S. women from different backgrounds and locations about their sexuality and experiences.

The film attempts to overcome stereotypes and assumptions using women’s own words, “to overwrite some of these associations, with something more real, more nuanced, deeper and more heartfelt.”

Goldman writes:

This project began as a simple question and a simple frustration. I thought I understood the motivations and pressures regarding girls’ sexuality within the community where I grew up, but I had no clue what sexuality meant for other women around the country… The stories were both more sophisticated and more powerful than what I had anticipated.

Two trailers for the film are available online; view one below.

Readers in and around the Boston area can attend a free film screening, followed by a Q&A with the director and one of the women featured in the film. The event will take place at MIT in Cambridge on Thursday, Feb. 4, at 7 p.m.  The screening is part of the “Chicks Make Flicks” series.

Others who are interested can keep up with the film at the blog and on Facebook and Twitter.

December 10, 2009

WAM! Auction Ends Tonight: Once-in-A-Lifetime Chance to Meet Your Heroes, Give Great Gifts

WAM! auction items

Ever wish you could meet Cyndi Lauper — or Tegan and Sara or Margaret Cho? Or ask Katha Pollitt or Kate Harding or Rebecca Traister to edit your manuscript? Or wear the iconic blazer Princeton Professor Melissa Harris Lacewell appears in on “The Rachel Maddow Show”?

You’ll have your chance today — but only today — to make these and other dreams come true.

Head on over to the Women, Action & Media auction, where you’ll find 53 amazing items, including:

* dinner with Jessica Valenti

* autographed guitars from Ani DiFranco, Aimee Mann, Emmylou Harris and Patty Griffin

* an original DTWOF comic strip by Alison Bechdel

* a customized recipe by Lisa Jervis

* lunch with Baratunde Thurston and a tour of the offices of “The Onion”

* Sarah Haskins records your outgoing voicemail message

* signed books and posters by the likes of bell hooks, Marjane Satrapi, Jane HamiltonSuzan-Lori Parks, Jennifer Weiner and Venus and Serena Williams

* much, much more

WAM! — the annual conference turned national organization that is fighting for gender justice in media — is raising for money for its launch as a national organization, with WAM! chapters in all 50 states and beyond.

It’s a great cause — and you can do your holiday shopping. Seriously, there are great deals to be had. And no one else will give (or get) the same gift!

Bidding ends at 9 p.m. EST. Good luck!

November 24, 2009

Judy Norsigian on a Drug Aimed at Curing Women With a Low Sex Drive and Other Health Concerns

A recent Time magazine story looks at the decade-long search for a drug to cure women with low sexual desire — a so-called female Viagra. A German pharmaceutical company thinks it’s on the right track with flibanserin, a drug originally developed as an antidepressant (it didn’t work for its intended purpose). Filbanserin is undergoing clinical trials to treat hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD).

Our own Judy Norsigian is quoted in Time, expressing caution:

Certainly, there may be women who will do better after taking flibanserin, says Judy Norsigian, executive director of the women’s health advocacy Our Bodies Ourselves, based in Cambridge, Mass. But she thinks the diagnosis of HSDD unnecessarily medicalizes women’s sexual lives. Attempting to treat low libido with a pill ignores the fact that many women’s level of desire is deeply affected by everyday life stress and interpersonal relationships. Add to that a cultural milieu that at once promotes shame and ignorance about women’s sexuality while wildly inflating their expectations for sex.

In many cases, says Norsigian, the proper solution to a lack of sexual desire would involve a number of non-drug approaches, such as therapy, mind-body techniques and getting partners involved in the solution. “That could be equally successful while at the same time not exposing women to the [potential] long-term adverse effects of drugs,” says Norsigian, who suggests testing drugs like flibanserin against drug-free therapies. “Moreover, the non-medication approaches often address root causes for lack of libido and thus reflect a prevention approach that is usually much wiser.”

