I don’t read too much non-fiction these days. Right now I’m speed reading Gone Girl . It’s kinda sorta okay but makes me feel like my brain is melting. I don’t really like Gone Girl, but I can’t stop reading it. It’s kind of like my sugar addiction.
To my credit, the last time I went to the library, I checked out Far From the Tree, Buddhism for Mothers and In the House of the Interpreter. But I haven’t read them yet. This summer I read everything Jamaica Kincaid ever wrote (except this one) . She is so perfect. But I also read The Happiness Project. Please don’t let me read Jodi Picoult. If I read Jodi Picoult, it’s all over.
Anyhoo, back when I was a full-time smarty pants, I spent countless hours reading nonfiction, I read about health. Particularly women’s health. There is so much out there, and I feel lucky to have been introduced to it. So in case you’re looking for something to read that’s not a white lady novel, here we go.
Ten great books about women’s health:
1. Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction and the Meaning of Liberty. Dorothy Roberts is a great writer. This book will help you understand the racist undertones of much of American political discourse about reproductive health and entitlement programs.
2. How the Pro-Choice Movement Saved America: Freedom, Politics and the War on Sex. Cristina Page. Best title ever
3. Cunt. Speaking of titles… okay, it’s a little crass and the language is tiny bit outdated, but Inga Muscio’s take menstruation, reproductive health and sexual freedom is still empowering
4. A Darker Ribbon. One of the most well-researched critiques of the breast cancer movement that is not preach or overly academic.
5. Reproductive Rights and Wrongs: The Global Politics of Population Control. This should be required reading for anyone working for — or wanting to work for — an international development organization.
6. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down : A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors and a Collision of Two Cultures. A can’t-put-it-down kind of read written by a journalist.
7. Testing Women, Testing the Fetus: The Social Impact of Amniocentesis on America. An ethnography of genetic counseling. A little bit on the jargony side, but still a good read.
8. Pathologies of Power: Health, Human Rights, and the New War on the Poor.Paul Farmer will make you want to try and save the world.
9. Safe Food: The Politics of Food Safety. You are what you eat. Marion Nestle.
10. How to Have Theory in an Epidemic: Cultural Chronicles of AIDS. Would get the award for best title if I hadn’t already given it to Cristina Page. Paula Treichler is one of my favorite smarty-pants writers.
And one bonus book…
11. Birth as an American Rite of Passage. Robbie Davis-Floyd. A classic. Read it.
What about you? What are your favorite women’s health books? What did I forget? And hey, what are you reading? I’ll forgive you if it’s Jodi Picoult.
Back when I was young and idealistic, there was nothing I loved more than a good protest.
I vividly remember the first time I attended a demonstration — it was on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Canada and were were protesting the incarceration of Nelson Mandela. After that, I was hooked.
I’ve marched against police violence in Seattle, white supremacy in Montreal, and sexual assault in Iowa City. I’ve taken back the night more times than I can count, and I’ve faced off against loggers (one of whom was wearing this T-shirt) in British Columbia’s Clayquot Sound as part of a protest against clearcutting.
I once demonstrated against impending restrictive abortion regulations in Seattle, and carried this sign:
On my way home, a young boy stopped me and asked me to explain what the sign meant. Awkward.
I used to get goosebumps and a thrill at the first sound of a good chant. I loved rousing speeches promising social justice, peace and equality. During the Bush
reign of terror administration, I took a bus from Iowa to Washington,DC to protest the invasion of Iraq. The experience was thoroughly exhilarating at the same time that it was extremely depressing. Enormous demonstrations were held all over the world, but we all know what happened in the end.
It was this lifelong interest in social justice that propelled me to seek employment in the non-profit women’s health field. When I finally got a full-time job writing for a major reproductive health and HIV organization, I was beyond excited.
But instead of rousing speeches and radical movement toward social justice, I found career climbers and male dominated board rooms. Public health initiatives seemed top-heavy and destined to fail, success was measured in tiny percentage points. People talked about “stakeholders” and “gender champions” and said things like “scale-up” and “roll-out” and “capacity building.”
The employees at this non-profit didn’t protest, in fact, they found protestors to be quite threatening. I was enlisted to help write a paper about the travesties committed by ACT-UP. And yes, dear readers, I did it.
