“If only it were that simple. As I’ve written previously here, the notion that breast cancer is a uniformly progressive disease that starts small and only grows and spreads if you don’t stop it in time is flat out wrong. I call it breast cancer’s false narrative, and it’s a fairy tale that Komen has relentlessly perpetuated.
“It was a mistake that most everyone made in the early days. When mammography was new and breast cancer had not yet become a discussion for the dinner table, it really did seem like all it would take to stop breast cancer was awareness and vigilant screening. The thing about the false narrative is that it makes intuitive sense—a tumor starts as one rogue cell that grows out of control, eventually becoming a palpable tumor that gets bigger and bigger until it escapes its local environment and becomes metastatic, when it can kill you. And this story has a grain of truth to it—it’s just that it’s far more complicated than that.
“Years of research have led scientists to discover that breast tumors are not all alike. Some are fast moving and aggressive, others are never fated to metastasize. The problem is that right now we don’t have a surefire way to predict in advance whether a cancer will spread or how aggressive it might become.”
The internet can be so powerful, more often than not for bad, but sometimes for good. The Susan G. Komen Foundation has reversed its decision.
“The nation’s pre-eminent breast cancer advocacy group, the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation, apologized on Friday for its decision to cut most of its financing to Planned Parenthood for breast cancer screening and said it would again make Planned Parenthood eligible for those grants. Some Komen officials had said that the decision to halt financing, which was made in December and became public knowledge on Tuesday, was made because of an inquiry by a Republican congressman, Cliff Stearns of Florida, who is looking into whether Planned Parenthood has spent public money for abortions. A new rule was created by the foundation to bar grants to organizations under federal, state or local investigation, but a Komen board member said the only current grantee the rule would apply to was Planned Parenthood. Critics also objected to the fact that the foundation seemed to be giving an inquiry by a Republican congressman, which appeared to be prompted in part by opponents of abortion rights, as muchcredibility as a criminal or civil investigation by a government agency.
“Ms. Brinker’s statement sought to change the impression that abortion politics prompted the decision.
“We have been distressed at the presumption that the changes made to our funding criteria were done for political reasons or to specifically penalize Planned Parenthood,” the statement said. “They were not. Our original desire was to fulfill our fiduciary duty to our donors by not funding grant applications made by organizations under investigation. We will amend the criteria to make clear that disqualifying investigations must be criminal and conclusive in nature and not political. That is what is right and fair.”
BCAction is the only national breast cancer organization to not accept funding from entities that profit from or contribute to cancer. Our independence allows us to advocate for policy changes that protect affected communities.
- We are a membership organization.
- We honor each person’s commitment and energy to our mission.
- We are not afraid to examine all sides of all issues.
- We cannot be bought.
- We tell the truth about what we discover.
- We serve individuals while reaching the broader population.
- We value the involvement of grassroots activists throughout the country and around the world to further our mission.
- We encourage people to participate fully in decisions relating to breast cancer.
- We believe access to information is vital.
- We recognize that structural changes in society are needed to accomplish our mission.
I’ve just learned about this information from a beloved friend who is a breast cancer survivor. I will be making a donation today.
One of the most prominent charities working to prevent and cure breast cancer, the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation, has cut its ties with the women’s health organization Planned Parenthood, that organization confirmed on Tuesday. Reacting to the news, Planned Parenthood decried Komen for having “succumbed to political pressure” related to abortion politics. Planned Parenthood said representatives for Komen have been notifying Planned Parenthood divisions throughout the country that it will stop providing funding for breast cancer screenings and prevention.
I was never a fan of the Susan G. Komen pink, and I’m certainly not a fan if, as it appears, it’s gone red. Planned Parenthood provides breast cancer screeninh, birth control, STD screening and a host of other services — besides abortion — to the most marginalized and impoverished populations of women. Come on, this is an outrage.
April 29, 2008 – 03:10 PM
A new study suggests that women treated with Fosomax to combat the symptoms of osteoporosis are twice as likely to develop a common form of irregular heartbeat known as atrial fibrillation than those who have never taken the drug. Atrial fibrillation can lead to heart palpitations, fainting, fatigue or congestive heart failure. Atrial fibrillation is relatively common ailment affecting about one percent of Americans and becomes increasingly common with age, with just under ten percent of those over the age of 80 affected by the ailment. A new study headed by Dr. Susan Heckbert suggests that Fosomax may drastically increase the chances of developing atrial fibrillation.
For her study, Dr. Heckbert and her colleagues from Group Health analyzed 719 women with diagnosed atrial fibrillation that began taking the drug between 2001 and 2004, and 966 women who were the same age but did not have the condition. According to the findings, there was an 86 percent higher risk of newly found atrial fibrillation in those who had used Fosamax compared with those who had never used it.
Of course, in 2006 we learned that taking Fosomax resulted in osteonecrosis of the jaw, “dead jaw,” an an “irreversible condition in which bone tissue dies and fails to regenerate and is often seen in patients who have had dental extractions or implants and oral surgery.”
Way back on November 12, 2001 — over six years ago — Susun Weed, a woman healer, responding to a question from a woman whose doctor had prescribed Fosomax, wrote:
Sent: Monday, November 12, 2001
Subject: Increase your bone mass naturally – not with Fosomax
The best things I know of for increasing bone mass are (1) yogurt, at least half a cup a day; (2) nourishing herbal infusions of nettle, oatstraw, comfrey leaf, or red clover, at least two cups a day. (I rotate the herbs so I have each one about two times a week.) (3) Elimination of coffee, white sugar, and white flour from your diet (little bits won’t hurt, but not daily use). (4) Increase in the amount of fat in the diet (needed for the processing of minerals). I have seen women increase their bone mass by 6 points in 6 months by using these three tips.
But I am not so sure that you really have a problem. Bone mass does not correlate with bone breakage!! Bone flexibility is what we want because that is what prevents breaks. Fosomax makes the bones more massive, but more brittle. Yoga, tai chi, and other stretching forms of exercise help women be more flexible. Are you doing this weekly?
Massive bones are not necessarily an indicator of health. Women with high bone mass are four times more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer! Women who take calcium supplements are twice as likely to break a bone as women who don’t. Perhaps you are listening to your doctor and doing what your doctor wants but maybe this is not so good for you.
By the lights of the gods of patriarchal medicine, of course, Weed is the heretic and quack, not them, not the drug companies, all of which dispense these pills full of disease-producing toxins like they are candy.
Lynn Sweeting of Womanish Words has a beautiful post up, a letter to her body written on her 45th birthday:
I am sorry for agreeing to hate you like others did, I abandoned you for those years, i cursed you under drunken breath, i wept over you like roadkill, but you remained like a good friend until i recovered, like any best friend would. please forgive me my ingratitude, beloved friend….
Dear Body, this letter of thanks to you is also dedicated to the millions of Earth women whose bodies are under attack at the time of this writing. We are no into another Dark Age of male centered, woman hating, religious hysteria that always begins with the colonisation and brutalization of women’s bodies. It is a spell cast for their emancipation as well as my own. This letter is also written for the sake of all the Island Women out there who struggle to grow, protect and defend their bodies every day. Women, love your bodies, claim ownership of them, befriend them, don’t let gods or men colonize them, celebrate them for the beauty, muscle and guts that they are. This is the most powerfiul revolutionary action you can take in the effort to emancipate yourselves from patriarchy. And the most fun.
So beautiful! Read the whole thing.
In response to the irresponsible and unethical attacks on Planned Parenthood on, of all things, the feminist blogosphere:
The Truth About Margaret Sanger
Margaret Sanger gained worldwide renown, respect, and admiration for founding the American birth control movement and, later, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, as well as for developing and encouraging family planning efforts throughout the international community.
Among her many visionary accomplishments as a social reformer, Sanger established the principles that a woman’s right to control her body is the foundation of her human rights; that every person should be able to decide when or whether to have a child; that every child should be wanted and loved; and that women are entitled to sexual pleasure and fulfillment just as men are brought about the reversal of federal and state “Comstock laws” that prohibited publication and distribution of information about sex, sexuality, contraception, and human reproduction helped establish the contemporary American model for the protection of civil rights through nonviolent civil disobedience — a model that later propelled the civil rights, anti-war, women’s rights, and AIDS-action movements created access to birth control for low-income, minority, and immigrant women expanded the American concept of volunteerism and grassroots organizing by setting up a network of volunteer-driven family planning centers across the U.S. Continue reading
Once again, a giant of the movement to liberate women has passed on. Barbara Seaman, tireless pioneer and principal founder of the feminist women’s health care movement, passed away yesterday of lung cancer at the age of 72.
Beginning in 1960, with second wave feminism still in its embryonic stage, Seaman pioneered patient-centered health reporting. Under her watch, women were to learn for the first time that they were not receiving the information they needed in order to make good, informed decisions about contraception, childbirth, or breastfeeding (this last during a time when formula manufacturers were boasting that their products were better for children than mother’s milk.) An engaging and passionate writer, Seaman’s work was sought out and picked up by mainstream women’s magazines – Ladies Home Journal, Family Circle and Bride’s Magazine. Her essays appeared in major newspapers like the New York Times and the Washington Post. From time to time, she served as a consultant for television programs which dealt with health care issues. Continue reading
While today in our city the Martin Luther King Parade brought community out to remember and celebrate, many reflected on the true legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr as a leader with conviction and passion for civil rights and human rights. It is important to take the meaning of this day further than an exercise in platitudes and official declarations from the White House, the State House or City Hall and ask the candidates some tough questions, such as what are they really doing to address, in Dr. King’s words, “the shocking injustice” that is our health care system? Are they seriously committed to protecting our health? Their health care proposals to date suggest otherwise.
