complaints, healthcare, rants

Hey guys… periods are none of your bloody business!

Obviously, this post is going to be TMI for some readers. Proceed with caution.

A couple of days ago, The Atlantic ran an article about how menstrual periods are now “optional”. The article was entitled “No One Has to Get Their Period Anymore”, with the tag line, “Why Menstruate if You Don’t Have To?” As I sit here wondering where my period is, and hoping it doesn’t strike this weekend as I celebrate my birthday, I think back on the many days I’ve spent “on the rag”. Starting New Year’s Eve 1985 and continuing to this day, I’ve mostly been very regular. It’s only been within the past few years– 2017 or so– that my body has occasionally taken a month off. I’m pretty lucky, though, because my periods have always been mostly bearable. Yes, they’re messy, stinky, and kind of gross, but I’ve never been bedridden because of that time of the month. The most I’ve had to deal with is cravings, crankiness, and the occasional ruined pair of underwear.

Some of my friends have not been so lucky. I know women who have had to deal with excessive pain and lengthy menstrual periods. I know other women who are busy and don’t have time to deal with the monthly bill. Some of those women have decided that they would rather not menstruate. They visited their doctors and got help. From the article:

Today, any doctor will tell you there is no medical necessity for periods unless you’re trying to conceive. The body preps for pregnancy by thickening the uterus’s lining, like a bird building a nest for her eggs; hormonal birth control prevents pregnancy, in part, by keeping the uterine lining from ever building up. Many of the roughly 19 million Americans who rely on the pill, the shot, IUDs, implants, patches, or rings see a change in their period—often it’s lighter, but it can also disappear altogether. In clinical trials, more than 40 percent of the Liletta IUD’s users no longer menstruated by the end of the product’s six-year life. More than half of people who get the Depo-Provera shot every three months will become amenorrhoeic within a year, and almost 70 percent in the second year. And anyone using the pill, patch, or ring can safely skip scheduled withdrawal bleeding.

Sounds awesome! I have never used birth control myself. In fact, Bill has never even used a condom. He has never needed to. Again, my period isn’t really that onerous. I’m not a career person. It’s not a big deal for me to menstruate, although it can be inconvenient and annoying. But like I said– I do know women who have suffered a lot due to menstruation. And so, if they don’t want to menstruate, why should they? More importantly, why is it that some men feel the need to opine about such a personal decision?

In the comment section on The Atlantic’s Facebook page, I was surprised to see a lot of comments from men about this topic. One guy, who wrote that he has daughters and worries about their health, queried “How is this healthy?”

And my response was, “Men seriously need to STFU about periods.” I could tell by the reactions to my comment that a lot of women agree with me.

Fellas, I appreciate that you worry about the women in your life. I like that you want to know how her body works. But, unless you are a physician and it’s your job to deal with women and their periods, I think this is a subject on which you shouldn’t offer too much input. I, for one, am very grateful that my husband’s wonderful mom, Parker, taught Bill so well. When Aunt Flow comes knocking at our house, Bill comes home with red wine, steaks, and chocolate. And that’s all that needs to be done… except for a little cramp relief.

It’s been my experience that most men don’t want to know the gory details of the monthly menstrual period. They aren’t there to comfort their wives or daughters when they accidentally leak through their pants. They may not be too appreciative in the middle of the night, when their wife or daughter wakes up with a gush of bleeding that has pooled and leaked on the sheets. They don’t know the sorrow of a destroyed pair of favorite underwear. They don’t understand the special fatigue and icky feeling that comes from having periods… not just the actual bleeding, but also the bloating, sensitive breasts, sleeplessness, irritability, and odors that come from that time of the month. Some men love to joke about such things, but they don’t experience it, and they can’t fully appreciate the unpleasantness of it.

Another example of a man getting involved in a conversation about something about which he clearly knows nothing.
And another… There were more, but in the interest of not boring people, I’m not going to post them. You get the idea.

Now, in fairness to the guy who asked, “How is that ‘healthy’?”, I did see a few women also posting about how they felt it was better not to mess with Mother Nature. And frankly, I kind of agree with those women. I don’t have a need to mess with the natural process of things, so I don’t. But– just as I probably would never choose to have an abortion but support legal abortions for other women, I fully support the rights of other women to make the choice not to menstruate. That monthly ordeal is truly a pain for a lot of people. Unless a woman wants to get pregnant, there’s no need to deal with the mess.

Another thing the article points out is that sanitary products are potentially very expensive, plus they don’t do great things for the environment. Of course, if money is an issue regarding sanitary napkins or tampons or the other products available, then it would probably also be an issue in paying for birth control, particularly for those who can’t pay for health insurance. And for some people, not having a period is a medical necessity– people who are missing an intact uterus or vagina, for instance. Not having a period can also be a psychological necessity. The article mentions a transgender man who suppressed his period because he didn’t want the monthly reminder that he was “born in the ‘wrong’ body”.

On the other hand, some people are comforted by the presence of their periods. For instance, some people use the presence of their periods to know that they aren’t pregnant. The period can also be a marker for recovery from an eating disorder or another health condition involving the pituitary or thyroid glands. When menstrual periods resume in someone who has had severe anorexia nervosa, that’s a sign that the body has healed from malnourishment and, perhaps, has regained fertility. Other people just like the rhythm of the period. It makes them feel “in touch” with their bodies.

