What We Missed.

A province of Northern Italy is trying to pay women not to have abortions. W. T. F.
On food politics, class, health and wellness.
Don’t hate me because I am beautiful. Hate me because I give you high blood pressure. (wtf is this study trying to say nywayz?)
Read about Shelby Knox’s girlcott on Urban Outfitters.

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  • kandela

    Well, from just reading the article, I don’t think the study is trying to say anything. It seems to me like the author (of the news story) is trying to get it to say something. Whereas, it looks as if the study was simply about quantifying the affects of a particular type of social encounter.
    I will point out though that you’ve cherry-picked the part you wanted out of the last paragraph. It also says: “Cortisol can have a positive effect in small doses, improving alertness and well-being.” And the types of encounters studied seem unlikely to last for an extended period of time (people relax after a period of time in the company of others). However the last paragraph of the article just seemed to be informing the reader of what cortisol is. It would be a pretty uninformative article that said x is increased in situation y without telling you what x actually is or did.
    It’s a pretty normal thing for people of the opposite sex to be nervous around each other in certain situations. The interesting question is why? Yet, scientifically speaking you can’t ask that question until you’ve established rigorously that the affect does occur, and quantified it to some extent.
    What could be interesting would be analysing the result in the framework of our social culture. For example, is it strictly the physicality of the woman involved that produces this affect (unlikely) or the status that the subject has been taught is hers by virtue of her physicality or neither of these? What is the key ingredient to produce the outcome? And what affect does this phenomenon have on the way we interact in general?

  • Brianna G

    Who would accept a one-time payment of $5,000 to have a child they then have to raise? That barely covers the cost of postnatal care and a year’s counseling (for the trauma of surrendering a child) alone if you choose adoption, and won’t make the slightest dent in raising a child.
    This will only attract those who will most be hurt by having a child– those with poor judgment and no sense of finance.

  • EndersGames

    OP: “Don’t hate me because I am beautiful. Hate me because I give you high blood pressure. (wtf is this study trying to say nywayz?)”
    Oh, good, more unjustified anti-science snarking on feministing.
    The study seems pretty self-explanatory….
    Men are expected to be the initiators and pursuers in courtship. This makes possible rejection a recurrent problem that men face, which can make interacting with an attractive women stressful or anxiety provoking.
    This study shows that not only is this psychologically stressful for some men, it’s physiologically stressful as well. When people feel fearful of being socially rejected or negatively socially evaluated, cortisol floods into their blood stream. In this case, cortisol gets pumped into the blood to increase one’s energy level and motivation level, which might help spur behavior (fight or flight, or, in this case, flirt or flight).
    Seems like a really cool study to me! It links together sex roles, physiology, and dating patterns all into one study. Sounds like the kind of research we need more of! It tests an integrated biopsychosocial model rather than holding to the tired old nature vs. nurture, mind vs. brain, mind-body dualism perspectives.

  • MLEmac28

    Re Italy paying women not to have abortions:
    Yeah, there’s no chance for abuse of that system….
    Re Beautiful women increase cortisol levels:
    While I think it makes sense that stress increases when one is in the presence of someone they find attractive, why is it only straight men who were tested? I would like to see a study with gay men, and gay and straight women. Maybe they all have the same levels of stress and maybe they don’t; either way the results could be really interesting and say something about how we are socialized for dating and courtship.
    I have a degree in Biology, I can’t help but be annoyed by studies that don’t look at a big enough picture.

  • IAmGopherrr

    Regarding the paying women to not have abortions….
    This completely invades her autonomous choice and exploits women who are in desperate situations to only think of the short term. This is also an unfortunate situation that is created with countries have an informal theocracy where the Catholic church is very influential. Of course in these highly patriarchal religions women always get screwed. This is a very anti-choice idea.

  • cattrack2

    “A province of Northern Italy is trying to pay women not to have abortions. W. T. F.”
    Frankly I think this is brilliant. Its a non-coercive way of persuading women to keep their babies. If they want to have an abortion, great, they can. If they don’t want to, great, they get paid. Either way, its THEIR CHOICE. Someone will complain that $500 doesn’t cover the costs associated with maternity, but as long as the woman gets to decide whether or not to participate in the program its really entirely up to her.

  • Toongrrl

    I’d be happy to join Shelby Knox in the girlcott, I never bought from Urban Outfitters because I am the result of a mother who was more a department store, tj maxx, and bargain fashion maven. Labels are just too frou-frou and now hearing about the the bastard owner, I have a reason to not shop there.

