Weekly Feminist Reader

Birth mothers react to Juno.
Ellen DeGeneres speaks out about the murder of 15-year-old Lawrence King, who was killed because he was gay.
A Japanese video game is about a young woman who is rejected by boys because of her “tremendous size.” In playing the game, “You are that young woman and your mission is weight loss by way of exercise, diet, and mini-games.” Ugh.
Military maternity leaves are awfully short.
On proudly identifying as a “bitch, ballbuster, battleaxe, ballcutter.”
A high-powered networking society is now required to admit women.
Tennessee considers whether to make paternity tests mandatory for every baby born in the state.
As we gear up for the Texas presidential primary on Tuesday, the NY Times had a piece on the history of female leadership in the state.
A nice essay on supporting the notion of Hillary Clilnton, and how that’s separate from supporting the candidate herself.
Public service announcement: You can be a devout Muslim and not wear hijab.
Arizona considers a measure that would undermine the rights of pregnant women.
A 16-year-old girl was raped by four teenage boys, and used MySpace to figure out her attackers’ identities. When police got a warrant and searched their MySpace accounts, they found details of the attack.
Writes Kavita N. Ramdas, of the 2008 election: “What is alarmingly absent from our conversations and arguments, even as they allude to race and gender, is any sense of how our decisions affect the well-being of people across the planet–not least the status of women, 51 percent of us, who are being treated with appalling brutality around the globe.”
More after the jump…


Obama’s open letter to the LGBT community. Pam documents the rabid right-winger response.
Another disgusting “reality” TV offering.
Some right-wingers in Banda Aceh are claiming the 2004 tsunami was punishment for women getting too uppity. (via Muslimah Media Watch.)
Radar names the most misogynistic movies of the decade.
Break the Cycle has new report cards on how the states stack up when it comes to how they deal with teen dating violence.
A new study on Canadian women and body image yields some depressing results.
Joel Stein = truly awful.
Gender essentialists study the campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, and promptly freak out because not everything conforms. Can you believe that he displays some stereotypically feminine traits, and she some stereotypically masculine traits? No way!
The Catholic Church assures pro-choice voters they’re going to hell. (Wheeee!)
An Australian artist shows an exhibit of porcelain vaginas.
Speaking of not funny
Researchers say many women avoid seeing the doctor because they dread the weigh-in beforehand. That’s so incredibly sad.
A man put ground-up abortion-inducing pills in his girlfriend’s yogurt.
Remember that Legal Momentum report on abstinence-only education I mentioned awhile ago? Well, they held a briefing on Capitol Hill, and Kay Steiger documented what happened when the virginity-or-death crowd showed up.
A moving essay from novelist Tayari Jones.
New Australian PM Kevin Rudd seeks to convene 1,000 of the country’s “greatest minds” to come up with new solutions to old problems. Now he’s under fire because, surprise surprise, that group doesn’t include many women.
African lesbians demand rights and respect.
The NY Times has a big feature today on sex-segregated education. Most of it is a big ad for the bullshit ideas of Leonard Sax, which we’ve written about before.
The Slog names awesome activist Kim Justice “lobbyist of the year.”
Professor Andrea Smith was denied tenure at the University of Michigan. brownfemipower has a statement of support that explains the backstory.
Two important pieces in the Guardian tackle the connection between misogyny and violent crime against women.
Hillary Clinton’s campaign accepted a donation from a firm that has a long record of sexual harassment.
A Princeton feminist writes about Courtney’s visit to campus.
Wow, this Apple ad makes me proud to be a PC-user. UPDATE: As with the most offensive ads, these are also just spec ads and not officially Apple-sanctioned.
Actions and Events
On Tuesday, UCLA is screening a documentary about body image, our perception of beauty, and celebrity culture.
Women’s Voices, Women’s Vote is asking you to vote for your favorite female blogger.
Brooklyn-Queens NOW is holding an International Women’s Day celebration on Saturday, March 8. Info here. (PDF)
Goods 4 Girls seeks to broaden access to reusable menstrual pads.
Join the online rally for paid family and medical leave!
Tuesday is pro-choice lobby day in Minnesota.

Join the Conversation

  • UCLAbodyimage

    MORE ON THE BODY IMAGE MOVIE SCREENING AT UCLA – BRING YOUR FRIENDS!
    There is a free screening next this Tuesday night in Haines 39 of a documentary about body image called America the Beautiful. The director Darryl Roberts is going to be there for Q and A
    DESCRIPTION
    Making its Los Angeles premiere, “America the Beautiful” by Chicago director Darryl Roberts was the culminating film of the night. In his feature-length documentary, Roberts strives to reveal the truth about the American beauty industry from plastic surgery to cosmetics to the overpowering influences of the media.
    The true story of Gerren Taylor serves as the narrative thread that ties his piece together. Roberts chronicles her modeling career from the moment when, at 12 years old, she made fashion history as the youngest runway model to be signed by L.A. Models, through her high school years when her career began to unravel.
    Roberts shows her innocence in juxtaposition with the sensual and superficial realities of the modeling world, exposing the palpable exploitation of a young girl who learns after years of ego-boosting and flattery that her value as a human being lies only in her beauty.
    After seeing the adverse effects of such superficial ideals during years of firsthand encounters with the beauty industry, Roberts was led, as he admits at the end of his documentary, to call every man he knew and encourage them to tell the women in their lives that they are beautiful just the way they are.
    “America the Beautiful” won a Special Jury Prize for Best Director at the Chicago International Film Festival and also won the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of the Child Award at the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival. Any individual who has been touched by the realities of the beauty industry in America should see this film.

