complaints, healthcare, politicians, politics, rants

News flash! 100 percent of unintended pregnancies are caused by men…

Hello again, folks. Bill and I are now on our third day in Florence. Tonight, our wine tour begins, which I suspect is going to be quite the adventure. It runs from dinner tonight, through tomorrow in Cortona, and then most of Sunday. We’ll come back to Florence for one more night, then head to Vaduz, Liechtenstein, for two nights to relax until it’s time to go home to Germany. I’m already annoyed today, though, because my backup bank’s stupid two party authorization system is worthless and ineffective, and I’m going to have to call them AGAIN later to get it straightened out. I can’t log in to my account, because they don’t want to send a text to my German phone number, and for some reason, my fingerprint and/or email don’t suffice. As much bitching as I’ve recently done about USAA, at least they will email me a code so I can access my money. Americans abroad really need a decent bank that will work with us. Local banks don’t want to deal with Americans because of our tax laws.

Anyway, enough about off topic subjects. I came here to vent, once again, about certain men who want to take on Democratic politicians like Amy Klobuchar, who are dedicated to preserving women’s rights to privacy and healthcare by fighting against draconian rules intended to force them to birth when they don’t want to. Yesterday, Ms. Klobuchar posted a couple of statuses about her work in blocking Republicans from abolishing access to abortion. Below are two posts she made about this subject that is near and dear to my heart… and uterus.

Naturally, there were many comments from men about this, as well as a few from anti-choice females who want to “slut shame” and harass people who would like the government to stay out of our uteri. It always amazes me when I see comments from men who think that the prospect of making humans is a 50/50 proposition. It’s really not. I mean, do men really think that their part in making babies is equal? A man’s part in fertilizing an egg takes a couple of minutes. The woman’s part takes nine months. Moreover, a man can go out and get a different woman pregnant every day, if the opportunity arises and it’s something he wants to do. A woman, once she’s pregnant, is going to literally be “occupied” until the developing fetus turns into a baby. But based on the comments on Amy Klobuchar’s Facebook page, some men have either not considered the “heavy lifting” aspect of babymaking, or they are choosing to ignore it. So I’m here to remind the willfully ignorant, once again… 100 percent of unintended pregnancies are caused by men.

Face the facts. No matter how “loose” and “trampy” a woman is– not that I like to use those terms myself– she CAN’T get pregnant without a man’s literal input. And it doesn’t actually matter if she “wanted it”, or the input was forced upon her. If a man’s sperm fertilizes a ripe egg at the right time of the month, the woman will get pregnant. If not, then the woman won’t get pregnant. It’s as simple as that. But, even though pregnancy is not possible without a man’s input, his part of babymaking is pretty small. After he does his part, his body will stay the same. He won’t suffer health problems, be inconvenienced or uncomfortable, or be forced out of work. And, quite often, after the baby is born, he won’t be the one who does the primary caregiving. He certainly won’t be breastfeeding, unless he’s trans.

Even though these are facts, though, some men just can’t help themselves and feel the need to respond with outrage about abortion. And for some of them, it’s not even because they are “outraged” over the loss of potential human life that comes with abortion. They are upset because the woman gets to make a choice “denied” to them. In other words, they resent having to pay child support if the woman decides to maintain an unintended pregnancy. And they also resent that a woman can choose to terminate a pregnancy without the man’s consent.

To those men, I would like to say… you and your ilk can make plenty of choices that will help you avoid this scenario. You can use a condom when you have sex with a woman with whom you don’t want to make a baby. Condoms are pretty damned effective at preventing pregnancies. If you don’t want children at all, you can get a vasectomy. Personally, I’m not a fan of vasectomies, but I understand that they are a great option for men who want them. Or– here’s a novel idea– you can opt to keep your dick in your pants! You can use a blow up doll or “rosey” to satisfy your sexual needs. A blow up doll can’t get pregnant, so you don’t have to worry about child support. Ditto to using your hairy palms. 😉

Listen to Sting and his mates in The Police. They can offer some great tips on how to make your life complete without those pesky unintended pregnancies caused by that thing hanging between your legs…

Another guy made a snarky comment that read “If only there was a way to stop unplanned pregnancies”. It was accompanied by a picture of three blind mice. Indeed… guys like him can easily do their part to stop abortions. They can opt not to have unprotected sex with a woman with whom they don’t want to make a baby. They can decide not to sexually assault or rape women. They can realize that they have choices before the pregnancy begins. Once the pregnancy begins, sorry guys, but it’s not your body, health, or livelihood on the line. And no, you should NOT get a say in whether or not a pregnancy continues. Especially when the pregnant person is a total stranger.

I really don’t understand why some men feel like having to pay child support, for a child that originated from a pregnancy they caused, is a huge imposition. Women don’t get pregnant by themselves. I think if men got pregnant or had to deal with periods, PMS, or menopause, they would have abortion clinics on every corner, coupled with sports bars and shooting ranges. Having to pay money every month to a woman who put her life, health, and livelihood on the line to bring their baby into the world is the least they can do.