The National Economic and Social Rights Initiative and the National Health Law Program have assessed the candidates’ plans, using a framework based on the human right to health care. The results are a wake up call: Anja Rudiger, Right to Health Program Director, believes that “we need to tell candidates to stop treating us as consumers who can choose to buy or forgo health care. Instead, they must put forward plans for real change: for universal access to quality care for all, on an equitable basis.”
To read the assessment, visit
Rep. Julia Carson (D-IN) has died of lung cancer at the age of 69. She was the daughter of a single mom who made her living cleaning houses, graduating from a segregated high school in 1959. Married briefly, Carson went on to raise her own two children as a single mom. She was working as a secretary for the United Auto Workers when Rep. Andy Jacobs asked her to go along with him to his office in Washington D.C. Later, Jacobs urged her to run for public office herself and she did, serving 20 years in the Indiana General Assembly, then several years as Center Township Trustee, where within six years, she turned a $20 million debt into a $6 million surplus. In 1996 she was elected to Congress where she served until the time of her death, despite health problems which included diabetes, asthma and high blood pressure.
She never forgot what it was to be poor or to be single mom. She fought tirelessly for the human and civil rights of women, the poor, the homeless, persons of color. She was a staunch opponent of the war in Iraq which she referred to as an act of U.S. aggression and greed.
Consider highlights I’ve selected from her Congressional voting record:
The latest scientific discovery is that pregnant women “don’t tip over” because of “evolutionary adaptations in the female spine.”
So look at these photos:
Now look at these photos:
The women in all but the bottom photo are nine months’ pregnant (and some of the women in the bottom photo may be, as well).
Why would anyone think any of these women might “tip over”? But if they did for some reason, why wouldn’t the men with the beer guts in the above photos also “tip over”? And especially given that in general, women have broader hips, fatter butts and thicker thighs than men do, such that the huge beer bellies seem even more precariously balanced resting atop the flat rears and chicken legs?
Whatever changes scientists may have discovered in the spines and bodies of pregnant women would seem to me to be as likely to be the body’s adaptation to the pregnancy. Bodies generally do adjust to added weight, i.e., when people gain fat, the body adapts to the greater body weight by also adding muscle to support it.
Those of us who are mothers know all of the many bodily, physical adaptations of motherhood over the years. I have one hip that will always be higher than the other, for example, because of my many years of carrying children on my hip. My breasts are larger after having had children than they were before I had them, because of the growth in milk ducts. I have very strong upper arms and forearms because I’ve used them to lift so many little ones over so many years. I have eyes in the back of my head. :p
Anyway. These are examples of the body’s adjusting to various stresses, strains, changes and repetitive movements. Why is it that this particular connection is made as to men — i.e., men’s muscularity (or not) is understood to be a result of the work men do (or not) — whereas women’s bodies are endlessly scrutinized for evidence of “natural”, “inborn,” innate, or “evolutionary adaptations” which oh-so-conveniently mark us as “uniquely suited” to the gender stereotypes male heterosupremacy imposes on us? The way the study is being reported is also sexist and insulting with article titles like, “Women Wobble But They Don’t Fall Down,” mocking and stereotyping pregnant women as fragile incompetents whose balance seems so precarious it becomes a matter of scientific research– the obvious inference being that their abilities to work and function normally in daily life are suspect. In fact, we all know that there are millions and probably billions of women whose pregnancies pass unnoticed until the eighth or ninth month, or who function completely competently on the job, including physically demanding jobs, and in their daily lives even when they are noticeably pregnant.
Finally, as an aside, note the way ordinary men compete for the most impressive beer belly (Google “beer belly contests”) happily and proudly displaying their guts for photos and posting them to the internet.
What would happen if women (who were not pregnant) did the same?
This rant brought to you courtesy of Heart, tired of sexist approaches to scientific “research.”
Oregon Women’s Land Trust Meeting, 1970s, © Ruth Mountaingrove
From OWL (Oregon Women’s Land) Farm:
Pipeline update: As you all recall, an energy company has stated their intentions of burying a 3-foot diameter pipeline through Owl Farm. They would need to clearcut a 100′ to 150′ wide corridor, 1/2 mile through our forest to make room for the equipment and roads needed to install the pipeline (about a seven acre clearcut). The proposed route would travel down the ridge west of the main house, and then straight down the steep hill above the Coop, through the parking lot and over the creek.
We are in shock and denial that this could ever happen to us. We are still one or two years away from having our land condemned, and many things can happen in that time to stop it.
We are in shock and denial that this could ever happen to us. We are still one or two years away from having our land condemned, and many things can happen in that time to stop it. But then again, the energy company has already spent millions to make this happen, and the more money they spend, the harder it is to stop.
Many women on this list wrote letters to the federal government earlier this year when we asked. Thank you. It made an impact. The government noted the large amount of letters concerning “Owl Ranch”. In 2008, when the government issues an Environmental Impact Statement for public comments, we will again ask you to write to the government. In the meantime, we need a different kind of letter from any women who has ever visited Owl – more on that later.
First, some more information on potential environmental and social effects to one of the oldest women’s lands in the country, as well as effects to our world.
The purpose of the pipeline is to transport natural gas from Coos Bay, at the Pacific Ocean, 230 miles to California. The gas actually originates on the other side of the world, in countries like Russia or Iran. There it is super cooled so it can be compressed (liquefied, aka Liquefied Natural Gas, or LNG), and put on huge tankers to be brought across the ocean to Coos Bay. Near the coast, these LNG takers, the size of several football fields, will have to cross a busy grey whale migration route. In Coos Bay the energy companies plan to dredge and widen the bay, and build a terminal to push the gas 230 miles through the new pipeline, eventually going through Owl Farm, and on to the California market.
Nobody is happy about this – not our right-wing county commissioners (it hurts private property rights), the managers of the National Forests (it hurts endangered species like the spotted owl and coho salmon), the citizens of Coos Bay (one mistake and their town blows up), or the people on the pipeline route, like us.
In a recent women’s news story, it was reported that our county commissioners opposed the pipeline, and we soon started receiving congratulations from some of you on our victory. Sorry for the misunderstanding, but we didn’t win anything. The Bush administration’s 2005 energy bill took local control away from deciding where to site energy projects. Now, only the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) can decide our fate. The energy company filed with FERC on September 4 for a “certificate of public necessity and need”, asking for permission to take other’s private land by eminent domain, if necessary for their gas project.
Looking through the thousands of documents that were filed, we discovered some amazing plans the energy company has for Owl Farm. For instance, they had originally told us they would need to clearcut a 100-foot wide route, 1/2 mile route through Owl Farm’s forests. But the plans they filed with FERC show they want to clearcut 150′ wide in many places, and some places, 200′ wide. It needs to be wider because the slope is so steep down the hill toward the Coop, and, they need plenty of extra space to park their earth-destroying equipment, right in front of the Coop
The Coop (known to FERC as the “guest house”) is the real main house we use, and about 100′ away from proposed pipeline route. The Coop is one of only seven houses on the 230-mile pipeline route that could be affected by blasting. Apparently, Owl Farm has high-surface rock, so the energy company thinks they will have to blast open the ridgetop and the slope down to the Coop, in order to burry the pipeline. They promised FERC they would put padded blankets on the side of the Coop to protect it from flying rock and other blasting impacts. The blasting map we discovered actually has a bulls-eye circle drawn around the Coop.
We called the energy company and asked if they would also have to blast through the wetlands next to the Coop. They assured us that if they degrade our wetlands, they would enhance other wetlands — on someone else’s property. But it’s not “someone else’s property” they reminded me – it will all belong to them anyway.
We noticed that the general route of the proposed pipeline stays on the ridgetop for many miles, EXCEPT, it takes a U-turn to come through Owl Farm. We asked the energy company why they didn’t just stay on the ridgetop. The answer is that on the BLM land next to Owl Farm (an old growth forest) has a spotted owl’s nest, and the energy company cannot violate the Endangered Species Act, so they swung it through Owl Farm instead.
Another impact of this pipeline on Owl Farm is not only our loss of a beautiful view, but also our loss of privacy. The energy company would fly planes over their right-of-way often, send out maintenance men without warning, and herbicide spray the corridor to keep anything from growing into the pipeline. After all, the gas will not be odorized, so if there were a leak, we wouldn’t know until it’s too late. They can also sell the right-of-way so other people could start coming through for different reasons in the future.
Perhaps the worst impact to all of us is that Liquefied Natural Gas contributes to global climate change. It has a carbon footprint almost as dirty as some forms of coal. Unlike domestic natural gas (one of America’s most abundant energy sources, with pipelines across the nation already in place), Liquefied Natural Gas is dirtier because of minute leakages of methane that is cumulatively significant, and the added energy cost to liquefy, ship, regasify, and pipe it to California. While it will make the energy companies rich, it will retard our conversion to renewable energy sources like solar, wind and wave power
HOW YOU CAN HELP
Women of the World – We need your help, to save Owl Farm and to save humankind. We need three things: women, letters and financial assistance.
Women: Come to Owl Farm. The more women-energy we have on the land, the more we can displace the energy of those who wish to destroy it. There are some indoor places to sleep, lots of tent spaces, and a few car-camping spaces. Call first so we can tell you about the farm and what to bring. We are sponsoring an Owl-Farm hike in early May, so come before then to help plant the garden. The hike will focus on protecting the native ecology of Pacific Northwest forests and meadows. Other projects to plug into are organizing against the LNG terminal and pipeline, protecting old growth forests (there is one in danger bordering Owl Farm), or organizing the “greening of women’s lands” project. We are looking for women who can write grants to help fund this last project.