  • jeremyinternational

    Hey Ann, I was initially upset to see that ad about Apple too. Something didn’t seem right though, so I did some research. That ad is not official Apple. Apple advertises so rarely that I would have heard of that ad campaign (and would have thrown a fit.) That ad was made by a company that sells Apple products in the Middle East. Their website looks official but is not. International Apple websites still start with apple.com. Just thought you’d want to know. Kudos on your FU to the Academy. I’ve thought the same.

  • libdevil

    Tennessee considers whether to make paternity tests mandatory for every baby born in the state.

    It’s easy enough to see the appeal of this one. A man has a right to know when another man is using his property, especially when that property is damaged.

  • libdevil

    Tennessee considers whether to make paternity tests mandatory for every baby born in the state.

    It’s easy enough to see the appeal of this one. A man has a right to know when another man is using his property, especially when that property is damaged.

  • Mina

    I just remembered this article too:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7269848.stm
    “Egypt has appointed a woman to conduct Muslim marriages for the first time.
    “Amal Soliman, 32, has broken centuries of tradition by being chosen as a judicial assistant who officiates at weddings, known as a maazun.
    “Some commentators are saying she is the first female in the Muslim world authorised to conduct religious marriages…
    “…As a maazun or notary, Ms Soliman will read verses from the Koran at ceremonies, sign marriage certificates and authorise divorce contracts.
    “She will work in the town of Qinayat east of Cairo where her father-in-law also conducted marriages until he died recently.
    “Ms Soliman has told the Egyptian press that as a woman she will be able to check the bride really wants to marry the groom and is not being forced by her family…”

  • Syrith

    Response to the New York Times: “Teaching Boys and Girls Separately,” 3-2-08
    Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/02/magazine/02sex3-t.html
    From the article: “Among advocates of single-sex public education, there are two camps: those who favor separating boys from girls because they are essentially different and those who favor separating boys from girls because they have different social experiences and social needs.”
    I belong to a camp of folks who acknowledge the likelihood of certain probabilistic behavioral and even mental differences between male and female children (and adults), but who argue that the distinction between “essential difference” and “learned difference” is immaterial, because MOST OF IT IS LEARNED. In other words, both camps are probably right, and almost definitely in some cases, but 97% (or 90%, or 99% – I don’t care) of the differences in behavior and learning expressed between boys and girls derive from distinctive (read: unequal and oppressive) treatment of each group in the service of societal heteronormativity, masculine bias, and “performance” (see Judith Butler) of sex-specific gender roles.
    But I’m not letting the group that sex-segregates men and women because “they have different social experiences and social needs” off the hook, either. What I don’t understand is why these people aren’t trying to change the social CAUSES of these different experiences and different needs, instead of just throwing up their hands, accepting the inequality as inevitable, and embracing segregation!
    Can you imagine the outrage about their argument, if we were talking about race instead of gender? That blacks and whites should be segregated in schools, because even though they’re “essentially” the same, they have different social experiences and needs, so we’ll do better to separate them? They made this argument in the Jim Crow era: it was a trite euphemism known as “separate but equal.”
    We need to address the root causes of gender oppression and unequal educational achievement, not indulge the problem (and subtly endorse its causes) by segregating students, further worsening understanding between the children themselves that they’re 97% the same inside, and completely misunderstanding their needs.
    It really frustrates and disappoints me that it’s not until the FINAL paragraph of the 7-page article that someone has the courage to point out another big assumption: “Given the myriad ways in which our schools are failing, it may be hard to remember that public schools were intended not only to instruct children in reading and math but also to teach them commonality, tolerance and what it means to be American. “When you segregate, by any means, you lose some of that,â€? says Richard Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation. “Even if one could prove that sending a kid off to his or her own school based on religion or race or ethnicity or gender did a little bit better job of raising the academic skills for workers in the economy, there’s also the issue of trying to create tolerant citizens in a democracy.â€?

  • judgesnineteen

    The story about King was so sad, but the article on it really irritated me. Only 18% of gay kids are harassed at school? You put only before that? And 60something percent heard homophobic remarks, but there was about the same amount of sexist remarks, so that makes it ok. I don’t even know what that’s supposed to mean. Maybe the organization they were talking about does exaggerate the amount of violence against gay kids, I don’t know, but the article rubbed me the wrong way. Granted I didn’t even finish reading it, I just started saying “only? what?” and decided to comment…

  • waxghost

    No kidding, judgesnineteen. Somehow that article goes from the tragedy of the shooting to teasing/bullying happens but it’s not that bad and we shouldn’t increase hate crime laws? What a convoluted mess.
    Also, as someone who was teased/bullied incessantly, across several different schools, for supposedly being a lesbian merely because I didn’t act like I was female according to my classmates, I would never dismiss teasing/bullying so casually. It hurts, and it has long-lasting effects, no matter how few people it (supposedly) happens to.