Now… I do think that fathers should have equal say when the baby is outside of the womb. At that point, fathers can and should contribute equally to raising their children. But until that baby is born, it’s part of a woman’s body. The mother is the one who feels the baby dancing on her bladder at night. The woman is the one throwing up due to morning sickness, developing cankles, varicose veins, and hemorrhoids, putting herself at risk of pre-eclampsia, diabetes, and post-partum depression, abstaining from smoking, drinking alcoholic beverages, and eating “risky” foods, and dealing with the trauma of having her nether regions or abdomen permanently changed after birth. It’s also the woman’s name on the medical bills, and the woman who has to deal with intrusive questions, unsolicited advice, and scrutiny from perfect strangers. Until that baby is born, the man’s contribution is a few minutes of fun… and if he’s a decent guy, maybe financial.

So, given all of that, I think it’s high time that more men trust women to do what’s right for their own bodies and healthcare. And I think that men, once again, should respect women’s rights to their own autonomy. Above all, men who don’t like abortions and don’t want to pay child support should stop having sex with women who can get pregnant or use effective birth control. Problem solved.

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condescending twatbags, healthcare, law

Confusion, chaos, and crass behavior continues, as US ends mask mandates on transportation…

It’s a beautiful spring day here in lovely Wiesbaden, Germany. The sun is shining and the air is fresh, crisp, and cool. I can see my neighbors’ trees heavy with flowers. Later, when I walk my dogs, I expect to see plenty of beautiful blooms in well-tended gardens. I probably should enjoy being outside more, especially since the weather in this part of the world isn’t always as nice as it is right now. It’s always so nice to see spring arrive in Germany, since the earliest months of the year are usually pretty crappy, when it comes to the weather. Making things even nicer is that on April 2, 2022, Germany finally lifted face mask requirements and vaccine checks in many venues, although they remain on public transportation.

Because masks are still required in airports and on public transportation in Germany, Bill and I will be driving to Italy next week. Actually, we might have decided to do that anyway, since we will probably be buying wine, cheese, and other groceries and it’s easier to transport that stuff in a car than on a plane. I like road trips, as a general rule. In my opinion, one of the best things about living in Europe is having the option to drive to so many beautiful places.

My countrymen aren’t so fortunate when it comes to traveling abroad. A person in the United States can’t drive to Europe, Africa, Australia, or Asia. In fact, it’s not so easy to get from coast to coast in the United States by car. It takes awhile to drive from, say, Virginia to California, and a lot of Americans prefer to fly, because vacation days are precious in the US and flying takes less time. So yesterday’s ruling, made with a stroke from federal Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle’s pen, has caused a big ruckus among Americans. Public reaction to her decision has been decisively split. Judge Mizelle’s ruling makes it okay to forgo face masks on domestic flights, although it’s my understanding that they are still required on planes that are flying to places where the masks are still required.

Cue mass hysteria.
Something tells me that this decision is going to prompt policy changes.

Many people are hailing Judge Mizelle for setting them free from face masks on public transportation. Others are cursing her and calling her “incompetent” for allowing people to suddenly take off their masks mid flight yesterday. The facts that she’s from Florida, is somewhat young and attractive, and was appointed by Donald Trump, don’t help some people’s negative impressions of her worthiness as a judge. Some public health and medical experts are very concerned about this restoration of facial freedom the judge has bestowed upon the public. And some people are feeling more emboldened than ever to shoot the finger at people they regard as sanctimonious virtue signalers.

If you read this blog regularly, you know that I’m liberal about a lot of things. But you may also know that I’m not a fan of face masks, even though I am a master’s level graduate of an accredited school of public health. I was never really in favor of them, even at the beginning of the pandemic. I don’t think a lot of people wear the masks properly. Here in Germany, we’ve been forced to wear heavy FFP2 masks (like N95s), but the infections continue, probably because no one is forced to cover their eyes. And so, I conclude that a lot of the masking is basically theater, although I can certainly understand why they are important in certain medical settings.

Two years ago, before we had vaccines and most people had zero immunity to the virus, I could see why they were initially necessary, even though the masks most people wore at the beginning of the pandemic were pretty useless. As the variants have become milder, and fewer people seem to be getting quite so sick and dying, I can see why the masks are being phased out. For the most part, I think it’s time. It’s been two years, and while I’m sure there are some people who would love to see everyone masked forever, that’s not a very realistic goal.

Many people legitimately hate the masks because they can be uncomfortable and inconvenient. They do cause legitimate problems for some people, particularly those who suffer from anxiety, are hard of hearing, or have sensory processing disorders. They aren’t a good long time solution, in my opinion, because they are so polarizing, and because they hinder communication. Even if face masks were the best idea ever, it would take some time for people to accept them as normal. I am old enough to remember when a lot of Americans didn’t voluntarily wear seatbelts in their cars. It wasn’t until I was a young adult that they became normal for most people. At least that was how it was in the United States. In most countries in Europe, mandatory use of seatbelts for all passengers has been the rule for a lot longer, and fines are pretty stiff for non-compliance. But even a lot of Europeans are over the masks.

I still live in Germany, where public health ministers are still wanting to limit freedoms and impose COVID restrictions. A lot of Germans seem to be fed up with the rules, too, although they do seem to be a lot more willing to submit to them than Americans are. What I like about Germany, though, is that people seem to be somewhat less insulting, whichever side of the mask debate they’re on. And Germans, as a rule, are more community minded about most things. Many people here are still wearing masks, even though they are no longer legally required to wear them. Those who don’t wear masks mostly don’t get harassed for not wearing them. Maybe they get the side eye from one or two people, but no one is getting belligerent or aggressive about it, and there’s a lot less violence all around. I doubt if the mask rules were relaxed in the middle of a Lufthansa flight, that people would be whooping and hollering like they reportedly were on US flights yesterday. But yes, there would probably be people gratefully removing them.