Whatever… the point is, now that science has made a period free life possible for people who would ordinarily menstruate, it should be a choice that can be made without a bunch of chatter and mansplaining from those who don’t have to deal with having periods. I think the only time this should really come up with a man is if he’s raising a female child alone. I do have a male friend who is raising his daughter… and I don’t think he’s prepared for when she hits puberty. I hope he has some female friends who can help him out, because it’s just around the corner.

This isn’t the first time I’ve written about periods… and how men really need to be quieter when it comes to discussing them. Back in 2017, George Takei shared an article about how menstruating women were being “price gouged” at an airport– $15 for a box of tampons. Lots of men were making stupid comments about that, too. Because that was an interesting post, here’s some of what I had to say about that situation reposted here:

An anonymous woman happened to be at Calgary International Airport when everybody’s least favorite aunt arrived.  She found herself unprepared for her period and the vending machine in the ladies room was empty.  When the woman went to a drug store to buy the necessary supplies, she was ripped off.  It was $15 for the tampons.  So the woman paid the money and left the box in the restroom for other women, along with a note of explanation.

A screenshot of the tampons Carlee Field found at the airport.

Carlee Field came across the box of tampons, snapped a photo of them and the note, and posted to Reddit.  Apparently, the outrage was enough to spark a response from airport officials, who promised to stock the vending machines.  The drug store, likewise, lowered the price of the tampons.

The story was interesting enough, although the comments were especially stimulating.  It always amazes me when men want to weigh in on subjects regarding menstrual periods.  To their credit, many men were surprisingly understanding and even empathetic.  On the other hand, there were quite a few comments from guys who felt the need to lecture us women about bringing the necessary supplies with us. 

Here are just a few comments from males who think they know what it’s like to bleed from the genitals every month…

Maybe she should be a responsible adult and bring her own…? Or should we treat women like helpless victims?

Airport price gouging is not unique to tampons. It’s a huge price gauging enterprise. It’s why I make sure I have what I need, along with “just in case” items, before I leave my house.

Oh please. This is the problem nowadays. People stop looking at reality in favor of talking points and PC bullshit. The topic was price gauging. My comment was that the gauging isn’t unique to this particiular item, and that planning ahead could prevent the expense. Am I really wrong about that? Really?  (someone should teach this man how to spell “gouging”– actually, this word is curiously misspelled several times by different people)

I’m confused. A lot of women are saying they have irregular periods, heavy periods, etc. as an excuse for being caught off guard. That just seems counter intuitive. I would think that if you had irregularities in your cycle and that you likely COULD have a surprise…. Isn’t that more of a reason to always be prepared and to carry fem Hy products? Because you know there’s a likelihood of having a surprise?

Of course the socialist thinks everything should just be given to her.

Fancy that.

I can see how youd assume most men take such a drug, your sex life must be dull.

Wait… Youre female and you said something logical…. My mind is about to explode! Welcome to the wonderful world of getting yelled at by the mob of women with pitch forks and torches!

Quit getting so butthurt because guys are calling women unprepared for not packing a few extra while traveling 🙄you know you’re away from home for days at a time and that it could happen at any point. Unpreparedness is just the truth here. Sensitive much?

I could probably sit here all morning and read the comments, but I’ll stop with the ones above.  

I have already written this story a few times, but I’ll repeat it for those who don’t want to read old posts. It was the end of November 2012. Bill and I were in Scotland on Hebridean Princess, a ship that generally caters to the elderly set. I had just gotten new luggage and, for whatever reason, forgot to stock my bags with feminine hygiene supplies. I usually have several tucked away just in case, but I guess I forgot to stock up in the excitement of packing.

On the last night of the cruise, we not only found out that our sweet bagel, MacGregor, was dying, but I had also started my period and was completely unprepared. Fortunately, the assistant purser, a very lovely lady named Valeria, was able to score me a few items from crew members to get me through the night. I doubt this is a problem they deal with too often, since most women on that ship are past menopause. Nevertheless, I will never forget that kindness.

Since that experience in 2012, I have been very careful to make sure I am ready in case Auntie Flow arrives when I’m on the go.  But even though I am now especially sure to pack the essentials, that doesn’t mean I won’t need to buy more, perhaps even in the airport.  The human body can be an unpredictable thing.  I’m sure it won’t be long before my hormones go haywire and I won’t know WTF I’ll be dealing with as I enter a “new season” of life, as Michelle Duggar puts it.  

Feminine hygiene products truly are a necessity.  In fact, some might argue (and a few did) that they should be freely available in public restrooms, as toilet paper generally is.  But, as a quick Google search shows, quite a lot of women lack the appropriate supplies for their time of the month.  If you’re poor and you have a choice of spending money on stemming the crimson tide or eating, you’d likely pick eating.  If you’re paying with a SNAP card, the choice to eat would be a no-brainer.  You can’t use SNAP cards on non food items.   