Letters: If Oregon Women’s Land Trust has to go to court to defend Owl Farm, we need testimony of how Owl Farm has benefited women over the years. If you have ever been to Owl Farm, consider sending us a letter telling us of your experience. Feel free to mention anything you remember about the land as beautiful, private, safe, restful, healing, beneficial, spiritual, uplifting, etc
Financial: In order to organize against the LNG pipeline, for renewable energy, for our mission and for protecting the natural wonders at Owl Farm, we would love to have your financial assistance.
Our address is OWLT, P.O. Box 1692, Roseburg, OR 97470. E-mail us at email@example.com. Ask to be put on our mailing list to receive our quarterly newsletters.
Thank you to everyone for all your help, including your magic, to hold Owl Farm and all our lands safe for future women of the world.
Resident, Rainbow’s End
Board Member, Oregon Women’s Land Trust
Danielle Souza Ferreira, 29, a Brazilian immigrant, was arrested recently in Charlotte, North Carolina, at the local mall. Her brother was with her and, unbeknownst to her, he had hidden a CD in the pocket of her stroller, which contained her two babies. When the two left the store, they were arrested for shoplifting. Ferreiro was then jailed on an “immigration hold.” Her visa expired in 2005 and she had been scheduled for a deportation hearing, but she had signed a waiver stating she was returning to Brazil voluntarily and wanted to forego the hearing. She already had purchased airline tickets for herself, her brother and her two children, who were born in the U.S., and she was scheduled to leave in a month’s time. Nevertheless, because of the expired visa, she was arrested and is languishing in jail waiting to be turned over to immigration officials once the shoplifting charge is handled.
Her two-month-old, Samuel, is breastfed and was abruptly separated from her. Jail officials will not allow her to pump out the milk which is engorged in her breasts. She is feverish and she is in great pain. Her 2-month old, being cared for by a friend lest police make good on their promise to turn the babies over to social services, is refusing formula, spitting it up, crying, and doing poorly.
Even though just this month, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement formally adopted guidelines that allow pregnant women or nursing mothers to be released from custody under supervised conditions, Ferreiro is still being held. Jail policy, officials say, is that breastfeeding mothers may not pump their milk without a court order. The mothers are “treated” for “symptoms” when they must stop nursing abruptly.
This is inhumane, this is cruel and unusual punishment, it is misogynist, it is torture. It is unbelievably painful to be forced to stop breastfeeding abruptly, especially at two-months post-partum when milk supply for a baby who is fed only mother’s milk is generally abundant. On average, depending on the baby’s weight, a mother of a two-month-old will produce 28-32 ounces of milk per day. After two or three missed feedings, as the breasts fill up with a quart or so of unexpressed milk, women experience painful engorgement. After two or three additional missed feedings without pumping, serious infection can set in. Anyone who has ever had a breast infection knows how painful and debilitating these are. You become extremely ill with fever and chills, your entire body aches, and your breasts are exquisitely painful and tender. Over time, they will blister and peel. If the infection goes too long untreated, you may develop abscesses in the breasts which require surgery.
Yet the jail requires a court order to allow the mother to pump her milk! Best case scenario, it takes several days to obtain a court order. An attorney who is willing to represent the mother must first be found, hired, paid and consulted. The attorney then has to draw up the necessary court pleadings, schedule a hearing before the judge and present the motion. Finally the judge signs the order — or not — and it must be presented to jail officials. This is not something which can happen quickly, especially in a large metropolitan area where courts are busy. And who knows what “treatment” this jail might be providing for this woman– probably pain relievers and that’s it.
It is a desperately sick society that treats its most vulnerable members — breastfeeding mothers and their infants, immigrants, women of color — with such callous disregard. So far as I’m concerned, this is torture. If only heads would roll over this. They will not. In fact, the woman will be blamed for every indignity and for all of her suffering.
I sometimes have read whinings that I do not allow dissenting points of view here. This is very true. There are certain “dissenting points of view” which will not find their expression on my blog. They are as follows:
The above “dissenting points of view” will not receive a welcome on my blog. Almost anywhere you want to go, read, write, on the internet, mainstream media, television, radio, newspapers, wherever, you can find all the information you want to find, all the discussions you may want to have, on everything listed up there.
While we may discuss the defenses commonly offered for the above in the course of critique or discussion, I am not going to engage in arguments here with people who are actively defending practices, ideologies, institutions which hurt human beings, animals or the planet.
So I sat there watching the 10 o’clock news just steaming last night as the latest revelation was delivered from god on high, excuse me, the patriarchal medical establishment: children’s cold medicines don’t work and sometimes they kill children. So, at long last, they have been pulled from the shelves of the drug- and grocery stores throughout the land. The “latest” is that parents should let children’s colds run their course and should rely on natural remedies, i.e., vaporizors, lots of liquids.
What a news flash.
For 35 years, over the course of raising 11 children, I have steadfastly rejected over-the-counter and prescription drugs for my children, along with the doctors who prescribe these toxic and (for the most part) useless substances. I have steadfastly urged, in writing, in articles, in my magazine, that other mothers do likewise. I realized very early on in my motherhood journey that the reasons doctors prescribe pills and drops and liquids for children is, parents think doctors possess magical healing substances which cure all and every malady. I never understood this expectation and never trusted doctors who enable it, because they know better, which tells me, worst case, they are dishonest, slightly better case, they trust what their teachers have taught them, suspending disbelief when faced with clear evidence to the contrary. The principles of feminist self-help when it comes to health care run deep in me, the most basic of which is that it is not going to work to put one’s faith and trust in the advice of a patriarchal medical establishment, particularly if you are a woman, and particularly if you are a mother.
When my kids developed colds or flu over the years, I did what I knew worked, ignoring, for the most part, whatever medical fads might be in vogue at the time. If my kids were croupy, having a hard time clearing their lungs, had hacking, dry coughs and couldn’t sleep, I wrapped both of us in a towel or blanket, went into the bathroom, shut the door and turned on the shower full blast until the room was full of steam, their croup had subsided, their lungs had cleared and they could breathe again. If they were coughing productively but so much that they couldn’t sleep, I propped them up on pillows because drainage, including of the sinuses, follows gravity. If my kids were feverish, I washed them down with damp cloths, gave them a cool cloth for their forehead, brought on the popsicles and ice water, to be sipped slowly through a straw or by spoon. If the fever hung on for too long and I began to fear they might get dehydrated, or if they were in pain with headache or body aches, I gave them children’s aspirin. (Aspirin is the one over-the-counter remedy I use and know to be effective, forget Tylenol, and don’t even talk to me about Reyes syndrome. The minuscule chance of children developing Reyes syndrome from taking a couple of orange St. Joseph’s for Children doesn’t hold a candle so far as health risks go to Tylenol’s toxicity to the human liver.) I watched my kids closely and could usually tell when they were coming down with something, often because of what they were craving, which I provided in abundance. When they suddenly wanted to eat orange after orange after orange, for example, that was a very good sign to me that they were fighting off a cold or flu. So I provided them with all of the oranges they could eat. I have watched as my toddlers in their high chairs ate three, four oranges at one sitting. For nourishment, in addition to the juice and popsicles, I provided Old Maid’s Tea (freshly-brewed hot tea with honey and fresh lemon juice, sipped from a spoon) and, yep, you got it, homemade chicken soup which included dark leafy greens like spinach and a little extra pepper to clear their nasal passages.
I breastfed my children until they weaned themselves (between 18 months and seven years of age, yes, that’s right, seven years of age). When they began showing an interest in solid food (by reaching for it or bobbing their heads around when they saw it), I offered them whatever they showed an interest in, including fresh salad, fresh and cooked vegetables of all kinds. The evidence is all anecdotal, but all of my children raised this way love all vegetables and salads, to include broccoli and spinach. They ask for broccoli and spinach and salad. They consider it a treat and turn their noses up at junk food and fast food.
Finally, my children were taught to wash their hands after using the restroom, when their hands were dirty, after touching or playing with animals or children or adults. This is the simplest thing in the world, to teach, to practice and to model, and I am convinced that it is often this practice that makes the difference between a child who picks up every cold going around and a child who is rarely sick. I also taught them, or they taught themselves and each other, not to touch doorknobs, faucets, or toilet seats in public restrooms. Don’t use your hands. Use your foot (with the shoe on it), your elbow, or cover your hand with your sleeve or a paper towel. Knowledge of how disease is transmitted via germs and how handwashing prevents it ended the epidemic of childbed fever and could end all sorts of other epidemics, as well.
And, of course, I stayed away from doctors’ offices where all of the sick children were coughing and hacking away, exuding great streams of drool while teething, and chewing on the toys together!
Occasionally over the years I succumbed to the temptation to buy cold medicines for my kids when I was feeling like a bad mom for some reason, as when someone suggested that every good mother parked herself and her kids at doctors’ offices with regularity, that’s the mark of a good mother, you know, when the child sneezes, oh my god, call the pediatrician! When the ears ache, get in line for tubes in the ears! (Another discredited “remedy” for childhood earaches which subjected children to unnecessary, costly and dangerous surgeries and pain and which never resolved the earaches.) When the child coughs, demand antibiotics! Teach your children young to line up, stick out their arms and let experts in funny clothes stick needles in them, no crying, buck up, be a big boy, be a big girl, it’s just a little stick! Suspend all disbelief in patriarchal medicine when your constantly-examined-and-evaluated-and-medicated-and-stuck children develop all sorts of sicknesses, allergies, impaired immune systems, and so on.
Anyway, I would occasionally begin to cave and would temporarily buy into all of this malarkey if I felt insecure, usually because some blowhard had given me (or one of my kids) a piece of his mind he could not afford to lose, and I would buy the pricey cold medications. They didn’t work. Of course, one reason they didn’t work is, they tasted so bad, children would not ingest them, and who could blame them? Why would anybody?! This was horrible stuff, thick, green, red, orange liquids which tasted so bad there was no way to disguise it, and if it even made it past the tongue, usually the stomach would say “no way” and it would all come back up.
