Creative Blog Posts

These blog posts are inspired by my various interactions with the world, each relating to feminism, health and new media!

Feminism, Health and New Media: (Finally) Understanding Their Cohesive Properties

So folks, the sun is setting on our Fall semester of 2012.

New York sunset, from Google Images

New York sunset, from Google Images

I’d say it was a pretty challenging roller coaster ride for me and many of my peers. But the hardest learned lessons always stubbornly turn out to be the lessons hardest to forget, and I think now as I tie pieces of my critical essay together, I am finally learning to understand Professor Daniels’ purpose in titling our Hons201 course, “Feminism, Health and New Media!”

Well maybe I am a little late to the picnic, but you know what they say: never deny a late bloomer her slice of the pie. Is that how that one goes? Anyway, I apolgize for the awkward UN-funniness of this final blog post. I guess I am having separation anxiety, or something. The individual puzzle pieces are finally fitting together for me in my head, forming a cohesive picture that I can somehow superimpose onto my critical essay, and all I am able to do is crack lame jokes. So, what was I saying? Oh yeah! Feminism.

For my critical essay, I will be pulling largely from feminist theory so as to articulate my thesis on, “female to male YouTube Trans* vloggers and the construction of knowledge,” therein. This semester we had focused on the “women’s health movement, 1969-1999” as purposeful practice of autonomy (Morgen). It was inspiring to read and watch self-identified feminists advocate for gender liberation and reproductive justice here in the US. Pulling from those inspirational sources within feminism, I aim to expand upon those cisgender parameters so as to navigate a contemporary discourse – happpening right now in the online vlogosphere – pertaining to transitioning and knowledge of Health.

Health is that which “knowledge” will refer to in the body of my final paper. Knowledge of the body and knowledge of self in relation to social assimilation ideology surrounding what constitutes gender. The discourses upon which we very often find ourselves resisting are those that claim there is a one-way-road to gender authenticity and that that is via genital matching, or in the case of FtM Trans* folks, assimilation. New Media is assembling a strong defensive front to such rigid defintions of gender.

New Media is going to be the B-B-BULK of my critical essay. I have been researching FtM Trans* YouTube vlogs for some time now, and I’m finally zoning in on which ones will be most representative of my central claim, that is to say:

FtM Trans* folks are producing knowledge by and through new media, that knowledge largely pertaining to health: bodily modifications and psychic journey toward self-hood. It is necessary to state that I fully intend on debunking those arguments that wish to assert any kind of homogeneous, monolothic liberation and/or empowerment among Trans* folk, let alone Trans* YouTube vloggers. I argue privilege (along all social identity markers) has so very much to do with the ways in which knowledge gets produced online in the YouTube vlogosphere, as well as the means by which FtM Trans* political identities are made visible.

So, in short, I aim to argue that FtM Trans* vloggers’ feminist intent(s) to (re)claim bodily health-based knowledge are negotiated by and through new media (i.e. YouTube).

And that’s all folks!

I "love" finals week, you guys. Weeeee!

I “love” finals week, you guys. Weeeee!

Please watch some of the following YouTube vlog posts, if you have time, and are interested in learning about the ways and means by which FtM Trans* folk are navigating their bodies in relation to their gender-in-TRANSition:

Stuff Cis People Say to Trans People

Binding the Pain – FTM Binding, by Ryan Cassata

Ryan Post-Top-Op

Liam in TRANSition

2.5 Years on “T”

Binders & Packers, Part 1. by Kamari Marchbanks

FTM Binder, Packer Show ‘n Tell

How I Use My Pee-Cock

Metoidioplasty Information FtM

“T”estosterone & Tampons

Post-meta surgery

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FtM TRANSitioning, Utilizing New Media and Bodily Modifications

So I’m in the process of drafting my critical essay for our class, Hons201: Feminism, Health and New Media. The most inspiring part about this whole process of research has truly been the new media aspect of it all. My purpose is to focus on the way young people are utilizing new media via trans* YouTube vlogs and Tumblr blogs, as a means by which to navigate their bodies in relation to their gender. Throughout the bulk of my online research, I found myself particularly drawn to Female to Male (FtM) Vlogs and genderqueer blogs. In watching and reading, and reading and watching, I noticed certain trends throughout each new media representaion:

  • educational HOW TO’s on binders, packers and stand-to-pee (STP) medicine spoons
  • personal accounts of how testosterone (“T”) has affected the body, and at what rate should one expect to see “results”
  • reflections upon top and bottom surgeries, both from experience as well as from speculation

These themes kept on repeating themselves throughout my research, over and over again. I became more knowledgeable on the ways and means by which FtM folks navigate such issues as – Where can I find the least expensive, quality packer for men of color? How can I avoid yeast infections from wearing my packer for long periods of time?How long do I need to avoid direct sunlight, post-top-op? Where on my body can I expect to discover masculine change after X number of months on “T”? – and so on. Each Vlog tells a story: a story of the body in transition, away from ‘entrapment’ and toward one’s self-identified gender.

The corporeal journey to self-hood, I am finding, truly is an autonomous one. That is to say, every FtM TRANSition is specific to the individual. New media provides a space for which #LGBTQIA youth can create communities of online solidarity, support, information and education, reminding me of those brilliant strides made between 1969-1990 in the United States for the women’s health movement, which Sandra Morgan has titled in her book, Into Our Own Hands. Trans* youth are negotiating their own bodies on their own terms via new media. Health is central to TRANSitioning and TRANSformation, from female to male, including mental health and the processing of emotion(s).

In focusing on FtM trans* Vlogs and blogs, I hope to conceptualize some sort of conversation taking place between V/bloggers that is pertaining to perceptions of gender ‘authenticity’ and how much of a role bodily modification plays into that. In other words, does the penis really make the man? And to complicate that question further by suggesting that to be in a position to CHOOSE is to be in a position of socioeconomic privelege; that is to say surgery and hormone therapy can be quite costly (and more often than not are NOT covered by one’s insurance company, assuming one has health insurance). This makes for a nebulous cluster of conditional confusion.

>_^

But I think, by the time I figure it out, my critical essay will argue something like this:

FtM trans* folk are navigating body modification via new media. This online community serves as both a teaching tool on HOW TO perform masculine gender identity ‘authentically,’ as well as a ‘room of one’s own‘ in which to negotiate what it really means to be a man, and under what conditions said self-identity ‘ought’ to be inscribed upon the body via hormone therapy and/or surgery.

This critical essay will also examine the LACK of medical discourse surrounding what effects do hormone interventions have on the health of trans* folk.

Please let me know if you have anything you’d like to contribute; I am very open to critical suggestions! Below are some FtM Vlogs, with which I have been transcribing:

Ryan Cassata

I’m not looking to go on testosterone or anything…I feel normal….it was the first time I ever felt normal in, like, myself. And, you know, it was a great moment for me…my brain was satisfied. And I guess that’s, you know, what the surgery’s supposed to do.

ALion’sFear

Once you hit your year, things slow down and once you hit your two year, things slow down even more. My facial hair comes in a lot quicker. I just started shaving with a shaver and cream only 2 months ago (I used to use a trimmer). My voice hasn’t changed, my feet stopped growing somewhere between the year and two year mark.

