Tag Archives: feminism

Is Fear of Childbirth Really a Disorder?

Thanks to Jezebel’s Anna North for this interesting article.

Some women apparently suffer from “tocophobia” or an “unrelenting fear of childbirth.” But is this really that irrational?

ABC’s Susan Donaldson James says, “At its worst, tocophobia can be so profound that some women, even those who yearn for children, choose not to get pregnant.” For instance, 23-year-old Karen DuVall says when the time comes, she’d rather adopt. She tells ABC:

The more I learned about childbirth, the more afraid of it I’ve actually become. I’m afraid of my body being ruined. I’m afraid of having an aneurysm and dying. I’m even afraid that when I get married, my husband won’t be attracted to me anymore after giving birth. I’m afraid that I just won’t be me anymore.

While the majority of moms don’t have aneurysms, DuVall’s concerns about the health implications of childbirth aren’t unfounded — as Amanda Marcotte tweets, “since complications are common, I’m a little wary of suggesting this is a ‘phobia’, instead of a reasonable reaction.” And since maternal mortality rates are higher in the US than in most other developed countries — and have risen since the late nineties — maybe a little anger at our healthcare system is in order too. And as to DuVall’s worries about her body — well, given that we’re daily bombarded with stories of celebs losing (or failing to lose) the “baby weight,” and generally made to believe that only the thinnest and youngest-looking physiques are acceptable, I’m sure many women have had similar concerns about getting pregnant. None of the worries on DuVall’s list came as any kind of surprise to me.

To my mind, the whole concept of “tocophobia” just illustrates a double bind women face. We’re frequently told that unless we hire an army of personal trainers and plastic surgeons, we’ll be unattractive after we have a kid — and of course, attractiveness is our most important attribute. We hear stories about the “ring of fire” and all the other terrible things that can happen to us as we push a baby out. And yet if after all that, we’re not eager to procreate — why then we must be crazy!

Of course, the US should be working to improve healthcare so that complications can become less of a concern for moms-to-be. And I certainly look forward to the day (is it coming? ever?) when women can reproduce without worrying about baby-weight bullshit. But in the meantime, if a woman has looked at her options and decided childbearing isn’t for her, does she really have a disease?

Tocophobia, Or Fear Of Childbirth, On The Rise [ABC]

Send an email to Anna North, the author of this post, at annanorth@jezebel.com.


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Let the Women Fly

Michele Morris, Ms. Blog

The calendar may say 2010, but for women ski jumpers it’s still feeling like the 1950s when men competed and women watched. Ski jumping is the only winter Olympic event that doesn’t have a female competition.

In October, the 12-member executive board of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) met in Acapulco, Mexico to consider adding new events to the 2014 Winter Games, which will take place in Sochi, Russia.  The wannabes include women’s ski jumping as well as ski halfpipe, ski and snowboard slopestyle and three coed events: biathlon mixed team relay, figure skating team event and luge team relay.

Blame it on the margaritas or maybe the sun, but the old boys couldn’t bring themselves to say “si “to the women ski jumpers’ request to join the Games. Instead, they said “wait and see.”

Yet the women ski jumpers and their supporters took hope from this latest non-decision. After all, the board didn’t say no, as it did at the Torino and Vancouver Olympics. But pushing the decision off until next spring, after the next World Cup event, is a major cop-out. Olympic athletes are supported by their national organizations, while non-Olympic athletes must raise their own money to compete. Olympic athletes stay in hotels with queen-size mattreses, while non-Olympic ones sleep on friends’ couches. Olympic athletes can earn millions from advertising endorsements, while non-Olympic ones work low-paying jobs that give them flexibility to train.

Jacques Rogge, the Belgian yachtsman who is the president of the IOC, insists that he needs more time to see if the sport has evolved. Perhaps someone should tell Rogge that ski jumping is older than he is: He was born in 1942 and women have been ski jumping since the 1920s. Women jumpers took a hiatus starting in the 1950s, however, when doctors said that the sport was too dangerous for them–that it might damage their female organs.  No one worried if the men jumpers, who wear thin lycra onesy suits, risk frostbite on their private parts.