  • tommythegun

    Syrith, it’s great that you argue what you will. How much of gender roles have been learned by elementary school children, enough to lead to the achievement gap, is a debatable issue. Likewise, is the proposition that, what did you call it, “heteronormativity, masculine bias, and “performance” of sex-specific gender roles” somehow contributes to that gap, which clearly now prejudices against boys.
    When someone can provide a demonstrably effective way of changing whatever “social causes” lead to that gap, enough to address the concerns of parents and educators, then perhaps they’ll have something useful and relevant to provide. Until then, we have to deal with the very real and significant inequities that are being created by that achievement gap, and will persist. Having “tolerant citizens of a democracy” won’t address nor substitute for that.

  • Syrith

    tommythegun: you’re absolutely right that we have to respond to the inequities that do exist right now, not just plan for a future without them (though I think that’s important, too!).
    But you indicate that no one is offering effective ways to change some of these social inequities. Isn’t that the entire point of this blog community – dialoguing about and developing personal and political solutions to the gender inequities we collectively face?
    I’d suggest that there are many approaches (through policy, as well as on a personal level) to build a level playing field for girls and boys, that would result in greater educational achievement (both by the fairly stupid measure provided by No Child Left Behind, as well as by more intelligent metrics that evaluate children as human beings and citizens of the world).
    If single-sex (what I call sex-segregated) education can address some of these underlying social causes, that’s a good thing – and I think that’s be the most effective and fair defense of the practice. The article suggests just that about a school in Harlem that is sharing a message of personal self-worth and empowerment with girls.
    But what you and the article fail to question is whether in and of itself, single-sex education also inadvertently WORSENS these social inequities and strengthens gender-role-performance and gender difference, just by taking boys and girls away from a forum in which to interact and get to know one another in real life.
    It’s possible that single-sex education takes one step forward (in some cases) to empower girls, and two steps back at the same time.

  • tommythegun

    Syrith, I think that things will have to go a bit beyond blogs and dialog to have much credibility. The single-sex proponents are operating schools and basing things on their own research. One can critique their research, and their methods, and can question the viability of the methods they use to assess results and tout their solution. That’s all fair game. But, like it or not, their proposal is being offered to fill a gap for parents, educators, and policymakers who have the issue to face in the here-and-now, with each year of kids who enter schools, pass through each grade, and graduate. Unless and until a viable alternative emerges, those stakeholders are going to have to go with what apparently works.

  • Syrith

    tommy – fair enough. I think there are good reasons to wonder about the research, and even if you think this is a fair option to offer, there are reasons to question making it compulsory (the outcome of public school districts like the one in Georgia switching to single-sex only education).
    I posted my thoughts in more depth on this diary on Daily Kos, and folks are getting into a grand debate about it! There’s a poll and everything… :)
    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2008/3/2/183315/5109/305/467509

  • dedf

    Re: Newsweek article
    “…emergence of the first serious woman candidate for presidency…”
    Now even a woman (Hillary) cannot hold the title of ‘first serious women for presidency’. No, that has to go to a man.
    disgusting: A woman can’t even get the job of being a woman. And we expect workplace equality?

  • muzaic

    Re: weighing in at the doctor’s office – I didn’t grow up in the US, and when I moved here I was surprised and somewhat indignant at the bizarre custom of weighing in before every doctor’s appointment (this never happens in Israel). This regardless of whether one is clearly within a normal weight range, or whether body weight has any relevance to the complaint for which the patient is seeking attention (skin ailments, sore throat – I’m surprised I’m spared at the dentist’s). Why do I need to weigh in before every visit with the gyno, even though I’ve been there before and clearly have not undergone any major weight swings? what does my weight have to do with my pap smear? Couldn’t a doctor get any necessary info on a patient’s weight just by eyeballing it (definitely underweight, healthy range, definitely over); or at least reserve weighing (in private, of frickin’ course) to the few cases when it’s actually relevant to the issue at hand? All the more so if it’s actually keeping women from seeking medical care! I don’t even particularly mind being weighed in public, and I still feel a vague discomfort – it’s very strange, somehow infantilizing or objectifying- and I can’t help feeling that it has to do with the american obsession with weight.

  • kemp

    Muzaic – I don’t totally disagree with you (I, for one HATE weighing in at the doctor’s office, although luckily I have only ever had to do it in private), but I just want to point out a couple of things. First, changes in weight CAN be related to a lot of different things. You bring up skin ailments, for example. I had very severe acne when I was younger and nothing worked to get rid of it. I was not overweight, but I had had some weight gain since my last check-up. Thanks to my doctor’s astute observation (and weighing in), it turned out my body was producing way to much testosterone, which was causing both symptoms and could have had very serious consequences down the road if I hadn’t gotten treatment. I feel uncomfortable about having doctors “eye-ball it” because the issue is an unexpected CHANGE in weight (up or down), not that you are obviously overweight or underweight.