DefineGender

Will I ever have bottom surgery? Probably not, unless there’s some way that I can get a penis transplant because what I have down there works really well, it’s healthy and I keep it clean and I’m not going to lie, I like orgasms. Ok? I mean who doesn’t? …I don’t want to muck with it, and I’d rather not mess with it when I know it works perfectly the way it is. For me, having something down there is not about just having junk in my pants or being able to pee standing up. For me, it’s about sex.

laidbaqq

I don’t pack all the time, only occasionally because I do get self-conscious. I do it for comfort so I can feel better about myself…there’s something there and it’s not so empty and I’m not so conscious of it…sometimes I do forget that this thing is not real. Sometimes I forget there’s nothing there. …Most of it is for comfort. …

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Princess Odette: The Feminist Swan

Okay, so it’s very possible that my sisters and I were the only three children in 1994 who were singing along to Dreamworks’ obscure animated film, The Swan Princess, being that Odette was not as popular as everybody’s favorite Disney princesses. She was however, in my opinion, a feminist.

If you haven’t already seen the movie, in which (according to IMDb), “a power hungry sorcerer transforms a princess into a swan by day in this tale of everlasting love,” then I highly recommend you watch the following clip and see for yourself the provocative question Princess Odette asks Prince Derek when he appears to fall madly in love with only her beauty:

Derek’s response is a self contained question, or rather a rhetorical one: “what else is there?” One such utterance implicates to Odette that beyond beauty, nothing else matters. Of course, such meaningful things as personality, likes, dislikes, passions, fears, aspirations, etc. are all to be included within that arbitrary category of beyond. Those were the things Derek felt no compulsion to consider in his arrogant “proposal,” in which he spoke not to Odette, but rather for her:

“Arrange the marriage!”

I think it’s necessary to point out this critical turning point in the plot because it is something that is oftentimes overlooked in some of the more traditional fairytales of Walt Disney Pictures. In fact, there are many arguments surrounding the dangerous effects that the Disney industrial complex has on the self-esteems of young people everywhere. They instruct rather specific gender norms, which teach young girls that as long as they dream, (see: Cinderella‘s “A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes“), their insecurities will magically be cured by a fairy God mother or a handsome prince, or both!

Animated Disney classics tend to repeat certain themes:

Men are brave, handsome saviors.

(Masculinities theorist, R. W. Connell, writes about hegemonic masculinity theory in his research on representations of ideal masculinity versus subordinate masculinities, along the lines of race, class, ability, sex, gender, sexuality, ethnicity and religion.)

Women are feminine, cisgender victims of external forces of violence- from which they require external saving.

Disney Princesses adhere to a strict size 2 body and dress code.

Beauty is defined in terms of, “fairness of skin,” and quality of hair.

(See: true classics blog post on, “Lips red as the rose. Hair black as ebony. Skin white as snow.”)

Disney villains are often distinguished according to bodily malformations, darkness of skin, advanced age and/or weight.

(Beauty and love are synonymous to lightness [of features], youth, and innocence in the wonderful world of Disney.)

But Walt Disney Pictures aren’t the only culprits in this neoconservative scheme to instruct traditional gender norms Take, for example, my girl Odette! The Swan Princess adheres to that same size 2 body and dress code, those same savior-damsel heteronormative codes of gendered behaviors and also that same racialized morality according to character’s skin pigmentation and appearance.

But instead of accepting her fate as the unthinking flower, Odette asked a critical question to Derek and to the viewing audience (i.e. ME!…& hundreds of thousands of impressionable children). She asked us to think about the intensified value we place on physical appearance versus what else there really is to a person.

Why hadn’t any other princess challenged her own occupation before? No wonder nobody has ever heard of Princess Odette.

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Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone?

We all know the stories; there are two of them after all.

1.) First, there’s the story we learn about when we are children, or maybe if we are young adults assimilating into American culture. It’s the classic tale about the Pilgrims, or rather the English separatist Protestants who later formed the [Puritan] Plymouth Colony in present day [southeastern] Massachusetts and eastern Rhode Island, and the so-called-Indians, or rather the Wampanoag tribe of Native Americans, whom had inhabited the land for the previous 12,000 some-odd years. They met and put aside their cultural differences in order to survive the frigid Fall of 1621. Their harvest gathering was attributed, by the Puritan settlers, to an almighty [Judeo-Christian] God, the Father. And it is in this colonial spirit that the American people celebrate Thanksgiving each year on the fourth Thursday in November.

2.) Second, there’s the story we [hopefully] learn about as we get a little but older in our education(s), or maybe if we are wise (or post-modern) enough to critique meta-narratives on our own merits, regardless of educational attainment. It’s the story that is a lot less fun to listen to when we sit down and feast upon a dead bird, I mean turkey. The initial social contracts made between the settlers and the native people only lasted a generation, in which the Puritan settlers’ survival owed great thanks to the Wampanoag’s superior hunting skills and knowledge of the land’s fertility.

“The Wampanoag people do not share in the popular reverence for the traditional New England Thanksgiving. For them, the holiday is a reminder of betrayal and bloodshed. Since 1970, many native people have gathered at the statue of Massasoit in Plymouth, Massachusetts each Thanksgiving Day to remember their ancestors and the strength of the Wampanoag.” -Text adapted from 1621 A New Look at Thanksgiving by Catherine O’Neill Grace and Margaret M. Bruchac with Plimoth Plantation, 2001, National Geographic Society. Text by Lyssa Walker.

And if you’re unfamiliar with the, “bloodshed,” Walker and O’Neill are referring to, in a children’s version of the story of the first Thanksgiving, by the way, then a better education of North American history is in order: one which begins long before the arrival of Europeans and one that is complicated by the plurality of local narratives. Also, a little accuracy would be nice. To my general horror and dismay, I have come across a great deal of unnerving neo-conservative new media literature – in my research for this blog post alone. And it is disgusting how skewed interpretations of North American history has been convoluted, so as to politicize certain capitalist agendas that are no doubt tied into our [class] discussions of feminism, health and new media.

It is necessary to criticize contemporary interpretations of historical facts so that the systemic erasure of indigenous tribes (via European colonization) does not, yet again or moreover, become eclipsed or occluded by the childish meta-narratives we are all too familiar with. I am not advocating for an overturning of the nationally established holiday, nor am I suggesting that anyone who celebrates the fourth Thursday in November is hypocritical by any means. I believe that offering thanks transcends temporal location(s) as well as any social identity markers, such as race, sexuality and gender. It is a fundamentally human thing to seek closeness with one’s kin, and to celebrate appreciation without shame. I say, let our own local narratives be based in whatever truths we subscribe to.

However, we know this to be far from what [new] media preaches as festive. Like any other national or religious holiday, capitalists have taken full advantage of the spiritual meanings behind people’s cause for celebration and turned out a handsome profit, so to speak:

from Google Images of Black Friday shoppers

And to properly interrogate the hegemonic myths of Thanksgiving, one must pay close attention to their developmental paths throughout the [re]construction of American history. Any legitimate critique of racialized and gendered representations need be historicized, that is, accurately contextualized, before we can even begin an intellectual dialogue; the subsequential genocide of Native Americans by European imperialists is not up for debate…

The reason why it’s so important to defend local narratives is because they can so easily get become delegitimized in the public eye (see: Rush Limbaugh’s version of ‘The True Story of Thanksgiving’), endangering social justice strides made everywhere in defense of those who have been persecuted along the lines of race, gender, sex, sexuality, disability, language and ethnicity.