As usual, I took a look at the comments on the news articles. It didn’t surprise me that a lot of people were whining about their fears regarding this decision, while others were being really offensively belligerent about their “freedoms”. I suspect that if the mask mandates are reinstated in the United States, there will be even more of an uproar and possibly, more violence. I have noticed, as many have, that since the mask mandates were in place, the behavior of people on planes was more violent and unruly than it’s ever been. After all, flights in economy class are uncomfortable enough as it is. The masks made them even less pleasant for a large number of people, even though some people don’t mind the masks and never found wearing them “onerous”.

Obviously, the masks make it harder for flight crews, as people have gotten violent over having to wear them on planes.

One thing that I’ve noticed and don’t really like from either side of this issue, is that people aren’t willing to compromise or concede. Why can’t the pro-maskers, for instance, understand why people hate wearing masks? Why do they feel it necessary to insult, belittle, and berate people for their valid opinions? Being nasty and sanctimonious to people does not inspire their cooperation. Moreover, I don’t find it very convincing when a person in a mask brags about “caring for other people” as they verbally abuse those who don’t share their opinions and dare to express themselves. I’ve seen more than one comment by a supposed “concerned mask wearing humanitarian” indicating that they think anyone who disagrees with them deserves to die. That’s not a very caring and kind attitude, in my opinion, and it doesn’t necessarily make me want to wear a mask for the sake of others. In fact, I think it’s the height of hypocrisy.

Conversely, I also think it’s awful that there are so many anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers out there who feel the need to laugh, gloat, and insult people who are genuinely afraid of getting very sick from the virus. I happen to agree that masking should be a choice, even though given a choice, many people won’t choose to wear a mask. Having the right to choose is part of living in a free society. But I also empathize with people who are afraid of COVID, or are concerned that they will spread it to vulnerable loved ones. Unfortunately, this was a problem even before COVID, and it will continue to be a problem. Forced mask wearing is not going to make the basic challenges faced by immunocompromised people go away, even if they appear to make things safer. I do agree, however, that we could all stand to be kinder and more considerate about this problem.

I read an op-ed on the Washington Post this morning about the relaxed rules. Robin Givhan, who wrote the opinion piece, demonstrated the attitude that, personally, I’ve found very off-putting throughout the pandemic. Her piece, titled “Whoops of selfish delight”, lamented that people were cheering about the suddenly dropped mask mandates. The mood of her opinion was that people were behaving badly for being visibly happy to be rid of the masks. This was Givhan’s sarcastic comment about the midflight announcement:

“They reveled in the knowledge that while they might be required to buckle their seat belt, turn off their cellphone, put their seat backs in the upright position and refrain from smoking on their grueling one-hour-and-20-minute flight, the one thing they would not have to do was wear a mask. The long, torturous nightmare of government overreach, which is how so many aggrieved passengers viewed the mandate effecting public transportation, has come to an end.”

I just want to ask her what the hell she was expecting. Of course people in their tight airplane seats with no leg room, strapped in and masked up, while their neighbors eye them suspiciously and with hostility, are going to be delighted with the prospect of being free to breathe unmasked. A lot of people– and I’m sure many in the travel industry, especially– are thrilled not to have to wear masks or enforce the wearing of masks, temporary as it may end up being.

Now, maybe it was rude to “whoop” about it, if only because yelling can spread viruses faster, and there are people who are legitimately terrified of being around maskless people. But I don’t think people are being selfish when they’re happy to be allowed to unmask. It’s perfectly natural, especially after two years of this weird, dystopian, plague we’ve been enduring. And if the mask mandates are reimposed, be prepared for backlash. I suspect it could be even worse after people have gotten a taste of freedom. No amount of shaming, virtue signaling, and berating is going to cow certain people into compliance. I just hope there won’t be more violence.

Anyway… count me among those who are for putting away the face masks, although I probably won’t be flying or taking transportation anytime soon. I never liked the masks, and I’m not going to submit to peer pressure to be a cheerleader for them. I’ll wear a mask if I’m asked to, but I certainly don’t want to do it. Not wearing a mask doesn’t make me a shitty person, especially since I don’t hang around people much, anyway. I also don’t care if other people wear masks. They can wear as many as they want to. It’s their choice, and I respect that. It would be nice if we could respect each other’s choices, since we all have to breathe. When it comes down to it, COVID is just another one of the many, many risks we face on a daily basis. Over the past two years, I’ve lost several people in my life, all of whom died years before perhaps they should have. Not a single one of them died of COVID… most of them had cancer or another chronic disease that might not have been adequately addressed, partly thanks to this virus. One died of suicide, and another was killed in a hit and run. I think that’s something to consider.

In other news…

I’m in trouble again.

I got another “restriction” from Facebook yesterday. They claimed I posted “hate speech” for referring to “dumb Americans”. My “punishment” is having my group posts filtered to the bottom for a month. I’m annoyed by this new ding, but I guess I should have expected it. Facebook must have a quota of sanctioning people for posting “offensive” content. What I find especially stupid is that people can and do post all sorts of offensive stuff toward strangers, but I refer to Americans as “dumb” because they won’t allow a children’s author to read his book about unicorns, and I get accused of posting “hate speech”.

