Archive for the ‘Violence & Abuse’ Category

March 27, 2010

Embarazo no planificado y abuso por parte de sus parejas en mujeres jóvenes

Publicado por Rachel / del orginial en inglés Jan 28, 2010

OBOS is committed to expanding our audience and in this spirit we’ve asked former board member Moises Russo to translate into Spanish several of our blog entries. We hope to translate more entries in the coming year.

En OBOS estamos comprometidos a expandir nuestra audiencia de lector@s  y en este espíritu le hemos solicitado a Moisés Russo, ex-miembro de la Junta de OBOS, que traduzca al español varios de los blogs que tenemos en la página electrónica. Esperamos continuar con dichas traducciones durante este año.

Un artículo en la revista Contraception,“Coerción al embarazo, violencia por parte de parejas y embarazo no planificado”, examina si las mujeres jóvenes y adolescentes han sido víctimas de sabotaje de sus métodos anticonceptivos, coacción a embarazarse o violencia física o sexual.

Investigadores de la Universidad de California Davis han llevado a cabo una encuesta de 1278 mujeres entre los 16 y 29 años que buscaron servicios en cinco clínicas de planificación familiar durante los años 2008 – 2009. Las mujeres participantes fueron hispanas (30%), afroamericanas (28%), blancas (22%), multirraciales (7%) y asiáticas u otras razas (13%). Coacción al embarazo fue definido como haber recibido comentarios de sus parejas a no usar métodos de control de la fertilidad, ser amenazadas con daño físico si no estaban dispuestas a quedar embarazadas, ser forzada o presionada a embarazarse, haber tenido que esconder métodos de control de la fertilidad por miedo a que su pareja pudiese enojarse, o haber sido amenazadas con que su pareja tendría un bebé con otra persona o a dejarlas si no se embarazaban.

Sabotaje de sus métodos anticonceptivos fue definido como haber tenido una pareja que se quitase el condón mientras tenían relaciones sexuales, que hubiese hecho agujeros en el condón en forma intencional, las hubiese despojado de su método anticonceptivo o las hubiese forzado a tener sexo sin un condón.

Las participantes también fueron entrevistadas con respecto a su historia personal con respecto a violencia sexual o física y antecedentes de embarazos previos no planificados.

Los hallazgos principales del estudio fueron:

  • 53,4% declararon haber experimentado violencia por parte de sus parejas
  • 40,9% habían experimentado al menos un embarazo no planificado
  • 19,1% habían sido coaccionadas a tener un embarazo
  • 15,0% habían experimentado sabotaje de sus métodos anticonceptivos

Los autores también reportaron que mujeres que habían experimentado violencia por parte de sus  parejas en el pasado también era más propensas a haber experimentado coacción a embarazarse o sabotaje de sus métodos anticonceptivos (35% de aquellas que indicaban haber sido víctimas de violencia comparado a 15% de aquellas que indicaban no haber sido víctimas de violencia). Las mujeres que habían experimentado control reproductivo (coacción o sabotaje) también eran más propensas a haber tenido un embarazo no planificado. Al analizar los datos en base a la exposición a violencia por parte de sus parejas, el control reproductivo estaba asociado con embarazo no planificado solo en aquellas mujeres que habían tenido exposición a violencia por parte de sus parejas.

A pesar de que los autores analizaron las exposiciones históricas de las mujeres y por lo tanto no podían examinar asociaciones con relaciones específicas o el orden de estos eventos en el tiempo, uno de los autores del estudio sugirió que las asociaciones podrían explicar por qué los embarazos no planificados son tanto más comunes entre las mujeres abusadas y quinceañeras.

Los investigadores concluyen que:

Un programa integral de detección en  centros clínicos que busque las experiencias prevalentes de coacción al embarazo, sabotaje de métodos anticonceptivos y violencia por parte de la pareja debiese ser considerado una prioridad, particularmente en el contexto de planificación familiar y otros esfuerzos programáticos para reducir el embarazo no planificado. Tal detección podría facilitar el trabajo crítico de resolver las barreras de acceso a la anticoncepción entre mujeres y niñas para reducir su elevado riesgo de embarazo no planificado.

El autor principal del estudio fue también uno de los investigadores en un estudio más pequeño sobre violencia en la pareja y sabotaje de métodos anticonceptivos que nosotros reportamos en el 2007.


January 28, 2010

Partner Abuse and Unintended Pregnancy in Young Women

A forthcoming article in the journal Contraception, “Pregnancy coercion, intimate partner violence and unintended pregnancy,” looks at whether adolescent and young women have experienced birth control sabotage, pregnancy coercion, and/or physical or sexual violence.

Researchers from UC Davis conducted a survey of 1,278 16-29 year old women seeking care in five California family planning clinics in 2008-2009. The participating women were Hispanic (30%), Black (28%), White (22%), Multiracial (7%) and “Asian/other” (13%). Pregnancy coercion was defined as being told not to use birth control by a partner, threatened with physical harm if they did not agree to get pregnant, being forced or pressured to become pregnant, having hidden birth control because of fear that the partner would become upset, or being told that the partner would have a baby with someone else or leave if they did not become pregnant.

Birth control sabotage was defined as having a partner take off a condom while having sex, put holes in a condom on purpose, take away birth control, or forced sex without a condom.

Participants were also asked about their lifetime histories of physical and sexual violence and history of unintended pregnancy.

The key findings:

  • 53.4% reported having experienced partner violence
  • 40.9% had experienced at least one unintended pregnancy
  • 19.1% had experienced pregnancy coercion
  • 15.0% had experienced birth control sabotage

The authors also reported that women who had experienced partner violence in the past were also more likely to have experienced pregnancy coercion or birth control sabotage (35% of those reporting violence compared to 15% of those not reporting violence). Women who had experienced reproductive control (coercion or sabotage) were also more likely to have experienced an unplanned pregnancy. When looking at the data by exposure to partner violence, reproductive control was associated with unintended pregnancy only among those who were exposed to partner violence.

Although the authors looked at lifetime exposures and so could not look at associations within specific relationships or the order of these events in time, one co-author of the study suggested that the associations may “explain why unintended pregnancies are far more common among abused women and teens.”

The researchers conclude that:

Comprehensive screening in clinical settings for the prevalent experiences of pregnancy coercion, birth control sabotage and partner violence should be considered a priority, particularly in the context of family planning and related programmatic efforts to reduce unintended pregnancy. Such screening may facilitate the critical work of addressing barriers to contraception among affected women and girls so as to reduce their elevated risk for unintended pregnancy.