During a recent event hosted by the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing’s Midwifery Program, Norsigian raised similar questions about whether women are receiving the best and safest treatments. She also discussed examples of how mixed, inaccurate or incomplete media coverage can make it difficult for women to navigate their health options and to understand the risks involved with some procedures. The Reporter, Vanderbilt Medical Center’s weekly newspaper, covered Norsigian’s talk.

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.

October 28, 2009

Empowered Patients = ePatients

A new, freely available, open-access journal that launched this month reflects a position Our Bodies Ourselves has long held: Healthcare is better, and people are healthier and more empowered, when individuals are informed and can actively participate in their own care.

The Journal of Participatory Medicine, launched at last week’s Connected Health Symposium in Boston, will publish online peer-reviewed articles that “explore the extent to which shared decision-making in health care, and deep patient engagement, affect outcomes.” The inaugural issue includes articles from all stakeholders, including patients, healthcare providers, payers, and others.

The journal’s significance is underscored by the fact that current or former editors of three of the most prominent medical journals – JAMA, BMJ, and the Annals of Family Medicine – also contributed to the first issue. As Amy Romano at Science & Sensibility points out, even the journal’s peer review process is participatory and values the input of all stakeholders, especially patients themselves.

The journal is being published by the relatively new Society for Participatory Medicine. The organization also has a blog,, which focuses on and includes stories from patients becoming informed, connecting with other patients, finding support, and exploring potential treatments for their healthcare concerns.

The existence of this organization and its publications reflect a growing trend toward patient involvement in health care that has been inspired and enabled by the internet. The Pew Internet and American Life Project released a report earlier this year indicating that 61 percent of American adults look online for health information, and that “six in ten e-patients … say their most recent search had an impact, mostly minor, on their own health or the way they care for someone else.”

More than half said information they found online lead them to ask their physician new questions or to get a second opinion on their care.

The internet is also enabling access to personal health records and new ways of collecting and sharing health data. The Society and the Journal will promote efforts to encourage these developments while protecting patient confidentiality.

As one physician wrote of the e-patient phenomenon in 2008:

Patients want information, ideally tailored to their needs. They want to discuss this with their physicians without being shooed away, and would appreciate getting pointers. They even want access to their test results and medical records. Although many physicians feel threatened by all this, engaging the patient as a partner in her own care can be quite gratifying, improves patient satisfaction, and may even lead to better outcomes.

As an organization that has long held that women can become their own health experts and that women, as informed health consumers, are catalysts for social change, we agree.

October 4, 2009

Put Simply, It’s Rape: Chris Rock on Roman Polanski

Last week we heard that Roman Polanski’s rape of a 13-year-old girl wasn’t “rape-rape“; the media downplayed the crime; and celebrities petitioned for Polanski’s release.

Comedian Chris Rock’s disbelief over the reaction captured our own. During an interview on The Jay Leno Show, Rock cut through the messy rhetoric and exclaimed, “Rape! It’s rape!”

“People are defending Roman Polanski because he made some good movies?” Rock continued. “Are you kidding me? He made good movies 30 years ago, Jay! Even Johnnie Cochran don’t have the nerve to go, ‘Well, did you see O.J. play against New England?’”

Jezebel has the clip:


Latoya Peterson writes:

As Rock says at the end of the clip: “The United States, we want to capture Osama Bin Laden, and murder him. We don’t want to rape him – that would be barbaric!”

Rape is a barbaric act.

And I’m amazed it took a comedian to say it outright.

So am I. Yet while I want to cheer Rock on, a quick search shows that in 2001, when a woman accused Rock of rape (after first claiming she was pregnant with Rock’s child, which proved to be false), Rock turned to Anthony Pellicano, one of Hollywood’s sleaziest private detectives.

Their conversation, which came to light during Pellicano’s 2008 trial on charges of wiretapping and racketeering, was excerpted on Gawker. Pellicano describes how he would ruin the woman, and his comments are pretty ugly. As for Rock, Ryan Tate sums it up at Gawker: “For most of the call, Rock sounds annoyed and aloof, if shifty about his story. But however annoyed he might sound, he is the one who hired this guy.”