The women ski jumpers hoped that they would be allowed to jump at the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games,  because Canada has an antidiscrimination charter. But the IOC was not going to be governed by a host nation’s pesky law, and the women were denied their Olympic berth. As a last resort, the jumpers filed a lawsuit charging gender discrimination and asking the Canadian courts to allow them into the Games.  The judge found evidence of gender discrimination, but ruled that the IOC was not subject to Canada’s anti-discrimination laws.

It was hard to watch men’s ski jumping in Vancouver knowing that the women were on the sidelines and that a woman, Lindsey Van, held the record jump on the competition hill before the Games began. And it was hard to watch alpine ski racer Lindsey Vonn (with an o not an a) win a gold medal knowing that ski jumper Vann wasn’t allowed to compete. But it was especially hard to explain to my seven-year-old niece, whose mother was an Olympic rower, why the women ski jumpers couldn’t compete.  “Because their girls?” she asked.  That’s right, Zara, because they’re girls.  “That’s not fair,” she pointed out.

Jacques Rogge, are you listening?

Photo of Holmenkollen ski jump in Norway under license from Creative Commons 3.0.

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Break free of the “Man Box”

I love this video so much.  First of all, because this semester I’ve read a hell of a lot about men – I’ve been researching the mid-seventies profeminist men’s movement in Rolling Stone.  And it’s really exciting to see many of the same discussions about masculinity more than thirty years later.  In the words of then associate editor of Rolling Stone, Michael Rogers, it’s as if men still feel as if they are an “overclass that ha[s] suddenly sailed dead into a powerful egalitarian movement.”

“While women in the past decade have developed a whole new series of devices to deal with sociosexual pressures, men have not.  Simply to mimic the techniques that work for women is to ignore the obvious fact that men approach the whole problem from precisely the other side.”

I’m here to tell you that Tony Porter is speaking truth to power.  Listen up, men!

At TEDWomen, Tony Porter makes a call to men everywhere: Don’t “act like a man.” Telling powerful stories from his own life, he shows how this mentality, drummed into so many men and boys, can lead men to disrespect, mistreat and abuse women and each other. His solution: Break free of the “man box.”

I would also like to encourage you to check out TED where this video is from.  This site has a wide range of speakers presenting on important global issues, WITH translations!  Here are some big names: Isabel Allende, Julian Assange, Bono, Richard Branson, Richard Dawkins, Eve Ensler, Jane Goodall, and toonnnss more!


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The Weirdest Video You’ll See Ever

So I was about to do a post on preying mantises, specifically about the myth about female preying mantises having sex with their mates and then biting their heads off.  Since Leland Howard “discovered” this fact in 1886, this myth has lent a hand to a wealth of femme fatale stereotypes, including the penis-envy or man-hating feminist.  Lisa Wade from Sociological Images further explains this myth and the ensuing unfair characterizations of women as villains here.

One commenter on Wade’s post included a link to Seduce Me with Isabella Rosselini – a series of online sorts about the sexual habits of animals, often using costumes and cardboard cutouts.  YES.

My sister is the queen of finding awkward things online, and she really should’ve beat me to this.

Here’s a clip from the episode on snails:

Here’s an equally awkward excerpt from her interview with Eric Spitznagel at Vanity Fair:

Thanksgiving is next week, so we should probably talk about turkeys. What can you tell us about turkey sex?

I don’t know much about turkeys. Birds are not so interesting generally. In terms of sexual organs, birds have a cloaca, which is an opening where everything happens, from feces and urine and also sperm. I imagine turkeys also have a cloaca, but I’m not absolutely sure. I think maybe it would be interesting to know about their method of courtship. I’m sure it would be very colorful and very strange.

I’ve heard that a lot of turkeys have virgin births.

Really? No, that cannot be right.

I swear that’s what I read. It’s called parthenogenesis, and the percentage of virgin turkey births is something like 40 percent.