Well, children will not have to suffer through some parents’ forced ministrations of these patriarchal elixirs any longer, because they are so removed from the shelves. I can only wonder whether this decision might have come in part on the heels of the murder charges against the parents of Rebecca Riley, who died after having taken medicine prescribed for her “bipolar disorder” (diagnosed at age 2) and a variety of cough and cold medications. According to the Consumer Health Association in the article linked above, from 1969 to 2006, at least 45 children died after taking decongestants, and 69 died after taking antihistamines. This is likely just the tip of the iceberg, of course. How many children’s deaths were attributed to complications of cold, flu, or influenza but were actually the result of these medications?
In the ’80s I read Dr. Robert Mendelsohn’s books, bought them in bulk and distributed them to my friends. Mendelsohn had been the chair of the American Academy of Pediatricians, had taught in medical schools, and was, of course, an M.D. His consistent advice was to stay out of doctors’ offices unless you were deathly sick. In his book, How to Raise Healthy Children In Spite of Your Doctor, he advocated against “well child” visits, against all over-the-counter and prescription medications for common illnesses like colds and flu, against tubes in the ears, against circumcision. In his book Male Practice: How Doctors Manipulate Women, he urged women to steer clear of obstetricians and gynecologists and commonly-prescribed tests and evaluations of all kinds. Decades before angioplasty was recognized as ineffective following a heart attack, Mendelsohn was recommending against it and a host of other AMA-recommended procedures in his Confessions of a Medical Heretic. Although I knew that feminist women had written similar books years before, books like Gena Corea’s, The Hidden Malpractice: How American Medicine Treats Women as Patients and Professionals, published in 1977, and Barbara Ehrenreich’s For Her Own Good: Two Centuries of the Experts Advice to Women, first published in 1979, I was glad for Mendelsohn’s work, given that so many people seem only to trust white males with letters after their names. I particularly valued his steadfast insistence that doctors need to listen more to mothers than mothers need to listen to doctors, that mothers are the ones who know when there is something really wrong, and Mendlsohn’s encouragement to mothers to honor our own insights as to our children’s health. Mothers, he said, know when something is really wrong with their children. Usually it is a change in behavior or appearance, Mendelsohn said, that tells a mother her child is ill: strange or unusual crying, listlessness, sleep problems, the look on a child’s face, the glassy eyes, the flushed cheeks. Mendelsohn urged mothers to believe what their eyes and ears were telling them, to have faith in their own observations and judgments about their children’s health.
Well, eight of my 11 children are grown now, with the oldest 35. They are the very picture of health, as are the three still at home with me. It’s been a very long time since any of the three still at home has even had a cold. Each may have had the flu once or twice, and they are 9, 12 and 16. I have steadfastly, as much as possible, avoided the institutions and advice of patriarchal medicine, as I have avoided all dangerous patriarchal institutions, for 35 years now. Most of my kids grew up drinking clean well water from the wells on our property in the country and breathing clean air as well. I refused to subject them to the intrusions and invasions and “sticks” and prods, pills and liquids, patriarchy insists are the mark of “good parenting.” My opinion is, their good health is the result.
But, what’s 35 years and 11 kids’ worth of experience anyway, when people can always turn to 20-something white guys wearing Nehru jackets and stethoscope necklaces for the latest and greatest patriarchal medicine has to offer? It’s not just conservatives either, it’s not just the mainstream, feminists and progressives of all stripes consistently behave as though patriarchal medicine operates with the best interests of women and our children at heart, ignoring all of the evidence to the contrary, as though it makes sense to offer up our blind trust and faithful obeisance.
If anybody wonders why crones and wise women are reticent to offer up their wisdom, their voice of experience, unless someone specifically asks them to — and often, even then — it’s because of this phenomenon I have just described. As women, so often we do not even recognize, let alone honor, our own elders or their lived experiences. Instead we institutionalize them, abuse them, mistreat them, treat them with disrespect, matronize them, ignore and dismiss what they have to say. And so, each generation of women starts from scratch, reinvents the wheel, learns what needs to be learned too late, if at all, and the hard way, laments and boo-hoos that there are no trails to follow. Well, the trails were there, it’s just that men and their apologists came right along after and covered them up. And the next generation of women trusted what the men said, not what the women said, about those trails. So long as this is true, there will be no real or meaningful challenge to the abuses of patriarchal medicine, or for that matter, to any of the abuses of patriarchy.
Lorraine Rothman, a second-wave pioneer of the feminist self-care and self-help movement, died yesterday at the age of 75 at her home in California. She had been diagnosed with cancer only a week prior.
Rothman, together with her colleague, Carol Downer, pioneered the concept and practice of guerilla gynecology (thanks, Sis, love that term!). In the early 70s, Downer, having learned how easy it was to look at her own cervix with a speculum and flashlight, began to teach other women in small consciousness-raising groups how to look at their own cervices in order to monitor their own cervical health and well-being. Lorraine Rothman moved on to invent the “Del-Em” kit using a Mason jar she had in her kitchen and aquarium tubing. This device allowed women to perform their own menstrual extractions (early abortions) safely and privately. Rothman and Downer traveled across the country teaching women how to take control of these and other facets of their own reproductive health care. After Roe v. Wade, Rothman and Downer created the first Feminist Women’s Health Center, which employed only women. Sister clinics soon followed in other parts of California, as well as Oregon, Iowa, Tallahassee, Atlanta…and Yakima. In 1975 Rothman’s self-help clinic concept was the subject of the books A New View of A Woman’s Body, How To Stay Out of the Gynecologist’s Office and Woman-Centered Pregnancy and Birth.
Rothman, Downer and women who staffed and worked in the women’s clinics empowered a generation of women not only to take charge of their own reproductive and gynecological health but to steadfastly, and always, question and challenge the authority of patriarchal medicine over women’s lives and bodies. Their research was committed, woman-centered and cutting edge. Over 20 years ago, for example, Rothman began researching the hormones used in birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy. In her book Menopause Myths and Facts: What Every Woman Should Know About Hormone Replacement Therapy, she challenged the prevailing theories and practices of patriarchal medicine in ways exemplified by this excerpt:
Myth 14 Most of the estrogen replacement hormones are natural hormones; those that are synthetic act as natural hormones.
Fact Estrogen replacement hormones are not natural to women’s bodies. So-called natural hormones are not part of the body’s process of making hormones and have not had long-term large-scale studies to determine safety.
All hormone drugs are synthetic chemicals that are manufactured in laboratories; even the ones derived from plants have been chemically altered in laboratories. The closest to “natural,” the most popularly prescribed and longest on the market – Premarin – is reconstituted from PREgnant Mares’ UrINe (PRE+MAR+IN). Once the mare’s urine is altered in the lab, Premarin is not even natural to a horse.
Drug companies deliberately make their synthetic hormones NOT identical to human hormones so that they can patent these products and make them financially profitable.
Our endocrine glands respond to very subtle stimuli and the amount of hormone secreted by any gland can vary widely throughout the day. Finding a dosage of synthetic hormones that feels comfortable in your body is still a crude way of trying to mimic what our bodies will do if left alone.
Further, the amount of estrogen secreted by our ovaries during a normal menstrual cycle is measured in millionths and billionths of a gram – a phantom, a wisp of mist suffusing our body. Yet this minute amount has profound effects in our bodies.
Under the category of “natural” are isolated substances derived from plants, such as soy and Mexican wild yams, none of which contain any human hormones. When these molecules are altered in the laboratory to match the structure of human hormones, they are marketed as “bio-identical” or “natural” hormones. Even though these engineered molecules are identical to our own progesterone and estrogen, they can never match what our body’s timing, quantity, or natural processes require.
Unless these new molecules can be patented it is extremely unlikely that long-term studies of large numbers of women will be done to determine the effects and safety of “natural” hormones.
Rothman’s, Downer’s and other feminist women’s voices on the subject of synthetic hormones prescribed to women were ignored for years by patriarchal medicine. Recently, of course, hormone replacement therapy was found to be risky and dangerous. As has happened so many times, the claims of feminists — woman-centered women — like Rothman proved true.
In a blog post written before Lorraine Rothman died, Jewesses with Attitude wrote of her:
It is sad and ironic, then, that she is now fatally ill because of the failure of her own health care. She is dying of advanced, metastasized bladder cancer, which was not detected by the doctors she saw through her HMO over the past two years of her pelvic pain. She did not see a urologist, because her HMO did not offer the option of seeing a female doctor. A physician’s assistant at a women’s health center finally detected that she had a serious problem, but while Rothman waited for an appointment with a uro-gynecologist through her HMO, her pain became unbearable and a visit to the emergency room diagnosed her advanced cancer.
Her story proves that we still have a long way to go to create a health care system that is responsive and accessible to all patients, providing services that meet their needs and earn their trust. With feminist health care centers like those Rothman helped create now on the wane, many women like her (and others, such as transfolk) with reason to distrust the medical establishment, are falling through the gaping health care cracks. Rothman may have been utopian in thinking that viewing the cervix with a group of women friends could change the world, but we would do well to ask ourselves: where is empowerment and self-determination in health care today?
It is a source of endless frustration to me that despite the fine and selfless work of feminist women in decades past, in these days so many women, even feminists, continue to subject their bodies, minds, and lives to a medical and pharmacological establishment which has proven time and time again that it does not have the interests of girls and women at heart. It is wrong that this HMO did not offer Rothman the option of seeing female medical practitioners. It is devastating that she wasn’t able to obtain the care she needed after all her many years of service to women and to the medical establishment as well.