More good reads:

Roman Polanski Has a Lot of Friends,” by Katha Pollitt

Reminder: Roman Polanski Raped a Child,” by Kate Harding

September 14, 2009

Midwifery on Trial on Today

Last week, the Today Show aired a segment initially titled “The Perils of Midwifery,” which despite the title was not about occupational hazards for midwives (ha), or even about midwifery in general, but about home birth specifically. Although it has since been recaptioned “The Perils of Home Birth” on the NBC website, the original titling as aired to many viewers can still be seen on various websites, including Hulu.

The piece itself tends to gloss over the variety of personal reasons women choose home birth, treating it as a simple lifestyle matter or consumer trend, with one interviewee quoting an unnamed doctor as saying that “home birth had become almost the equivalent of a spa treatment for women.” A montage of photos of celebrities who have had home birth is also provided. The story calls the tragedy experienced by the featured couple “the dark side of an increasingly popular trend.”

The 7-minute piece focuses around the story of a couple whose baby did not survive after what is reported as four days of laboring at home. The couple had CNM Cara Mulhahn as their midwife, who has gained recognition after being featured in the film The Business of Being Born. Mulhahn was profiled by Andrew Goldman (interviewed for the segment) for a recent New York Magazine piece. In that piece, she is framed as a risk-taker, with BOBB director Abby Epstein saying, “She’ll put herself on the line way more than most people, like taking on a birth that’s a little more high risk that most midwives wouldn’t take… She puts her ass on the line in a huge way every time she kind of steps out of bounds to help somebody. That’s just who she is.”

Given this assessment, it’s unfair to hold Mulhahn and her approach and outcomes up as representative of all home births and/or midwifery. Rather than providing women with information on the various types of midwives, their education and credentialing, or questions to ask to determine whether the woman and provider might be of different minds with regards to safety thresholds and approach, the piece simply includes a recommendation from Goldman to ask about malpractice insurance and back-up physicians. No representative of a professional midwifery organization or midwifery educational body was included in the segment, who might have addressed some of these concerns and factors.

The Today Show did feature an ACOG representative, who spoke about unpredictable emergencies and the organization’s position against home birth. The piece also cites unnamed doctors as claiming that it is “impossible” to compare home and hospital birth because of the higher risk cases hospitals tend to see, but this is simply not true. Although a randomized, controlled clinical trial will never be possible, there are good data, especially the recent British Columbia study (.pdf), that compare low risk, uncomplicated pregnancies among women choosing a hospital birth or a home birth. There are many areas in medicine where good data, although imperfect, can guide policy setting, and ACOG fails to appreciate that this is one such example.

Conveying this information, however, requires more detail and nuance than typically provided in a morning news show. As the ACNM concludes: “Women and health care professionals need to be making decisions that are informed by evidence-based medicine—not reactionary interventions and unbalanced investigative journalism. Women deserve better.”

September 1, 2009

Fed Up With Misinformation About Healthcare Reform? Tell Your Own Story

my_rapid_report_healthcareForget everything you’ve heard or seen about the healthcare debate. OK, not everythingjust the lies and misinformation.

Feel better? Want to do something with that positive energy? The Media Consortium (TMC), a network of progressive, independent journalism organizations, explains how you can change the debate with your own reporting:

Your story is getting lost in the shouting and political posturing. But it’s these stories that can make the difference in how health care is covered in the national media and how politicians will vote. We’re asking you to join us in this exciting citizen journalism project to help uncover the the health care stories of real people, including your own.

TMC goes on to suggest that you videotape a health care town hall; interview community members about their healthcare stories; or tell your own personal story. Then all you have to do is upload your video at, which even provides interviewing tips.

All submissions are reviewed by The UpTake, a video news gathering organization that encourages citizen journalists. The videos will be available for the public to view, and TMC’s network will look through them for stories that “help identify the needs and hopes of everyday citizens around the future of our healthcare as they continue to monitor, report and organize around this critical issue.”