There are some communities taking notice of the need.  How progressive!  It seems like providing hygiene supplies to menstruating women would be a “win-win” proposition.  Women can spare themselves the embarrassment and humiliation of being caught unprepared and “price-gouged” at the airport, and everyone can avoid the sight of blood on furniture and clothing.  In all seriousness, though, this is a big deal.  There is evidence that not properly taking care of one’s period can lead to significant health issues.  Yeah… this is what is “unhealthy” about periods…

It’s also just really unpleasant.

As you can see, this is a world that biological men don’t have to worry about or deal with. But we used to have a president who made tacky comments about Megyn Kelly, saying “she’s got blood coming out of her ‘wherever’.”  I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised when I read stupid comments from men who think they know what it’s like to have periods and have the right to opine about what women should do to prevent being “surprised”.  The fact is, sometimes you get caught with your pants down, for whatever reason.  It happens to everybody.  It shouldn’t be a big deal to be able to access affordable sanitary products when that happens.  And men, who will never have to deal with the mess, expense, and inconvenience of monthly periods, should really be more sensitive.  Better yet, most of them should simply STFU on this particular topic.

And if a woman decides she’d rather not have periods at all, that too is entirely and solely her own business. I don’t concern myself with male-centric topics like the state of the scrotum or prostate gland. I think that men should keep quiet about periods unless they are offering support. They don’t have to deal with a monthly deluge of blood coming whenever and however long the body decides. I honestly think some of these guys who are opining are doing so because they like the idea of being able to get women pregnant. It’s a source of control for them, or something.

Anyway… I feel glad that pretty soon, this will no longer be an issue I need to care about as someone who is personally affected by it. But in support of my younger sisters, I want to go on record to say that women should have dominion over their own bodies without input from men. Periods are not fun. They’re messy, stinky, expensive, and inconvenient. So, if science can make things easier in that regard, I think that should be a choice available to all women. And men need to STFU about it.

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Duggars, homosexuality, politics, religion

“We should never place the preference of an adult over the safety and innocence of a child…”

I remember in August 2014, Bill and I were living temporarily in an apartment in Kemnat, a suburb near Stuttgart. I spent my days hanging out with Zane and Arran, burning up because it was hot outside. The Duggars were in the news because Michelle Duggar had made a controversial political robocall to people in Arkansas. Why was she robocalling? It was because she was hoping to influence Arkansans to vote against an anti-discrimination ordinance designed to allow transgendered people to use restrooms and lockers that correspond to their gender identities.

People were calling for the Duggars to be canceled in 2014 after this call… little did they know what was coming! And yet, they’re STILL in the public eye.

This morning, today’s featured photo was in my Facebook memories. Given that Josh Duggar is currently in huge trouble with the feds for being caught receiving and possessing images of child sexual abuse, it’s pretty crazy that in 2014, Michelle Duggar was saying things like “We should never place the preference of an adult over the safety and innocence of a child…” Wow… the hypocrisy is astounding!

As I waited for Bill to come home the other day, I ran across an episode of 17 Kids and Counting. In the beginning, you hear Michelle Duggar’s annoying baby voice as she lists all of her children’s names. At that point, Jennifer Duggar, born in 2007, was the youngest, and Michelle was pregnant with Jordan, who was #18 and would be born in December 2008. She would have one more live birth, when youngest child Josie was born very prematurely the following year. Then she got pregnant one last time and eventually lost that baby, Jubilee Shalom.

In the opening credits for 17 Kids and Counting, Ma and Pa Duggar talk about their “very conservative values” and how the children’s Internet access is “closely monitored.” Obviously, it wasn’t monitored that closely. And they weren’t allowed to watch TV, and yet they were ON TV.

I remember Michelle Duggar once had a good reputation as a wonderful, caring, and compassionate mother. I have never seen a lot of proof that she was a wonderful mother. On the contrary, I’ve seen evidence that her daughters are good moms, mainly because they’ve always been doing the heavy lifting of raising their siblings while their mom worked on perfecting her “baby voice”. And she used that voice to promote anti-LGBTQ propaganda while her eldest son, supposedly sheltered from the Internet, was looking at porn. Such hypocrisy!

As Bill and I were sharing coffee this morning, I was reading the Duggar Family News Facebook group. Someone had shared a link to a post from the truly creepy blog, Biblical Gender Roles about the practice of “domestic discipline” and wife spanking. I’ve written about this blog a couple of times before, most recently in July 2020, when a friend of mine shared with me a different post about “grooming one’s wife” to accept domestic discipline that came from the Biblical Gender Roles blog. I also wrote about a post that appeared in 2019 regarding marital rape— a woman’s husband wanted to have sex with her when she wasn’t interested. The blogger from Biblical Gender Roles wrote that according to the Bible it’s impossible for a married woman to be raped by her husband. And of course, my take is that marital rape is certainly possible and it can be perpetrated by either spouse. It happened to my husband when he was married to his ex wife.