The lead author of the study was also one of the researchers for a smaller study of intimate partner violence and birth control sabotage that we reported on in 2007.

[Note: Although I was able to get a copy of the article, it is not yet readily available online. I'll try to add a link if an abstract/full text becomes available.]


October 6, 2009

Rapes in Guinea Show Escalating Government Crime Against Women

The horror of rape as a weapon of war in Africa is all too common. Just in Congo, hundreds of thousands of women have been raped in the last 10 years, their stories documented by award-winning radio programs, ongoing news stories and even an HBO documentary.

International awareness and outcry against these crimes is not always swift or widespread. But an attack last month by government troops on women in Conarky, Guinea seems to be drawing a quick response.

Photos of the brutal crimes, which took place during a peaceful stadium rally protesting Guinea’s ruling military junta, are circulating on cell phones, and today The New York Times published a horrific account based on interviews with witnesses and women who had been assaulted:

“I can’t sleep at night, after what I saw,” said one middle-aged woman from an established family here, who said she had been beaten and sexually molested. “And I am afraid. I saw lots of women raped, and lots of dead.”

One photograph shows a naked woman lying on muddy ground, her legs up in the air, a man in military fatigues in front of her. In a second picture a soldier in a red beret is pulling the clothes off a distraught-looking woman half-lying, half-sitting on muddy ground. In a third a mostly nude woman lying on the ground is pulling on her trousers.

The cellphone pictures are circulating anonymously, but multiple witnesses corroborated the events depicted.

The attacks were part of a violent outburst on Sept. 28 in which soldiers shot and killed dozens of unarmed demonstrators at the main stadium here, where perhaps 50,000 had assembled. Local human rights organizations say at least 157 were killed; the government puts the figure at 56.

But even more than the shootings, the attacks on women — horrific anywhere, but viewed with particular revulsion in Muslim countries like this one — appear to have traumatized the citizenry and hardened the opposition’s determination to force out the leader of the military junta, Capt. Moussa Dadis Camara.

Bernard Kouchner, the foreign minister of France, told the Times France could no longer work with Camara and urged “international intervention.” Camara seized power in a bloodless coup in December. He had promised he would not run in January’s presidential election but has since changed his mind. As the Times notes, growing internal opposition could force Camara to leave power, or the government could become even more authoritarian. Camara contends that members of the opposition, not the military, were responsible for the assaults and killings.

Amnesty International is calling for an international commission to investigate the human rights violations that occurred.

“The perpetrators of these brutal attacks must be identified and brought to justice,” said Erwin van der Borght, director of Amnesty International’s Africa Program. “This can only be achieved through an international inquiry as the Guinean authorities have already been discredited by their lack of political will to carry out a national investigation into accusations of human rights violations by security forces in 2007.”

Rape is a fairly common tool of military repression in Africa, but large-scale violence against women has not been a previous government tactic here. “This time, a new stage has been reached,” said Sidya Touré, a former prime minister who was also beaten at the stadium and said he had witnessed brutalities there. “Women as battlefield targets. We could never have imagined that.”
“Where could people get the idea to start raping women in broad daylight?” Mr. Touré asked, in an interview at his home here. “It’s so contrary to our culture. To molest women using rifle barrels. … ”

While rape as a tool of military oppression is all too common, it previously has not been used as government tactic in Guinea.

“This time, a new stage has been reached,” Sidya Touré, a former prime minister who was beaten during the opposition rally, told the Times. “Women as battlefield targets. We could never have imagined that. [...] Where could people get the idea to start raping women in broad daylight?”

“They especially tore into the women,” François Lonsény Fall, another former prime minister who was also at the stadium, said. “They were seeking to humiliate them.”


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:

chris_rock_on_leno

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 28, 2009

Could a Smart Retort on Maternity Care Help Build Support for Comprehensive Health Care Reform?

That’s what reform advocates are hoping, as a video from Friday’s Senate Finance Committee spread over the weekend. The short clip, embedded below, shows a great practical and philosophical divide over women’s health care.

During discussion on the health care bill proposed by Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), the committee debated one of Sen. Jon Kyl’s (R-Ariz.) amendments, which would prohibit the government from defining specific health benefits that insurers must offer.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) argued that under a new system, insurance companies should be required to cover basic maternity care. According to Kaiser Family Foundation, only 18 states mandate maternity coverage, and that number falls to 14 when applied to individual insurance markets.

Women who seek insurance on these open markets face other barriers, too; they can be disqualified for having had a previous c-section — or even for having been pregnant. Yes, pregnancy is a pre-existing condition. You can read more frustrating facts about the open insurance market — like how it’s still legal in nine states and the District of Columbia to deny a woman coverage because she’s been the victim of domestic violence — in this report by the National Women’s Law Center (covered here in October 2008).

But Kyl doesn’t plan on getting pregnant, so really, what’s the big whoop?

“Well, first of all, I don’t need maternity care,” Kyl said. “So requiring that to be in my insurance policy is something that I don’t need and will make the policy more expensive.”

Stabenow, smiling, interrupted: “I think your mom probably did.”

Kyl brushed off the remark, noting that was more than 60 years ago. Follow-up on insurers covering Viagra and prostate cancer did not ensue.

The Kyl-Stabenow exchange made the rounds in news stories and blog postings over the weekend. Almost 3,000 comments have been left on just this one Huffington Post brief. This version of the video has been viewed more than 122,000 times as of Monday morning.

Kyl should be thanked — it’s not every day a senator appears so stunningly tone-deaf on an issue that affects the entire population.

There are 4.3 million births per year in the United States, according to Childbirth Connection, which recently released a report (pdf) outlining how health care reform should address maternity care. Kyl’s staff should have held up flashcards noting that 85 percent of all women give birth, and 23 percent of hospital discharges are childbearing women or newborns. A woman’s health before and between pregnancies can have a major impact on pregnancy outcomes — and costs.

But again: Why should Kyl care?

For the record, Kyl’s amendment was defeated 14-9.

All this went down exactly one week after First Lady Michelle Obama made a personal appeal for health care, emphasizing the benefits to women and families. Speaking at an event sponsored by the White House Council on Women and Girls, Obama said “it’s still shocking” that women face discrimination when it comes to insurance premiums and coverage.

“I think it’s clear that health insurance reform and what it means for our families is very much a women’s issue,” said Obama (read her full remarks here).

