Weekly Feminist Reader

Jessica tackles the question of whether women-only spaces are an appropriate answer to harassment.
Even after they’re forced to register on an online database pledging to not get pregnant, more than 120 women who take Accutane became pregnant in the past year.
How Muslim feminist artists are confronting perceptions of women’s place in their religion — and in the art world.
Eugenia Chien on why unmarried women aren’t a voting bloc.
A woman loses a lot of weight after a health problem, and is disturbed when strangers keep telling her how good she looks, and asking who her nutritionist is.
The number of family-leave discrimination suits continues to rise.
A really disturbing article ponders whether some men choose to kill their wives rather than divorce them.
A woman sues her ex, claiming he gave her HPV
The quiceanera industry seems on pace to match the wedding industry: a heady combination of girl culture and consumerism gone wild.
On gender bias in comics.
More about a Los Angeles sportswriter’s decision to publicly document her transition.
GOP presidential candidates validate anti-contraception activism.
Latest stupid political/fashion trend piece asks, “Just how sexy is a first lady allowed to be?”
How autistic girls may be different from autistic boys.
More on the “legal loophole” that lets white men who abuse American Indian women get away with it.
How the Bush administration politicized global reproductive health.
An Army private is sentenced to 110 years in prison for raping and murdering a 14-year-old Iraqi girl.
Remembering feminist theologian Letty Russell.
Can Elizabeth Edwards secure the votes of women who aren’t inspired by her husband?

Join the Conversation

  • http://www.feministstotherescue.blogspot.com FEMily!

    I started taking isotretinoin 10 days ago and so had to sign up for iPLEDGE. I knew there was a reason this program bothered me. Why not trust women? Now that I know that iPLEDGE did nothing to prevent pregnancy in women taking isotretinoin, someone somewhere really needs to answer that question for me. I regulate my sexual activity fine myself, thank you very much. I don’t need the federal government to do it for me.

  • Julianne M

    Jessica’s article was right on the money.
    Women’s only spaces only provide a appearence of safety/comfort – in the end we should as she said reach out and change boys and men rather than hide from them.
    Unlike her though i don’t make a big fuss on the train or bus – i just feel scared and intimidated easilly.

  • Mina

    “Not all women-only venues are mired in paternalism. Girls’ schools, for example, are touted as places where pupils have the confidence to speak more openly than they would in a mixed class.”
    Doesn’t that vary from school to school, though? I’m reminded a bit of the girls’ schools in this article:

  • m_m_ides

    FEMily, I’m starting on Accutane this month so I was very interested in that article too. I’m glad to know that I have to get blood drawn and take a pregnancy test every month for essentially no effect. I have used BC effectively for years and am quite confident that I’ll continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
    I loved how the article said that manufacturers were going to ask for less stringent prescription rules for everyone but at-risk women. The rules have done nothing for at-risk women, except cause us to waste extra time and money. Can we just admit that some women will have BC failures, no matter how many quizzes and blood tests we have to take?

  • Jeremy F.

    Jessica’s article is pretty spot-on. Women-only spaces do nothing to get rid of the root cause of the problem. It only takes one moron to ruin a woman’s day by groping her or (my personal least favorite) asking her out then insulting her when he gets turned down.
    That Native American woman abuse article is a real downer. “the tribe did not have criminal jurisdiction over the non-Indian husband. Local and state authorities didn’t have jurisdiction either because the victims were Indians.” Talk about a worthless legal system. In another life, I am a vigilante armed with a cricket bat of justice that I use to rain vengeance down upon scum like that guy in the article. (Conversely, in another life I am a lawmaker who makes sure situations like this don’t occur, but that’s decidedly less fun than being a cricket bat wielding vigilante.)

  • Nicole

    The iPLEDGE program is downright insulting to adult women! I’m starting my third round of Accutane next month(I have to wait 30 days because of the idiotic program.). They are penalizing all women who take it because of the irresponsibility of a few. They should simply focus informing women of the risks, and trust them to be responsible. We will be the ones that have to deal with the consequences if we do become pregnant. We should be in control of how we want to deal with the risks.