I saw this on the Duggar Family News page. Wonder if it will get flagged for being offensive…

Just as I would like to ditch masks, I would also really like to ditch Facebook. I may end up doing that at some point, although it’s the best and easiest way to stay in touch with people. But I resent their stupid bots making false accusations about my posts that are taken out of context. The other day, someone referred to me as a “baby killer”, complete with vomiting emojis because I support the rights of people to get abortions. But that’s apparently okay– to call an individual stranger a “baby killer” as you react with puke emojis. Call Americans “dumb”, and your account gets restricted. It’s very aggravating. But, based on the comments from friends, at least I am in good company with these inane “punishments”. And at least this time, my offensive post was only a few days old, instead of four years old, as it was the last time I got slapped on the wrist. And this time, Facebook said I could appeal their decision. I don’t care enough about this particular issue to do that, though. I’ll just put up with another month of wearing a red badge of shame.

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book reviews, business, healthcare

Repost: A review of Jean Kilbourne’s book, Deadly Persuasion…

And here’s another repost, this time of a review I wrote for Epinions.com on August 10, 2004. I will be posting it as/is, so please keep that in mind when I refer to time. I originally titled this review, “Warning: advertising can be hazardous to your health, and your wallet.

When I was in the Peace Corps, serving in the Republic of Armenia, a fellow volunteer introduced me to Jean Kilbourne by showing her 1979 movie, Killing Us Softly: Advertising’s Image of Women. Kilbourne had filmed one of her lectures about how ads seductively affect the public in pursuit of the almighty dollar. Later, when I went to graduate school at the University of South Carolina, I had the opportunity to hear Jean Kilbourne speak in person. I went to her lecture and watched and listened as she showed slides of advertisements, pointing out the fascinating and horrifying subliminal messages that are presented in cigarette and booze ads. I found her to be a dynamic and intelligent speaker. I was impressed. While I was at the lecture, I had the chance to buy her 1999 book, Deadly Persuasion: Why Women and Girls Must Fight the Addictive Power of Advertising, but unfortunately I was economically challenged and the book was hardcover. Then the following year, a social work professor showed another one of her films. That settled it; I had to read her book. I purchased it and couldn’t put it down, even though some of the material presented within the book was stuff that I’d either seen in her movies or heard at her lecture. Kilbourne’s message is very important; luckily, it’s also fascinating.

According to her book, Jean Kilbourne holds a doctoral degree and has produced several award winning documentaries, and she’s been a visiting scholar at Wellesley College. She’s also served on the National Advisory Council on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, and she’s been an advisor to two surgeons general. Her academic pedigree is impeccable; but she’s not just brilliant and remarkably astute, she’s also very funny. The passion she brings to her work has served to alert scores of people to the dangers of advertising and the media.

Jean Kilbourne starts off her book with the following anecdote:

In 1968 I saw an ad that changed my life. One of the many mindless jobs I had that year was placing ads in The Lancet, a medical journal. This particular one was for a birth control pill called Ovulen 21. It featured a smiling woman’s head and the caption “Ovulen 21 works the way a woman thinks– by weekdays… not ‘cycle days’.” Inside the head were seven boxes, each one day of the week. And inside each box was a picture of that day’s activity: Sunday had a roast, Monday a laundry basket, Tuesday an iron, and so forth. I realized that the ad was basically saying that women were too stupid to remember their cycles but could remember days of the week. And the days of their weeks were an endless rotation of domestic chores. (pp. 17-18)

Kilbourne put the ad up on her refrigerator and soon found herself noticing other ads that insulted and demeaned women. She kept putting the ads on her refrigerator and realized that while some of the messages in the ads were degrading to women, others were violent. She started to recognize patterns in the messages and the images within the advertisements and saw that in many of the ads, only parts of women were shown– in other words, just breasts, noses, or legs, were pictured instead of the whole woman. She noticed that “women were often infantilized and that little girls were sexualized” (18). This was how Jean Kilbourne got started as she began her pursuit of her life’s vocation, by looking at magazine ads in the late 1960s.

Kilbourne realized that everything she had done, from work to finding mates, was influenced by her appearance, although her book makes it plain that she’s very intelligent, too. Although Kilbourne had won a hometown beauty contest as a teenager, and learned how to drink and smoke from a friend, she also went to Wellesley College on a full scholarship after earning a perfect score on the verbal SAT. At Wellesley, Kilbourne earned an award that allowed her to spend a year living in London, working for the British Broadcasting Corporation. While in England, she worked as a secretary, smoked, drank, and modeled; she even dated Ringo Starr and a knight, and partied at Roman Polanski’s apartment. When she came back from Europe, Kilbourne found herself unable to find meaningful employment. It was during this period that Kilbourne really seemed to find herself in trouble with alcohol, although a doctor had told her “Don’t worry, honey, you’re not the type to be an alcoholic.” (22). She was told that she should be a model and she did work as one, until a designer told her that in order to be really successful, she would have to have sex with him. Al Capp also hired her to be a ghostwriter, but he too wanted sex in exchange for a job. With everything that happened to Kilbourne when she was coming of age, I find it no wonder that she became so focused on the women’s movement.

Jean Kilbourne makes the statement “If you’re like most people, you think that advertising has no influence on you” (33). How many of us have watched a commercial on television or looked at a print ad and felt we that we had thought nothing of it? Kilbourne points out that advertisers want the public to believe that they aren’t being affected, but they must be. Otherwise, she asks, why would advertisers spend in excess of $200 billion annually on advertising? Why would they spend half a million dollars to produce and air a commercial, or spend a couple of million dollars to air their ads during the Super Bowl or other high profile television shows? Kilbourne notes that during the 1999 Super Bowl, Victoria’s Secret aired commercials featuring scantily clad models and one million people logged onto their website, which was promoted on the television ad (33).