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The Five Sexes: Reflecting on Why Male and Female Aren’t Enough

Rimma Gerlovina and Valeriy Gerlovin, Romulus and Remus, 1989

In her visionary article, “The Five Sexes: Why Male and Female Aren’t Enough,” Anne Fausto-Sterling engages a frequently ignored biological fact of intersexuality.  Human intersexuality, as Fausto-Sterling teaches us, “is old news,” as it has been featured in various religious and legal texts, such as the Bible, the Talmud and the Tosefta.  The ancient Greeks sought to explain the origins of this natural occurrence through mythological tales in which the body of a nymph fused with the child of Hermes, “the messenger of the gods,” and Aphrodite, “the goddess of sexual love and beauty”; hence the name hermaphrodite.  This term has stuck with us in Western culture as a catch-all phrase and is often used interchangeably with intersex in “standard medical literature”.

As “old news” as it may be, we rarely hear about intersexuality.  When we do discuss intersexual bodies, it is quite often met with contempt or fear, as it is human nature to fear what we do not know.  There is an absence of dialogue with the very real existence of human intersexuality in our modern society.  In writing “The Five Sexes,” Fausto-Sterling attempts to break through this wide-spread ignorance and open our minds to the concept of sexual variation.  Our lack of knowledge is due to a concentrated and collective effort by our Anglo-Saxon legal system, gendered language and westernized medicine to “correct” these “abnormalities” and further establish a culturally constructed two-party sexual system, that’s [re]produced as legitimate in the name of modern science.  These structural factors each play a part in our limited ability to understand and accept the gradations of sex in human biology.  Anne Fausto-Sterling quite effectively forces our socially accepted views of a two-sex system into question, as she proposes alternative methods for the medical and ethical treatment of those born intersexed.

Robert Gober, Untitled (Torso), 1990. Beeswax, human hair

This text proves entirely culturally relevant today as it did during the time of its first publication in March/April of 1993.  Legal documents such as birth certificates require[d] that as soon as an individual is born, they check off one of two designated boxes: male or female.  Fausto-Sterling explains some of the contemporary reasons behind this requirement:

“today it means being available for, or exempt from, draft registration, as well as being subject, in various ways, to a number of laws governing marriage, the family, and human intimacy.  In many parts of the United States, for instance, two people legally registered as men cannot have sexual relations without violating anti-sodomy statutes.”

It is apparent that social constraints over choosing a sex by our rigid definitions stem from an anxiety about human variation.

In order for these heterosexist systems of power to thrive, they must first divide us into two categorical boxes and then control our freedom to choose for our individual bodies.  One might view this article’s intended message as a moral imperative to argue for recognition of multiple sexes.  Fausto-Sterling contends that there are at least five sexes, with “many gradations running from female to male.”  The purpose of this number five is to challenge the concept of a two-sex system, which is so deeply embedded in and throughout Western culture.

Towards the end, Fausto-Sterling admits that even the number five constrains the vast variance of human sexual biology that is policed so thoroughly by social processes.

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What’s So Feminist About #Frankenstorm?

Several days ago, our class received an email from Professor Daniels suggesting that we respond to some current events touching on gender, race and feminism. Included in this email was a link to Professor Daniels’ recent blog post on Racism Review, titled, “Is (Hurricane) “Sandy” a White Name?” The article was insightful as it was informative. Daniels posed the significant question:

“Does it matter what name a storm gets called?”

After reading this post and several of its comments, I started to think about the chronic gendering of nature, which our [Western] culture has been guilty of throughout history; not to mention the inherent stigma attached to femininity. Among many thoughtful messages of safety and well-being, I received several texts and tweets referring to the so-called-bitchy nature of (Hurricane) Sandy: her brutal wrath; hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, etc. The implications of which are dangerous in reifying negative female stereotypes about uncontrollable emotional rage. Let us remember we are discussing a hurricane and not a woman when we discuss “Sandy” and its devastating effects. After all, many individuals refuse to conform to one such categorical gender, so why force natural disasters into that same [false] binary construction?

But beyond name blaming, there are many other issues surrounding this recent disaster, which indeed necessitate a feminist critique. And that leads us back to the discussion of a hurricane – the second consecutive hurricane to DIRECTLY impact the New York-New Jersey area, among many other 2011/2012 tropical storms, since 2011’s Hurricane Irene. Now I may not be very old, nor wise, but I have lived in southern New York all my life – that’s twenty-some-odd years – and I can assure you that THIS IS NOT NORMAL. What I mean by normal is normative weather for a location like the north-eastern United States. And if you haven’t already guessed it, yes I am referring to global warming.

Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding! I said it: the controversial buzz word of all dismal realities. And I hope it goes without saying that what New York & New Jersey are experiencing right now include the devastating effects of one such complicated occurrence. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has publicly announced his support for incumbent presidential candidate Barack Obama on the basis that opposing candidate Governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney has not adequately acknowledged the effects of man-made global warming and thereby has not contributed to the safeguarding of our fair city of New York (and not to mention the planet).

“Mr. Obama was the better candidate to tackle the global climate change that he believes might have contributed to the violent storm, which took the lives of at least 38 New Yorkers and caused billions of dollars in damage.” -Mayor Michael Bloomberg

I took this photograph right outside my sister’s apartment on East 26th Street, between 1st and 2nd Avenue in Manhattan on October 30, 2012.

So what makes climate change a feminist issue? Climate change is planetary change, meaning it affects every intricate level of [human] life. It dictates population control policies, public control over drinking water versus private, adequate access to contraception, education and the right to work, to name a few. So as New Yorkers, we are currently dealing with the immediate effects of Hurricane Sandy – in the wake of all its chaos and destruction – but I encourage all my fellow citizens of the planet to wake up and observe the larger picture, the one that is STARING us all in the face.

Let us remember that on election day this November, when we cast our votes for the consequential in/action of environmental protection by the United States for the next four years…

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Halloween Costumes of Girl World: Sick Trick or Sweet Treat?

Hopefully you all remember the scene from Tina Fey‘s 2004 comedy, Mean Girlswhere it’s Halloween, and Lindsay Lohan’s character, Cady, says:

“In the real world, Halloween is when kids dress up in costumes and beg for candy. In Girl World, Halloween is the one day a year when a girl can dress up like a total slut and no other girls can say anything else about it.”

Well Cady, I’m not so sure there’s any real separation between so-called-“Girl World” and the real one we’re all living in today. In fact, there’s really no division when you account for all the influence one ideological realm has over the other. Young girls watch television where beautiful, busty women fill out their costumes like Playboy Bunnies with seemingly effortless ease. Likewise, young girls interact with one another, in such cliques as those displayed in Mean Girls, learning how to perform their gender properly via socialization in “Girl World.” When I refer to Fey’s construction of “Girl World,” I am indeed referring to that social landscape in which certain young ladies of a certain socioeconomic status inhabit, one from which I, in many ways, came from: having grown up a white, middle class girl in Long Island, New York.

Long Island was a lot like you what think of when images of suburbia enter your mind: freshly mowed green lawns, white picket fences, trees (instead of skyscrapers). And I remember one particular October 31st, it was a beautiful autumnal afternoon and my friends and I were all dressed up for trick or treating. It was our freshman year of high school, so we were smack dab in the middle of Girl World, which I conceptualize more as a temporal location (as well as sociocultural) rather than a physical place. Our costumes were short, tight and what some might call scandalous. A middle aged woman passing by my front lawn, with her ten year old daughter in tow, said with shameless disgust,

“See? No wonder someone was raped on this block not too long ago. Those SLUTS are gonna get it!”

My freshman year of high school: Christine (me, top left) the “army brat,” Amanda (bottom left) the “pink fairy,” Emily (center) the “red devil,” and Ali (right) the “1920’s flapper girl.” Long Island, NY.