I don’t think so, I don’t think so. Birds are not like aphids, where an animal can reproduce by cloning itself. You can segment the worm and the worm can become two worms. Or you can segment a starfish. But I’ve never heard of that happening in a higher animal such as birds.

If it’s true…

No, no, I don’t think it is.

But let’s assume for a moment that it is. If we eat turkey for Thanksgiving, is it possible that we could be eating the Son of God?

[Laughs. Long pause.] I don’t really want to go there, I’m sorry.

I’ve also heard that many of the turkeys sold at grocery stores are physically incapable of having sex. They’re genetically bred to be so fat that they have to be artificially inseminated.

And believe me, it gets better (really, more like worse).  Read on!

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Disney’s New Gendered Directions

Sorry, guys – no time for a real post today.  Why don’t you tell me what you think about the following posts from Ms. Magazine:


Disney’s Male Execs To Stop Making Movies Starring Girls : Ms Magazine Blog by Margot Magowan

At first it seems like possible good news. Disney/ Pixar announces: no more fairy tales, code for princess movies. Great! No more damsels in distress who end the movie by landing a man.

Now we’re going to have a slew of new movies with cool girl heroes who bravely rescue boys from peril, exuding power and beauty by performing all kinds of risk-taking tasks and challenges. But, no.

First of all, the reason the fairy tale movies are stopping is because Disney/ Pixar executives have decided that little girls aren’t worth making movies for at all.

The Los Angeles Times reports the fairy tale movies “appealed to too narrow an audience: little girls. This prompted the studio to change the name of its Rapunzel movie to the gender-neutral ‘Tangled’ and shift the lens of its marketing to the film’s swashbuckling male costar, Flynn Rider.”

Can you imagine if Disney decided to shut down a genre because it only appealed to little boys? Or if they switched a movie title so it wouldn’t risk highlighting a male star?

Read on!


Disney’s Gender Roles Remain Un-Tangled by Natalie Wilson

The good news is that Disney’s new animated feature Tangled is funny, fast-paced and visually stunning.

The bad news is that it re-hashes the same old story: As a woman, you can either be a princess awaiting her prince or an evil stepmother/witch; as a man, you get all the action (in many senses of the word). And beauty, of course, equals white, blonde, thin and young.

Keeping in mind Disney’s recent announcement that after Tangled they won’t be making any more princess films, one can see Tangled as a transitional movie, an indication of where Disney’s future is headed…

To this end, Disney brought in a new directorial team in 2008 to overhaul the planned Rapunzel and “wring the pink out of it,” as the Los Angeles Times aptly put it.

The resultant Tangled, with a non-heroine title, more action and a platoon of mega-muscular-man characters (in contrast to only two key females–Rapunzel and the evil Mother Gothel), bodes ill for Disney’s post-princess era.  While one blogger has called this a “gender neutral makeover,” it seems to me more of a masculinist makeover.

Read on!



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Sex Re-Education

Have you seen Bristol Palin’s recent tv commercial on sex education?  Don’t waste your time, here’s the scoop: it’s kind of boring and awkward, and she promotes abstinence-only education.  Palin’s a born-again virgin.

I remember sitting in sex ed class (I had to take it as a senior with freshmen) and being told that every time I have sex I will get an incurable STD and get pregnant.  While I don’t have a problem with stressing the high risks of pregnancy and STDs without the use of condoms, I do have a problem with abhorrence of teen sexuality.

Let’s face it – they’re young and hormonal, and good god, let’s try and prevent them from procreating at this age!

Due to this shortage in valuable knowledge about sex (since there’s so much crap coming from churches and porn), here’s a few sites with great information about sex education.

1) Midwest Teen Sex Show

This is one of the most hilarious damn shows on the whole damn planet.  Although the MTSS team is currently not producing any new sex ed shows, you can find all of their own episodes here.

My favorite episode of all time is on vaginas.

2) Scarleteen

This site is full of handy information, like “What Disability Can Teach Us About Sex” or “Sexual Anatomy for Everybody,” but it’s most invaluable service is sex ed texting.