Kilbourne outlines why good television shows, the kinds that attract viewers of all ages, get canceled. It’s because advertisers want to attract people in the 18-49 age range; those are the people who have the most money to spend on their products. And television producers need to be able to pay their bills by commanding high advertising rates for shows that will interest people in the 18-49 age range. In fact, Kilbourne points out that most television networks have stopped aiming for the middle class and are instead trying to hook people between the ages of 18-34. It’s at that age range the advertisers theorize that they are most likely to influence people to establish brand loyalty.

Throughout Deadly Persuasion: Why Women and Girls Must Fight the Addictive Power of Advertising, Jean Kilbourne has included pictures of print ads. Some of them are from advertising journals and those are the ones that are truly sinister. One picture, an ad for an entertainment group, depicts a young bald man facing away from the camera wearing earphones. The caption, which is spread over the image of the man’s head, reads “When you’ve got them by the ears, their hearts and minds will follow.” (36) Another one shows George W. Bush (after his re-election as the governor of Texas) and the caption “If you have high ambitions, hire us. He did.” (37) The caption on the ad continues, “If we can create advertising that persuades Hispanic Democrats to vote Republican, we can get them to buy your product” (38). Pretty heavy words, especially given where Bush went after his time as governor.

So why should women and girls be worried? Kilbourne points out that “commercialism has no borders” (59). Advertising is EVERYWHERE: on billboards and trucks, on television and radio, on the internet, and in magazines and newspapers. A person would have to be blind and deaf not to be somehow affected by advertising. And the messages they promote are not always positive. In Chapter 5, Kilbourne shows ads that are associated with food. She points out that

“while men are encouraged to fall in love with their cars, women are more often invited to have a romance, indeed an erotic experience, with something even closer to home… the food we eat… and the consequences become even more severe as we enter into the territory of compulsivity and addiction” (108). 

Chapter 5 includes pictures of women who look as if they are on the verge of ecstasy as they are teased with food. Kilbourne has included the insidious captions of ads that imply that food equals love and women need to be comforted by food. Kilbourne explores the psychology behind tag lines like “I thank me very much for Andy’s Candies” (110) and “From you to you” (110). The commercials show women either consoling or rewarding themselves with food. But everybody knows that women are supposed to be thin. What does advertising tell us about women who don’t meet society’s expectations by being thin enough? We aren’t told that we should be happy. We’re told that we should eat the latest fat free or low carb food. We get the message that being heavier than the woman in the magazine is unacceptable and wrong and we should do something about it by joining a gym or going on a diet. Advertising is a medium that thrives on people who are either dissatisfied or unsatisfied with some aspect of themselves or their lives. But more than that, it actually encourages people to be unhappy so that they’ll buy the latest product.

But why does this theme of dissatisfaction especially apply to women and girls? Kilbourne further addresses this concept in Chapter 6. She explores how adolescents are particularly vulnerable to advertising and how advertisers are on the prowl to get them buying their products. How many 22 year olds do you know suddenly decide one day to pick up smoking? I would venture to guess that you don’t know many… but plenty of teens pick up the habit so that they can appear older or cooler than their friends. The same goes for alcohol and sex. But aside from the messages delivered from advertising, teenagers, especially girls, also must cope with other issues that may weaken their resolve when it comes to advertising. What happens to a lot of girls when they become adolescents? Their self esteem plummets and they are liable to be less secure about who they are. They might engage in behaviors that will threaten their health, like binge drinking, eating disorders, smoking, or having unprotected intercourse that results in a sexually transmitted infection or an unintended pregnancy. This chapter includes some startling photos of ads that may not have caused the average person to to think twice… until they encounter the points that Kilbourne brings up. For example, there’s one picture of a young woman with a turtleneck pulled up over her mouth (139). On first glance, the average person might think that the girl was just keeping warm on a cold day (she’s also wearing a winter cap). On second glance, the person may understand the underlying message– that women should be seen and not heard. It’s not just pictures that convey this message. Kilbourne also writes about a perfume ad with the slogan “Make a statement without saying a word” (138). Hmmmm…

Chapters 7 and 8 are about alcohol and cigarettes. Kilbourne’s message is that no matter what the tobacco industry wants the public to believe, it’s in the business of getting young people to smoke. After all, people often die from health problems related to smoking, or if they’re lucky, they quit before they die. Somehow, those people who die or quit must be replaced. As I pointed out before, it’s a lot easier to get a teenager to start smoking than it is to get an adult into the habit. This chapter is full of good information about how teens get and stay addicted. Joe Camel is featured prominently in this section. I remember in Kilbourne’s lecture, she pointed out the many penis references on Joe Camel. I had never noticed them until she showed them to us, and now they’re plain as day.

The rest of Deadly Persuasion: Why Women and Girls Must Fight the Addictive Power of Advertising addresses how advertising itself can inspire violence, addiction, and disconnection. The chapter on violence is particularly interesting and scary. Some of the pictures included are those of familiar ads that actually call women b-itches, and promote violence and sexism. It’s a real eye-opener that might make you angry, especially if you’re a woman.