I can only hope that hearing of Lorraine Rothman’s work, perhaps for the first time, might inspire feminist women and all women to investigate her work and the work of her feminist colleagues so that the lives and bodies of girls and women might be spared the indignities of a medical establishment which rarely treats them well.
Thanks to Sis who forwarded along the e-mails and other information from Barbara Seaman, Barbara Love, Carol Downer, and other feminist women, who, like Lorraine Rothman was, are giants.
(The above image of of the Duggar family was posted to a blog of a woman who seems to be, in general, a decent person.)
Found on various blogs via a quick Google search on “Duggar Family”:
The mother has a mullet. Please, someone from TLC, give the poor Duggar woman a makeover. That would be a huge money making show. I am sure millions would tune in. Get her looking less matronly. She looked normal and attractive when they started out, now it’s Little House on the Prairie with a hint of Nascar. Yet a makeover may cause more Diggley Duggars, Jim Bob might just go crazy with his willy. Bang, bang, bang. I digress.
She looks brainwashed. It takes about two years for your internal organs to get back into their cozy natural state after pregnancy. The article below sites that she has been pregnant ten years of her life. Right now her spleen is probably floating near her armpit and her liver on her knee
The Duggar family of Hicksville Arkansas welcomed their 17Th child! And this beastly woman will likely get knocked up again! It gets easier as it goes, as now the 3rd eldest child has a newborn to take care of, as he gets home schooled in the art of child rearing.
…Birth control – just do it, or don’t do IT, get it? I feel bad for the husband, but it can’t be that great after child 17 just popped out, no problems.
I think it might be a worthwhile exercise to do some thinking on why it is that Michelle Duggar seems to be fair game for pretty much everyone, including for feminists. It’s open season on the woman– mock her, make fun of her hair, her appearance, her clothes, her body, her reproductive organs, other of her internal organs, her vagina, attack her, depict her as a pig, call her brainwashed. (If you haven’t seen this, then look here for the latest, also here, here, here, and sadly, here and be sure to read the comments.)
Consider these photos:
This is a Hindu family which recently converted to Roman Catholicism.
This is a Muslim family.
This is a Rastafarian family.
An Amish family
A Conservative Mennonite family. I corresponded with the mother in this picture when I published my magazine, and she occasionally wrote articles which I published. She’s an amazing, wonderful woman, brilliant, warm, funny and a great writer. I miss her.
Somebody — anybody — tell me with a straight face that feminists would do to any of the women in the above photos what they have done and continue to do to Michelle Duggar — even if instead of having six or eight or 12 children, as the women above do, they had 16 or 17 children, as Duggar does.
This would not happen and it will not happen, but if it did, it would be sharply, quickly, immediately — and correctly in my opinion — called out, challenged, and denounced.
Why is this not so for Michelle Duggar? Is the reasoning that Duggar’s religious beliefs or faith are not as central to her life, or as valid, or as worthy of respect as the religious beliefs of Muslim women, Hindu women, Amish women or other devout women? (And men.) How so? Why are the beliefs which undergird the choices of other women of faith which result in their bearing many children understood to be valid or respect-worthy in ways Michelle Duggar’s are not? But if none of the belief systems which support the bearing of many children is valid or respect-worthy, then why is it that Duggar is singled out in such a hateful manner whereas the other women above would not be and have not been?
And why does it seem to be the consensus amongst feminists that Duggar must be brainwashed, stupid, a mindless shill forced to breed, whereas the women in the other photos are likely to be viewed as devout, their beliefs and intelligence respected, their decisions understood to occur in the context of a particular culture or religion? If the view is that it’s somehow acceptable to target Duggar because her husband is a conservative Republican and hence is anti-choice, lesbo- and homophobic, and so on, well, does it occur to anyone that the women in the other photos likely hold similar anti-choice, lesbophobic/homophobic views?
Most importantly, does anybody stop to consider how the ongoing public trashing of a woman like Michelle Duggar by feminists might read to women in groups like those represented above? Does anybody think trashing Duggar makes feminism appealing or an attractive option or a possible refuge to women like those in the above pictures, or their daughters, who in fact someday might want out?
Michelle Duggar, as is, in my experience, true of many, many women in conservative and fundamentalist groups, probably enjoys pregnancy and bearing and raising children. Some women do, hard as that is for other women to understand. I know that I did. I had 11 children, one at a time, the first when I was 19, the last when I was 46. I was in abusive marriages and abusive fundamentalist churches throughout most of my childbearing years. That didn’t mean that I didn’t love having children, love being pregnant, love giving birth, love breastfeeding, love raising, homeschooling, and spending time with my children. I loved it, even when I was scared, overwhelmed, exhausted, weary. Even when I felt trapped. Even when the burdens and work were so great I was not sure how I could continue. That never kept me from loving or enjoying my children or being a mother. I think one hallmark of intelligence and maturity is the recognition that truths which at first appear to be in conflict with one another can nevertheless exist alongside each other. As parents most of us know this. As human beings we know this. We can love our children, love our partners, love our friends, and yet at times feel overwhelmed in various ways by our relationships with them. Is it so hard to fathom that there are women in the world who love bearing and raising children despite the hardness of their lives in fundamentalist or other sexist communities? Or that women inside of these communities enjoy their lives as mothers for other reasons, for example, because they find ways to make community with other women like them, and that these relationships make their lives rich and nourishing in ways it is hard to replicate apart from community in a world which is hostile to women?
I was not brainwashed, and neither is Michelle Duggar, and neither are the women in the photos above. Speaking for myself only, in entering into fundamentalist religion I cut the best deal I believed I could cut at the time, given all of the circumstances of my life*. I believe this holds true for many to most women in conservative and fundamentalist religion throughout the world, particularly mothers or women who want to be mothers. They are cutting the best deal they can. There is one place, and one place alone, where women who want to be mothers can go when they don’t have support, don’t have supportive community, and especially, when they don’t have money, and that is into fundamentalist religious cultures. There they will be accepted, honored, protected, defended and supported in every conceivable way, and in ways they will never find support outside of fundamentalist community. Do they exchange their freedom and their personal autonomy and their right to pursue both for what they will receive in fundamentalist community? Yes, they do. Does that make them dull, stupid, or brainwashed? Hell no. It makes them shrewd, resourceful realists who at the very most might be unable, for many reasons, to see beyond a certain set of life choices**. Do they pay for what they choose? Yes, they do. Sometimes with their lives, always with their bodies, their hearts and their souls. Does every woman exchange something in this male supremacist world in order to survive in it? Yes, we all do. Do we pay for what we choose? Hell yes. Sometimes also with our lives, bodies, hearts and souls. Of all people, as feminists, we know this.
So why do some of us treat Michelle Duggar as though she isn’t a woman, just like us?
Instead of scapegoating this one woman and targeting her as though she is the enemy, why not make it our business to critique the real enemy– systems and institutions of male heterosupremacy which make the choices Duggar and women like her have made the best deal they feel they can cut?
* For a detailed, eloquent, brilliant discussion of the choices of right-wing women, read Andrea Dworkin, Right-Wing Women.
**Janja Lalich, an expert on women in fundamentalist religion, has done good work on what she calls the “bounded choices” of fundamentalist women. She has published articles and books which you can find if you do a search on her name.
Image from our sisters at Friends of the Lolas
The world breaks open. Underneath the layers, transcending the past, making the present.
I have seen it written. In the hour of our forced surrender. The world will diminish as the time draws near.
Aching with the lost and ancient tidings, her beginning has come. Rekindling our magic. Lusty, wild and untamed. Recalling to us a time when freedom was a word that had meaning.
Do we have her power? This one that calls to us. Cries out long forgotten secrets. Screams our true names. Falling silent as the moon wanes. She is the one that tells us of the future.
She comes in before the dawn, when our power awakens from the stealthy sleep of those who can ill afford dreams. When half of our world is drowning beneath the man-made weather, whether, weather. When half our world is starving. Sacred ground as dry as dust.
Speak to me of your power. Speak to me in riddles, in a woman’s tongue. This day is coming into being and I need no translation. I can feel you breathing, sisters. The calm static before this long-awaited storm.
We have been without our rain and thunder for far too long…
I smell the tumult of our revolution, rising from the east…
Come to me then, in fury and in rage and with warmth. I will not let the cold decay of this bleaching rancour. I will not let this mindless, bloody, relentless torment hold me any longer. I am breaching the walls of this prison. My love, my heart, myself within my sisters. My sisters in me.
Even death cannot strip us of our elemental power. We sisters do not fear the earth.
Listen to the seasons. Listen to the earth beneath your feet. Breathe with the beauty of her. Sing it out. Sing our tempest into being. And as the storm of us gathers on the horizon, know this. We will not slumber until every woman wakes.
Let the rains come in with the tide. Beat out a rhythm in women’s time. And let us soar.
Allecto, whose beautiful writings I’ve published here before on Women’s Space, wrote the poem above to and for me. It meant so much to me, inspired, comforted and encouraged me. Thank you, Allecto! I offer it to you as the perfect beginning for:
The Fifth Carnival of Radical Feminists!
Women Deserve Better
Holly Ord has posted a rousing, passionate call to action entitled What We Deserve which may help us to begin to move beyond feelings of hopelessness or disgust, the consequences of our ongoing engagement with those vested in our subordination.
Women do deserve better, and what is better is within our reach. It’s to be expected that to the degree we threaten the “rule of the fathers,” to that degree threats, intimidation, and attempts to silence us will increase. It’s also to be expected that to the degree that we threaten the rule of the fathers, hope remains that we will in the end be able to save our own lives and all life on the planet.