Perhaps after watching Kyl, more Americans will be outraged that women can be denied coverage because of pregnancy. And maybe — just maybe — Stabenow’s six words, likely the first “your mother” joke  ever told during a debate on health care reform, will persuade voters that maternity coverage is worth it for everyone.

*For more compelling reasons why women need comprehensive health reform, see this fact sheet (pdf) from the National Women’s Law Center, and these statistics on health insurance coverage compiled by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

Update: As noted in the comments below, the NWLC is asking people to send in baby photos to show Kyl why maternity coverage is basic health care for all.


July 13, 2009

Political Diagnosis: Global Gag Rule; Update on Conscience Clause; New Violence Against Women Advisor; The Last Word on Sarah Palin? …

Supreme Court Decisions and You: The National Women’s Law Center has released an analysis of 2008-2009 Supreme Court decisions that have a direct effect on women’s lives. Here’s the report (pdf); more discussion at the NWLC blog, Womenstake:

In Fitzgerald v. Barnstable School Committee, the Supreme Court safeguarded women’s and girls’ rights by allowing them to pursue remedies for gender discrimination in schools under both Title IX and the Constitution. In Crawford v. Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, Tennessee, the Court ruled that employees are protected from being subject to retaliation for cooperating with an employer’s internal investigation of discrimination. “The Court’s decisions in these two cases kept hard-won protections in place,” [NWLC Co-President Marcia] Greenberger said.

But not all outcomes were positive:

“In AT&T Corp. v. Hulteen, the Supreme Court ignored the realities of the workplace and the intent of Congress and ruled against female workers,” Greenberger said. As Justice Ginsburg noted in a strong dissent in the case, the Court’s decision permitted AT&T to pay women lower pension benefits for the rest of their lives.

Gag on Global Gag Rule: Ever since President Ronald Reagan instituted the “global gag rule” in 1984, its existence has been dependent on which party is in the White House. If it’s a Democrat, it’s revoked; if it’s Republican, it’s reinstated. On Thursday, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted 17-10 to approve an amendment to a Department of State and foreign affairs appropriations bill that would make permanent President Obama’s reversal of the global gag rule. Emily Douglas has more.

The global gag rule, also known as the Mexico City policy (the site of the United Nations International Conference on Population where it was first announced), prohibits international family planning groups that receive U.S. aid from offering abortion services or providing information about safe abortion, even if they use other funding. It would be great to see it gone, for good.

New NIH Director: President Obama has nominated Francis Collins, best known for leading the public effort to sequence the human genome, to be director of the National Institutes of Health. Chris Wilson at Slate looks at how Collins, an evangelical Christian, has combined his faith in God with his faith in science.

New Violence Against Women Advisor: “Vice President Joe Biden’s June 26 announcement of a White House Advisor on Violence Against Women stirred some public grumbling about President Barack Obama’s recent ‘czar frenzy,’” writes Kayla Hutzler at Women’s eNews.

“But at a time of rising pressure on domestic violence shelters, representatives of two of the largest advocacy groups for ending domestic violence were far more enthusiastic about the creation of the post. They were also excited at the naming of Lynn Rosenthal, a former executive director at the New Mexico Coalition against Domestic Violence in Albuquerque, with a substantial resume of safety advocacy and working ties to Biden.”

Here’s the White House announcement, and a New York Times editorial in favor of the appointment.

The Last Word on Sarah Palin (Fingers Crossed): Go read “Palin’s Long March to a Short-Notice Resignation,” then head over to Slate for Dahlia Lithwick’s parting shot: “[Wh]en the dust settles, the lesson may be that she was simply a woman who made no sense.”

Looking Ahead to 2012: Jill Miller Zimon wonders, “Could we see a female-female GOP ticket for president and vice president in 2012?”

Update on Conscience Clause: Kay Steiger has written a good round-up of efforts at the state level to pass legislation that allows medical professionals to refuse to provide services that violate their religious or moral beliefs.

Speaking of conscience clauses, anyone remember the federal rule instituted in the final days of the Bush administration? It cut off federal funding for state and local governments, hospitals, health plans and clinics that did not fully accommodate doctors, nurses, pharmacists or other employees who refuse to provide care they feel violates their beliefs. Aimed at abortion and family planning services, it went beyond laws that already provide for healthcare workers and threatened access to many health services, including infertility treatment, end-of-life care, blood transfusions and mental health counseling.

President Obama moved to rescind the rule, as expected, but the process has been very slow. The 3o-day public comment period on rule changes ended in April; Health and Human Services Department is still reviewing the hundreds of thousands of comments received.

Administration officials acknowledged early on that they were looking for a compromise, but we haven’t heard much more on the subject until President Obama told a group of religion reporters earlier this month that the new policy would “certainly not be weaker” than what existed before President Bush’s expansion:

We will be coming out with I think more specific guidelines.  But I can assure all of your readers that when this review is complete there will be a robust conscience clause in place.  It may not meet the criteria of every possible critic of our approach, but it certainly will not be weaker than what existed before the changes were made.

David Brody has the full transcript of Obama’s remarks.


May 24, 2009

Double Dose: Prop 8 Decision Due Tuesday; Ruling Against Tobacco Companies; Vermont Moves to Publicize Payments to Doctors; Violence Against Women Ignored and More …

Prop 8 Decision Due Tuesday: The California Supreme Court will announce its decision on Proposition 8 on Tuesday, May 26. The court’s decision will be posted online at 10 a.m.: www.courtinfo.ca.gov/courts/supreme

Check www.marriageequalityusa.org or www.equalityactionnow.org for info about where and how to organize a response.

“If we must reverse Prop. 8 at the ballot, we will do so,” Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights and a lawyer for couples in the case. “We will win – if not on Tuesday, then one day soon.”

A post-decision event is scheduled for Saturday, May 30. Marriage equality supporters from across California will “Meet in the Middle for Equality” at Fresno City Hall to celebrate or protest the Supreme Court’s ruling.

Standing Up For Her Own: Vogue’s Anna Wintour does her best to fulfill every dreaded stereotype of how fashion magazine editors regard the rest the word.

Ruling Against Tobacco Companies: A federal appeals court on Friday upheld a 2006 court ruling that found cigarette companies deceived consumers for decades about the dangers of smoking (view the decision [pdf]). From the Washington Post:

In a 93-page opinion, a three-judge panel cleared the way for new restrictions on how cigarette companies market and sell their products. Under the decision, the manufacturers will no longer be allowed to label brands “light” or “low tar” and will have to purchase ads on television and in major newspapers that explain the health dangers and addictiveness of their products.