Legally, rape means that a person hasn’t consented to sexual contact. It does not matter if the participants are married to each other. But fundie Christian women are taught to always be “joyfully available” to their husbands. When their husbands fall from grace, as Josh Duggar repeatedly has, the woman is liable to be blamed. Why? Because she wasn’t available enough for her husband to satisfy his sexual needs. Michelle Duggar, the same woman who, in a robocall to Arkansans said “We should never place the preference of an adult over the safety and innocence of a child…”, told her own daughter Jill, before Jill married her husband, Derick Dillard:

“And so be available, and not just available, but be joyfully available for him. Smile and be willing to say, ‘Yes, sweetie I am here for you,’ no matter what, even though you may be exhausted and big pregnant and you may not feel like he feels. ‘I’m still here for you and I’m going to meet that need because I know it’s a need for you.’ ”

In other words, this “wonderful mom”, Michelle Duggar, told her daughter that her body isn’t her own. It’s either going to be used by her husband for sex, or used to nourish and develop a fetus, who will either also be used a vessel for developing new life and as a sexual plaything, or will be a user, as males apparently are in fundie Christianity. Josh Duggar grew up being taught that his wife was to be used, and she was expected to be “joyfully available” to him, on the pain of being disciplined by the head of the family. His sister Jill, on the other hand, got a very different message. She was to be “available” to her husband, whenever he wanted her. She was to submit to his will. In short, she was physically an adult, but in all other ways, she was basically expected to be like a child– seen and not heard– quiet, submissive, and available always.

I’m sure, behind closed doors, Anna Duggar has been blamed for not satisfying Josh Duggar’s “needs”, causing him to fall into the dark web and view “forbidden images” of a sexual nature. But here she is, still in her early 30s and pregnant with her seventh child, another girl. Obviously, she was available to Josh, and he was fulfilling his sexual needs with her. But that wasn’t enough, and he’s evidently been indulging in illegal and immoral activities involving children. How did this happen?

I have never been impressed by either of the Duggar parents. For years, I’ve heard them both talk about how children are blessings and gifts from God. Rather than being good stewards of their children and raising them properly, Michelle Duggar basically turned into a brood animal and popped out children that were then farmed out to their sisters to raise. That’s not fair to the children at all. There was a time in history when having a huge family might have made some sense, since a lot of children died before coming of age and people had farms they needed help to run. Nowadays, I think having that many children is selfish and irresponsible. I don’t like to tell people how many children they should have, but I do think that if you’ve gotten to the point of farming out your kids to their older siblings, you’ve had too many. It’s not the job of underage children to raise their siblings.

Childhood is a brief time in a person’s life, and that’s when people should be focused on their own development and maturity. The way it’s been done in the Duggar family is that some of the children– the eldest sisters– had to grow up too fast. And yet, they were treated like children, forced to share a room and not allowed to choose what they wanted to wear or who they wanted to date or marry, in the sense that they needed Jim Bob’s permission and their husbands to be were forced to answer excessive questionnaires before Boob would give his “blessing”.

When I look at Michelle Duggar’s comment that “We should never place the preference of an adult over the safety and innocence of a child…”, and then I see that her very first child– one of the few that she must have had the biggest part of raising– has turned out to be a sexual deviant, I can’t help but think her thoughts on protecting children are warped. She didn’t even protect her own daughters from their brother– her precious firstborn son– who took liberties with them when he was an adolescent. They didn’t get appropriate and effective help for Josh when his deviant behaviors presented themselves when he was still a child. They also didn’t get help for their daughters, who were victimized by Josh. In a sense, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar failed Josh as much as they did their daughters… and all of those innocent children in the pictures and videos found on Josh’s computer who were exploited, abused, and even murdered for the perverse pleasure of Josh and his ilk.

Josh is a MASSIVE hypocrite. Here he is speaking about religious liberties and how businesses should not be forced to pay for birth control. You can hear him talking about how birth control harms unborn children, and yet he apparently enjoys victimizing innocent children who have already been born. He sounds articulate and well-spoken here, which is probably why he got away with this for as long as he has.

Notice in the above video, there are two men speaking about birth control and how it “causes abortions” (it doesn’t). Neither of these men will ever have to do the hardest work associated with pregnancy and child bearing. And they are in religious organizations where women are taught to be “joyfully available” to them and satisfy their “needs”, even when they are “big pregnant” (as Michelle Duggar put it). They’re more concerned about unborn children than they are born children… especially the female ones who will be born to satisfy their sexual “needs”. Well… that is revolting. It really is.

From the Biblical Gender Roles blog… a woman needs her husband’s “help” to control her spending and choose the “right” friends. Based on this, it sounds like he thinks women are never much more than children.

I’m sitting here reading the Biblical Gender Roles blog again. The poster on the Duggar Family News page had linked to an article on that blog about a young wife who was being “introduced” to the concept of Christian domestic discipline. In other words, she was being spanked by her husband. But the blogger wrote an earlier post about the husband’s perspective. In that post, he referenced his earlier post about how to “groom” one’s wife to accept the man as the authority in the home. He mentions that the wife must be young and sheltered, otherwise, she will never accept being “spanked” or otherwise disciplined by her husband.