  • Mina

    “Muzaic – I don’t totally disagree with you (I, for one HATE weighing in at the doctor’s office, although luckily I have only ever had to do it in private), but I just want to point out a couple of things. First, changes in weight CAN be related to a lot of different things…”
    Good points. Also, my annual check-ups include both weight measurement and height measurement. My doctor is nice and gives the impression that it’s just a measurement to her, not a value judgement (likewise, I would hate stripping in public but feel comfortable letting her see me naked because I know she won’t condemn me for what she sees). Maybe some other doctors are jerks about collecting this kind of data?

  • lyndorr

    Wow, people are skeptical of Obama’s promises. One commenter would rather vote for McCain than Obama because at least he “knows he hates them.”
    Aren’t all maternity leaves in America awfully short? And half of workers in America don’t have paid sick leave??? Wow.
    What is the logic behind paternity tests benefiting children? Are child support payments actually based on who is the biological father? Like if a man chooses to care for a child for ten years and then leaves he doesn’t have to pay child support payments if he’s not the biological father? What if he knew he wasn’t the biological father?
    Just wondering, if a mother is known to be addicted to meth, what is the chances she will get to keep her baby? Isn’t meth pretty controlling of one’s life? Or could one still provide the baby what they need? I’m really ignorant on the effects of meth addiction. I’ve just heard it’s quite addicting.

  • http://hrhinnyc.blogspot.com Hillel

    Add me to the list of Obama skeptics. Frankly, the American Left is weakened by his type of divisiveness.
    And, Syrith, I hear ya … Re: Newsweek article
    “…emergence of the first serious woman candidate for presidency…”
    I share in your disgust when you write, “Not even a woman (Hillary) cannot hold the title of ‘first serious woman candidate for presidency’. No, that has to go to a man.”
    Senator Clinton has a proven record of pro-woman and pro-minority leadership. She had the power to galvanize the Party’s realists.
    Senator Obama has many more years of work in the US Congress before he’ll prove to me that he’s a “serious woman candidate for president.” He’s a bit too late, however, to be counted as the first.

  • Nattles

    On the Arizona bill:
    I understand this one. I think these women need to have the right to terminate their pregnancies, but if they choose to keep the babies, they have a responsibility to do what they can to make sure they don’t fuck it up while its still in the womb. And yeah, meth-addicts make terrible parents, and you really don’t want them taking care of defenseless babies. And meth is bad.
    The “child abuse against a fetus” part of the bill is a little scary, and could be used to prevent abortions, which is really scary.

  • http://pocochina.livejournal.com pocochina

    I avoid doctors appointments because of the weigh-in, though I’ve recently started working up the courage to tell them no. My pediatrician did so much damage when I was suffering from disordered eating and I still haven’t come to terms with it all. I’m sure I’m not the only one.

  • BeezNeez

    Weighing at the beginning of an exam can be important.
    I was ill and lost 5 pounds. It wasn’t very evident from just looking at me, so eyeballing wouldn’t have done much. But those 5 pounds dropped me from “normal” to “on the verge of being underweight.” So my GI was able to take note of that and recommend to me that I try to gain the 5 pounds back.
    If he didn’t weigh me every time, then he wouldn’t be able to give this advice until it was extremely serious and completely showing. I would probably have to be down to 90 pounds or so to start looking truly sick, since I’m only about 5’3″. As it was, he could catch it immediately. Before I even got under that magical 104 mark.
    Maybe that’s not useful for everyone. But if your doctor notices that you’ve gained or lost 5-10 pounds very suddenly, it can provide some insight into your health, and they can help you reverse this or prevent further rapid loss/gain. 5-10 pounds isn’t always obvious, but can be evidence of, for example, thyroid problems.
    In this country, no one weighs me. They asked when I registered at the hospital, and I wrote down a number. But I do monitor my weight at home to make sure that I don’t have any sudden gain or loss.

  • manthd

    As for the “Speaking of not funny” cartoon, I thought it was pretty funny when I got to the caption:

    The cartoonist’s wife left him the next day.

  • http://womenshealthnews.wordpress.com Rachel

    I have commentary from 2/18 on the proposed Tennessee legislation here.

  • kemp

    I have trouble taking Obama’s letter to the LGBT community seriously. I just can’t get over the McClurkin incident.
    http://feministing.com/archives/008003.html

  • EG

    I understand the weighing-in thing. About a year and a half ago, I started losing weight inexplicably. No-one every figured out what it was, but over the course of a couple months I lost twenty pounds with no sign of stopping. I felt completely hideous and disgusting…and also, of course, deeply worried. It was one thing to be going to the doctor to figure out what this was, but I also had to weigh in every time I went to the pulmonologist to follow up on my asthma or to the OB-GYN and I found that horrible. Every time I stepped on the scale I could hardly bear to look at the number; I felt like every single time I stepped on the scale I weighed less, that every nurse who took my weight was either thinking that I had an eating disorder or that I was trying to lose weight or that I was lucky to be that skinny or whatever. I kept apologizing every time I got on the scale. I hated it.
    Fortunately, that was temporary. But if it weren’t…yeah, I can see that affecting going to the doctor.

  • ~asha

    RE: Banda Aceh, why don’t these guys ever figure that (insert natural disaster) has occurred because they’re treating half the human race like shit?