  • UltraMagnus

    I just want to chime in on the 5th article about losing weight after stress. I haven’t lost any weight from stress but I do struggle every day against my belly.
    I am what you would call a “thin” woman and I know this because everyone around me tells me I’m thing but in my mind I can’t get over my belly, which one could say I have a kind of “pouch” or, what I call a pot belly. It drives me insane and when I was between jobs and could afford to go to the gym I was doing an hour (sometimes more) of cardio trying to burn the calories to get rid of the belly but I believe my stomach is due to genetics more than anything which frustrates the hell out of me. It’s gotten worse since I’ve been living in L.A. and I know I’m punishing myself (not eating that bagel, cutting out all artificial sweets going to the gym after work when I’m dog tired) for nothing but it is something that’s hard to get over. Every time I think I have it beat I see a magazine photo (knowing full damn well it’s photoshopped) and I’ll resign myself to the challenge again to “get in shape” aka get rid of my not flat belly, though I don’t need to. It’s a cycle I hope to break someday.

  • Pup, MD

    m_m_ides, that monthly blood draw has a pretty significant effect, if you care about your liver at all.
    Why not trust women? That’s never been the issue in any discussion I’ve heard around this registry. The registry has always been about insuring physicians do their job as educators. And it creates a valuable means by which the FDA can track one of the most controversial drugs on the market. Former estimates of the number of Accutane pregnancies were based on signal case reports, which are notoriously biased and unreliable. The registry was an excellent idea, and some excellent ideas don’t pan out.

  • http://www.herveryown.com Akeeyu Buttmansion

    Regarding weight loss, I was recently incredibly ill and lost twenty pounds, going from a 14 to a 4. I felt like utter shit.
    Do you know how hard it was to convince the DOCTORS that I was sick? “You look healthy,” they would insist. I hated them.

  • http://writingevolution.blogspot.com cest.la.vie

    There are also some carnivals up right now:
    Feminist Carnival 42, hosted by Uncool.
    Carnival Against Sexual Violence 28, hosted by abyss2hope.

  • http://writingevolution.blogspot.com cest.la.vie

    There are also some carnivals up right now:
    Feminist Carnival 42, hosted by Uncool.

  • http://writingevolution.blogspot.com cest.la.vie

    Carnival Against Sexual Violence 28, hosted by abyss2hope.

  • Nicole

    I went on Accutane before the registry, and it was impossible to not know the risks of getting pregnant on Accutane. On every flap to get to on of the pills is a do not get pregnant warning. I had to sign a statement saying I knew the risks and about various birth control methods. I had to take a pregnancy test before I could get a prescription. If I got pregnant after that I would only have myself to blame. This new program treats women like they are children(and stupid ones at that). It goes above and beyond informing women. It instead polices them and makes treatment less effecient…and all because a few women were irresponsible.

  • http://writingevolution.blogspot.com cest.la.vie

    Sorry– it appears the Feminist Carnival link didn’t quite work. Trying again:
    Feminist Carnival 42, hosted by Uncool.

  • Linda Flores

    On the Accutane thing — I don’t understand why the prescribers don’t require women to get on non-user dependent methods, like Depo-Provera or an IUD? Or perhaps they could require periodic checks to see that the right amount of birth control hormones were in her system (if that’s possible to detect)?