This blogger has “mentors” who help teach these “Biblical principles” to couples who are interested. He says he vets the participants carefully, because he knows that more worldly people are “spying” on him and want to undo his work in teaching Christian couples to live by what he deems are “Biblical gender roles”. And based on what the young husband writes in the post from the gender roles blog, his wife has come to “accept” his leadership. She speaks to him “respectfully”, sticks to a budget, and I guess most importantly (to him, anyway), makes herself “available” to him sexually whenever he’s in the mood. She’d better, of course, or he’ll turn her over his knee and spank her, as if she’s a child (and personally, I don’t think spanking children is appropriate, either). How fucked up is that? The woman is a child in all ways, except physical. I am not saying the Duggars engage in these practices. I do think, however, that their collective mindset seems to be very similar to the one espoused by the guy who writes the Biblical Gender Roles blog.

More from the Biblical Gender Roles blog… where the writer explains that it’s “right” for a husband to discipline his wife for not putting out sexually, on the pain of being spanked.

Michelle Duggar, obviously, is very much in agreement that there are only males and females; they were all created by God; and that any person with “male parts” is a threat to female children. But apparently, once the females have reached physical maturity, that protection for them is no longer necessary. She unleashed her son, Josh, on Anna Duggar when he was 20 years old, knowing that he was a pervert. And she paid a lot of lip service to “monitoring” her children’s television and Internet exposure, although Josh obviously still figured out a way to get to the forbidden fruit. Maybe if she had been less “Christian”, he would have turned out to be a better person… or maybe, he was born to be this way, despite our “awesome God” who gifted the Duggars with so many children that they were obviously not equipped to raise properly on their own.

How dare Michelle Duggar try to tell Arkansas voters that she is concerned about putting the preference of an adult over the safety and innocence of a child? Where were her concerns about her own daughters’ safety and innocence when they were growing up in her home? Where were her concerns about Josh’s future, when his deviant sexual proclivities came out? Why didn’t she help him possibly avoid falling into sins that could send him to prison? He is about to be the father of seven innocent children, but he won’t be around to take care of them. That task will fall to his long suffering wife, Anna, who has been taught that because she’s a female, she belongs to her husband and has no say over whether or not she wants to have sex! Michelle Duggar is concerned about transgendered people “victimizing” girls… but she was not at all concerned about her vile predator son victimizing her own daughters, and possibly her granddaughters, along with the children who were victimized in the images and videos that were found on Josh’s computer! And she’s all for letting the women be “childlike” in all ways, except for when it comes to giving their husbands sex. She’s even childlike in the way she speaks!

I really think our society is very sick. The Duggars are still influential to many, even though they are massive hypocrites. As recently as last year, they were still trying to get involved in politics, when their son Jed, ran for office against a woman who was clearly much more qualified than he was. He lost, thank God, but I will bet people still voted for him because he’s a white man, Christian, and a Duggar! There are still so many people, especially in the United States, who speak about their rights as “free people”. But they only want freedom for white Christian males with money. They don’t want women to have dominion over their own bodies. They don’t want people of color to have the right to live peacefully, and enjoy freedom of movement without being harassed by law enforcement. They don’t want poor people to be able to receive temporary government assistance, or children to be able to attend school without the fear of being shot. Their right to own weapons is more important than the safety of innocent people to be out and about without fearing being killed by their guns. And they want to be able to dictate to people which restrooms they can use, claiming that transgendered people are “mentally ill”, while they cover up for people like Josh Duggar and give him a platform.

I wrote about Michelle Duggar’s robocall on my original blog. In that post, I explained that homosexuality and transgendered people are not necessarily pedophiles or child molesters. At that point, we didn’t know about Josh… it was just months later that that particular bombshell dropped. One would have thought the Duggars would have been canceled, once and for all, after Josh’s hypocrisy came out. But, as my Italian friend Vittorio has pointed out, the United States is a “weird-o-rama” culture. The Duggars are oddly fascinating to many. Some of us are fascinated as we are repulsed. Others find them to be people they want to emulate. And so, they continue to people we talk about, and write about… and in some cases, make money on. I’m sure the people making YouTube videos about the Duggars are making some cash, anyway. I’m sure not.

Well… I guess I’ve rambled on long enough. Arran has just come to me, expecting a walk. So I guess I’ll close now, and take him out for a much needed constitutional. Hope everyone has a nice Monday.

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careers, rants, religion, sexism

Repost: According to a Christian blogger, women are destroying the medical profession…

I just got a wild hair up my ass and decided to repost a couple of blog entries I wrote about Lori Alexander, otherwise known as The Transformed Wife. I am reposting them because sometimes it’s handy to be able to link to old posts from my original blog, particularly where Lori Alexander is concerned. This first one was originally posted May 14, 2018. It made quite a stir three years ago.

First thing’s first.  I need to state upfront that I don’t regularly follow The Transformed Wife, which is a blog written by a Christian woman named Lori Alexander.  I had never heard of this blog until I started following the Duggar Family News group on Facebook.  I did see a recent post by The Transformed Wife where I felt compelled to leave a comment, only because she’d misspelled “censorship” in her title and it was making me twitchy (sorry).  But no, I don’t regularly read her blog because I’m pretty far from being a devout Christian.  Sometimes people share her more ridiculous posts, though, and that’s usually when I take notice.