So do I have any complaints about this book? Yes, I have a couple of minor ones. One is that if you have ever seen Jean Kilbourne speak or watched one of her films, you will already be familiar with some of the ads that are included in Deadly Persuasion: Why Women and Girls Must Fight the Addictive Power of Advertising. On the other hand, this is not necessarily a weakness, since having the ads in a book and reading her words will reinforce Kilbourne’s message and you can also revisit that information over and over again and perhaps enjoy a better understanding of it. The other is that sometimes I get the feeling that she overstates her case a little bit and makes ALL advertisers out to be villains. Yes, some of their messages are dangerous and demeaning, but I don’t believe that all advertising and the people that create it are inherently evil. Kilbourne highlights how advertising can be dangerous, but at times I feel that she also goes a little bit too far and lumps all advertisers together as bad. Sometimes ads can be helpful and even positive. And I think it’s important for me to point out that I don’t believe that Americans should be subjected to thought policing. Awareness about the hidden dangers of advertising is a good thing, but I also believe that people should be allowed to make up their own minds about what advertisers are saying to them. I fear that too much control will lead us to a slippery slope that could erode our freedoms as Americans.

Nevertheless, if you’re interested in women’s rights, the media, and psychology, I think it’s a sure bet that you will enjoy reading Deadly Persuasion: Why Women and Girls Must Fight the Addictive Power of Advertising. And I believe that Jean Kilbourne has truly created a masterpiece with this book. She has no doubt helped millions by opening their eyes to the potentially destructive influences of advertising and the media.

I want to end this review by sharing an experience that I had the other night while watching television. An ad came on for M&M Cookie Bars and a little boy was shown pocketing FOUR of the bars, then tearing up the box they came in. He ordered his labrador retriever to lie down and stay, covered the dog with the torn up box, then called out, “Mom, the dog ate all the M&M Cookie Bars again!” while the dog looked up innocently.

This ad bothered me because first, it sends the message that it’s not only okay, but also cute and funny to lie and steal. Apparently, this wasn’t the kid’s first time lying and stealing, either, since he said that the dog had eaten the bars AGAIN. Second, our nation is coping with a growing population of children who are obese and developing Type 2 (formerly known as Adult Onset) Diabetes, a disease that used to typically affect adults over the age of 40 and was almost unheard of in children. And third, this ad depicts a child pretending that his dog has eaten chocolate and it’s a cute thing. Chocolate is very toxic to dogs; it contains a chemical that can kill them if they ingest too much of it. Unfortunately, different dogs handle chocolate in different ways and some chocolates are more dangerous than others. But kids who watch this ad are probably not going to know this. The ad does have a warning about giving chocolate to dogs, but it’s tiny and doesn’t stay on the screen long enough for people to read it– plus some kids who see the ad will be too young to read.

There’s no doubt that Jean Kilbourne’s book, Deadly Persuasion: Why Women and Girls Must Fight the Addictive Power of Advertising, has inspired me to look at advertising more closely and be a smarter consumer. I believe it can have the same positive effect on other people and I encourage others to read it and learn as much as I did. And if you have the chance to see Jean Kilbourne speak, I also encourage you to take the opportunity. Your eyes will open.

The paperback edition of this book is entitled Can’t Buy Me Love. 

Jean Kilbourne’s TED Talk…

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Biden, ethics, healthcare, law, obits

Texas and Maryland… diametrically opposed on the issue of abortion…

It’s Monday morning, and it’s already been an interesting day. First, I woke up to some sad news. My cousin’s beautiful wife, Chris, passed away. I knew she had been sick, and last year, there were updates on Facebook about her cancer journey. As I don’t live in the United States and am not that close to most of my family members, I didn’t know that her health had declined. Her daughter posted a beautiful message… and in just a few days, that same daughter will be getting married. She wrote that her mother will have the “best” seat at the wedding. I’m sure that brings her some comfort during this sad time.

My cousin and his family are mostly conservative Christians. I’m pretty certain that they are pro-life, when it comes to the abortion debate. It always fascinates when I think about how we share family, but turn out so differently. I used to be more conservative than I am now, but I have always felt the decision to be pregnant is a personal one. I have never been pregnant, but if I ever did get pregnant, I doubt I would choose to have an abortion. But I can’t say that I never would, because I can think of a lot of reasons why someone would make that choice– reasons that are no one else’s business.

In my case, I would probably choose abortion if I got raped, or if I had some kind of medical issue that made being pregnant especially dangerous. I would also consider abortion if the developing fetus had a condition that would make being born painful or cruel. And, having worked in maternal and child health, and having briefly done work with people who weren’t ready to be parents, I can see why abortion might be a wise choice for some. But… I can also see why some people are against abortion, and why some would not consider it under any circumstances. I just think this should be a personal and private choice. Fortunately, I am now at the end of my fertile time… not quite menopausal, but Aunt Flow is visiting a lot less often these days. It’s been nice not to have her around so often.

I am relieved that Mr. Biden’s Supreme Court Justice pick, Judge Kentaji Brown Jackson, has been confirmed to the Supreme Court and will be taking Justice Stephen Breyer’s place this summer, when he retires. I know the liberals are still a minority in the Supreme Court, but at least there’s one more vote that might make protecting women’s health more likely. I believe that abortion is women’s healthcare– especially when her mental or physical health is at stake due to pregnancy.