This morning, there was an article in the L.A. Times about a group of young people disrobing in front of John Baynor’s office in protest of cuts to domestic AIDS funding. I found myself thinking about the importance of this type of dramatic, confrontational action. There’s no worry about funders disapproval or concern that you might be burning bridges with potential allies. This kind of action reminded me that there are still plenty of people who are able to concoct creative ways to engage with the political process, to express rage at inequality, and yes, even to demand social justice.
I’m not much of a sign-holder anymore, perhaps those kinds of actions are best left to the young and idealistic. But while I might not be one of the people who strips naked on Capitol Hill, I’ll always be sitting on the sidelines, silently cheering them on.
What do you think? Do you go to demonstrations? Do you think that protests like these are good tools for political change, particularly when it comes to health policy?
Have you heard about this case in Ireland where a woman was denied an abortion and died as a result?
Savita Halappanavar, a 31 year old dentist, was 17 weeks pregnant with her first child. She began having severe back pain and was told that she was miscarrying. She then requested that her doctors medically terminate the pregnancy, but was denied because abortion is against the law in Ireland. She died of blood poisoning a couple of days later.
There has been worldwide media attention on the case, since it’s a situation where an abortion actually would have saved the life of the mother.
Ireland’s constitution officially bans abortion, but in 1992, the Supreme Court ruled that it should be legal when a woman’s life is at risk.The government never passed a law to this effect, which means that Irish physicians are very reluctant to perform abortions, regardless of the circumstances.
In 2010, three women sued the Irish government in the European Court of Human Rights for denying them access abortions. The women each had extenuating circumstances: an alcoholic with four children, two of which were disabled; a woman undergoing chemotherapy, and a woman who had taken emergency contraception that had failed to work. The court found they had no right to abortions under the constitution, and their complaints were dismissed. However, the court also found that Ireland’s ban on abortion even in the case of life-threatening pregnancies was in violation of European Union law.
Halappanavar’s death coincided with the release of a long-awaited expert report that recommends possible changes to Irish abortion law. The report was commissioned by the Irish government after the 2010 European Court of Human Rights ruling.
Currently, about 4,200 women travel outside of Ireland every year to terminate pregnancies.
I’m as pro-choice as they come, but you’ve got to give it to the Irish. They are so adamantly against abortion that they sought a travel injunction against a 14 year old who was raped by a neighbor and whose parents were trying to get her to England to have an abortion.
They refuse abortion in all cases. No matter what. No exceptions for rape, no exceptions for life-threatening conditions, no exceptions for the threat of fetal-alcohol syndrome, or neglect, or deformity caused by chemotherapy.
It ain’t pretty, but if you are against abortion, then own it.
They acknowledge that sometime women die when they don’t have access to safe, legal abortion. They have no problem with the fact that outlawing abortion means that women and girls are forced to carry pregnancies to term and then parent children that are the product of rape when they are denied access to safe and legal abortion.
That’s the reality, and at least the Irish government is willing to take the fall out.
What do you think?
It’s been another great week!
I started a new series, profiling women in health. If you would like to be profiled or have an idea of someone you think I should talk to, please let me know.
I’ve been pitching lots of stories about women’s health to a variety of news outlets and blogs, and will hopefully have some good news to share soon.
And a confession – I didn’t watch the veep debate. I listened to part of it on the radio, but missed the visual antics. Oh well, I’ll be watching on Tuesday as the presidential candidates face off for the last time.
Here’s what caught my eye in health news this week:
- Injections in the spine never seems like a great idea, but even worse when the medication is full of fungus. Some things definitely need lots of regulatory oversight!
- In a valiant effort to take the mind-body connection seriously, two studies look at the role stress when it comes to breast cancer and maternal well being.
- Floridians are voting on whether ban state funding for abortion, in addition to the existing ban on federal funding for abortion, put in place by the Hyde Amendment. Will they also be voting on whether to increasing state funding for birth control?
- Scientists have come to a consensus that formaldehyde causes cancer. So why are lobbyists trying to keep this information under wraps?
- No one wants to go on a job interview when they’re pregnant, and lots of women are nervous to tell their employers that they are pregnant even when they already have the job. Been there.
- The UK takes a big step, and makes treatment available for HIV positive patients who need them, regardless of immigration status. Public health in action.
- 3D mammograms: twice the radiation, three times the fun?
Thanks for reading! Have a great fall weekend, and see you on Monday.