And I can remember the sting of her words. I can remember the instant guilt I felt in snapping this photo (above). Was I dressed like a slut? Was I a [Halloween] slut? How had Girl World suddenly collapsed with the real one? Why were my friends and I not accepted as the army brats, pink fairies, red devils and 1920’s flapper girls that we were trying to emulate? Instead, we were branded sluts, and according to my former neighbor, worthy of one such heinous crime as rape. This type of mentality is the direct offspring of an entire culture of ignorance, known as rape culture. Rape culture refers to that patriarchal society in which we reside (within which Girl World and the real world simultaneously dwell). It is a social environment that accepts rape as normative – even natural – thereby placing blame and responsibility on victims of rape, whom, according to rape culture, did not successfully avoid the so-called-inevitability of asking for it.

Some popular ideas surrounding this notion of rape and rape culture include (but are not limited to):

…Don’t dress too revealing…

Don’t walk/drive alone late at night…

Always watch your drink at parties…

The implication always being that if s/he failed to comply with any of these regulatory rules, then they stupidly put themself at risk for having their body violated.

If I could go back in time, I would tell that woman about the powerfully dangerous ignorance she was perpetuating to her daughter by calling us sluts, and by forewarning her daughter about the invitation to bodily violation via Halloween costumes. What a terrible, terrible thing to do, to teach young girls that there is shame attached to the body, and that they alone carry the extraordinary burden of responsibility. How dare we teach children: “don’t get raped,” as if that is ever any person’s intended goal. It is time we begin targeting the source(s) of violence in and around rape culture; it is time we begin to teach the rhetoric of, “don’t rape,” as stranger rape is far less common than familiar or familial rape.

For information on SlutWalk and its mission(s), check out this NY Mag article.

This blog post is not to occlude those pressing realities surrounding the hyper-sexualization of girls and self identified women in society, namely surrounding the American Halloween season in which underage girls dress like (well, let’s face it) Playboy Bunnies. This blog post is specifically targeted at the rape culture which I, myself, experienced in Girl World, where to my shock & dismay, ‘I was not allowed to dress like a slut, since other girls did say something bad about it,’ Tina Fey! This blog post is intended to interrogate rape culture and to challenge its debilitating rhetoric.

No matter who you are, No matter where you work, No matter how you identify, No matter how you flirt, No matter what you wear, No matter whom you choose to love, No matter what you said before: NO ONE has the right to touch you without your consent.” –SlutWalk NYC

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Shattered Illusions: ‘Intervention’ and How A&E Got Rich Off of Recovery

Do these faces look familiar?

These are the faces of A&E’s hit reality television series, Intervention.

Each of them are white and every one of them has their own story to tell, or rather has a version of their story told for them – by friends, family and the show’s network narrators. I have been watching this series on and off for a couple of years now. It is very intriguing and, needless to say, has brought its network (A&E) so much success, that can be measured in both dollars as well as credibility. In fact, Intervention reports a 70% success rate for its “participants” – using a method of intervention known as the Johnson style. This traditional model typically yields a 30% – 40% success rate, meaning that those who undergo one such style of intervention report sobriety one year after treatment. But the folks down at A&E have separate standards by which they measure success. In her lecture earlier today, Professor Daniels shared with our class that several people have died since their episode featured on A&E, but were counted as “successes” simply for having completed their 30-day-or-so treatments.

But aside from revealing those not-so-inspiring truths about Intervention’s so-called-success rates, Professor Daniels lecture and article on, “INTERVENTION: REALITY TV, WHITENESS, AND NARRATIVES OF ADDICTION,” did work to truly deconstruct those narratives told by A&E’s Intervention, exposing their representative biases. The show is predominantly heteronormative, in that it almost exclusively deals with heterosexual individuals – rarely featuring those identifying as gay, lesbian or bisexual. Furthermore, the show is totally cisgender in that it has not featured transgender individuals or those identifying as genderqueer (i.e gender identities other than man or woman, which do not adhere to binary categories of cisgender normativity). In terms of sexual diversity, Intervention consistently ignores the wide ranging reality of sex-gender variance among ‘substance abusers’ alike.

So what are the dangers in framing representations solely along heteronormative lines? It occludes differences among what substances impact which communities (and how). It undermines the legitimacy of human variance. How can something (or someone) be regarded with any real validity if it (or s/he) continues to go unrecognized? But those blind spots (unfortunately) do not stop at sex, gender and/or sexuality. Intervention features [cisgender] men and women equally on their program – meaning 50% of the episodes feature men and 50% feature women. However, this seemingly non-biased representation of addiction is skewed. Real life statistics paint a very different picture pertaining to substance abuse and gender.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA):

  • Any use of alcohol is reported by 58% of males and only 48% of females
  • Binge drinking is reported by 31% of males and only 15% of females
  • Heavy alcohol use is reported by 11% of males and only 3% of females

In all cases, males accounted for more or heavier usage of alcohol, which just happens to be the predominant substance featured on A&E’s Intervention as the abused drug of choice. But in the case for alcohol consumption/abuse, women are being over-represented, as such 50/50 narratives of addiction do not properly mirror reality. Daniels further elaborates on such (mis)representations in her piece on, “INTERVENTION: REALITY TV, WHITENESS, AND NARRATIVES OF ADDICTION,” as she deconstructs the show’s deployment of medicalization, biopower, and governmentality. These Foucaultian buzz words indicate certain regulated processes of policing bodies that are racialized as they are gendered, according to strict standards of health and morality.

We have discussed some of the ways in which A&E’s Intervention disproportionately features women as addicts, and furthermore how the show systemically constructs a heteronormative binary world of just men and just women; failing to mirror reality on both accounts. Daniels also focuses on the series’ depiction of addiction as whiteness in crisis. That is, social privilege being wasted: “wasted whiteness,” as the show rarely features men and women of color. This works to reify certain punitive measures surrounding race and addiction that are present in society at large; that is to say that the State penal system punishes racial/ethnic minorities while “self-sufficient [white] citizens” are subjected to more “neoliberal regimes” of bodily regulation.

…whites make up 63.7% and Latinas/os make up 16.3% of the general U.S. population, 4 yet Latinas/os only appear as characters in 6% of episodes of Intervention. African Americans make up 12.6% of the U.S. population, while only 4% of those appearing on Intervention are black. Asian and Pacific Islanders make up 5% of the U.S. population and appear on Intervention as main characters 1% of the time (Daniels 7)…

We can draw parallels from the show’s narratives of addiction to the ways by which we conceive of race and addiction in our every day lives. By constructing addiction as both badness as well as sickness, A&E’s Intervention effectively justifies popular notions of moralizing health that are the productive rhetoric of biopower (hard at work). The show’s representations of race, ethnicity, sex, sexuality and gender contribute to hegemony, as they are skewed. It is imperative that we remain critical of these makeover reality television series, which aim to construct certain capitalist qualities as desirable (i.e. heterosexual relationships, and in the case for women, beauty).

Let us unpack these narratives, so as to reveal the neoliberal mechanisms by which they have been articulated.

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The Stinky Truth About Pink

Have you ever seen one of these pink ribbons on an advertisement or on a product you were expected to buy and started to feel really bad about yourself?  Or have you ever seen on of these pink ribbons and felt rather hopeful, encouraged and/or empowered?  That if you support this little pink ribbon, you are helping to save lives and if you do not, then you are somehow not helping to save lives?