Sexualized Violence as Silencing
In all of the sturm and drang over recent internet attacks on me, on Biting Beaver, on Laurelin, and on other radical feminist bloggers, Marcella Chester — way back on August 6 when the attacks were just beginning — wrote as intelligent and prophetic an analysis of the dynamics of ongoing attacks on radical feminist women online and in real life as I have seen so far. We aren’t “exclusive.” We do not “discriminate” against anyone. We are under attack and we have been under attack for a long, long time.
When people are being attacked from all sides … outsiders who declare “I come in peace, let me in” aren’t likely to be trusted or allowed in. This isn’t about discriminating against those outsiders, it’s about the natural consequences of non-stop attacks. When the attacks cease then inclusiveness will become a possibility. This is why those doing the attacking will try to repackage themselves as the group under assault — often while deriding others for playing the victim… The position that some people hold that they are only responsible for their own words online and therefore can blithely say and do nothing as those around them attack others, including on the blogs or forums they run, is a pro-attack position.
I guess the bottom line is this: Do you have a zero-tolerance policy against all forms of sexualized violence including the making of direct or backhanded threats of violence?
If you answer with something that begins with, “No, but …” then “No” is your final answer.
“Our Silence Is Our Dissent”
In a post entitled Dominator Tentacles posted at VeraCity, Vera notes that those involved in the recent attacks don’t target the sources of cultural and societal domination which affect and oppress all of us who are marginalized, oppressed or poor — big business, big government, Wal-Mart, the Pentagon. In fact, they are in league with these powers, with The Man; they do his bidding and dirty work, willingly and free of charge. In this, they are as conservative, or right-wing, or liberal, or left-wing — but above all as sexist — as the powers are.
As a result of the recent attack, there are fewer radical voices on the web. A few radical feminists have taken down their blogs; some will not be reopened. Others have made their Flickr photostreams private. At least one blog and one forum are now private; a muting of voices if not an outright silencing. Going private, having to hide: the parts of the radfem community that are still intact are no longer fully open, and no longer fully a part of the human conversation on the web. …
I don’t like it that radical voices, however unpopular, are being expelled from the human conversation by online thugs. I like it even less that it’s happening with hardly any notice, and without comment by more mainstream writers.
Vera’s statement above reminds me of something Andrea Dworkin wrote in an essay entitled “Against the Male Flood: Censorship, Pornography and Equality,” in Letters from a War Zone” (and this is especially for you, BB):
…writers are … people who by writing do something socially real and significant…writing is never peripheral or beside the point. It is serious and easily seditious. …Censorship is deeply misunderstood in the United States because the fairly spoiled, privileged, frivolous people who are the literate citizens of this country think that censorship is some foggy effort to suppress ideas…not something in itself– an act of police power with discernible consequences to hunted people…
Subordination can be so deep that those who are hurt by it are utterly silent. Subordination can create a silence quieter than death. …The Three Marias of Portugal went to jail for writing this: “Let no one tell me that silence gives consent, because whoever is silent dissents.”…The silence [of the women] is a silence over centuries: an exile into speechlessness. One is shut up by…abuse. One is shut up by the threat and the injury. …If what we want to say is not hurt me, we have the real social power only to use silence as eloquent dissent. Silence is what women have instead of speech. Silence is our dissent during rape … Silence is our moving, persuasive dissent during battery…Silence is a fine dissent during incest and for all the long years after.
Silence is not speech. We have silence, not speech. We fight rape, battery, incest, and prostitution with it.. But someday someone will notice: that people called women were buried in a long silence that meant dissent.
Women’s Art as Resistance
Postcards by Margaret of Margaret’s Wanderings
Close up of part of a quilt The Quilter created for a quilt exhibition she participates in to raise money for domestic violence victims.
Tears(top) and Bedouin(bottom) by Palestinian artist Salwa Arnous whose work, displayed in an art gallery in Texas, was recently condemned in the San Antonio Times as “anti-semitic.” She invites us to see for ourselves by watching the video below (allow a couple minutes for the video to load– it is well worth the wait).
Visions of Palestine by Salwa Arnous
Radical feminist poet and blogger Lynn Sweeting writes:
Shelter the young Saffron,
And save the garden,
Shelter the battered woman
And save the world.
For the young tree,
A circle of stones,
For the young woman,
A tribe of sisters
Staceyann Chin is the second to perform in the above video. She is one revolutionary woman; I have watched her perform the past two years on night stage at Michfest. This year she inspired all of us to new heights on opening night; she just gets better. It was an amazing thing to look across a sea of women’s raised fists as we all, across the boundaries of race, ethnicity, age, physical ability, heard our own stories, our own realities, in Chin’s words.
In Call for Action: Dua Khalil, Whedon, Nothing but Red, writing evolution discusses an upcoming anthology inspired by the recent stoning of Du’a Khalil and Joss Whedon’s blogging of his reaction to her death. (Whedon is the creator of the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” series.) The anthology seeks to promote awareness regarding women’s issues, and particularly violence against women. The stoning of Khalil has inspired regular readers of Whedonesque to create their own memorial and feminist blogs, one of which is entitled I am Dua Khalil.
The Crisis Facing Iraqi Women — Honor Killings, Suicides and Misogynist Passport Rules is the title of a post at Feminist Peace Network which says:
The Taipei Times reports on the mind-boggling number of honor killings and suicides in Kurdish Iraq. According to one of their sources, Aso Kamal, there have been 12,500 women murdered for reasons of honor or who have committed suicide in three Kurdish provinces since 1991. There were 350 such deaths so far this year.
The Women’s Union of Kurdistan in Sulaimaniyah has recorded 83 cases of women burning themselves in the first six months of last year and 95 in the first half of this year.
Feminist Peace Network blogs tirelessly about the effect of the war in Iraq on women. In recent posts she describes the huge rise in maternal and infant mortality deaths and in the large numbers of girls and women being driven into prostitution as a result of the war and the deaths of so many of the women’s husbands and sons. In this post she blogs about the stoning of 11-year-old Sarah Jaffar Nimat, a fifth grader, and reports that 40 women and girls have been stoned since the stoning of Du’a Khalil. In this post Feminist Peace Network describes an e-mail exchange with Yanar Mohammed about the disappearances of Iraqi women and laments:
Yanar closed her email with this line–”Thank you for still standing with us.” I wish I felt that we were doing that in some sort of adequate way. Every day our media is filled with reports of soldiers being killed, insurgents, terrorists doing this that or the other act of violence. Our politicians blather on about whether to continue the war while they keep on funding it and make pious assertions that the Iraqis have to take responsibility for fixing the mess we made and the truth is that we totally ignore the plight of these women who are experiencing what women always experience in the aftermath of war.
Afghan women in camp of displaced people, July 2007, posted at Frida’ Notebook
Frida of Frida’s Notebook is an attorney documenting civil rights abuses and trauma in Afghanistan. In Tell your story she describes her struggle to find ways to honor the women she interviews as they tell her their stories:
Where is the time to simply listen? To listen to the story as the teller wishes to tell it. To let it be, perhaps, for today, explaining that I would like to document this story as a human rights case but that in order to do that I will need to ask more detailed questions. To ask if I could return to do that another day, once the storyteller has had time to think about what he or she wants to get out of telling the story to me. Where is the time to do that?
Some people might tell me to concentrate on my work as a lawyer and human rights monitor and not to stray to far from what I know into the complex territory of psychological responses to trauma. But I can’t see that boundary very clearly. More accurately perhaps, I see the boundary but the reality of work doesn’t not respect it. Stories are not always about facts and events, they are often about feelings and responses to those events. The remedies people seek are not always about justice, they are also about the acknowledged need for reconciliation in order to build a peaceful tomorrow. In Afghanistan our human rights work is always going to cross into the territoriy of ‘transitional justice’ and all the questions that come with that.
Poverty and Other Obscenities of American Capitalism
Barbara Ehrenreich has a fantastic post up, Smashing Capitalism, about the effects of Bush’s and the Republicans’ economic policies on poor and working class people, casting the impending record-high numbers of home foreclosures and accompanying economic difficulties as poor people’s “plot” to smash capitalism:
First they stopped paying their mortgages, a move in which they were joined by many financially stretched middle class folks, though the poor definitely led the way. All right, these were trick mortgages, many of them designed to be unaffordable within two years of signing the contract. There were “NINJA” loans, for example, awarded to people with “no income, no job or assets.” Conservative columnist Niall Fergusen laments the low levels of “economic literacy” that allowed people to be exploited by sub-prime loans. Why didn’t these low-income folks get lawyers to go over the fine print? And don’t they have personal financial advisors anyway?
Then, in a diabolically clever move, the poor – a category which now roughly coincides with the working class – stopped shopping. Both Wal-Mart and Home Depot announced disappointing second quarter performances, plunging the market into another Arctic-style meltdown. H. Lee Scott, CEO of the low-wage Wal-Mart empire, admitted with admirable sensitivity, that “it’s no secret that many customers are running out of money at the end of the month. “
When, for example, the largest private employer in America, which is Wal-Mart, starts experiencing a shortage of customers, it needs to take a long, hard look in the mirror. About a century ago, Henry Ford realized that his company would only prosper if his own workers earned enough to buy Fords. Wal-Mart, on the other hand, never seemed to figure out that its cruelly low wages would eventually curtail its own growth, even at the company’s famously discounted prices.
The sad truth is that people earning Wal-Mart-level wages tend to favor the fashions available at the Salvation Army. Nor do they have much use for Wal-Mart’s other departments, such as Electronics, Lawn and Garden, and Pharmacy.