Tobacco companies indicated that they will appeal the decision to the Supreme Court, a process that would probably put compliance with the ruling on hold for at least several months.

Vermont Shines Light on Payments to Doctors: The Vermont Legislature has passed the nation’s strictest law (pdf) concerning the relationship between the medical industry and doctors. Under the law, which will take effect July 1 (assuming the governor signs it, as expected), pharmaceutical companies and medical device makers would be required to disclose all money given to physicians and other health care providers. Natasha Singer of The New York Times writes:

The Vermont law promises to provide a window into the considerable efforts and spending by device and drug makers to woo doctors even in a small state.

Makers of medical products spent about $2.9 million in fiscal year 2008 on marketing to health care professionals in Vermont, according to a report last month from the state’s attorney general. Of Vermont’s 4,573 licensed health practitioners, almost half received remuneration, including payments for lectures, meals or lodging from pharmaceutical companies in the 2008 fiscal year, the report said.

“If the drug industry gives $3 million on average for three years now to physicians in a small state like Vermont, what is happening in California and New York?” said Ken Libertoff, director of the Vermont Association for Mental Health, an advocacy group that supported the law.

Plus: Richard A. Friedman, MD, a professor of psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College, writes about the popularity of “sexy blockbuster drugs” that are newer, but not necessarily better, and the effect that drug company marketing has on both patients and physicians.

Midwife Shortage in Mexico: IPS reports on the shortage of professional midwives in Mexico and the training at the only officially accredited Mexican school of midwifery, run by the non-profit Centre for Adolescents of San Miguel de Allende (CASA). Since the school was founded in 1997, 38 professional midwives have graduated; currently, 32 women are being trained.

Violence Against Women – Yawn: “We are so used to violence against women we don’t even notice how used to it we are,” writes Katha Pollitt, in a column on the shooting death of Johanna Justin-Jinich, a Wesleyan University student.

“When we’re not persuading ourselves that women are just as violent toward men as vice versa if you forget about who ends up seriously injured or dead, or pointing out that most murders are of men by men, we persuade ourselves that violence against women just comes up out of nowhere. Murder is serious, especially if the victim is young, white, middle-class, pretty; harassment, abuse, domestic violence, even rape, not so much.” Do go and read the rest.

Student Activists: In her first column as The Plain Dealer’s philanthropy writer, Margaret Bernstein writes about a group of high school girls who are taking on relationship violence. “These girls may not sound like philanthropists, but I think they are. They’re grass-roots philanthropists, using their actions instead of money to spark change.”

Rape Escalates in Eastern Congo: Dominique Soguel reports for Women’s eNews on the worsening sexual violence in the Eastern Congo. “Last week,” she writes, “the Congolese army came under scrutiny from the United Nations and human rights groups for its role in raping, killing and looting sprees during military operations in the two eastern provinces of North Kivu and South Kivu.

“Human Rights Watch called on the army to hold accountable soldiers involved in the rape of 143 women and girls, more than half of the 250 rape cases the organization documented in North Kivu.”

Plus: Eve Ensler, writing about the war on women in the Congo, asks: “I was in Bosnia during the war in 1994 when it was discovered there were rape camps where white women were being raped. Within two years there was adequate intervention. Yet, in Congo, femicide has continued for 12 years. Why? [...]

“What is happening in Congo is the most brutal and rampant violence toward women in the world. If it continues to go unchecked, if there continues to be complete impunity, it sets a precedent, it expands the boundaries of what is permissible to do to women’s bodies in the name of exploitation and greed everywhere. It’s cheap warfare.”


April 27, 2009

Double Dose: How Effective is Your Treatment?; History of Women, in Four Volumes; High Cost of Insurance Scares Off Buyers; Tips for Writing About Violence Against Women …

Being “Maddy”: Jennifer Finney Boylan wrote a beautiful piece about her relationship with her sons as she transitioned from male to female. Published as a New York Times “Modern Love” column, the essay was adapted from “The Book of Dads,” to be published in May by Ecco.

Determining Which Medical Therapies Work: “Good luck trying to learn what medical treatment works best to relieve low back pain, alleviate depression or prevent the spread of prostate cancer. The information isn’t available — to you or your doctor — because studies comparing potential treatments and how effective they are haven’t been done,” writes Judith Graham at the Chicago Tribune.

The story looks at the government’s plan to invest $1.1 billion in “comparative effectiveness” research and evaluate potential therapies head-to-head. Four medical experts weigh in on conditions they consider most deserving of research on comparative effectiveness. Rachel previously wrote about public input sought on research priorities.

marilyn_french_history_of_wThe War Against Women: Writing at The New York Review of Books, Hilary Mantel discusses the four volumes of “From Eve to Dawn: A History of Women in the World,” by Marilyn French. The collection is published by Feminist Press.

Words Matter: Feminist Peace Network has posted useful tips for reporting about domestic violence and sexual assault. It’s a good resource for bloggers, journalists and anyone writing about these issues.

Sticker Shock: “A new national poll, conducted by NPR, the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health, shows that what most uninsured people are willing to pay is a long way from what insurance really costs,” reports NPR’s “Morning Edition.”  “Two out of three uninsured Americans say they’d be willing to pay no more than $100 a month for coverage. But, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the average individual health plan costs about $400 a month, and a family policy costs more than $1,000.”

When Accidents Happen: According to the Guttmacher Institute, more than half the pregnancies in the United States each year are unintended; poor women are four times as likely to have an unplanned pregnancy compared with higher-income women. NPR’s “Morning Edition” looks at the use of and access to contraceptives. Reporter Brenda Wilson notes that “the health system often throws up barriers to contraception, especially for young women who are the most vulnerable.” The story, however, focuses more on one woman’s situation.

Call for More Family Planning Aid: Dominique Soguel writes at Women’s eNews about a report released Tuesday calling for aggressive investment in family planning to curb population growth, poverty and maternal mortality. Five former directors of the population and reproductive health program of the U.S. Agency for International Development recommend the United States increase its spending to $1.2 billion in the next year’s funding round from $475 million in 2008.

Also from Women’s eNews: Five women will be recognized this week for their scientific discoveries.

“There is still a very big glass ceiling for women in science,” said Milbry Polk, director of Wings WorldQuest, which runs the awards. “You don’t find them in the history books. Women are left out. Their projects aren’t.”