If you answered YES to any of the above, then you are not alone!  The pink breast cancer ribbon is a symbol that carries with it many different meanings for many different people, but it often gets produced and reproduced as a symbol of hope, empowerment and survival.  This is all very well and good for those individuals diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer, whose likelihood of survival is greater than those diagnosed with late-stage breast cancer.  The mantra goes: early detection is your best protection…

There are several things I now find problematic about that mentality and about the breast cancer pink ribbon, after having viewed in class Pink Ribbons, Inc. , which is a documentary film offering an alternative perspective to the current capitalism surrounding cause-related marketing and the like.  One might ask the obvious question, What is cause-related marketing?

Well, it’s exactly this:

…and it’s exactly that:

…both advertisements of products indicate the popular notion that a breast cancer diagnosis is a call to battle, “the crusade,” (as Avon would say).  Those who fight either win and become survivors or those who lose…didn’t fight hard enough?  No.  So why do ad’s like these imply such nonsense?  Because it sells like pink ribbon hot cakes.

Cause-related marketing is motivated by the drive to earn a profit – first and foremost.  Capitalists capitalize on the opportunity to turn a profit by means of catering to consumer emotions surrounding the close-to-home realities of breast cancer.  Wanna help find a cure?  No problem!  Just lick as many pink yogurt lids as you can, stick them inside an envelope when you’re done and mail them to the address so as to find a cure.  Simple.

Only it’s not so simple.  In fact, finding a cure to breast cancer is a LOT more complicated than Avon or Yoplait might have you believe.  Did you know that there are at least five different kinds of breast cancer that affect the breast tissue differently?  Neither did I, until the makers of Pink Ribbons, Inc. opened my eyes to some of the more dismal realities of breast cancer. Like: 1.) We currently do not know the causes of breast cancer, 2.) Hundreds upon thousands of women – in this country alone – are diagnosed yearly, while tens of thousands of women annually die as a result of breast cancer, and 3.) Almost all cause-related marketing schemes promise to donate a portion of their profits to ‘finding the cause.’  The biggest problem with finding a cause to a cancer we know very little about is just that: WE KNOW VERY LITTLE ABOUT WHAT CAUSES IT IN THE FIRST PLACE.  Or do we?

In fact, many of the companies advertising to sympathetic consumers contain cancer-causing ingredients in the very products they sell as to “save lives” – *cough* *cough* Estee Lauder *cough* *cough* – ESPECIALLY beauty products that are marketed toward female consumers!  The nature of this business is selling promises that are false as they are tactical.  Consumers are misguided by the pink, enchanting allure of finding the ambiguous cure to a cancer that is much more complex than licking yogurt lids, no matter how delicious that yogurt may be.

It’s certainly difficult in our cultural economy but it is very much possible to be a supporter of the cure(s) to breast cancer by means of CRITICAL CONSUMPTION.  Know the toxic ingredients that are manufactured in beauty products, so you know which ones to avoid granting further business and profit to.  Ask the foundation asking you for money: exactly where is my money going?  What kind of research is your organization supporting?  Fore there are many environmental factors (caused by air and water pollution and the like) that are likely contributors to breast cancers, just as there are synthetic ones (in beauty products), and the funds might support one kind of prevention research over another – if that research is prevention-based to begin with!

And to those whom are less fortunate, diagnosed with late-stage cancer, KNOW that these women are not losers of the battle.  In fact, they are resilient in their spirit to endure the popular notions of breast cancer battles, and to cope with the processes of living and dying.  This is not to take away from the inspirational strength of those who are fortunate enough to survive breast cancer, but rather to reshape our thinking of it in terms of the good fight – those coming out on top occluding the other side that unfortunately does not.  This is to call attention to the much needed demand for specialized, preventative research.

It’s like Samantha Jones (of Sex and the City says),

“Every year I attend this fucking breast cancer benefit and every year I see that fucking breast cancer cookie.  Now I don’t care about a breast cancer cookie and I had breast cancer!”

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2Pac: Critical Race Theorist

2pac.com

This past summer, I lived and worked in Brooklyn, New York.  How exotic, I know.  But my internship was only a couple of blocks away from where Christopher George Latore Wallace (AKA the Notorious B.I.G.; AKA Biggie Smalls) began his fame as a talented young rapper.  My Chief of Staff, at the District Office of Council Member Letitia James (@TishJames/@Tish2013) in Brooklyn’s 35th Council District, used to tell me about seeing him ‘way back when’ on the corners of Fulton and Saint James – nearby where our office was located.  I confessed in her office one day that while I had the utmost respect for Biggie, and the legacy he left behind for Brooklyn as a cultural center for rap and Hip Hop, that my heart truly lies with Tupac Amaru Shakur.  To my delight, she agreed, quoting lyrics from his, “Dear Mama:”

“And even as a crack fiend, mama
You always was a black queen, mama
I finally understand
for a woman it ain’t easy tryin to raise a man
You always was committed
A poor single mother on welfare, tell me how ya did it
There’s no way I can pay you back
But the plan is to show you that I understand
You are appreciated”

Later on that summer, I was on the phone with a friend of mine who had his own connection to Biggie: his mom, having grown up in Bedford–Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, was once approached by the young Christopher Wallace for a date – and supposedly told, “that fat boy,” NO, she was not interested.  I told him I had just finished watching a documentary about the Notorious B.I.G. – but that I resented its depiction of Tupac as solely antagonistic (i.e. an East Coast-centric model of analysis).  He said to me, “Biggie was no doubt a talented rapper, but Tupac – he was something else – he was starting a revolution.”

Now this post isn’t to reify (yet another) false dichotomy of east coast/west coast Hip Hop rivalries, nor is it to claim any authority over who is better, which side wins and so on…  This post is talk more specifically about the late, great rapper and the lyrical legacy he left behind.  Contrary to many other opinions out there, I find Tupac’s rap music to be emblematic of scholarly critical race theory.  He pays careful attention to the dynamic roles of masculinity, white sepremacy, and the LAPD as a hegemonic mechanism of racist, patriarchal practices.  Tupac takes into account the history of the United States, including slavery, laws and policies representing social inequities and the systemic institution of discrimination and ghettoization of Black America.

One such example of this kind of critical work can be found in the lyrics to his song, “Panther Power” [see below].  Shakur’s mother was a former Black Panther and refers to Black Panther co-founder, Huey P. Newton, in his famous song, “Changes” (i.e. “It’s time to fight back, that’s what Huey said.  Two shots in the dark, now Huey’s dead”).

Beyond his observations and critiques of the complicated space he occupied, Tupac presented conflicting messages when it came to feminism and feminist ideology.  Many people will accuse Shakur of his misogynistic views of woman, his use of derogatory language toward women, etc.  I could go on and on about how [I believe] Marion “Suge” Knight (AKA co-founder and former CEO of Death Row Records) to be powerfully influential on Tupac’s aggressive demeanor later on in his career.  If you take the time to watch as many documentaries [about Tupac] as I have, you might come across certain material portraying Tupac as, dare I say, feminist.  Take a look at this film footage of Tupac discussing transformative potentials of youth, gender equity and respect toward women at the age of 17:

If I have the opportunity to pursue graduate school, I would love to write my dissertation on Tupac’s lyrics as deeply layered and representative of late, twentieth century critical race theory.  His music was profoundly influential as his image was widely controversial.  Tupac embodied all that has been demonized in the history of the [main-stream] United States.  Clearly, I am slightly biased in my admiration for his unique voice and presence in the tradition of rap music and in contemporary social landscapes, but I would resist depicting Tupac in the angelic light I [most likely] have done so in this blog post.  The music and words he produced make for compelling social critiques, dialogues and theories surrounding racism, sexism, hegemony and a critical moment in 1990s America.