  • http://www.ibloviate.org jer_

    re: paternity tests
    “It’s easy enough to see the appeal of this one. A man has a right to know when another man is using his property, especially when that property is damaged.”
    Or, you know, it could aid women in getting support they deserve… or helping men not have to pay support for a child that isn’t theirs…
    but it’s probably the property thing.. that makes more sense and isn’t even a little bit paranoid.

  • meeneecat

    I’m glad that Ellen chose to speak out about the murder of this boy. I have watched her show and at times I got frustrated when certain important things happened that related to the LGBT community and Ellen remained silent. I don’t put all the responsibility on her shoulders, but it’s nice to hear her speaking out for the things she cares about. Although, I do understand her reason for not saying much on her show about certain LGBT issues. I understand that she doesn’t want to be perceived at being political to a mostly straight audience.
    Although it is my view that gay rights should not be perceived at being controversial because gay rights are human rights! People, especially those that are in the public eye, should not be afraid to talk about the subject, the more it gets discussed the more non-controversial and “mainstream” the issue will become. I mean what is so controversial about human rights?
    Although I was upset about what happened to the boy, but I am glad Ellen spoke about this because look at all the attention that it has gotten because of her!
    I also am glad that Obama spoke out to a mostly Christian crowd about this issue as well. Clinton has also been very vocal about LGBT rights, she is my senator and has marched in the parades here and has been fairly consistent in advocating for fair treatment of gays.
    I guess one of my big frustrations is that the issue of gay rights is still seen as controversial to many politicians, talk show hosts, and any other persons in the public eye. The public needs to be informed that gay rights are not controversial, because they are human rights, the more people, like Ellen, that speak up about this issue the farther we will come in achieving equal rights.

  • s. pisaster

    I agree with those who’ve noted that weighing patients before exams is actually pretty important. I went to the doctor once because I was just not feeling well generally, and the first thing she said to me was “Do you know you’ve lost ten pounds in the last six months?” It was the first clue I had that I might be suffering from depression (one I ignored for many months after but anyway…) They weigh you to see if there’s been any dramatic fluctuations that could indicate an underlying problem, not to humiliate you.

  • meeneecat

    Regarding the proposed legislation that forces “care” on pregnancy women. I am so sick of hypocritical drug legislation designed to “protect us from ourselves”. All this bill will do is discourage addicts from seeking care during their pregnancies – a definite disservice to women and their babies; all this will do is hurt them. Aside from the fact that the drug war is racist, expensive, more harmful than the actual drugs themselves, and doesn’t work, this horrible piece of legislation will only cause more problems, while ignoring any real, smart solutions that could actually help these women (like offering assistance to drug addicted women without threats and force). This legislation will no doubt have a much bigger effect on poor and minority women too whose children will risk spending their childhood in the foster care system because of this and other laws.
    I hope that health organizations and the people of Arizona speak out loudly enough about this bill to get it trashed.
    It’s also terrible that they are still pushing the myth of the drug addicted baby – the “meth” baby- because I thought this myth had already been debunked by scientists and the AMA. I remember reading a letter to the media from scientists and medical organizations asking them not to push the myth of drug babies because it’s all untrue and unproven. Looks like they need to send this same letter to the legislatures and lawmakers.

  • LlesbianLlama

    Obama’s open letter to the LGBT community is pretty pitiful. This is coming from the man that hangs out with gay-bashing gospel singers and refuses to use the word “marriage” in his discussion of LGBT rights. I understand that he [and Clinton as well] is a far cry from what we’re dealing with from the Republicans, but it’s pretty sad nonetheless.
    That anyone is even bothering to criticize him for writing it is sort of beyond my comprehension. Then again, most of what the Republican party does on a daily basis is so ridiculous that it’s beyond my comprehension…
    just ew all around.

  • http://impersonated.blogspot.com FeministMe

    I am emotionally drained right now. I have seriously about had it.
    MY BOYFRIEND asked me to explain some things about feminism to him, and EVERY time I said something, he responded that, “Well, that’s more than a female issue. That’s a such-n-such, issue more likely.”
    He completely failed to see more than just a bit of validity in feminist argument.
    I need comfort.

  • Farhat

    Is that boyfriend drop dead gorgeous or really rich? Why are you hanging out with a guy like that?

  • Clips

    Llama: Makes me glad that my boyfriend’s a feminist who gets even more ardent than me at times.