Search Me: One of my favorite reads last week was Dahlia Lithwick explaining how Supreme Court justices can act like total dingbats:

When constitutional historians sit down someday to compile the definitive Supreme Court Concordance of Not Getting It, the entry directly next to Lilly Ledbetter (“Court fails utterly to understand realities of gender pay discrimination”) will be Savana Redding (“Court compares strip searches of 13-year-old girls to American Pie-style locker-room hijinks”). After today’s argument, it’s plain the court will overturn a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals opinion finding a school’s decision to strip-search a 13-year-old girl unconstitutional. That the school in question was looking for a prescription pill with the mind-altering force of a pair of Advil — and couldn’t be bothered to call the child’s mother first — hardly matters.

Read the rest.


April 12, 2009

Double Dose: New Book on Drugs Used to Control Height; America Rejoins Global Reproductive Policy Discussion; Film Critics Write off Rape; The Peeps Factor …

A “Too-Tall” Medical Tale: Christine Cosgrove, co-author with Susan Cohen of the new book “Normal at Any Cost: Tall Girls, Short Boys, and the Medical Industry’s Quest to Manipulate Height,” wrote a great piece in the L.A. Times about the history of doctors prescribing DES, a synthetic drug that acts like estrogen, to girls to stunt their growth.

Why? Because decades ago, “if a girl were heading toward 5 feet 8 inches, or, horrors, 5 feet 10 inches, not only would she have trouble finding clothes that fit, she’d have a hard time finding a husband. And in the days when there were few options besides marriage and children for women, well, that left an old maid.”

Thousands of girls, including Cosgrove, took the pills. Some have experienced myriad health problems, and an Australian study found a significant decrease in fertility among those who were treated.

Check out more about the book. Here’s an interview with the authors.

America’s Back — Now What?: Linda Hirshman and Gloria Feldt wrote a commentary on the significance of the U.N Cairo + 15 meeting:

On March 31, State Department Acting Assistant Secretary for Population, Refugees, and Migration, Margaret Pollack, told delegates to the United Nations Commission on Population and Development, meeting in New York, that America was back.

Marking a 180 degree turnaround from Bush administration policies that fought international efforts to enable people to control their own reproductive fate, the U.S. will once again defend the “human rights and fundamental freedoms of women” and support “universal access to sexual and reproductive health.” [...]

The global sigh of relief was palpable. For with all its money and diplomatic resources, the U.S. is the 10,000 gorilla in international reproductive policy. Now the question is, while this is certainly change we can believe in, is it all the change we need?

Film Critics Write Off Rape: Tiger Beatdown has a great analysis of the new Seth Rogen film, “Observe & Report,” and the reviews that give a pass to the rape scene. At least New York Times film critic Manohla Dargis will restore your faith. Rachel points to more links.

Why Women Stay: Hilzoy at Obsidian Wings has written the must-read post of all must-read posts about why women stay in abusive relationships. As one commenter put it, “If I always had a hilzoy around to explain it, I think I could understand every human phenomenon in the world.”

Johns Hopkins Bans Free Drug Samples, Gifts to Doctors: “Johns Hopkins is the latest big name in health care to try to restrict doctors’ ties to the drug and device industries,” reports the Wall Street Journal. “Its new policy ‘on interaction with industry’ bans free drug samples and says doctors can’t participate in consulting gigs in which they’re essentially paid for not doing anything.”

Plus: Iowa Republican Sen. Charles Grassley asked a nonprofit mental health organization about its funding as part of his investigation into drug company influence, reports Bloomberg.

Everybody Hurts Sometimes: “Long lines come up frequently in the American healthcare discussion, the symbol of all that is to be feared about a government-run system,” writes Ezra Klein on the L.A. Times op-ed page.

And it’s true that in Canada and Britain, the two countries most often cited in discussions of what nationalized healthcare might mean, some patients report having to wait months for some elective treatments. Sometimes.

But we’ve got waiting lines too — along with 50 million uninsured and a system that costs more than twice as much per person as that of any other country. We’ve just managed to hide our lines through clever statistical gimmickry.

Debate Over Digital Health Records: The Obama administration maintains health information technology is as an essential, cost-savings component of health care reform and has set a goal for every American to have an electronic health record by 2014. But critics fear the money to implement the system will be wasted if doctors and hospitals can’t share information, reports USA Today.

“We could head for a techno-Katrina,” said Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md. “I do not want to do that, where we do a dollar dump, and at the end of the day, we have a lot of microchips floating around.”

Plus: Writing in the New England Journal of Medicine, National Coordinator for Health Information Technology David Blumenthal discusses the health IT provisions of the federal economic stimulus package — collectively called HITECH in the law. Read “Stimulating the Adoption of Health Information Technology.”

Vitamin Sales Up as Economy Falters: “Sales of vitamins and nutritional supplements, which have grown consistently for years, have surged in recent months, rising as the stock market has fallen,” writes Alex Williams in The New York Times. “People are clearly cutting back on many items, from bread and milk to designer jeans and flat-screen televisions, but they are stocking up on pills that they think can spare them expensive doctor visits.”

thelma_and_louise_peepsMy Peeps: We end on a colorful note — Tis the season of the peeps. The Washington Post displays its 40 finalists here; don’t miss Peep/Tuck and Thelma and Louise: Peeps on the Run.

Here, first place winner Melissa Harvey discusses her gorgeous interpretation of Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks” painting.

The winner of the Chicago Tribune contest created an imaginative Wizard of Peeps. And for political junkies, check out this portrayal, at TwinCities.com, of the Minnesota U.S. Senate Trial between Al Franken and Norm Coleman.


March 28, 2009

Double Dose: New Books on Reproduction, Christian Patriarchy; Michelle Obama’s Garden; The Economy’s Impact on Women; “Friday Night Lights” Scores With Sex Talk …

means_of_reproductionReading List: Anna Clark interviews Michelle Goldberg, author of “The Means of Reproduction: Sex, Power, and the Future of the World,” at Bitch magazine (and happy birthday to Anna’s blog, Isak!).

Kathryn Joyce, author of “Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement,”  talks with Religion Dispatches. An excerpt of her book can be read here.

Planting a Future: Melissa Harris Lacewell digs through the meaning of Michelle Obama planting the new White House vegetable garden. More historians, authors and gardeners weigh in at the Washington Post.

Plus: Sharkfu on nutrition, cost and Alice Waters; Mark Bittman on eating healthy, organic or not.

Dealing with the Recession: Over at Writes Like She Talks, Jill Miller Zimon put together a list of articles that provide perspective on the recession, job loss and the economic impact on women. At Women’s eNews, Mimi Abramovitz explains three new rules about jobless benefits in the stimulus package that will help women and correct a major gender bias.