PLEASE WATCH THIS LINK, ON TUPAC [AGE 17] ABOUT RESPECTING WOMEN.

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Speaking For Other People’s Vaginas

Yeah, I said it: VAGINAS!  I like to think it’s not a dirty word and yet the word itself evokes oh so many emotions for us all.  Please let me begin this post by acknowledging several of its inspirations (among many): Sigmund Freud and his theories on the female orgasm, Anne Koedt and her 1970 piece on, “The Myth of the Vaginal Orgasm,” Eve Ensler and her famous play The Vagina Monologues, Dina Siddiqi [of Hunter College] and her course in Transnational Feminisms as well as Jaclyn Friedman and her lecture on how feminist digital activism is like the clitoris (e.g. “it’s misunderstood, not a button, more complex than it looks – the tip of the iceberg – part of a larger system,” etc.).

Even in 2012, vaginas are a touchy subject.  There are a lot of people who have tackled this issue, who have written about vaginas and filmed documentary films about vaginas and given lectures about vaginas.  But, having read and watched and listened to many of these compelling stories, arguments and theses, my question remains the same: Who has the authority to homogenize vaginas?  And the answer, I say with absolute certainty, is NO ONE.

Don’t get me wrong, Eve Ensler did incredible things with her ground breaking play, The Vagina Monologues, and with her V-Day [anti-violence] campaign.  But if you watch a production of the show, you can’t help but notice a somewhat racist, albeit unintentional, trend of white vaginas being liberated and non-white vaginas being tortured by various manifestations of gender violence.  If you watch her documentary on V-Day, you will also see her organization donating funds to stop the practicing of female genital modifications (labeling it “mutilation”) in parts of Africa by providing means of transportation to educate the youth on gender violence; young African girls learn the difference between what a healthy and what an unhealthy vagina look like.  Ensler’s work mobilizes corporeal ideals of the global north, silencing many voices that are otherwise eclipsed.

Take a course in Transnational Feminisms and you will come across some not-so-widely-well-known literature about female genital modification.  As a student of the global north, I myself was taken aback by the ideas surrounding ‘pro-choice,’ when it came to genital modifications (FGM).  But how can that be considered choice?  What [self identified] woman would choose to mutilate her body?  It must be that she has internalized her cultural norms so much so that she is blind to her own oppression.  Thoughts like these are typical of a so-called-Western mind, shaped heavily by Euro-American discourses of universal human rights, etc.

Adopting a transnational perspective might resolve some of these dividing tensions by its strong resistance to homogenizing narratives.  Indeed, some cases of FGM are absolute incidences of physical abuse.  However, other cases are quite different.  There are [self identified] women whom identify as post-colonial feminists and who advocate for feminisms (i.e. plural) so as to accommodate for the voices that aren’t heard on the international scale.  In many cases, these women are fighting for the local rights of girls and self identified women, and ask that global north feminists not intervene so as to reify First World-Third World dichotomies that are rather neo-colonial in nature.  In some other cases, global south feminists are advocating for ‘pro-choice’ policies, as some women construct their senses of beauty and sexuality around the symbolism of FGM.

Pro-choice seems like a relatively fair way to go, especially considering all the voices that are silenced in the global debates as well as all the factors that are otherwise occluded in the politics of saving in the global north; Why are we so focused on vaginas and so inconsiderate of malnutrition?  Those like concerns of malnutrition, starvation and poor drinking water impact the very same objects of scrutiny surrounding FGM.  But there’s plenty room for discussion about these charged debates in the Comments section as well as on Twitter!

I want to shift this topic of vaginas over to the O word, and what some so-called-experts on the matter have to say about it.  After all, science is a loaded term that has been deployed by authoritative voices like Sigmund Freud and, you guessed it, Naomi Wolf.  In fact, their theories aren’t quite different.  Wolf recently wrote a book titled, Vagina – A New Biography, which I have not yet read (so please excuse the prematurity of my critique but I cannot help myself).  Most of what I know about this book derives from The New York Times review as well as from Friedman’s lecture on feminist digital activism.  Wolf attempts to homogenize all [heterosexual] vaginas into flowery goddesses who must ascend up the latter of orgasmic maturity: from clitoral, that is adolescent, to vaginal, that is superior.  Please allow me to invoke Friedman when I assert that the G-spot, to which Wolf is referring, is actually an extension of the clitoris and need not be isolated as its own royal entity; that “it is part of a larger system.”

Wolf’s book should be titled, Vagina – A Dated, Neo-Freudian, Auto-Biography, and recognized for its prescriptive To-Do-ness, which reminds me more of Cosmopolitan Magazine than anything resembling feminism.  Here is a message to Naomi Wolf and any ‘expert’ who claims to have cured women of their so-called-frigidity: Stop assuming that your vagina is just like everybody else’s vagina and that you have the inherent right to speak for other vaginas just because you yourself have a vagina.  It doesn’t work like that, or rather, it shouldn’t…anymore.

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LIVE NUDE GIRLS UNITE: A Reflection

Last Monday, October 1st, our Hons 201 class watched the documentary film titled, Live Nude Girls Unite!  The film followed Julia Query, a part-time comedian/ stripper whose higher education was based in Women’s Studies.  Query and her co-workers dance nude at a San Fransisco peep show strip club claiming to be “feminist,” called The Lusty Lady.  The club’s managers, however, would have rather handled their employees’ affairs privately as it were – and without accountability or respondibility to their staff in terms of basic social securities (i.e. no firing without just cause, sick-leave, sick-pay, holiday pay, privacy safeties and liveable wages).

But The Lust Lady staff had complaints extending beyond those issues of basic workers rights and care.  The way it worked was managers believed the most lucrative customers were those “white and Asian American business men” who so-called-preferred to see the white, blond stereotype up close and personal (i.e. in the ‘Private Eyes’ room).  Dancers who were booked for ‘Private Eyes’ showings made nearly double the earnings of a standard peep show viewing.  So the white, blond staff members (or the white staff members willing to dress up in blond wigs) were – by default – making more money in tips based on racizlied mangerial practices.

This documentary opened my eyes to one stubborn reality that many people have difficulty accepting and ultimately admitting: sex workers are workers [period].  They are not, “workers, too,” nor are they necessarily pursuing a temporary career path which is “fun” in all its non-permanence; managers at The Lusty Lady attempted to construct stripper job descriptions in this way.  I believe workers are entitled to rights as well as benefits.  I believe contracts help to ensure the safety and protection of workers’ rights.  There is a fundamental difference between being an employee of a business and being a private contractor utilizing company space.

In many if not most cases, strippers are considered to be – by law – “private contractors” utilizing the space inside peep-show strip clubs.  So in addition to making more in tips than actual wages, strippers are expected to pay a stage fee.  Many of the women interviewed during the filming of this documentary were paying large percentages of their weekly, bi-weekly or monthly income checks just to maintain the status of employment.  Peep-show strip club managers largely received more profit than the actual workers, whom according to their non-contracts were simply ‘private contractors’ and thereby unentitled to employee rights.

What Query and the staff at The Lusty Lady was empowering as it was transformative.  I think LIVE NUDE GIRLS UNITE brings to light a lot of issues that have previously occupied dark corners.  The concept of sex, sexiness and sexuality relating to race was a big, hot button issue on deck for workers of color at peep-show strip club, as many white staff members were receiving more [or the only] opportunities for higher pay through racialized managerial practices.  One of the club managers said ironically, “you know, some people actually find these women attractive,” referring to women of color (i.e. Asian American and African American club workers), and not just as the exoticized other.

from Google Images

This documentary also [re]shaped my perception of sex work as work and all the rights that go along with that notion of employee status.  If sex were not so tabou, maybe a conversation about sex workers rights could be further lifted out of the dark and into the light.