In this post, Lo at Braless Living LA mocks — in satisfying fashion! — rich, white anti-war activists who think they are “conscious” with a heart felt letter from a downtown Los Angeles war activist (to a soldier in Iraq):
Thank you for being willing to die, so that I may continue to drive my car. I live in downtown LA. I recycle. I have a Porsche, but I only drive it on the weekends (it was a gift from my parents). I usually drive my Prius. I don’t own conflict diamonds. I am a good person. I hate Bush. I hate him so very, very much. I have a picture of him on a dart board. When I invite my friends over to have a pretend drive-in movie theatre on our roof top (most recently we had a screening of Inconvenient Truth, it was so educational) we play a drinking game before the movie and throw darts at Bush. I hope that doesn’t offend you, but you’re dying for nothing. I don’t even like driving. Traffic is so bad out here. The 405 was murder this afternoon.
All the poor people that I have every known, including my own family when I was young, do not routinely take vacations. Vacations are expensive even on the cheap. Most of the time poor people take vacations when it correlates with another task that involves something to do with their poor circumstances. For example, if someone has an extra clunker (or can no longer afford to maintain that clunker) and a family member needs it to survive, the errand becomes the vacation for the one driving the car to that person. Bus, train and plane tickets are expensive even when planned in advanced; however, most impromptu type vacations are not typically efficiently planned. In addition, having efficient means is a privilege in itself, having some money to save after the necessities are covered and having available credit for emergencies, etc.
“Large numbers of US local economies are predicated on a prison industry that pays rural whites to incarcerate urban blacks. But the bottom line is, the US makes policy choices that set the crime and incarceration rates — and makes them higher than any other industrialized country in the world.”
Woman Centered Birthing and Women’s Reproductive Rights
La Doctorita at unconventional beauty writes about the newly-released statistics about the alarming rise in US maternal mortality because of unnecessary c-sections in death from childbirth: it’s not just for “little house on the prairie” anymore.
Midwife: Sage Femme, Hebamme, Comadrona, Partera reviews Pushed: The Painful Truth About Childbirth and Modern Maternity Care, a book about women’s loss of agency and autonomy in hospital births, the large number of unnecessary c-sections performed which is causing rising maternal and infant mortality in the U.S. , and about the importance of women advocating for themselves and insisting that their birthing plans be respected. Some midwives accompany birthing moms during hospital births and act as doulas or advocates while doctors attend the births. Sage Femme disagrees with this practice, not only because of the double binds inherent in working both for patriarchal medical establishments and birthing mothers, but also because of the value she places on women advocating for themselves:
“a reader was surprised (negatively, is how I read it), that I just couldn’t do hospital births any longer as a doula. she says that this is [when] women need support the most. well, when you stand by and watch abuse happen, it feels like you are condoning it. again, it goes back to the idea that somehow a doula can protect a woman or prevent all this from happening. we cannot. they cannot. sometimes we can influence a woman’s choices and decisions – but even then we have to be careful not to create a bias, which is really, really hard. I think the more professional doulas weave themselves delicately through an almost impossible web of medicalized birth. for me, I was no good to anyone at a hospital birth if the things done stirred up feelings of disgust, victimization or even plain abuse and rape of women. believe me, it is much better that a doula move away when she feels like this.
…empowerment, like advocacy, MUST come from within. we cannot empower anyone. usually when women advocate for themselves and use their own voice, they are empowered. sometimes empowerment for women comes more from what we don’t do rather than what we do.”
The patriarchists never tire of finding ways to limit women’s reproductive rights, however. Feminist Law Professors writes that a Proposed Ohio Law Would Require Man’s Permission For Abortion. In response, in Support Law To Create Consensual Sex Registry at abyss2hope: A rape survivor’s zigzag journey into the open, Marcella Chester writes a tongue-in-cheek counter proposal.
In Abortion is the New Satanism. Activist Mommy writes about reproductive choices and the women she has known and comforted in their seeking and having of abortions, even though she herself is anti-abortion.
When I honour mothering in other women, it is not just an act of sisterhood. It is about honouring myself as a mother; and it is about honouring my own mother. It is about celebrating what mothers do. When I recognise and confront the darker, painful aspects of motherhood, it is not just an act of confession or truth-speaking. It is about sisterhood with all mothers, including my own, about acknowledging what it is like, how hard it is, and the sheer bloody strength of mind and will and body that it takes to keep soldiering on. And when someone obliterates the mother, erases her importance or her experience, silences her voice – it is as though it is myself that is obliterated, erased and silenced.
Making Feminist Knowledge
I see feminist diplomacy bringing an end to all that, an end to any desire to dominate, from the world to another being, human or otherwise. That is the road to more disaster, the sudden end of ability of this planet to sustain human life, perhaps all life. Men have to listen to reason, talk truce, or stand aside as women negotiate peace plans for wars around the world, end the war on terror, put forth ideas to stop the vicious cycle of retaliation. Men have gotten it wrong, more or less distorted or reversed, on just about everything, what they think they know notwithstanding. Most of that is based not on reality, but male theory, structured hierarchically on every level, which in practice glorifies violence, making it seem normal, casual, the expected way to solve an escalated conflict. Violence is only justifiable in self-defense or to aid self-defense, to stop or capture a violent criminal. Aggressive violence is never the only way or best way to resolve a conflict.
So, I went into the comments of the post and said something to the effect that, while I usually love all your pictures, I do not love this one. It’s racist. And his reaction was to change the picture immediately and then to comment on why he had used it, and what he was trying to accomplish, but that he definitely could make the same point with a different picture. Or something like that, this was a while ago. In making the decision to not just shake my head and move on, or to stay silent and probably seethe or to roll my eyes and think “oh well, par for the course” but deciding instead to bring this to his attention, come what may, and to believe (or at least hope) there would be no blowback from it… I was giving him the benefit of the doubt.
… one huge problem I have with current lesbian culture is that constant pressure to dichotomise, to decide whether you identify with “butch” or “femme” and to stick within the look and behaviours prescribed for that label.
Julie Bindel, in a post entitled My Trans Mission, begins an interesting post with the statement, “Sex-change surgery is the modern equivalent of aversion therapy for homosexuals.”
In the new radfem blog Sister Medusa’s Radical Lesbian Underground, Sister Medusa writes about the way words like “transphobe” are used to silence lesbian and radical feminists and the way this silencing prevents dialog and healing.
The recent controversy around Catherine Crouch’s film, The Gendercator, and the banning of Bitch from the Boston Dyke March are two prominent examples of a phenomenon that is taking place all over the country, and not just in August as a small group of people attempt to silence and take away the rights of Females to gather in private in the woods of Michigan. The word “transphobia” does not have any meaning to me because this far, no one who has thrown it out – to me, to Bitch, to MWMF, to Catherine, has been able to articulate what they mean by it, and why and how we, as Lesbians, have any power over transpeople.
Radical feminists acknowledge that for women (and men) to be who they truly are patriarchial capitalism has to cease to exist because it is oppressive in the extreme. One of the minor bastions of patriarchal capitalism is ‘feminine’ beauty standards.
Then move on to read There Is Nothing Rebellious Or Countercultural About Being “Pro-Porn” posted at Feminist Law Professors. So true! One question I have never heard answered persuasively or convincingly is this: Just what is alternative, progressive, countercultural, rebellious, and above all non-mainstream, let alone feminist, about being pro-pornography? There are men who identify as allies to feminists whose activism consists almost solely of advocating for the pornography industry. This is feminism precisely how?
Speaking of being pro-pornography, Packaging Girlhood has an interesting post up about the new Bratz movie (Bratz dolls, targeted for elementary-school-age girls, are pictured above, nod to Gingermiss):
No matter how they clean up the movie girlz to mimic every other perky wanna be a teen girl flick, it’s important for parents to see the sexualization that defines the overall Bratz package.
Gingermiss has a post up about the movie as well entitled Why Bratz Dolls Are Evil Incarnate and the questions she asks are right on:
Why can’t girls be assertive rather than ‘bratty’? Why can’t they have dolls that reflect something of what their lives are actually like? And, if they actually live lives like those of Bratz dolls, why would we encourage anyone to celebrate or idolize that mentality?
Ariadne by Monica Sjoo
I don’t often discuss or talk about my spiritual leanings on my blogs because for the most part, I think people make too much of it. I don’t care much for people who shove their spiritual or religious bent in my face and so I don’t do it to others. Even in passing. I am past the years where I need to wear my beliefs on my sleeve and past the time in my life where I feel the need to explain, justify or even label what my spirituality is. When I think of God or a Higher Power, I think of something feminine, distinctly womanly. Sometimes it is nature, sometimes it is life, sometimes it is a specific goddess, almost always referred to as the “Goddess”. It is, for me, what it is. And it is not static. It is fluid and evolves as I evolve. However, many years ago, when I was searching for a power greater than myself, I was not so sure. It was then when I found the Goddess. … At this time in my life, I explored women’s spirituality. I identified for years as a witch. I cast spells, maintained several altars in my home and studied all manner of pagan religion, trying each on, I suppose, to see how they fit. It was during this time that I discovered a new book called Ariadne’s Thread written by Shekhinah Mountainwater….I learned about the phases of a woman’s life and it was here that I first read about cronehood. Ariadne’s Thread helped to change my world and shape my spirituality.
Various and Sundry
I want to end this carnival in an inspiring and uplifting way. I believe we are living in a time of rapid change, standing in the center of a paradigm shift. It is a time of shaking and realignment, and we are feeling the strength and power in the changes.
I leave you with these images which remind us that as women, we are in the process of Re-Membering our Archaic Future, even though we may be aware of this only occasionally and dimly.
In Love and Sisterhood,
That concludes this edition. Submit your blog article to the next edition of carnival of radical feminists using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.