Pregnant? Here’s a Pink Slip: “Last year the number of pregnancy-based discrimination charges filed with the E.E.O.C. was up nearly 50 percent from a decade earlier, to a total of 6,285. That number seems likely to rise even higher this year,” writes Lesley Alerman in The New York Times.

“Some employers are using the economy as a pretense for laying off just one person,” said Elizabeth Grossman, a lawyer for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. “And very often that person is pregnant or the oldest employee on staff. The economy may be the legitimate cause — or there may be discrimination.”

Tenn. Senate Passes Abortion Amendment: The Tennessee Senate passed a constitutional amendment that states in part, “nothing in Constitution of Tennessee secures or protects right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion.”

Rachel writes: “Supporters keep insisting that the bill does not make abortion illegal, while not addressing the fact that if this ultimately succeeds (there are several more steps for this Constitutional amendment), it makes room for the numerous restrictions often supported by anti-choice folks — such as waiting periods, forced ultrasounds, required ‘informed consent’ scripts that are not medically accurate, and so on. It also makes room for an abortion ban in the event that national protections vanish.”

Meanwhile, “Illinois could be on the verge of passing one of the most progressive reproductive health bills, the Reproductive Health and Access Act, any state has seen in a long time,” writes Veronica Arreoloa. Here are the groups supporting  the bill. If you’re a resident of Illinois, contact your legislator and voice your support.

Cost of Domestic Abuse: Women who are abused by their partners spent 42 percent more on healthcare per year than non-abused women, according to a long-term study of more than 3,000 women published online in the journal Health Services Research.  The study, summarized in this press release, also found that the increased costs don’t end when the abuse does. Women who suffered physical abuse five or more years earlier still spent 19 percent more per year on health care than women who were never abused.

Recognition for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: “We are living in a new era for persons with disabilities,’ writes Myra Kovary at On the Issues Magazine. The story details the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations and has been signed by 50 nations so far.  The U.S. has yet to sign it, but President Barack Obama has said he will do so.

Facts of Life: Sarah Seltzer praises “the sex talk” on one of my favorite television shows, “Friday Night Lights,” and compares it to a conversation from over a decade ago on “My So-Called Life.”


March 9, 2009

Double Dose: Where’s the Media Coverage of Breast Cancer and Environmental Causes?; New Report on Sex Education in Florida; Gender Neutral Prounouns; Domestic Violence and Technology …

Overlooking Evidence: “When it comes to breast cancer, why is it so hard to get the most influential media to pay attention to the possibility that, in addition to better-understood risks, unnatural substances entering women’s bodies might also be a factor?” That’s the million-dollar question in this Fair! analysis on the surprising dearth of news coverage on environmental hazards and breast cancer. An excellent report by Miranda Spencer.

Skimping on Care: More than a third of people surveyed have skipped medical check-ups or dental visits over the past year due to concern over health care costs, and 27 percent have put off getting needed health care, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s first health care tracking poll of 2009.

Supreme Court: No Legal Shield in Drug Labeling: The Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that people injured by drugs can sue the drug manufacturer in state courts, even if the drugs were approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

“The ruling could have significant implications beyond drug manufacturing,” writes Adam Liptak at The New York Times. “Many companies have sought tighter federal regulation in recent years in part to shield themselves from litigation.”

The case involved a Vermont woman, a musician, whose arm had to be amputated following an injection of the anti-nausea drug Phenergan. Levine sued the drug maker Wyeth because Wyeth had not changed the label indicating that one method of administering the drug had a small risk of error which caused irreversible gangrene. Nina Totenberg did a good report on the ruling. The NPR link also includes excerpts from the oral arguments heard last November.

Sunshine State Keeps Teens in the Dark: The Healthy Teens Campaign of Florida and the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) have released a report on failed abstinence-only sex education programs in Florida’s public schools: “Sex Education in the Sunshine State: How Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Programs Are Keeping Florida’s Youth in the Dark” (pdf).

“[O]ur research has exposed both the state’s appalling indicators of poor outcomes for young people and the equally appalling nature of how abstinence-only-until-marriage programs have become pervasive throughout the state,” writes Adrienne Kimmell at RH Reality Check.

Him/Her/They: Elizabeth Landau at CNN reports on the history of the search for gender-neutral pronouns, an issue that has recently been taken up on Twitter. An interesting story.

On the Issues: Good reads in the On the Issues Magazine cafe, including Diana Whitten‘s look at Women on Waves, a Dutch organization that provides on-ship abortions in international waters for women from countries where it is illegal. Women on Waves recently won an important victory in the European Court of Human Rights. And don’t forget to check out the winter issue, which features stories on topics from ratifying CEDAW to Second Life.

Moving Reproductive Services Off-Site (Six Feet Away): From Women’s eNews: For more than a decade, a hospital merger in New York state was held up by abortion politics. Last week, community activists gathered for a ribbon-cutting ceremony marking their hard-fought compromise. Rebecca Harshbarger reports.

Plus: Emily Douglas points to this Albany Times Union op-ed on the implications of a possible merger between two secular hospitals and one religious hospital in Rensselaer County, New York. The merger raises questions about reproductive health care for patients and employee health insurance benefits, since Catholic directives prohibit coverage for contraception.

In Translation: Over at Sociological Images, a blog sponsored by the American Sociological Association, there’s been some debate over the English and Spanish versions of a pamphlet for pregnant women offered by Kaiser Permanente. Kaiser provides a response.

The Economic Future and Women’s Roles: The Chicago Foundation for Women looks at how the stimulus package affects women’s economic security.

Teaching Domestic Violence Victims Safe Use of Technology: Via this press release, I learned about a Washington state program designed to help victims of domestic violence by increasing their knowledge of how to use technology safely.

“Domestic violence is built around control, not anger, and an abusive partner often limits a woman’s access to information and support. Monitoring computer activity is one of many ways to control a spouse,” said Jerry Finn, a University of Washington Tacoma professor of social work who also evaluates the effectiveness of human services programs.

The training covers how to prevent such things as identity theft; concealing browser history; how to be safe in a chat room; how to set up an e-mail account without using a real name; and how to prevent being followed with a GPS device. What a smart idea.

Welcome Particle, Wave, Astarte and …: To apologize for the late Double Dose, I offer some cute overload, via feminist poet and performance artist Diana Tigerlily, who also raises goats.