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Masculinities and Deconstructing the Masculine Mystique

Who is this guy?

handsomemasculinemen.com/very-masculine/masculine-confidence, April 2012

You know him.  I know him.  He is the every man, or rather what Euro-American mass media will have you believe every man aught to emulate.  But if you take a Masculinity Studies course at Hunter College, then you will learn that the proper terminology for one such image is that of hegemonic masculinity.

Hegemonic masculinity reins supreme in our sociopolitical context.  He is born biologically male, his gender is then culturally assigned to him as boy – he grows up to be a man; moreover he is white, middle to upper-middle class, heterosexual, able bodied and more than likely identifies as Christian.  Normative masculinity such as this has been constructed and reconstructed over time and throughout national spaces, namely in the United States.  There is a shameful history of gendering races in America, that is to say that non-white masculinity has almost always been depicted as problematic.  The myth of the hyper-masculine African American was used as justification for nineteenth and twentieth century lynchings here in the United States.  Asian American men are often depicted in movies and television as asexual or uniformly effeminate.  Latino, Chicano and Hispanic men have also historically been constructed as inferior.  Take for example the writings of T.J. Farnham, an American patriot of the Mexican-American War.

“They Wait For Us.”

THE Spanish maid, with eye of fire, At balmy evening turns her lyre And, looking to the Eastern sky, Awaits our Yankee chivalry Whose purer blood and valiant arms, Are fit to clasp her budding charms. The man, her mate, is sunk in sloth— To love, his senseless heart is loth: The pipe and glass and tinkling lute; A sofa, and a dish of fruit; A nap, some dozen times by day; Sombre and sad, and never gay, He seems accursed for deeds of yore, When Mexico once smoked with gore: The blood of many a patriot band, Shed by invaders of their land, Who now, by quick avenging time, Are vanquished by the subtile clime, Which steals upon the manly mind As comes “miasma” on the wind. An army of reformers, we— March on to glorious victory; And on the highest peak of Ande, Unfurl our banners to the wind, Whose stars shall light the land anew, And shed rich blessings like the dew (http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3401804742.html)

Racism is American as Apple Pie, from Google Images

>__^

But we aren’t simply talking about historical examples here. Many contemporary deployments of raced hegemony are made popular under the guise of… patriotism and [hegemonic] masculinity. An example of this might be that of burqa burning, which is not even spelled correctly in the link provided. One Women’s and Gender Studies Professor at Hunter described the idea behind both examples as white men saving brown women from brown men. Once it was articulated to me in this way, I began to see the American military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan a bit differently back in 2010 (i.e. bringing democracy and so-called-universal standards of human and women’s rights; as if the two are somehow different).

However, this gender axis by which men are typically blames is a false [or faulty] analysis for critique and discussion. It is necessary that we incorporate a theoretical framework that is simultaneously critical of racial constructions so that we may gauge a more accurate understanding. Because many Euro-American feminists aim to likewise ‘burn’ or eradicate the burqa, with limited understanding of its plural transnational contexts. Therefore, a Transnational Feminisms course at Hunter might further teach that white women aim to save brown women from brown men under that same guise of so-called-universal human rights [that are outlined by Euro-American voices within the international debates surrounding rights]. Before I get too off topic, let me suggest that the politics of saving women of the global south, or women of non-white racial ethnic groups is all around problematic to say the least. A saving complex reifies culturally constructed social hierarchies that are racially based as well as gendered.

We learn in Hons 201 that men suffer from patriarchal violence just as women do, only in different ways. Lived experiences vary according to complex intersections of social identity markers. Very few individuals fit that hegemonic mold of masculinity. Therefore a relatively young new branch of feminism (i.e. Masculinity Studies) is taking it’s rightful root in academia now, challenging previous conceptions of gender faced by self-identified men.

from Google Images

A great book to read [more on this topic] is titled, Men Speak Out, by Shira Tarrant: a collection of essays by self-identified men challenging and resisting social norms placed upon them as well as contemplating new meanings and [re]constructions of a pro-feminist masculinity.

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The Business of [Westernized] Healing

Me (center) with my two older sisters, Angela (right) and G (left) Galotti

I am the proud little sister of two brilliant future doctors: Angela and G. Galotti, my sisters and closest friends.  Angela is a third year medical student here in New York City at NYU and G. is a second year medical student at Stony Brook, on Long Island – where we three grew up.  Their experiences of working at two different teaching hospitals has educated me on the various cultures of medical schools and of hospitals.  Last week’s class discussion about health care in America and women’s relationships to the health care system prompted me to write this blog post, as I felt that certain important points of discussion were otherwise occluded.

Some of the students in class on Thursday expressed a sentiment of grief with doctors, or rather doctors’ tendencies to pathologize what could potentially be viewed as natural.  It would be unfair of me to assume what other people meant by their reinstating frustrations with doctors, but – from what I gathered – there was a particular sense of resentment towards the medicalization of bodies in the diagnostic/treatment process.  This speaks to the precious relationship of doctor-patient that is all about healing.  I agree with most of those who feel that there is, more often than not, a disconnect between the healer (i.e. physician) and the healing (i.e. patient).

from Google Images

But where might that disconnect stem from?  And is it fair to place sole blame and responsibility on the part of the physician, or rather can we locate the source of such frustrations in the overlapping system of health care in America itself?  Okay, so these questions are obviously leading, to say the least.  But I want to make clear that we cannot discuss physicians as a monolithic group – just as we cannot discuss women as a monolith, sharing in like experiences, when we know that simply is not true.  Analyses, or rather respectable ones, always include context; it is imperative to understand an individual’s physical, social and historical location.  Just ask any Transnational Feminist.

Those physicians who decide to go into primary care (i.e. the doctor you visit annually for a check-up, or your ‘family doctor’) most likely value that doctor-patient relationship.  How is this a safe assumption?  1.)  Primary care physicians adopt further responsibilities/burdens of owning and running their own business as opposed to working for a hospital & 2.) Primary care physicians, on the whole, earn considerably less than those who choose to go into surgery or other specialized fields.  This is why so many mid-level practitioner positions are becoming more and more popular (i.e. nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants (PA’s).

I have been told by my sisters and by other medical students alike that it is less and less enticing for a medical student to pursue primary care, as the overwhelming costs reap underwhelming benefits.  If time is equal to money and patients are a source of money, then more money is obtained by and through seeing more patients in one working day as opposed to seeing less patients per day with whom more time and attention was spent.  So one’s ideals of nurturing that precious doctor-patient-healing-relation tend to diminish by virtue of the cold hard facts that running a [health service] business will inevitably yield.

The problem with the health care industry in America is just that: it is an industry by which to obtain profit.  Health care is viewed as a responsibility of the welfaristic State in many communistic or socialized national states, and not as a business – as it is often viewed here in this country by insurance companies and citizens alike.  This is not to reify yet another false dichotomy of the capitalistic United States versus the socialist Europe and elsewhere, but rather it is to draw attention to this money making business we call healing.  And frankly, many people have [more than] the right to be fed up.  But in crafting one’s argument around the issue of doctors, it is necessary to understand the various factors which contribute to the lack of resources faced by both patients and, believe it or not, primary care physicians on the whole as well.