2013 seems to have been the year to be talking about female physicians…

This morning, someone shared Lori’s thoughts on women doctors.  She writes, “women are destroying the medical profession.”  To back up her claim, she cites a five year old opinion piece done by the U.K.’s Telegraph.  That piece is about female doctors who only work part-time because they are raising families.  It’s apparently causing a problem in countries around the world because part-time doctors lead to a shortage.  The opinion piece, written by Max Pemberton, is actually pretty sensible.  He writes:

…attempts to raise these issues are routinely met with accusations of sexism. But it’s not sexist to acknowledge that women, more than men, often appear to place family life ahead of their career. Nor is it a bad thing that women want to focus on having and bringing up their children, and caring for a partner. Underlying this is a larger debate about the 24/7 working environment and lack of affordable child care that leaves so many women torn between a career and a family. This is where the real sexism lies. But until there is a shift in the way that domestic responsibilities are shared, we need to accept that most women want to work part time so they can combine a career with family life – and, in medicine at least, start preparing for it becoming the norm.

But then Lori Alexander writes:  

Men were created to be the supporters of families and women were not. Women are taking men’s positions in medical schools that should belong to men.

Hmmm… very interesting indeed.  I happen to know a couple of women doctors who are raising families.  One is a very successful trauma surgeon.  Her husband is an Episcopalian vicar and takes excellent care of their two kids while his wife works to save lives.  The other just recently had her sixth baby.  And yet, according to Lori Alexander, these women are absolutely wrong to pursue careers in medicine.  Alexander reminds readers…

Men can be doctors but they can’t be mothers. Only mothers can be mothers and NO ONE can replace a mother in a child’s life.

What exactly makes someone a mother, anyway?  Is it the simple act of giving birth?  Because if that’s the case, adoptive mothers are apparently worthless, according to Alexander.  Is it simply being female?  Are women inherently more nurturing than men are, simply because they have female parts?  What about fathers?  Can they be replaced?  Actually, Alexander would probably say fathers can’t be replaced, but apparently they aren’t as important as mothers are.  Why is that?  Is it because they aren’t nurturing?  I would challenge anyone who has ever met my husband, Bill, to compare his nurturing instincts to mine.  (ha ha ha)  But then, I know that Bill is a pretty rare individual, especially for a military veteran.  He’s unusually nurturing and kind.  He’d probably be a better mother than I would, though.  Or, at least he’d probably be more like the type of mother idealized by folks like Lori Alexander.

Lori continues with the following thoughts…

No long-term good comes out of women leaving their homes. Nothing. Satan convinced women to spend years and a lot of money getting a higher education and then a degree. When they finally have children, they still have their God-given instinct to care for their children, thus they are in conflict with what they were convinced about concerning their career and being with their children. Their children are the ones who suffer and society is suffering too.

Oh… so it’s the fault of women that society is suffering?  That sounds pretty familiar.  Women get blamed for all kinds of shit.  That’s been going on since the dawn of time.  But then Lori ends with a quote from Proverbs:

She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.  Proverbs 31:27

I wonder what she’d think of an overeducated housewife with no children whose housework skills are lacking…

In fairness to Lori Alexander, I don’t know her at all.  I have no idea what shaped her opinions about woman in the workplace, other than her obvious love for the Bible.  My guess is that she’s actually against women who work, not just women who choose to be doctors.  Somehow, her blog has attracted a lot of attention.  This particular post has been shared well over 1500 times.  Maybe I should start writing really badly written provocative stuff that causes outrage.  And… to be honest, I don’t necessarily disagree that children in the United States need more exposure to their mothers.  Actually, I’d argue that they need more exposure to BOTH parents.  

What I like about Europe is that the powers-that-be have recognized that young children need their mothers and fathers, so employers here allow them to take time off from their work to take care of their kids.  That time off is paid, and they do have jobs to go back to when their time off is finished.  But this generous leave has nothing to do with religion.  Instead, it’s a simple product of common sense.

Europe, in general, is also a bit less work happy than the United States is.  In the United States, there’s this idea that one must constantly be working in order to keep their jobs.  Plenty of folks who are lucky enough to have jobs with benefits, to include paid vacation time, are pressured not to take any leave.  Those who dare to enjoy their lives off the clock are often considered unproductive and poor performers.  They don’t tend to climb the ladder of success the way their more driven colleagues do.    

In Germany, workers get more time off and shorter work weeks, yet the German economy remains very strong and the people, by and large, seem to be a lot happier.  I think Germans tend to work smarter, too.  They focus is less on how long a person works and more on the quality of their work.  I would imagine that having time to rest allows them to work smarter.  It’s probably better for their overall health, too, including their mental health.

Let’s face it.  Living in the United States is very expensive.  A lot of families need both parents to work just to be able to pay their basic bills.  The need to work makes it harder to focus on the family. And yet, we keep voting in Republicans, who are in bed with Christians, yet seem hellbent on making money and ruining any family friendly programs that might make it more possible for one parent (not necessarily the mother) to stay home and take care of their kids.  The United States is not a community friendly country.  Many people are focused on their own needs and things that only benefit them personally, rather than society as a whole.