Meet the newest ones — five in all, if my counting is correct. Makes me think two dogs and two cats may not be enough : )


March 1, 2009

Double Dose: Report on Public Funding and Family Planning; Women in Iran; Teen Girls on Chris Brown & Rihanna; Doctor Wins Sex-Discrimination Suit; Where You Live Determines Dietary Health …

Publicly Funded Family Planning Programs Make Sense: This new report (pdf) from the Guttmacher Institute on the essential role of family planning shows the pay-off: prevention of nearly 2 million unintended pregnancies and more than 800,000 abortions each year, saving billions of dollars.

“Report co-author Rachel Benson Gold called the family planning program ‘smart government at its best,’ asserting that every dollar spent on it saves taxpayers $4 in costs associated with unintended births to mothers eligible for Medicaid-funded natal care,” reports the AP.

Iran’s Women Are Taking On The Mullahs: “Iranian women, and not just the sporting queens or Nobel prize winners, are standing up to the mullahs. And some of them are experiencing a frightening political backlash,” writes Katherine Butler at The Independent. A strikingly good story, it provides an in-depth look at life in Iran. Grab a cup of coffee and settle in for this one.

Sex-Discrimination Suit at Boston Hospital: Dr. Sagun Tuli, a 39-year-old neurosurgeon, filed a lawsuit against her employer, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and her boss, Dr. Arthur Day, the chairman of the neurosurgery, alleging a hostile work environment and retaliation against her when she complained.
After a seven-week trial, a jury agreed and awarded Tuli $1.6 million, reports the Boston Globe.

Read more analysis from Vanessa Merton at Feminist Law Professors.

Facts Matter Most: When you need to be reminded that kids today are (generally) all right, check in with Mike Males, a senior researcher for the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice in San Francisco who also heads up YouthFacts.org, which aims to debunk media myths, such as all girls are “girls gone wild.”

Star Tribune columnist Gail Rosenblum recently wrote about a lecture Males gave, sponsored by the University of Minnesota’s Konopka Institute for Best Practices in Adolescent Health, that separated fact from fiction.

Plus: Here’s a great response to the media coverage of Chris Brown & Rihanna, penned by Alex Pates, 15, and Ansheera Ace Hilliard, 17, members of the Chicago-based Females United for Action. FUFA is a youth group that works on issues of violence against women and media justice.

Beautiful Cervix Project: It took a headlamp and a lot of mojo, but photos of a cycling cervix are now available. From the author’s introduction: “I am a 25 year old woman who has never given birth.  My intention with this project was to better understand my cycle and the changes in my cervix throughout the month. As a doula and student midwife, I used this project to help me see how a cervix might look different throughout the cycle in the absence of vaginal infections and to understand speculum exams.”

Another Sign of the Financial Crisis: We know advertising standards have loosened over the years, but it took an economic downturn for some media outlets to let alcohol and sex ads go prime time, reports the L.A. Times.

Food/Access Studies: There’s new research out linking the availability of healthy food and the quality of one’s diet with place of residence. The studies, by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, appear in the March 2009 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and the December 2008 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

“Place of residence plays a larger role in dietary health than previously estimated,” said Manuel Franco, MD, PhD, and lead author of the studies, in this release. “Our findings show that participants who live in neighborhoods with low healthy food availability are at an increased risk of consuming a lower quality diet. We also found that 24 percent of the black participants lived in neighborhoods with a low availability of healthy food compared with 5 percent of white participants.”

Paging Mr. Whipple: A Toilet Paper Crisis: “The national obsession with soft paper has driven the growth of brands like Cottonelle Ultra, Quilted Northern Ultra and Charmin Ultra — which in 2008 alone increased its sales by 40 percent in some markets, according to Information Resources, Inc., a marketing research firm,” writes Leslie Kaufman at The New York Times.

“But fluffiness comes at a price: millions of trees harvested in North America and in Latin American countries, including some percentage of trees from rare old-growth forests in Canada. Although toilet tissue can be made at similar cost from recycled material, it is the fiber taken from standing trees that help give it that plush feel, and most large manufacturers rely on them.”


February 21, 2009

Double Dose: The VBAC-lash; Agreement on Health Care Reform?; Teen Sexual Harassment in the Workplace; Bye Bye Go-Daddy …

Searching for Common Ground: Robert Pear of The New York Times reports on an apparent consensus emerging among key players in the health care debate:

Many of the parties, from big insurance companies to lobbyists for consumers, doctors, hospitals and pharmaceutical companies, are embracing the idea that comprehensive health care legislation should include a requirement that every American carry insurance.

While not all industry groups are in complete agreement, there is enough of a consensus, according to people who have attended the meetings, that they have begun to tackle the next steps: how to enforce the requirement for everyone to have health insurance; how to make insurance affordable to the uninsured; and whether to require employers to help buy coverage for their employees.

Health Care “Reform” is Not Enough: “Most current health care reform initiatives, including those of Barack Obama, focus on providing wider access to health insurance. They do little to address the underlying problems with our health care system,” writes Susan Yanow in On The Issues magazine. Yanow identifies the top five problem areas for women with our insurance-driven health system.

Plus: This list of 10 ways to spend less on health care during a recession is well-meaning, but the list assumes a level of privilege that leaves out millions. I keep thinking of this story from last week.

“Is Your Daughter Safe at Work?”: The PBS program NOW has collaborated with the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University on an unprecedented broadcast investigation of teen sexual harassment in the workplace. Check your local PBS station schedule for air dates.

The NOW website has a terrific collection of useful links and resources, as does the Schuster Institute, including an interactive map with links to information about specific teen sexual harassment cases gone to court. Keep in mind the map reflects a tiny proportion of probable cases. Kudos to EJ Graff for kicking off this project with her article, “Is Your Daughter Safe at Work?,” published in Good Housekeeping in June 2007.

The Trouble With Repeat Cesareans: “Much ado has been made recently of women who choose to have cesareans, but little attention has been paid to the vast number of moms who are forced to have them,” writes Pamela Paul at Time magazine. “More than 9 out of 10 births following a C-section are now surgical deliveries, proving that ‘once a cesarean, always a cesarean’ — an axiom thought to be outmoded in the 1990s — is alive and kicking.” A good look at the VBAC-lash.

North Dakota House Passes Egg-as-Person Bill: “On Tuesday, one body of North Dakota’s state legislature voted, 51-41, not only to ban abortion, but to define life as beginning at conception. Such a measure, considered extreme even by pro-life standards, would have far-reaching consequences on women’s health,” writes Kay Steiger at RH Reality Check.