Within the last twelve hours, I read a couple of interesting news stories about abortion in two states. Yesterday, Gocha Allen Ramirez, the district attorney in Starr County, Texas, declined to prosecute 26 year old Lizelle Herrera, a woman who had been charged with murder over a self-induced abortion. Ms. Herrera was released from jail on a $500,000 bond, having spent three days locked up after it was discovered that she had performed an abortion on herself. Although Texas has some of the most restrictive and, frankly, brutal anti-abortion laws in the country, state law is very clear that pregnant people who get abortions cannot be criminally prosecuted. Instead, abortion providers are prosecuted. Texas also passed a law last September that allows private citizens to bring lawsuits against anyone who aids someone in getting an abortion. Texas physicians are also forbidden from giving abortion-inducing medication to any pregnant person who is more than seven weeks along.

I suppose one could argue that Ms. Herrera was an “abortion provider”, having given herself an abortion. But, as a pregnant person, she also couldn’t be prosecuted. I’m sure some of the backwards, women-hating lawmakers in Texas will do what they can to fix this oversight. They’d rather put young people like Lizelle Herrera in prison for practicing self-determination, instead of helping them avoid unintended pregnancies. They’d rather waste time and money in court over denying women the right to make decisions for their own healthcare and family planning than make having and raising children more affordable and feasible. The mind boggles.

Now Maryland, on the other hand, is showing a lot more compassion and common sense regarding the abortion issue. In that state, lawmakers have just passed a new law that, from July 1, allows nurse practitioners, nurse midwives and trained physician assistants to perform abortions. It will also require most insurance providers in the state to cover the cost of an abortion, at no cost to the resident, and directs the state to invest $3.5 million a year into abortion-care training. It should be noted that Maryland’s Republican governor, Larry Hogan, vetoed this bill. However, Mr. Hogan’s veto was overruled by the House of Delegates, with a vote of 90 to 46. The State Senate voted 29 to 15 in favor of the new law.

I noticed a lot of people were reacting to this news. One woman wrote an angry comment about how this was a “vile” law. She was asked by many other people how many babies she’s adopted. Answer? None, of course. But she still thinks she should get to have an opinion about other people’s reproductive choices. Many folks, like me, think this is very good news. Others are angry about it. In the article I linked, there was this quote from Laura Bogley, the director of legislation for Maryland Right to Life, an anti-abortion organization:

“This is an example of what happens when you have a partisan monopoly in a state legislature.” She added, “The monopoly breeds extremism.”

Extremism? Has Ms. Bogley noticed Trump’s picks for the Supreme Court? Does she not see how Trump tried to stack the court with conservatives so that Roe v. Wade, which has been the law of the land since 1973, could be overturned? Does Ms. Bogley not understand that sometimes women get abortions for heartbreaking, tragic, health related reasons that should remain private and personal? It’s not always heartless, careless, “slutty” women who are seeking abortions. In fact, I would venture to guess that the vast majority who seek abortions do not fit that stereotype.

I might be more willing to support the pro-life viewpoint if we had better access to affordable birth control, healthcare, and childcare in the United States. But, the fact remains, that quality childcare remains extremely expensive and difficult to access for many people. And even if a person doesn’t have children, it’s very expensive to pay for healthcare, especially if one doesn’t have health insurance. Health insurance is also very expensive for many people. Even though former President Obama pushed through the Affordable Healthcare Act (aka Obamacare), a lot of people remain uninsured. This is a problem that is going to take some time to fix… and it’s going to require cooperation from our esteemed elected officials. Sadly, too many of them are focused on blocking and foiling each other’s efforts to get laws passed or overturned, than they are in making life easier and more humane for everyone.

Still… I am surprised that Maryland is now among 15 states that is making abortion more accessible, instead of trying to ban it. I would much rather people avoid unintended pregnancies whenever possible, but when a situation comes up that threatens a person’s health– mental or physical– I think they should have the right to determine whether or not they wish to be pregnant. And making that decision should be entirely up to the person who has to live with the physical, mental, and emotional aftermath of being pregnant.

Maybe when we’re done with our Germany stint, Bill and I should think about moving to Maryland. It sounds like they’re heading in a good direction. I’ll be glad to give up my Texas driver’s license, either way. That state has gone straight to Crazy Town.

As for my cousin and his daughters, I wish them so much peace after their tremendous loss. Chris was a wonderful woman, and I know she was much beloved by many people. I know she was a woman of great Christian faith, so I suspect she’s in Heaven with her sister-in-law, my cousin Karen, who died in 2020, and my Aunt Jeanne and Uncle Bob, who have been with the angels for awhile now. I’m sure there’s plenty of room at the table for Chris at the Heavenly party.

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book reviews, healthcare, love, marriage

A review of Amy Bloom’s beautiful love story, In Love: A Memoir of Love and Loss…

Amy Bloom is not the most conventional person, but I do notice that we have a few things in common. Like me, she is educated as a social worker. Unlike me, she actually practiced social work as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who does psychotherapy. Like me, Amy Bloom is a writer. Unlike me, she’s written books that actually got published and have landed her on best seller lists. I have not read any of Bloom’s other books, but maybe I will, now that I’ve finished her beautiful love story about losing her husband, In Love: A Memoir of Love and Loss.

Although I like to write book reviews, it’s not so often anymore that I read them written by others. I tend to buy and read books based on recommendations in news stories or certain groups I follow. I like true stories, though, so when I saw Amy Bloom’s latest book, a true story, reviewed in both The New York Times and the Washington Post, I took notice. I’m pretty sure it was The New York Times‘ review that I read first, and I downloaded the book as soon as I read the review. I was that certain I was going to like the book. And now that I’ve finished reading Bloom’s heartbreaking story about saying goodbye to her husband, Brian Ameche, I know that my instincts were right.