But… in fairness to my countrymen, I can understand where this attitude comes from.  And now that I don’t live in the United States, I can also see where people like my Italian friend, Vittorio, see the United States as a “weirdorama” country.  We have all these God fearing people who don’t seem to love their fellow man very much at all… unless, of course, their fellow man lives in a way that they claim is Biblical.  It doesn’t seem logical to me.

Anyway, allow me to go on record as saying that I think it’s great that women are following their career dreams.  I also think it’s a good thing that so many of those women are focusing on their own fulfillment.  Perhaps that means they have fewer children or none at all.  But, as Alexander points out in the comments section of her post, women doctors are here to stay.  Women will keep going to medical school.  So… I guess in her opinion, the medical profession is on its way to being well and truly fucked.  She’s entitled to her opinion.  I’m not sorry she wrote her post, even if I disagree with her.  She gave me some food for thought.

I guess we’re in the end times…

I think I need an aspirin now.       

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book reviews

Repost: A review of The Beauty Experiment by Phoebe Baker Hyde

This is a repost of a book review I wrote September 21, 2015. It appears here as/is.

In February 2014, I purchased Phoebe Baker Hyde’s book, The Beauty Experiment: How I Skipped Lipstick, Ditched Fashion, Faced the World without Concealer, and Learned to Love the Real Me.  I don’t remember why I bought it.  I probably read an article about it and decided it would be an interesting read.  I just got around to reading it and finished it the other day.  I see from Hyde’s Web site that she is multi-degreed, having earned dual BAs in English and anthropology at UPENN and an MFA in creative writing from the University of California at Irvine.    

In 2007, Phoebe Baker Hyde was a wife and a mother living in Hong Kong with her husband, John Liang, and their daughter, Hattie.  Hyde’s husband is an accountant of Asian descent and traveled a lot to Asian countries for his job.  Consequently, Hyde was left alone frequently with their daughter and felt bombarded with the idea that she should look a certain way.  She should be thin, wear makeup, and designer clothes, a notion that seemed even more prevalent in hyper fashion conscious Hong Kong.  She notes that when she went to a hospital to give birth, she brought along mascara for the after birth photos.  

As Hyde is trained in cultural anthropology, she started thinking about how women are programmed to abide by the rules of society.  She decided to embark on what she calls “The Beauty Experiment”, which basically meant that she was going to stop wearing makeup, shaving her legs, wearing jewelry, and painting her nails.  She stopped having her hair cut and styled at expensive salons.  Instead, she cut her hair short, like a man’s.  She threw away the night cream and hair mousse, and stopped buying new clothes.  Finally, she covered up the mirrors in her home.  For about a year, she lived this way, chronicling her experiences until she had enough to write her book.

Looking on Amazon.com, I see that The Beauty Experiment gets mixed reviews.  A lot of people gave it high marks because they were able to relate to feeling the need to be pretty all the time.  Some people found Hyde’s writing funny.  A couple of people were dealing with personal issues as they read the book that made it more interesting for them.  

Those who didn’t like the book seemed to think that it was boring to read, Hyde was spoiled (as in, she didn’t “work” for a living), hadn’t actually learned anything, or jumped around too much.  Personally, I agree with those who didn’t like the way this book jumped around.  At different times, Hyde would slip into the future, after her stint in Hong Kong, and write about her life post experiment, after she’d had Orson, her second child.  While I didn’t have a problem following Hyde, I did find the jumping around a bit distracting and occasionally annoying.

On the other hand, there were a few times when I caught myself marveling at Hyde’s ability to turn a phrase.  She really does have a talent for writing vivid passages that, at least for me, were a pleasure to read.  I happen to be a sucker for creatively written prose and I found Hyde’s writing style very appealing throughout most of the book.  She frequently refers to her “inner voice”, which many of us have.  She hears her voice saying things that diminish her confidence or criticize her.  I think a lot of women can relate to that, especially when we stand in front of a mirror and feel ugly or fat.

For those who like facts and statistics, Hyde includes commentary on research regarding the beauty habits of women.  Frankly, I could have skipped those passages because I don’t really care about charts and graphs.  But I realize that some people enjoy those types of visual aids and I appreciate that Hyde took the initiative to back up her experiences with data.  She also includes a reading list.  I was glad to see that I’ve read a couple of the books she suggests, including Naomi Wolf’s classic, The Beauty Myth.

It took me awhile to get through this book.  I mostly enjoyed it, especially since I usually don’t wear makeup unless I’m going out in public.  Even then, a lot of times I’m tempted not to “put on my face”, though the inner voice usually gets the upper hand and I take a few minutes to apply makeup.  The older I get, the more I feel like it doesn’t matter.  I can thank Bill for that, because he loves me regardless.

Anyway, I think I can recommend Phoebe Baker Hyde’s book, The Beauty Experiment.  I’m not sure if the experiment really changed her life, other than giving her something to write about, but maybe others lives will be changed by Hyde’s observations on beauty and the pressure many women feel to look a certain way.  As a matter of fact, tomorrow I am having a tooth extracted.  I dread the way I will look during the months before the implant goes in, even as I realize that I will be healthier without that tooth. (ETA 2021: Implant was quite a success!)