Understandably, Rachel Has Some Concerns …: About a proposed Tennessee bill that calls for testing some pregnant for alcohol and drugs.

Gone Daddy Gone: I couldn’t agree more with Creativity magazine editor Teressa Lezzi, who writes at AdAge.com:

After this year’s Super Bowl, I just couldn’t do it anymore. As it was, any time I had to log on to Go Daddy I felt some combination of embarrassment and annoyance at the registrar’s approach to women and marketing. But after its execrable ad efforts around this year’s game, I found that I just couldn’t stomach contributing anything to this organization any longer. I’m transferring my domains and my insignificant little piece of business elsewhere.

GoDaddy turned me off years ago because of its super lame ads, though I sometimes have to deal with the company for other clients. If sexist advertising isn’t reason enough to stay away, GoDaddy’s user interface sucks.

Cervical Cancer Vaccine Usage in California: A study by UCLA’s Center for Health Policy Research found that one in four teenage girls in California  — about 378,000 out of 1.5 million — received at least one dose of the Gardasil vaccine in 2007, its first full year of distribution, reports the L.A. Times.

Truth Catches Up: Remember the eye-catching “truth” anti-smoking ads? Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the American Legacy Foundation estimate that the nations’ largest youth smoking prevention campaign saved $1.9 billion or more in health care costs associated with tobacco use. The findings appear in the Feb. 12 online edition of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. The American Legacy Foundation, which launched the ads in 2000, spent $324 million to implement and evaluate the truth campaign.

Plus: Cigarette-maker Philip Morris was ordered to pay $8 million in damages to the widow of a smoker who died of lung cancer in a case that could set the standard for 8,000 similar Florida lawsuits, reports NPR.


February 18, 2009

Calling All Chicago Readers to “Yes Means Yes”

Jaclyn Friedman, co-editor of “Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power & A World Without Rape” (and also the organizing force behind WAM!) is heading to the Windy City for two public appearances on Thursday, Feb. 19.

First, Friedman and book contributor Hazel Cedar/Troost will speak at Jane Addams Hull-House Museum. Contributor Lee Jacob Riggs will join them Thursday night at Women & Children First bookstore for a reading and discussion about fighting sexual assault while celebrating women’s sexual agency. I’ll be there with bells on.

For a closer look at some of the topics the book covers, check out our interview with contributors Lisa Jervis and Brad Perry.

There are two stops left on the “Yes Means Yes” virtual book tour. Tomorrow, Radical Doula hosts a Q&A with Hazel/Cedar Troos. On Friday, Feministe hosts the grand finale conversation with Rachel Kramer Bussel, Toni Amato, Javacia Harris, Kate Harding, Stacey May Fowles, Hanne Blank & Heather Corinna. You can also keep up with ongoing coversations inspired by the book at the “Yes Means Yes” blog.


February 5, 2009

Yes Means Yes: Q&A With Lisa Jervis & Brad Perry

Today we’re pleased to present an interview with two outstanding contributors to “Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power & A World Without Rape,” a collection of essays recently published by Seal Press.

Lisa Jervis, the founding editor and publisher of Bitch magazine, and Brad Perry, sexual violence prevention coordinator at the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance, take on popular perceptions of rape and what needs to be done to transform regressive attitudes toward sexual violence — in both the media and among young men.

In “An Old Enemy in a New Outfit: How Date Rape Became Gray Rape and Why it Matters,” Jervis deconstructs the latest blame-the-victim terminology. Perry’s essay, “Hooking Up With Healthy Sexuality: The Lessons Boys Learn (and Don’t Learn) About Sexuality, and Why a Sex-Positive Rape Prevention Program Can Benefit Everyone Involved,” revisits advice Perry received as a teenager and the more enlightened strategies he has encountered in his work.

Ultimately, they grapple with how to create an atmosphere for a healthy and empowering sexual experience for both women and men.

Please add your thoughts on the discussion, or your questions for Lisa or Brad, in the comments. And don’t miss the next stop on the “Yes Means Yes” virtual book tour: a live chat on Feb. 9 at Shakesville with co-editor Jaclyn Friedman.

Our Bodies, Our Blog: What is the allure of so-called “gray rape” for anti-feminists? How does it help serve a conservative agenda?

Lisa Jervis: The construct of gray rape does two things: it minimizes rape, seeks to make it seem like less of a big deal — if it was a “gray area,” can it really be that bad? — and it also justifies victim-blaming and its close friend, slut-shaming. This actually serves anti-feminists in two really different ways, though they’re both pretty much classics of sexism and misogyny.

The minimizing encourages an attitude of, “What are all those angry women complaining about now?”; and almost every feminist issue has been minimized at some point over the history of the struggle for gender equality.

The victim-blaming part is even more disturbing, as it updates and revitalizes one of the biggest obstacles to transforming rape culture. And it’s particularly insidious because of how it cultivates self-doubt and self-blame even more than previous victim-blaming discourses have. And, especially when paired with slut-shaming — which makes women and girls feel bad about the existence of a strong sex drive and any entitlement they might feel to (gasp!) satisfy their desires — it serves as an attempt to keep a tight cultural lid on women’s sexuality. It’s an updated and vastly more complex version of “good girls don’t.”

OBOB: Brad, how has the notion of “gray rape” complicated your teachings?

Brad Perry: In my experience, the attitude about acquaintance rape (which is what the term “gray rape” is usually referring to) amongst most policy makers, many students, and a good chunk of the general public has not changed drastically since it first entered the public’s awareness 20 years ago. There has been some progress in getting people to understand that usurping another person’s sexual autonomy is rape under any circumstances, but old mindsets die hard.

In that context, the gray rape thing just seems like more of the same but with a new name — as Lisa eloquently discusses in her essay. The only way my work has been complicated by the notion of “gray rape” is that now people have a convenient label. I don’t think it’s necessarily changed many people’s minds on whether or not to take acquaintance rape seriously — the people who are going to deny it are usually going to find a reason to do so until something happens to change their mind — but it has given those folks some hip new contemporary language to dismiss acquaintance rape.

We’re a country found by patriarchal religious fanatics who were (among other things) obsessed with denying human sexuality, so it’s not at all surprising to me that we keep revisiting the issue of social control over women’s sexualities. That’s not too say I think we should throw our hands up and say, “Oh, well” — in order to remember how much history we have to overcome so that we don’t lose our minds trying to make progress.

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