  • Taisa-Marie

    On the quiceanera issue, I live in an area where quiceanera’s are the big ‘thing’ to go to. If someones friend’s second cousin twice removed is having one, you go. They may be pretty, fun, and an equivilant to a sweet 16, but the discussion has come up more than once in my first year (college freshman) courses. All the girls seemed to agree, that is when the push towards motherhood and marriage started. Any boy they liked was a potential husband in their families eyes. It became ok to just be ‘ok’ in school instead of excel. Jobs were discouraged unless it was babysitting or at a child care center.
    I keep copies of some of the papers my students write in the first-year class. Below is a quote from one girl’s paper when they had to reflect on struggles they had getting to college.
    “I was no longer a girl, playing games were out of the question. My sharp wit that I had always been told was cute I was now told no man would ever love me with a tongue like mine. Anytime I would want to go out with friends, if there was even one male in the bunch I was told that it wasn’t ladylike and that they didn’t spend all that money on my quiceanera for me to do this to them, to shame them. I have almost $6,000 in loans and it is only my first semester. I was told that if I wanted to throw away my culture and never get married (what they thought me going to college was doing) I had to do it on my own and out on my own.”

  • Julianne M

    The only thing i didn’t like about Jessica’s article was her attack on pink as “sexist” – there’s nothing wrong with pink in itself and plenty of us like it.

  • Mina

    BTW, anyone else here heard of the cincuentañera? :)

  • SarahMC

    UltraMagnus, I struggle with the exact same issue. I’m of average size, I guess, but my tummy paunch makes my body look so weird, IMO. I exercise moderately but no amount of cardio or crunches puts a dent in my belly. And people will be like, “You’re not fat; what are you talking about!?” And I know I’m not a “fat” person but I’m terribly self-conscious about how disproportionate I am. I’ve been asked about my (non-existant) pregnancy on numerous occassions. It’s because I look average from the back but 4 months pregnant from the side. If I could afford it I’d definitely get lipo or a tummy tuck.
    Unfortunately, it’s only going to get worse. My tummy fat is genetic, for sure. My mom, her mom, her sister and my female cousins all have the exact same issue. Thin legs, average hips, round gut. It’s like the least attractive body shape imaginable.

  • http://www.elizabethkateswitaj.net ekswitaj

    The article about gender differences in autism really struck a chord with me, as I myself am a woman with Aspergers. I was surprised to learn that systematizing with words as opposed to numbers was typical of women on the spectrum; that’s certainly part of how I approach writing poetry.
    Something I have experienced socially that may be influenced by gender is that, when I try to explain my autistic traits and that I may not understand things, I’m often accused of being manipulative. Because people continue to attribute to me the social intelligence that women are expected to have, it is assumed that I must be playing dumb in order to gain some sort of advantage.

  • Mary B

    there’s nothing wrong with pink in itself and plenty of us like it.
    I don’t think she was demonizing just the color pink, but rather the “pinkification” of products that are marketed to women and girls. If you think the color pink doesn’t have any imagined gender ramifications, try to get a dude to try on a pink shirt. (I’ve had an easier time trying to get a cat to take a bath!)

  • werechick

    On the Accutane thing, isn’t the appropriate course of action fairly obvious? I don’t see why they went all police state on it, when the logical choice would be something like this:
    XYZ (woman) is proscribed the drug. XYZ’s doctor informs her of the risk should she get pregnant while on the drug or the month after. Doc offers pregnancy test, and then XYZ goes home with her prescription. What’s so hard?

  • Fiz

    On the weight loss issue, I can relate to the author. I often work in Central America and after a long bout with an intestinal parasite, I got very sick and ended up dropping to about 85 lbs (not healthy for my 5’4� frame!). I had to go through my hometown on the way to the hospital (where I needed an iv and serious meds just to feed my body) and EVERY SINGLE person I saw said something about how “great� I looked!
    It was like an episode of the twilight zone. I was on my way to the hospital, I couldn’t keep solid food in my system at all, I was almost too weak to walk, but I looked great….I began to wonder if people would be even more impressed if someone was just wheeling around my skeleton. That was the first time I realized how profoundly sick we are as a nation when it comes to beauty ideals.

  • Ari_L

    Accutane. Ugh. I took this as a 17 year old fundie virgin in high school. It was really nice to have my blood drawn every month for pregnancy testing in case I immaculately conceived. I would understand it better if my MD had told me they were *also* monitoring other important things with that test . . .
    However, I became insane depressed and spent the last two weeks of the treatment cowering under a blanket and weeping. I stopped taking it early after I almost refused to go to prom because I felt “too sad.” It would have been nice if they kept as good tabs on the emotional side effects . . .