To ask Scarleteen a question via text, text the keyword ASKST to 66746, followed by your question.  You can literally be mid-coitus between the hours of 6 am and 11 pm and text a sex question.  Pretty neat.

3) Shelby Knox

You might also check out the blog of Shelby Knox, a 24 year-old sex education activist (I am 23 and have done nothing as cool with my life), who has come a long way from her virginity-pledging roots.  Knox first came onto the scene at age 15 when she starred in a PBS documentary about her experiences growing up in the highly conservative and religious town of Lubbock, Texas.

Here’s a synopsis from the PBS website:

Into the culture wars steps 15-year-old Shelby Knox of Lubbock, Texas. A self-described “good Southern Baptist girl,” Knox herself has pledged abstinence until marriage.

When she finds that Lubbock has some of the highest rates of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases in the state, and her county’s high schools teach abstinence as the only safe sex, she becomes an unlikely advocate for comprehensive sex education, profoundly changing her political and spiritual views along the way.

“I think that God wants you to question,” Shelby says, “to do more than just blindly be a follower, because he can’t use blind followers. He can use people like me who realize there’s more in the world that can be done.”

Here is a story for our times, where the combustible mix of politics, family and faith aren’t as predictable as the red state/blue state divide would suggest.

Here’s the trailer for the documentary The Education of Shelby Knox:

And on that note, go  a) become informed about safe sex and  b) have fun with your new knowledge!

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Gender, Shopping, and Thanksgiving

Before I begin, I wanted to give a shout-out to Small Business Saturday.  Although I’m not encouraging you to buy anything for anyone, you might consider buying something from a small business this year.  Consider your local townies, OR nationally organized small businesses, such as Etsy.

Wouldn’t it be great if every day of this week could be a different shopping day?  Wednesday – buy local/organic food day, Thursday- Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Small-Business Saturday, Used/Vintage Sunday, Fair Trade Monday.  Let’s make it happen people!


Back to Thanksgiving – Why’s it always gotta be a mom’s job to cook?  And clean?  And buy the damn presents?  Give some ladies a break.

Sociological Images posted an enlightening ad yesterday highlighting the gendering of Thanksgiving-themed cooking and cleaning in advertisements.  Check it out.  The text reads: “When you need a hand with holiday entertaining,” and shows a mom happily juggling her responsibilities as hostess, cook and cleaner.

Lisa Wade aptly pointed out, “But apparently those extra hands do not include kids and adult men (of course, those can’t be sold, so why would Bed, Bath, and Beyond bother).”


And this was just too coincidentally good to not re-post.

In her article, “Gender Inequality in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade,” Huffington Post writer Lilly Blau explains gender discrimination in the US’s most famous parade:

See, no women!

On November 10 of this year, Lynnette Long, president of Equal Visibility Everywhere–a not-for-profit charmingly acronymed EVE–published a blog on the astounding under-representation of female characters among the Macy’s parade balloons.

For a few key feminists, despite the holiday, it was a call to action.

In the 84-year, 129-character history of the parade, only 10 female characters have ever sailed down the avenues.

[Here are the 10 female character balloons Macy’s has already introduced: Olive Oyl, Raggedy Ann, Betty Boop, Sky Dancer, Petunia Pig, Cassie from Dragon Tales, JoJo the Clown, Dora the Explorer, Hello Kitty, and Abby Cadabby.]

“Parade balloons are not a trivial issue,” said Long. “Every year millions of young girls eagerly attend Macy’s and other parades, only to look up and see nothing but male characters float by.”

Long concluded with a latent call for action: “Hopefully, one day, the parade skies of the United States will be filled with an equal number of male and female characters.”

EVE has created a petition to bring gender equality to the famous parade by 2012.  AND you can go to EVE’s website to vote for your favorite female balloons.  The leading lady is, of course, Purdue’s own Amelia Earhart.  I’m actually more partial to Miss Piggy and Wonder Woman.

So far EVE has flown the Amelia Earhart balloon in Indiana and Iowa – holla, Louisa!

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