  • Tofurific

    Look, it’s more than a little ignorant to think that drug use during pregnancy will have no negative affects on a developing fetus and that the myth of the “drug” baby has been debunked. I just read a pretty in depth article about it from the Harm Reduction Journal (it’s free access): http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=419718
    The article makes the point that while the “discovery” of the crack baby problem was way overblown at first, the pendulum has swung dangerously far back to times when we thought the placenta was a rather impermeable layer. Drugs like meth have definitely been linked to higher incidences of developmental disorders and behavioral problems. You could argue that being raised in a home with drug-addicted parents is the cause of these problems, but they have also looked at the difference between siblings who were and were not exposed to drugs during fetal development, and some differences still persist, thus, it would be unwise to turn a blind eye to the potential for harm. They’ve also done research interviews with women who used meth during pregnancy, and even they admitted that when strange things would happen to their developing child, like spasmodic fetal movements associated with the timing of getting high.
    The point though, is that kids exposed to drugs during fetal development are not typically “damaged goods” (as was implied during the exaggerated “crack baby” epidemic), but they may very well have different needs than children not exposed to drugs during fetal development, and it’s important to be aware of that if that’s the case. It does no good to dispel myths about the problem by writing off the entire problem. There has to be a workable middle ground.
    Meth is a huge hot-button issue here in Arizona, because there is a big problem with addiction. I understand that meth is one of the most addictive illegal drugs and that its use does not decline during pregnancy like most other drugs. However, I resent that the meth problem was used to frame this bill since it will get a lot of people riled up simply because of the topic of meth. I just don’t see how it’s ethical to require in-house treatment for meth-addicted pregnant women, but not alcoholic pregnant women, or cigarette addicted women (etc. etc. etc.). There’s a disparity here that is not based on the potential harm to the fetus. I also find it a terrifying that a bill like this would set a precedent that once you become pregnant, for certain issues the government can dictate what you can and cannot do to your body, and they can use force to make you comply. It’s also strange that they can have a judge order to hold the woman until sufficient evidence is brought to court (like the immediate issuances of restraining orders prior to sufficient evidence being brought to court)…I mean, what if she plans on having an abortion? She could still be held, it seems.
    I agree completely with meeneecat that a bill like this will discourage pregnant meth-addicts who want help from seeking the help they need, because they will fear the repercussions if they speak out. If people were serious about ending the meth problem and avoiding the issue of pregnant meth-addicted women, they would get serious about reducing the number of meth houses around town and institute better programs for meth-addicted teenagers and adults. The article I linked made a big point about how drug rehabilitation and treatment centers were mostly designed for men, and the vast majority of centers will not even accept a pregnant woman for treatment (due to liability for issues if the fetus experiences withdrawals similar to what the woman would be experiencing). Most treatment centers are also not family friendly, and will not allow a woman to bring her children, and the centers are often not connected with any sources of affordable childcare.
    It’s also EXTREMELY upsetting that they have buried a sick little gem in the bill to change the definition of a “child” in our child abuse laws to mean “a person under the age of 18, AND INCLUDING AN UNBORN CHILD.” They claim that the intent was not to put abortion rights in jeopardy, but refusing to clarify such in their bill speaks to their motives, which are at best dangerously thoughtless and at worst incredibly devious. I hope Napolitano shelves this if it passes.

  • tommythegun

    There’s something that’s being missed about the talk about meth-addicted pregnant women. Using meth is against the law. Possessing meth is against the law. Both are a felony in Arizona. Whatever other rights a person may have to their body, they do not have a right to use meth. One can debate the merits of drug prohibition, but that is the law as it stands.

  • Mina

    “I understand this one. I think these women need to have the right to terminate their pregnancies, but if they choose to keep the babies, they have a responsibility to do what they can to make sure they don’t fuck it up while its still in the womb.”
    More accurately, if they choose to make other people, then they have a responsibility to not do stuff that will result in those other people’s bodies being hurt (after you give birth, it’s not part of your body anymore).
    “The ‘child abuse against a fetus’ part of the bill is a little scary, and could be used to prevent abortions, which is really scary.”
    Indeed.
    “I mean, what if she plans on having an abortion? She could still be held, it seems.”
    Good point.
    You know how the law has penalties for drunk drivers after they’re caught driving drunk, instead of penalties for drinking in bars just in case they drive afterwards? A penalty for hurting a child would make more sense than a penalty for using drugs during pregnancy just in case a child is hurt later.

  • A male

    “A penalty for hurting a child would make more sense than a penalty for using drugs during pregnancy just in case a child is hurt later.”
    I am afraid sense is not always a part of lawmaking or leadership, as women have seen.*
    I believe lawmakers consider it easier to condemn and penalize all use of drugs (or alcohol or tobacco) during pregnancy, than to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that they are the cause of any harm or developmental problems which show themselves upon or after birth.
    *On that note, I am reading that some Democrats consider it more important to nominate a candidate that can defeat McCain, as opposed to deciding which of Sen. Clinton or Sen. Obama would make a better leader. I was unaware that these qualities were mutually exclusive. Sad.

  • A male

    Harm in any *individual* child, that is. How much simpler to blame low birth weight or poor lung development on the simple fact a woman smoked and punish her for it, than to explore and treat other possible reasons a child may be born or develop a certain way.

  • http://bowleserised.blogspot.com Bowleserised

    Maybe Diablo has to write a sequel to Juno?
    I’ve always been gobsmacked by those pro-lifers who insist that abortion is more traumatic than carrying a child for 9 months, giving birth to it, holding it, then giving it away.

  • judgesnineteen

    FeministMe, I’m sorry. I have someone like that, too, but not my boyfriend. It’s really hard to see someone who cares about me blow off everything I say about something really important to me. But sometimes people just need time to get over some initial defensiveness or aversion to the f-word. I don’t know what the case is with your boyfriend, but I hope you feel better one way or another.