  • Nicole

    That study stated nothing about attractiveness, so why the headline? Was there a control group of men who were left alone with women they considered to be “average” in appearance? How did they define these women as beautiful; did they ask the men afterward? Did they find women who fit into modern standards of beauty? Were the women selected based on the researchers’ tastes? And furthermore, was it determined whether these men were heterosexual? Did they conduct a similar experiment with female subjects?
    If the study didn’t address these issues, I would take its scientific merit with a grain of salt.

  • daveNYC

    If women who would otherwise decide to give birth are instead choosing abortion due to economic issues, then I personally don’t see a problem with this. It is effectively expanding a woman’s options when faced with a pregnancy.
    Something to definitely consider though is the fact that this is in the province of Lombardy, where (according to the great and powerful Wiki) the Northern League is the second largest party. Given Italy’s low birth rate, the issues that Italy has accepting immigrants (especially those who have a ‘healthy tan’, so to speak), and the lovely history of the Northern League and xenophobia, I’m going to make a few logical connections and suggest that this policy really isn’t just being done out of the kindness of the local government’s heart.

  • smiley

    Aren’t you exaggerating a little?
    “This completely invades her autonomous choice …”
    Well, I suppose paying people to study does the same thing, no? Or encouraging people to purchase their home. Or giving tax breaks to copules with children.
    Only asking!

  • Brianna G

    If they offered a legitimate aid to these women, I would support it 100%. But they are offering only $5,000, barely enough to scratch the surface of the costs of raising a child. It might help if she chooses adoption, to cover medical costs– assuming she has health insurance and an easy birth– but if she keeps the child, it’s actually insulting– it’ll be spent on baby costs before the baby is even born.

  • Steveo

    I have to agree that the study certainly doesn’t seem to say anything bad at all, and the headlines are pretty bad, but thats always the case with science articles.
    I have plenty of the same questions about the rigor of the experiment, which leads to a different issue with science journalism….not giving enough info about the study so that those with interest and/or access to scientific journals could actually look it up for themselves.

  • Surfin3rdWave

    I totally agree. But I hope that women don’t end up giving birth to unwanted children simply because they needed that $500 or couldn’t afford an abortion.

  • IAmGopherrr

    I actually think youre the one exaggerating here. How can you even compare paying a woman to have a kid (which overrides her autonomous choice) with being paid to study?

  • lyndorr

    I’m going to assume Italy covers the cost of giving birth so I don’t see how $5000 would be spent before the baby is born if carefully spent. Actually, I just read it’s $300 a month for 18 months. For women facing “severe economic hardship” who want kids, $5000 might be of help. Sure, more help would be good though.

  • IAmGopherrr

    This isnt allowing her to choose. Its conniving and its based around a scewed anti-choice ideology. To claim that this is her ‘choice,’ is ridiculous! Just like you dont pay people to have an abortion (in countries with high birth populations) you dont pay someone to have a kid. It induces her to not think of the reality and long term situation and creates a highly judgmental impression surrounding the woman who chooses to abort anyways. Its also encouraged by religion which has been a pestilent influence upon society already enough (think catholic church encouraging anti-homosexual laws).

  • IAmGopherrr

    But why encourage a woman to have a kid if they arent trying to stigmatize abortion? All this does is stigmatize one choice so it is anti-choice and I dont see how anyone that considers themselves pro choice could support it. Other factors also go into pregnancy such as being able to be mobile in a job that requires it. What if she loses her job? What of she cant work added hours that she desperately needs? Would you be for paying a woman to have an abortion in highly populated areas?

  • supremepizza

    Remember this is Italy we’re talking about & they have nationalized health care so $5K there goes a whole lot further than $5K here toward maternity expenses. If she decides to give the baby up for adoption then that’s like $4K or more in her pocket. If she decides to keep the baby on the other hand then that’s $5K toward expenses. Giving someone $5K is not insulting (for a 20 yo kid making $25K a year that’s 20% of their annual income). If they’ve already decided to keep the baby then its not insulting, its a windfall! Sure the motives of the Party may be suspect, but the question is is the individual woman free to choose?