Live in New York City? Lucky you. You can tape your story in the studio at GRITtv. Space is available starting Friday, Sept. 11, and every Friday afterward. Email to reserve a time.

In the meantime, go check out, where some sample videos have already been posted. The site is also going to become a source for healthcare news — starting today, reporter Lindsey Beyerstein will file daily posts on healthcare reform issues and media coverage.

And be sure to tell us when you upload a video. We’d love to link to it and help amplify your side in the debate.

July 21, 2009

Quick Hit: The Colbert Report and Single Payer Health Reform

Watch Dr. Aaron Carroll, a board member of Physicians for a National Health Plan, talk about single payer health care tonight on The Colbert Report.

The program airs at 11:30 p.m. (EST) and will be rebroadcast on the Comedy Central network on Wednesday, July 22, at 2 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 2 p.m., and 8:30 p.m.

Carroll, an associate professor at the Indiana University School of Medicine and the director of the Center for Health Policy and Professionalism Research, wrote a paper on growing physician support for national health insurance in 2008.

Our Bodies Ourselves last month endorsed single payer as the best health care plan for improving women’s health and providing affordable, universal coverage.

July 15, 2009

Resources for Evaluating Health News

As a medical librarian by day, I spend lots of time evaluating health information. Through my work,  I’ve learned that the media does not always cover medical “breakthroughs” and study findings accurately or clearly.  Luckily, there are several resources available that can help correct this problem.

One example is Health News Review, which provides ratings and critiques of medical reporting. Media reports are evaluated by a number of criteria, such as whether they review the evidence, discuss potential harms, quantify potential benefits, compare with existing alternatives, or appear to rely solely on a news release. The site also provides a toolkit for journalists to help improve their reporting. It’s also a useful read for others wanting to understand the important issues and potential pitfalls of medical reports in the news.

Similarly, NHS Choices – Behind the Headlines from the National Health Service in the UK provides evaluations and summaries of health-related stories in the news, including the type of and citation for the study a story is based on, what the existing research says, and the implications of the finding being reported. Media Doctor Canada and Media Doctor Australia are similar services that may be of interest to international readers.

Relatedly, I recently learned that the National Press Foundation is offering a four-day “fellowship on cancer issues” for selected U.S. journalists which will provide an “in-depth look at cancer, current research, and controversies related to screening and treatment.” While many journalists covering medical topics could probably use some continuing education on finding and interpreting the evidence, this session is unfortunately underwritten by Pfizer – a pharmaceutical company which makes money by promoting and selling its treatment and screening products.

If you have access to the journal BMJ, there’s a great article, Who’s Watching the Watchdogs, which looks at exactly this type of conflict of interest in industry sponsorship of medical journalism training. I may be a bit biased toward librarians, but I’d personally much rather see journalists build their knowledge through less biased information sources, such as this fellowship training opportunity being offered by the Association of Health Care Journalists with the National Library of Medicine.

[Hat tip to David Rothman, a fellow library geek, for his post pointing to some of these resources.]

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.

July 5, 2009

“Abortion Providers Under Siege”: Thank PBS for Honest, Important Coverage

Last month, NOW on PBS aired “Abortion Providers Under Seige,” a look at how the murder of Dr. George Tiller is affecting other abortion providers and whether violence against doctors who perform abortions should be prosecuted as domestic terrorism.

It was a straightforward, highly praised report — which means that PBS came under siege from right-wing groups. These groups tend to object — quite loudly — to factual coverage that raises important questions about their activities.

In response to the right-wing outcry, the Women’s Media Center sent an alert and created a letter that you can send to PBS, thanking the network for airing this important program and voicing support for NOW on PBS and Maria Hinjosa’s reporting.

You can watch the program online, and also check out additional features, such as a “Gallery of Rage,” featuring images from anti-abortion websites, and an online debate between Operation Rescue President Troy Neuman and reproductive rights activist and author Cristina Page.

*I’m late with announcing this action, but it’s not too late to let PBS know what you think.

NOW on PBS - Abortion Providers Under Siege