Girls face the double challenge of being female and being young, which can result in them having little opportunity to make decisions about their lives. Discrimination against girls is grounded in a series of traditions and norms, based on the assumption that biological differences between females and males justify that girls are denied access to rights, opportunity and voice. It is both systematic and widely tolerated. Emerging research commissioned by Plan in West Africa shows that, its manifestations, such as gender based violence, are deeply rooted in the inequalities between women and men, and girls and boys.
The Early Years
Discrimination against girls begins at birth, or earlier, through attitudes and patterns in behaviour passed down through generations. As this report demonstrates, the lower social status of a girl can have serious consequences for her health and well-being as she grows up and has children herself. By age five, most girls and boys have already internalised the gender role expectations communicated to them by their families, schools, the media and society as a whole. The next generation is then likely to repeat the same cycle. Despite progress in securing a number national and international legal standards designed to protect and promote the rights of girls, cultural and social beliefs about gender and the value of girls and boys have been much more difficult to overcome.
In many countries, particularly in South Asia and China, the birth of a boy is something to be celebrated and the birth of a girl a cause for commiseration, particularly where a marriage dowry requires the parents of daughters to make a financial offering. Much of this is to do with the fact that in some cultures, a boy will grow up and look after his parents, while a girl will be married into another family, and is therefore seen as a financial burden to her own parents.
The family is where children first learn about their potential. It is here that millions of girls are socialised to believe that they have a lower social status than boys. Women are themselves the keepers of much of the knowledge passed on to girls and boys in their early years. In order to ensure that girls can access their rights and have the same opportunities as boys, changes of attitude within the family are necessary.
Girls face discrimination in five crucial areas:
• Invisibility. This includes female foeticide, lack of birth registration, and public environments which discourage their visibility and participation.
• Capacity. This affects the ability of girls to benefit from all of their rights. Girls’ capacity can be impaired by educational curricula, which reinforce negative gender stereotyping, and by preferential access to nutrition for boys within the family.
• Physical and mental discrimination. This includes gender based violence and trafficking, temporary marriages, and judgemental attitudes to the sexual activity of girls limiting their access to preventative measures and health services.
• Family and household responsibilities. This includes discrimination caused by lower minimum ages of marriage for girls, and the sexual and economic exploitation of girls in work, in particular child domestic workers.
• Local and national customs and traditions. This includes embedded religious, judicial and secular traditions, which allow for inequality in inheritance and the creation of status offences discriminating against girls in the legal system.
Achieving gender equality and a better deal for girls requires a challenge to deep rooted attitudes across societies, and a new momentum for investing in girls’ education. An ambitious programme in Haryana in India aims to increase the value placed on girls by their families and prevent early marriage. A small sum of money is put into a savings account by local government for each girl at birth. If she is still unmarried at the age of 18, she can collect the amount plus the years of interest.
The Challenges of Adolescence
The social status that a girl occupies has consequences in all areas of a girl’s life, and in particular during her transition from girlhood into womanhood. This is a time of making the choices which will shape the remainder of her life. Education can make a huge difference to the lives of girls, particularly if they have access to quality, free, girl-friendly educational facilities. A host of academic studies, national and international initiatives and projects on the ground have proved the case for girl’s education.
Recent studies show a striking correlation between under-five mortality rates and the educational level attained by a child’s mother.
Progress in this area has been notable – recent progress in enrolments at primary school level has benefited girls in particular.
The reality for millions of girls in some of the world’s poorest countries is that they have to spend much more time on domestic, non-economic work than boys, and have less time for education and recreation. The rites of passage that determine the transition from girlhood to womanhood can themselves be challenging for girls. Female genital cutting and other initiation rites are customs which violates the rights of girls. Marriage while still in her teens, or younger, and early pregnancy usually has a detrimental impact on a girl’s right to education and to fulfilling her potential.
“To stop this inhuman attitude towards girls, there should be stringent laws against the practice of child marriages, and both the governments and the civil societies should initiate awareness raising campaigns at every community on gender equity and the evil consequences of child marriages.” B. Savitha, aged 14, India
The family is the place where girls and boys should feel safe, and where they learn how to grow into mature and responsible adults, where they form their first relationships and hopefully follow the positive role models shown by their parents. But it is also the place where millions of children, especially girls, face violence and abuse. Much of this violence is gender-based and perpetrated mainly by men against girls and women.
As a girl moves into adulthood, her education or lack of it, will have a significant impact on several areas of her life. There is clear evidence that knowledge, information and self esteem help girls to protect themselves from HIV infection, exploitation and hazardous child labour. Her children are more likely to be healthy and to go to school themselves if a young woman is educated. For example, children with unschooled mothers are 4.8 times more likely to be out of primary school in Venezuela, 4.4 times more likely in Suriname, and 3.4 times more likely in Guyana. An educated young woman also has a better chance of earning an income, which has a positive effect on her family and on the economy. Studies have shown that as a country’s primary enrolment rate for girls increases, so too does its gross domestic product per capita.
• Girls are discriminated against in the womb, before birth, as the growing practice of female foeticide and sex selective abortion in some parts of the world demonstrates. An estimated 100 million women are ‘missing’ as a result.
• 10.5 million children die before the age of five every year. There is evidence that more girls than boys die in the developing world.
• An estimated 450 million adult women in developing countries are stunted as a result of childhood protein energy malnutrition.
• Girls are less well-nourished than boys. Girls have more chance of getting diarrhoea than boys.
• Mothers pass on knowledge steeped in their own experiences as girls and women.
• As there is little in the way of enforced protective legislation in many developing countries, millions of girls are subjected to early marriage with its inherent risks to their education, physical health and economic prospects. 60% of girls aged 15-19 in sub Saharan Africa are married.
• It is estimated that about 140 million girls and women worldwide have undergone female genital cutting, with an additional two million girls undergoing the procedure every year.
• It is impossible to overstate the links between
health and education, especially women’s education – data shows a striking correlation between under-five mortality rates and the educational level attained by a child’s mother.
• 62 million girls of primary age are out of school. This is more than all the girls in North America and Europe.
• Girls will not remain in school if they are subjected to abuse and violence, and lack adequate sanitation facilities.
• Despite gains for girls in school achievement in the North, women are paid less than men for comparative jobs and are more likely to be in low-paid employment.
• Pregnancy related illnesses are a leading cause of death for young women ages 15 to 19 worldwide. Half a million women die of pregnancy related deaths every year.
• There is clear evidence that girls and boys form clear opinions about work which is deemed suitable for each gender from an early age.
• 90 per cent of child domestic workers are girls between 12 and 17 years old, and are at risk of both sexual and economic exploitation, violence and abuse.
Girls in Exceptionally Difficult Circumstances
• Gender discrimination – in the form of reduced access to education, healthcare, food and information, limited participation in communities and society, and defined roles in the household – means that girls are particularly vulnerable to a series of risks to their development and well-being, and less likely to attain their rights. At times of uncertainty and insecurity, these risks increase.
• 20-50% of girls have experienced violence from a family member.
• Girls from indigenous or minority groups and girls with disabilities are particularly vulnerable to violence and abuse.
From me, Heart:
–Heart, enraged over the status of girls in this world and fully committed to devoting the rest of my life to girls and women, female people, my own kind ♥
I made note, in one of my earlier posts about the “Comfort Women”, here and here, that the women and girls who were kidnapped, tricked, lured or forced into rape camps created by Japan to “service” soldiers during World War II were also offered up to U.S. troops stationed in Japan at the end of World War II. Reports about U.S. soldiers raping and prostituting the Comfort Women are in the mainstream news now, though, so I thought I would post a link .
Police officials and Tokyo businessmen established a network of brothels under the auspices of the Recreation and Amusement Association (RAA), which operated with government funds. On Aug. 28, 1945, an advance wave of occupation troops arrived in Atsugi, just south of Tokyo. By nightfall, the troops found the RAA’s first brothel.
“I rushed there with two or three RAA executives, and was surprised to see 500 or 600 soldiers standing in line on the street,” Seiichi Kaburagi, the chief of public relations for the RAA, wrote in a 1972 memoir. He said American MPs were barely able to keep the troops under control.
Though arranged and supervised by the police and civilian government, the system mirrored the comfort stations established by the Japanese military abroad.
The Babe Garden
According to Kaburagi, occupation GIs paid up front and were given tickets and condoms. The first RAA brothel, called Komachien—The Babe Garden—had 38 comfort women, but due to high demand that was quickly increased to 100. Each woman serviced from 15 to 60 clients a day.
In his book “Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of WWII,” American historian John Dower says the charge for a short session with a prostitute was 15 yen, or about a dollar, roughly the cost of half a pack of cigarettes.
Once you realize that U.S. troops, and Allied troops, and troops out of every nation, in every war, have routinely and regularly participated in the raping of the “other side’s” women, since the earliest wars, you realize why it is that it is not until this decade that rape has finally acknowledged as a war crime, instead of swept under the rug as something like the collateral damage of war. Once you recognize that soldiers rape — including “our” guys, our fathers, uncles, grandfathers, sons, husbands, boyfriends, grandsons — then you understand the tremendous resistance to recognizing mass rapes during wartime as the atrocity it has always been and still is. Then you understand why Japan has been able to deny its enslaving of 200,000 women, and why the United States, until now, has for the most part allowed that denial to go unchallenged, unconfronted.
In his book “Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of WWII,” American historian John Dower says the charge for a short session with a prostitute was 15 yen, or about a dollar, roughly the cost of half a pack of cigarettes.
By the end of 1945, about 350,000 US troops were occupying Japan. At its peak, Kaburagi wrote, the RAA employed 70,000 prostitutes to serve them. Al
The US occupation leadership provided the Japanese government with penicillin for comfort women servicing occupation troops, established prophylactic stations near the RAA brothels and, initially condoned the troops’ use of them, according to documents discovered by Tanaka.