  • marle

    Linda, I think requiring a specific type of birth control is a little much, don’t you? I was on depo at one point and I had some bad reactions, and the worst part was that I had to deal with them for three months, I couldn’t just stop taking a pill and be back to normal. I can’t imagine how upset I’d be if a doctor had told me I’d have to stay on it in order to receive other necessary medicines. IUDs aren’t acceptable as the only other alternative, because they’re painful to get and some women’s uteruses are too small for them. There’s also the issue of what if something goes wrong. My friend has had one for 4 years, but now it’s gone wrong, and she’s bleeding randomly and cramping and she’s probably fertile again, but her insurance company won’t pay for it to be removed since it’s been in for less than 5 years. That’s bad enough, but what if after they finally removed it they required her to get a new one or lose another one of her medicines?
    Women should be counseled when they are on a medicine that can cause birth defects, but they shouldn’t be forced into anything. They should choose the method of birth control they want, or even be able to choose nothing as long as they know all the risks. I also really don’t like the forced monthly pregnancy tests they appearently have to take to be on that drug. Can’t we just trust women to be responsible for themselves?

  • Rock Star

    Another article that fucking pisses me off-

  • keshmeshi

    In respect to the Accutane issue, the blood draws are to check liver functions and cholesterol, not pregnancy. Urine tests are conducted for pregnancy, which makes sense. If you accidentally got pregnant while taking Accutane, wouldn’t you want to know immediately so you could discontinue the medication? That’s kind of the purpose of those monthly pregnancy tests.
    Also, the registry may very well be a protection against lawsuits. Many women have sued prescribing doctors and pharmaceutical companies over Accutane-related birth defects. They were informed of the risks (or rather had the risks beaten over their heads for months), got pregnant and had the baby anyway, and then sued. Unfortunately, we all have to pay the price for the actions of a stupid few.

  • http://lawfairy.blogspot.com The Law Fairy

    UltraMagnus and SarahMC, I feel your pain. For me it’s not my belly but my butt and thighs. I’m a perfect pear shape, and I can’t tell you how much I hate it. Even when I’m at my skinniest (I was at 125 for a while at 5’7″) my thighs still touch in the middle. I can’t wear shorts when I weigh over 135 or so, because EVERY SINGLE PAIR will ride up. I have to buy pants and sometimes skirts two sizes larger than my shirts or dresses. I’m incredibly self-conscious about it too, and to add to matters, the other day a guy told me I was “thick,” meaning it as a compliment because HE thought “thick” women with some “meat” on them were “sexy.” I don’t think I need to explain to this crowd why it was one of the most offensive “compliments” I’ve ever received in my entire life.
    I look “thick” because I have mondo sausages where I should have thighs. From the waist up I look downright skinny. God DAMN my stupid butt and thighs.
    As for accutane, a good friend of mine is on it and she mentioned this registry to me. This is unbelievably demeaning. Why don’t we also require women over 35 on birth control to prove they don’t smoke? Why don’t we also require regular testing for men’s hearts if they have a prescription for Viagra? Why don’t we require people on anti-depressants to make monthly visits to their doctors to make sure they’re not experiencing seizures, hallucinations, paranoid ideation, or the host of other potential anti-depressant side effects? If the concern is lawsuits, have them sign a fucking waiver for Christ’s sake. If the waiver demonstrates they’ve been specifically informed of the risks, NO court is going to buy that they didn’t know. It will be clear they acted recklessly.
    And here’s another thought: if you’re looking at giving birth to a severely deformed child, um, how about abortion? If you have moral qualms about it, then I guess you’d just plain better be more careful. Oh, but heavens to mergatroid no, we can’t act like abortion is EVER in ANY CASE a responsible, even compassionate, decision.