  • http://www.feministgal.blogspot.com feministgal

    re weigh-ins: it’s not the actual weighing me before each doctor’s visit part that bugs me, it’s the unnecessary and offensive commentary that goes along with each weigh-in. The RN thinks she’s making small talk with her words of encouragement but it’s really unbelievable how much value someone’s weight and apprearance has to others. I am well within my “healthy” weight-range and yet the woman who weighs me at most visits likes to say things like “oh it’s at a 1/2lb, don’t worry i’ll round down to make you feel better” oh OR my favorite was this assumption filled comment from last time: “Are you married? No? The boys must be breaking the door down for you!” I get generational differences and i even get people trying to be nice and flattering but is it bad that all i want to do is scream: “STOP ASSUMING I’M STRAIGHT, STOP ASSUMING I’M ‘SEARCHING FOR MY SOUL MATE’ AND STOP PUTTING SO MUCH PRESSURE ON WOMEN TO LOOK A CERTAIN WAY!!!!” and punch them in the face?
    /rant :)

  • http://astraeasscales.blogspot.com Geek

    FeministMe, I can sympathize. I have similar issues with my mother’s husband. I stayed with them while I went back to school for a couple semesters for a career change, and his condescending attitude of entitlement about almost every social issue angered me in a way I can’t even express.
    I also dated a couple guys when I was younger who had really sexist views.
    I can’t offer more than sympathy. From my experience, it’s not worth staying with guys like that, but others have had better luck educating people in their lives.

  • lyndorr

    “But sometimes people just need time to get over some initial defensiveness or aversion to the f-word.”
    It’s true. Some people have just never heard the feminist arguments and only culture’s arguments. When I first started discussing feminist things with my boyfriend, he would give the typical annoying arguments people give and I got worried. But now he doesn’t object to being called a feminist, sympathizes with me, and even notices sexist things I don’t notice. But then there are people who will never listen and understand.
    I am not sure about the meth law. I want to say ideally everyone with a meth addiction could be offered help, not just pregnant women (and I realize the law talks about forcing, not just offering). I think a ‘war on drugs’ is stupid but there is a difference between the effects of marijuana and meth. Something should be done about drugs but it can never be agreed what.
    And yes, gay rights should be human rights. Somewhere someone made an argument that thoughts should not be criminalized but since they are for other groups, why wouldn’t there be hate crimes against gay people in the law? I don’t understand that.

  • caiis

    lyndorr: “And yes, gay rights should be human rights. Somewhere someone made an argument that thoughts should not be criminalized but since they are for other groups, why wouldn’t there be hate crimes against gay people in the law?”
    Or hate crimes against women (based on gender), for that matter?
    The only crimes based on “race, color, religion, or national origin” are currently considered hate crimes.

  • lyndorr

    I didn’t know that priestesssarah. I looked up Canadian law and it says judges are encouraged to “consider in sentencing whether the crime was motivated by hate of: the victim’s race, national or ethnic origin, language, colour, religion, sex, age, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation or any other similar factor.” It is also illegal to publicly communicate hatred toward most of the above groups (including sexual orientation but not sex). Interesting.

  • meeneecat

    Tofurific, in response to what you said “It’s more than a little ignorant to think that drug use during pregnancy will have no negative affects on a developing fetus and that the myth of the “drug” baby has been debunked.” First of all I did not say that drugs will have no negative effects on the baby whatsoever, what I did say was that the myth of “meth babies” and “crack babies” is just that, a myth. It is not fact, nor has it ever been proven by science. I did not just imagine the letter that I read from doctors and scientists about the myth of “meth babies” and “crack babies”. And yes the myth of drug addicted babies IS a myth. Well, I think it is you who are pushing the propaganda about the “meth baby”. And please note these myths are harmful to women because it’s the “scare factor” that causes lawmakers to create this sort of legislation. Please see the following link for an article referencing the letter.
    http://www.jointogether.org/news/yourturn/commentary/2005/meth-science-not-stigma-open.html
    Just for quickness sake here’s a quote:
    “The use of stigmatizing terms, such as “ice babies” and “meth babies,” lack scientific validity and should not be used. Experience with similar labels applied to children exposed parentally to cocaine demonstrates that such labels harm the children to which they are applied, lowering expectations for their academic and life achievements, discouraging investigation into other causes for physical and social problems the child might encounter, and leading to policies that ignore factors, including poverty, that may play a much more significant role in their lives. The suggestion that treatment will not work for people dependant upon methamphetamines, particularly mothers, also lacks any scientific basis.”
    “Throughout almost 20 years of research, none of us has identified a recognizable condition, syndrome or disorder that should be termed “crack baby,” said the letter. “Some of our published research finds subtle effects of prenatal cocaine exposure in selected developmental domains, while other of our research publications do not. This is in contrast to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, which has a narrow and specific set of criteria for diagnosis.”
    “Addiction is a technical term that refers to compulsive behavior that continues in spite of adverse consequences. By definition, babies cannot be “addicted” to crack or anything else. In utero physiologic dependence on opiates (not addiction), known as Neonatal Narcotic Abstinence Syndrome, is readily diagnosed, but no such symptoms have been found to occur following prenatal cocaine exposure.
    Despite the lack of a medical or scientific basis for the use of such terms as “ice” and “meth” babies, these pejorative and stigmatizing labels are increasingly being used in the popular media, in a wide variety of contexts across the country. Even when articles themselves acknowledge that the effects of prenatal exposure to methamphetamine are still unknown, headlines across the country are using alarmist and unjustified labels such as “meth babies.””
    This letter was signed by over 30 prominent scientists, researchers, and doctors, in the field, you can also view the signatures with the article. Furthermore, Tofurific, the article you gave the link for mostly talks about cocaine, methadone and heroin it does not discuss that effects of methamphetamines on fetuses (which is what the Arizona law is talking about). In fact your article said specifically that the authors have not investigated any longitudinal studies on meth exposed babies to be able to make a conclusion. “Longitudinal studies of development in methamphetamine-exposed children are just beginning”. So I don’t think you can make a conclusion based on the article you referenced about meth being harmful to babies, since it doesn’t even cover the topic of meth exposed babies. And this is the point I am trying to make, there has been no research or study that anyone can point to that proves the myth of the “meth baby”. Thus no one can make the claim that the idea of “meth baby” or “crack baby” is scientific fact.
    I just wanted to clear that up, because these myths are very harmful to both women and children. It apparently is the reason the Arizona legislature is constructing these harmful laws. Lets hope someone lets these legislatures know that the whole “meth babies” thing, is just a myth and not scientific fact, and that voluntary help, treatment and simple access to care for mothers, will be much more effective than force and punishment.