Me (center) again with my sisters, Angela (right) and G (left) Galotti with our beautiful, late dog, Sandy (yellow dog with the cute face).

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Fem Food For Thought: “The Right NOT To Have Children”

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**The symbol of Madrid en la Puerta del Sol: El Oso y El Madroño

A little less than one month ago, I was lying atop a stiff (and probably dirty) mattress, waiting for my sister to finish getting ready in our Madrid hostel.  I was starving and in order to pass the time, I picked up the August 2012 issue of Vogue I had bought two weeks prior, waiting for our flight to take off into the skies for eight hours, at JFK international airport.  To my surprise and delight, I stumbled upon a feminist critique on the gendered practices currently [re]occurring throughout the field of reproductive medicine in the Beauty & Health section of the magazine.  The title of the article to which I am referring read as follows:

“Q: Just how hard can it be to avoid getting pregnant?  A: Much harder than you’d think.  PAMELA PAUL CONSIDERS A BREWING UNDER-THE-RADAR ISSUE: THE RIGHT NOT TO HAVE CHILDREN.”

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The article itself follows the biographical tale of 27-year-old Erin Iwamoto-Galusha in her search for, “the right birth control,” (Paul, 122).  Iwamoto-Galusha had decided pretty early on in her [young] adult life that she did not [ever] want to conceive children.  Looking for a low-maintenance and permanent solution to the potential problem of [accidentally] getting pregnant, Iwamoto-Galusha sought to undergo the surgical procedure known as tubal ligation – or more commonly called, getting one’s tubes tied.  Much to her dismay, Iwamoto-Galusha encountered a series of obstacles put forward by more than five physicians who refused to perform the surgical procedure upon her request.

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Tubal ligation is one of the most common forms of female sterilization, or the act of making an organism unable to reproduce.  It is, however, a more invasive procedure than its so-called-male counterpart: the vasectomy; this is largely due to the anatomical differences in fe/male sexual organs.  Regardless, tubal ligation is an easier alternative to using condoms, the Pill, intrauterine devices or the diaphragm if one is so inclined as to never entertaining the idea of bearing children.  Erin Iwamoto-Galusha was one of these decisive women.

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The medical community, however, was less than decisive when it came to respecting Iwamoto-Galusha’s wishes.  Among the many obstacles presented to her was, perhaps the most paternalistic in nature, when Erin’s physician required she ‘bring her husband [of five years] into the office’ so as to affirm her conviction.  Could you imagine a man being asked the same question upon requesting a vasectomy?  And the issue does not simply fall upon the axis of gender, as several of Erin’s physicians were female and equally, if not more, hesitant to say yes.  In an equally condescending maternalistic fashion, her female doctors tried to [re]assure Erin that they, too, had once desired the very same childless freedom but eventually found a partner later in life with whom they wished to conceive children with.

There is something to be said about the permanent ramifications of surgical intervention and, albeit, the necessary application of thought and [re]consideration that ought to go into making one such decision.  However, it is also imperative to remain critical of Erin’s [non]treatment by the medical community for several years.  Her doctors’ hesitations speak to a much larger discourse surrounding the ideology of women.  That is to say that women are assumed to be less than capable of autonomously deciding on their lives, bodies and destinies.  That is also to say that women, particularly young women such as Erin, are [subconsciously] expected to physically embody the meaning of the word fruitful.  After all, what purpose do women have – through which to connect with one another – if not [re]producing life?

Of course that last question was [intended to be read as] ironic, but hopefully most of y’all got that part.  The point of this article, I think, is to reinforce the significance of constantly questioning, resisting and challenging those dominant norms set in place by hegemonic institutions like Western medicine.  Erin Iwamoto-Galusha ultimately practiced her autonomy and successfully received the birth control option of her childless dreams.  Congratulations, Erin!  We’re (well, at least I am) sorry you had to endure so many hiccups along the way toward achieving your own personal uterine liberation…but your story serves as a warning to all women who, in the spirit of Sandra Morgen, aim to place reproductive rights back into their own hands.

For another blogger’s feminist perspective on this story, check out BlogHer.

…Besos, kittens!

Categories: Creative Blog Posts | Tags: , | 3 Comments

Ciao belli e belle…

Hello everyone! I’m Christine…

Greetings to Hons 201 and to anyone else who stumbles upon this blog!  My name is Christine Elyse Galotti – you can follow me on Twitter!  I am an animal LOVER and an undergraduate student at CUNY Hunter in New York City…
When I first entered Hunter College as a freshman in the Fall of 2010, I had dreams of pursuing a double major in English Literature and Spanish – as those two subjects were my forte in high school, having been voted Best Writer by my graduating class!  But as life would have it, my education at Hunter inspired different passions within me, ones which I never would have considered exploring prior to taking my first Women’s and Gender Studies class, with Professor DeLorenzo.  Suddenly, I became enchanted by the social sciences.  A career in Academia would enable one such lucky student of the world to explore the very questions she or he feels like asking, with research and funding and the opportunity to teach at the University level.  Since then, I have been focused on working towards one day earning my Ph.D., hopefully at the CUNY Graduate Centre here in Manhattan.  Currently I am working on an independent study supervised by Professor Chito-Childs, researching the projection on negative female stereotypes in reality television.

Often depicting women as angry, irrational beings with little to no control over their emotions.

I grew up the youngest of three girls in Suffolk County, New York on Long Island in a town called Lake Ronkonkoma – which also happens to be the very last stop on the Long Island Rail Road.  This time last year, I was commuting on that line – two hours there, two hours back – three days a week while balancing my restaurant job on the island.  Then one day, the universe magically clicked and I got a dorm at Hunter’s Brookdale campus on East 25th Street!  Actually, it required a bit more begging, letters, emails and phone calls than that…but it mostly boiled down to pure luck: the right time in the right place kind of thing.  Since then, I have not taken for granted the blessing it is to be able to live in Manhattan for such an affordable price – which, thankfully, has been significantly reduced by the generous assistance provided by the JFEW Eleanor Roosevelt Scholars Program.  It was through this incredible program that I was able to receive the opportunity to intern at New York City Council Member Letitia James‘s District Office in Council District 35 of Brooklyn this past summer 2012.  The experience of working in the field of public policy was an unforgettable one, to say the least.  I had fun, but learned that the office environment isn’t necessarily for me in the long run, if I can help it.

Great show…not my ideal reality, however.

Now I am working on my three majors, which are Sociology, Women’s and Gender Studies and Literature (through the Thomas Hunter Honors Program).  While it is my goal to graduate within four years (i.e. eight semesters), the more important thing is what I get out of my education, which hopefully will be something like [the ability to thoroughly grasp] knowledge and to somehow articulate that knowledge well, respectfully and accurately to the world.  And I am not so proud as to possibly believe that the world will one day ever be reading my writing as a basis for anything and/or if at all!   What I mean is that to be published leaves some kind of impression somewhere on someone, and that difference is significant.  It has transformative potentials for critics and advocates alike, which I have experienced first hand as the student and hope to one day reinforce as a voice of [some kind of] knowledge…
Paz y amor,
Christine

PS: On a personal note, I just got back from a two week adventure in Spain with my sister, Geri!  When I got home, I turned 20 years old and got my [first, but not last] tattoo!  It is a strawberry on my hip – because not only do I love The Beatles (i.e. “Strawberry Fields Forever”) but also I enjoy the fruit more so than the average human being.

“Living is easy with eyes closed…” ~John Lennon

Categories: Creative Blog Posts | Tags: , | 5 Comments

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