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book reviews, family

Reviewing In My Mother’s House by Kim Chernin…

I just took a lovely nap. It commenced after I finished reading Kim Chernin’s book, In My Mother’s House. Kim Chernin, born Elaine Kusnitz, died recently, which is probably how this book came on my radar. She was 80 years old. She was a lesbian, a feminist, a much regarded author with a doctorate, and the daughter of a famously communist mother, Rose Chernin. She was survived by her daughter, Larissa, who was her only child, born in 1963 while Kim was studying at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. Married and divorced twice, Kim took her mother’s surname after the second divorce, as did her daughter. She is also survived by her wife, Renate Stendhal.

Kim Chernin died in December of COVID-19. Her only sister, Nina, had died when Kim was four years old. Kim owed her life to Nina, because when her mother got pregnant with her, she reportedly told Nina, then an adolescent, that she wasn’t sure she should have the baby. At the time of her pregnancy, Kim’s famous mother, Rose, was thirty-nine years old and very busy with her career as a left-wing activist. Nina reportedly promised their mother that if she would have the baby, Nina would take care of it. Sure enough, Kim was born in May 1940, and Nina took care of her. Of course, no one knew at the time that Nina would get very sick with Hodgkins lymphoma, which would kill her in 1944.

At the beginning of her book, In My Mother’s House, Rose is visiting Kim and Larissa, who was a young girl at the time. She’s asked her daughter to write a book about her life as a labor organizer and Communist Party. Kim Chernin, who was nationally known as an expert on body dysmorphia and eating disorders, agreed. It took her seven years to finish the book, which was originally published in 1983. The result is a multi-faceted book about one woman’s unusual and riveting history between two super powers, Russia and the United States. Rose told Kim about her life– quite a lot of which had already been lived before Kim was born.

Rose Chernin and Paul Kusnitz, Kim’s parents, were Russian Jews. They were born at the beginning of the twentieth century. When Rose was about thirteen, her mother moved her and her sisters from Russia to Waterbury, Connecticut. Rose became politically active as a young woman, dedicated to the idea of communism. She joined the Communist Party in 1932, three years after officially becoming a United States citizen. That year, the family moved to Moscow for a couple of years before returning to the United States. Kim’s father was an engineer educated at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, so he helped develop the Moscow Metro (subway) system. The family returned to the United States in 1934, six years before Kim was born.

In the ensuing years, Rose Chernin was very active in promoting communism in the United States. Kim Chernin grew up hearing about the wonders of the Soviet Union, which her mother promoted as a more humane society. Kim read works by Marx and Lenin from a very young age.

In 1951, Rose Chernin was arrested for conspiracy to overthrow the government under the Smith Act of 1940. The Smith Act of 1940 set criminal penalties for advocating the overthrow of the U.S. government by force or violence, and required all non-citizen adult residents to register with the federal government. Rose spent a year in jail, in part because her bail was set at $100,000, which she could never hope to raise. The Immigration and Naturalization Service tried to deport Rose, but were unsuccessful because of a 1957 ruling that the Smith Act was unconstitutional.

I was initially drawn into the story about four generations of women in Kim Chernin’s family because of the richness in which the story was written. Kim was a very intelligent and expressive writer, and I got the sense that she and her mother had a complicated yet loving relationship. Kim grew up attending communist rallies with her mother, who was very much a supporter of worker’s rights and tenant advocacy and an opponent of racism. Naturally, Rose’s ideas ran contrary to the ideas promoted by the U.S. government. But there was a time when Russia and the United States were allies, as both powers fought against Hitler’s regime.

Kim also went to Yiddish school, although she rebelled against the teachings there. And yet, in reading her book about her mother, I can tell that the experience in Yiddish school left its mark on her as she weaves her mother’s voice in to story. Kim had a complicated relationship with her mother, and they are said to have fought “bitterly”. However, Kim also clearly adored her, and that loving quality is liberally injected In My Mother’s House. Rose Chernin lived a very long and productive life. She died in 1995 of Alzheimer’s Disease. She had just turned 94.

I’m glad I read this book. I promise, it’s not the book that sent me into afternoon slumber. Rather, I think it was because Arran woke me up at 4:30am and I couldn’t get back to sleep. I have always found the Soviet Union and Russian history very interesting. I also find Kim Chernin interesting because of her work as a feminist and expertise in the subject of eating disorders. Her trilogy about eating disorders, Obsession: Reflections on the Tyranny of SlendernessThe Hungry Self: Women, Eating and Identity, and Reinventing Eve: Modern Woman in Search of Herself, put her on the map as a writer. However, In My Mother’s House, is a loving and fascinating tribute to her mother, who was quite an amazing woman. It also offers a glimpse at Kim’s grandmother, a woman who never could adapt to life in the United States and was later sent to an institution, where she wrote beautiful letters.

Kim Chernin managed to impart her mother’s wisdom as she wrote in Rose Chernin’s voice, “You want to fly? Grow wings. You don’t like the way things are? Tell a story.” Words to live by… although I’m not sure I’m as good at following Rose’s advice as Kim was. May she rest in peace.

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