  • Mina

    “How much simpler to blame low birth weight or poor lung development on the simple fact a woman smoked and punish her for it, than to explore and treat other possible reasons a child may be born or develop a certain way.”
    Good point, there can be multiple factors and jumping to conclusions is stupid. Sadly, I’ve seen multiple factors used as an excuse to jump to a conclusion: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/7237663.stm
    “re weigh-ins: it’s not the actual weighing me before each doctor’s visit part that bugs me, it’s the unnecessary and offensive commentary that goes along with each weigh-in. The RN thinks she’s making small talk with her words of encouragement but it’s really unbelievable how much value someone’s weight and apprearance has to others.”
    What a jerk!

  • Tofurific

    Meenecat, I should have been clearer. I know that the majority of the article I linked was discussing cocaine, I just thought the article also had a good discussion of how difficult it is for pregnant women to obtain good treatment and how ignoring the potential for harm (even though the jury is out on many illegal drugs) is a dangerous mindset. When I mentioned that there was evidence that meth use during pregnancy has been linked problems later on, I wasn’t referencing the article I linked.
    Other than that, I think you should go back and re-read my post. I wasn’t pushing propaganda of “crack babies” or “meth babies,” and nowhere did I express support for the idea of fetal/infant addiction (I only mentioned “fears about withdrawal” as one of the reasons that pregnant women can encounter difficulty being admitted to treatment facilities). In fact, my post brought up one of the points in the letter you posted…e.g. that the children born to mothers who used drugs during pregnancy are not typically “damaged goods.” Why did I include the qualifier “typically”? Alcohol is also a drug and does result in some very specific patterns of damage.
    Really, we agree more than we disagree. I just don’t believe the myth of the “drug” baby has been substantially debunked (I’m not talking drug-addicted baby here, I’m talking about a baby with problems caused by fetal exposure…maybe we’re using the term differently). There is obviously still a lot of controversy over the extent to which fetal drug exposure can increase the likelihood for other problems. Things like low birth weight have already been linked to meth use, and low birth weight can be linked to other problems, etc. etc. It’s difficult to conduct research on something like this, though, so there is not a huge wealth of information available to definitively point us in one direction or the other.
    Saying that there is a potential for harm and recognizing that those children *may* have different needs at some point is in no way stigmatizing. It is the stigmatization of illegal drug use that causes stigmatization of those children. To avoid that stigmatization, you would have to overhaul society to see addiction as a true disease, rather than a weakness.
    I also don’t think that evaluating the fact that a child with problems was exposed to drugs during fetal development means that people will ignore other causes for developmental/behavioral problems. If they DO ignore other possibilities, then the answer is not to get stop looking to fetal exposure as a possible factor in the problem, the answer is to better educate doctors and mental health professionals on how to assess all possible factors and avoid falling into the “damaged goods” trap.

  • pelargonium

    I commented on feministgal’s blog on this same issue, but I wanted to post it here as well.
    If you are seeing a doctor who makes you uncomfortable, or doesn’t listen, don’t go to them! I had one who completely ignored the fact that I had done all my homework on what I had contracted, and she blew me off time after time. I’m still kicking myself that I went to her for a full year.
    I know it can be a seriously long process of finding a new doctor, I happened upon my current awesome doctor by accident. But there are resources available, like Planned Parenthood, like health centers at colleges and schools, like your friends who I’m sure you’re also pushing to get yearly exams.
    Hell, I’m going to go on the record and say to the women living in the south end of Silicon Valley CA (say, San Jose to Mountain View), I can tell you 1 doctor who rocks, 1 RN who rocks, 2 more who are pretty good, and 1 doctor you should never get talked into seeing.
    Email me at la.etincelle @ gmail for details on these people if you need a new doctor. Also, the people at the Sunnyvale Planned Parenthood are amazing and wonderful.