Amy Bloom and her late husband, Brian Ameche, came together after both had been in unhappy relationships. Bloom’s first marriage produced three children, while Ameche never had children of his own. Bloom is Jewish, while Ameche had been raised Catholic and later attended a Unitarian Universalist Church for awhile. The two met in 2005 and started out as friends. Bloom hadn’t even been all that impressed with Brian at first. But then she realized that he reminded her of the best father figure she’d ever had, a ninth grade teacher who managed to inspire scores of people. In 2007, the couple wed, and Ameche soon went from never having had children to being a “grandpa” to four granddaughters.

As Bloom writes it, she and Brian had a pretty comfortable lifestyle with many friends, dinners out, and travels. But then Brian, who had been a football player at Yale in his younger years, started having problems at work. He had been an architect and spent his working life creating beautiful, useful buildings. But his work soon became unreliable and he couldn’t finish projects on time. He bought bizarre gifts and clothing, including a $500 sweatshirt. His handwriting changed, as did his habits, which became more odd as the days passed. Soon, all he wanted to talk about was his glory days playing football at Yale.

A neurologist broke the devastating news that Brian had early onset Alzheimer’s Disease. After talking to the doctor, the couple went out and bought “Goodbye, I Love You” stationery, so Brian could write notes to his loved ones before his mind became too addled. And then he told his wife and that long goodbye was not for him. He wanted to depart this life before Alzheimer’s stripped him of his dignity and self-determination.

Unfortunately, in the United States, the concept of a “right to die” is still emerging. Although there are states where euthanasia is possible, they all have rules that would make it difficult in Brian’s case. Most states, for example, require that the patient be a resident, and have doctors certify that death will occur within six months. There are strict rules about how much “help” a person who wishes to die on their own terms can receive from other people. Violating those rules could land Amy or anyone else who helped Brian in legal jeopardy. Then there were the ways that people tend to commit suicide when they aren’t considering a medical intervention. Again… they were potentially risky, messy, or dangerous, and there was always the chance that the method would fail and Brian would be left alive, but helpless.

Amy Bloom eventually found an answer in a Swiss organization called Dignitas, located in a suburb of Zurich, Switzerland. There, Brian could die peacefully, provided the couple paid the organization’s fee (about $10,000), and Brian passed all of the requirements that would secure approval. For instance, Brian had to prove that he wasn’t suffering from clinical depression, and that had to be verified by a physician. He had to be interviewed extensively and convince Dignitas staff that he was serious about his desire to die and there wasn’t any coercion, financial gain, or intimidation behind his request.

In Love is the story about how Amy and Brian came to their decision to end Brian’s life on Brian’s terms. As I read this lovingly composed book, I got a sense that I would enjoy knowing Amy and Brian. It almost made me wish we were in the States, living in Connecticut. Amy seems to me to be a very intriguing person. She even consults a tarot card reader as she makes the decision when to go to Switzerland. I don’t have any experience with tarot cards myself, but my husband, Bill, is interested in them. I found it eerie when Amy wrote that her trusted reader told her that Brian’s decision to end his life was fine, but they must take the first date open to them. The reader, who was very insightful, said that she saw difficulties ahead if they didn’t take care of business immediately. As Amy Bloom was coming home from Zurich after watching her husband die, the very first COVID-19 cases were being discovered in the United States. Brian died January 30, 2020. Less than two months later, the world would lock down.

I found this book interesting for a lot of reasons. Personally, I think that people should have the ability to end their lives humanely if they want to do that. I don’t think it’s wrong for people who wish to be euthanized to be carefully interviewed and screened, but I absolutely believe that there are times when it is appropriate to allow people to commit suicide. I have felt this way since I was a teenager… Once, I even got compared to Hitler by my high school speech teacher because I misspoke, as teens do, and put my thoughts in a way that didn’t translate the way they should have. I just don’t believe that people should have to linger when death is inevitable, and waiting for it to come “naturally” will be painful, undignified, and exorbitantly expensive. We all have to die someday, and while I don’t condone suicide for “selfish” or manipulative reasons, I do think sometimes it is appropriate to choose one’s own exit, so to speak.

I also found this book interesting because, besides having a few things in common with Amy Bloom, I enjoyed reading about her trip to Zurich. Bill and I went there last year for the first time, even though we’ve lived a relatively short distance from there for years. I had always heard Zurich was a “boring” city, but we didn’t find it that way at all, probably because Bill is now studying Carl Jung, and Jung lived in Zurich. So does Tina Turner. 😉 I did get a charge when Bloom wrote about visiting Marc Chagall’s famous windows in the Frauenkirche. Bill and I have been there, too. Also, I thought it was touching when Brian tells his wife that she must write his story… and she obliges, with this very sensitive and loving memoir.

Anyway, I’m glad I read Amy Bloom’s beautiful tribute to the love she shared with her husband. She was there when he needed her, and they spared each other the long, cruel, undignified goodbye that comes as Alzheimer’s Disease inevitably progresses. Maybe Brian Ameche’s exit wasn’t for everyone, but I think there will be some people who are helped by reading In Love. And some people will just be very moved by it, as I was.

Highly recommended.

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