  • supremepizza

    If they’ve already chosen to raise the kid then this is a windfall–money they weren’t expecting and don’t have to do anything different in order to get it. Its “free” money basically.
    And if you’re assuming that women who give up a baby for adoption automatically need counseling, then its equally fair to assume that women who have abortions automatically need counseling too. So in this case the policy means women choosing adoption have $5K they wouldn’t have to cover counseling that they wouldn’t have if they chose an abortion. You just can’t argue that adoption requires counseling & abortion doesn’t.
    I think the reason for the reflexive distaste about this policy from some feminists is that it further politicizes abortion. That’s true as far as it goes, but at the end of the day individual women get to make the choice. And if there’s anything we ALL agree on its Free Agency & Individual Choice.

  • kandela

    The article says that the women are only given this choice if they tell their GP that they are considering an abortion for financial reasons. How is offering someone money to keep their child problematic if lack of money is the only reason they are considering aborting?
    If the woman in question crunches the numbers and finds that this $5000 isn’t enough to sufficiently relieve her financial burden, then presumably she will still have the abortion.
    For those that object, I’m wondering what makes this fundamentally different to paid maternity leave? As it seems to me analogous to allowing women to keep a child they want that they might otherwise have had to abort to keep their job.

  • kandela

    Maybe there wasn’t sufficient grant money to test 6 things at once or maybe that further analysis took longer and that paper is still being written up. I think, though, the main point is to establish that something actually occurs first, and then go and see how it varies in slightly different situations.

  • kandela
  • kandela

    Here is a link to another study that shows a similar phenomenon is present for women: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19303881
    Of course this one doesn’t seem to have attracted as much attention from the popular media, which I think is the crux of the problem. The problem is not with science, but how it is reported. As a result of the media cherry-picking which scientific articles they report and reinterpreting the conclusions for their own purpose, feminists (and the public in general) get the impression that science is working to reinforce the gender status-quo. Perhaps this is the explanation for Samhita’s reaction, if so I would encourage her (and everyone else) to look deeper and write to complain when a news article misreports a scientific article.

  • Emily

    Um, you CAN argue that those who have chosen adoption are more likely to need counseling because it’s true. Some women need counseling for both and some neither but adoption is hugely more likely to end in emotional turmoil for the first mothers.
    Anyway, I do think this could be very helpful potentially for those who would want to carry their pregnancy to term but have financial reasons not to. I think the intent is wrong, but the outcome could be very helpful for certain women. 5k is a lot of money and may tip the scales for some women to do what they really want to do anyway.

  • A male

    “I’m wondering what makes this fundamentally different to paid maternity leave?”
    The degree. Five thousand dollars is not even enough to cover the costs of childbirth in the US, but about half of an uncomplicated vaginal birth. I can’t afford a hospital childbirth in the US, and it costs nearly four times what a childbirth costs in Japan. And in Japan, the one time (each time) national government payment to mothers who give birth almost exactly covers the cost, so it is almost “free.”
    When I think parental leave, I think along the lines of northern European countries like Finland.
    Finland boasts a very generous parental leave policy. The combined maternity and parental leave results in about 280 weekdays. Finland also has paternity leave which the government has been trying to make more appealing to new fathers. Maternity leave lasts for 105 weekdays and for the first 56 days the mother retains about 90% of her salary. After this period, the mother gets about two-thirds of her pay. Nearly all mothers take maternity leave. About 70% of Finnish fathers take paternity leave which lasts for 18 weekdays. Fathers do not get the initial period where they retain 90% of their salaries. Instead, they receive about 70% of their salaries. In addition to maternity and paternity leave, Finland also offers parental leave.
    Parental Leave
    Parental leave is 158 weekdays that can be used by the mother or the father for each child. During this time period parents retain about 70% of their earnings.
    [end quote]
    All told, that can easily run into the tens of thousands of dollars, or over a year’s full time salary (about 70% of 88 weeks earnings). It is literally allowing one parent at a time, a means to make a living while rearing their children full time. Then read about Finland’s system of childcare.
    I am a government employee. My female coworkers cobble together sick days to have time off to raise their newborns, and rely on their own mothers to raise the babies while they themselves quickly go back to work. They are lucky compared to those in the private sector, or those without salaried jobs. Fathers of course get nothing, even if they did wish to raise their own children full time.
    Finland’s system sound lovely? Yes it is. Unfortunately, Americans probably would not want to pay taxes to support that system, or should I say, to support the people who would use it. I see enough complaints even by regulars on Feministing about entitlements like tax breaks or public schooling available for those who reproduce, and “take” “their” money.