  • cat126

    Long time reader, first post here. As far as the weight loss issue goes, I got a tonsillectomy during my winter break of 2006 and I had complications- a tiny blood vessel didn’t heal properly and broke(on New Years Eve of all times!). It is extremely rare, my doctor hadn’t seen complications like that since 2004! But it prolonged my healing time long enough so that I didn’t eat any solid food for a month, and when i went back to school everyone kept telling me how great I looked. I had no energy, I was dizzy all the time..basically I’d never been so miserable in my life.

  • marle

    keshmeshi, what if you were, say, a lesbian on accutane, or a virgin like Ari_L? How would you feel if they still made you take a pregnancy test every month, even though you hadn’t been having sex with men and you weren’t planning on it? Wouldn’t you feel that was a little redundant or invasive?

  • Eudoxia Smithereens

    Another Asperger woman here, delurking to say the Times article also resonated with me. Like the girls in the article, I also had a really involved fantasy life, with most of my childhood spent pretending, drawing pictures or writing stories. That’s actually the one way in which I deviated from the usual diagnostic criteria for autism; one of the things they look for is a lack of pretend play or imagination! But since those things seem to be so abundant in me, and in the autistic girls profiled in the article, maybe that’s a function of the autism criteria being drawn mostly from boys.

  • Persephone

    Fuck yeah! The army guy got 110 years for rape! Granted, he did kill her and her entire family, but I can at least dream about rapists getting 110 years in prison for their crimes.

  • Nicole

    “In respect to the Accutane issue, the blood draws are to check liver functions and cholesterol, not pregnancy. Urine tests are conducted for pregnancy, which makes sense. If you accidentally got pregnant while taking Accutane, wouldn’t you want to know immediately so you could discontinue the medication? That’s kind of the purpose of those monthly pregnancy tests.”
    They only give blood tests(at least with me and everyone
    I know who took it). Before this program they only required them for the first month unless the women or doctor prefered to have them each month. This program takes control away from the doctors and women and puts it in the hands of the government.

  • http://trailerparkfeminist.blogspot.com trailer park chick

    I REALLY don’t understand how women wind up pregnant on Accutane. I took it when I was about 16 (1996), and the risks were drilled in to my head. The doctor even showed me pictures of the defects that would happen if I got pregnant. He was going to make me go on birth control, but I was a virgin and I didn’t want to have a pelvic exam, so he gave me a really serious talk. I think he even told me that I would HAVE TO have an abortion if I got pregnant (and this doctor was a real pro-life, Christian type). But I wasn’t worried.. there was no chance of me getting pregnant with my face covered with giant, festering pimples. I’d never even had a boyfriend.
    For me, Accutane was a life-saver. My acne was about as severe as it can get, and NOTHING else worked. Accutane was the absolute last resort, and it worked wonders. After a few months, I didn’t even recognize myself anymore. It was like I had been wearing a scary Halloween mask for the past 5 years, and I was seeing my face for the first time since I was a little kid. It’s a really good drug for people with the worst of the worst acne.

  • Human Bean

    Felt like chiming in on the weight-loss article… It’s really depressing how common that experience seems to be. In my case, I lost about 30 pounds when I first went away to school. I was feeling great, because in my case it came from eating a healthier diet and going from no exercise to walking everywhere and practicing tae kwon do three or four times a week. But then I went home, where I was surrounded by a constant chorus of “You look so good!”
    (So how did I look before?)

  • scamps

    Oh my god, I’m actually on a bandwagon! I’m yet another woman with Asperger’s.
    The article was almost frightening – it’s one of the few things that has described me to a T.

  • http://www.feministstotherescue.blogspot.com FEMily!

    “But I wasn’t worried.. there was no chance of me getting pregnant with my face covered with giant, festering pimples. I’d never even had a boyfriend.”
    Same here. I actually wanted to put “my acne-ridden face, you assholes” as my primary form of birth control. But that wasn’t an option!
    I have to take monthly pregnancy tests at the dermatologist’s office while on Accutane. The blood test is to monitor cholesterol. I guess at one point only the blood test was used.