Personal …. Private?

Demonstration against French nuclear tests in 1995 in Paris. Wikipedia Commons.

This week I have been contemplating the line between personal and professional since my CMST 275 class online communication class is discussing the project of Total Recall, and the process of digitalizing all the memories and moments in one’s life. Although the authors of the text Your Life Uploaded, Gordon Bell and Jim Gemmell both promote life-logging, the private act of storing digital memories for one’s own consumption and enjoyment, our society is leaning toward life-blogging, a public presentation of our digital memories and life moments. If you are interested in the discussion regarding life–logging VS life–blogging, feel free to listen to the short podcast I made for my students on this topic, below.

This distinction between what is personal and what is professional is profound, and it is a timely discussion as well. For example, just last week many of us were reading about how some employers were asking for employee’s passwords to their social media accounts, in order to… Spy? Eavesdrop? Although the outcry was loud, and laws are now being passed against this intrusion of privacy, it does appear as if the assumed line between the personal and the professional is being actively renegotiated. Indeed, last year there was a great deal concern about a budding new practice where employers were asking potential employees for their credit report.

To control the lives of one’s employees is not a new thing. Consider the great capitalist Henry Ford. Ford was ruthless in how he worked to control his workers personal, professional, and spiritual lives.  Indeed, there is always been an attempt by many employers to control their employees fully, to make one’s personal life fall in line with the expectations of one’s professional life. If you can control an employee, then you can better control how your company is “branded” out in the real world. After all, society doesn’t want their K-12 teachers also moonlighting in strip joints. It just looks bad.  Businesses don’t like to look bad.

But we have to decide how much power we, as employees, will give over to businesses and corporations.  This is not a one-sided negotiation, but very much a two-sided discussion. The recent issue regarding whether or not businesses can decide who can get what medications through Insurance, is another huge topic on the table. The issue? Birth control.  Besides being a religious debate, as many businesses are claiming the issue of morality within their decision-making, this debate has the potential to affect and encourage selective medical decision-making regarding what medication is good for whom.  It is bad enough that insurance companies make these medical decisions, individuals who have no medical degree, to right to “doctor,” but we certainly do not need our employers making this decision as well. I’m not suggesting that denying birth control becomes an absolute slippery slope, but the door is open to then start denying other forms of medical care …. should this company or that person deem the care immoral. Since employees pay a good portion of their medical insurance coverage at most companies, it seems to me that this issue should remain private (between the patient and his or her doctor), not public (between the patient, the doctor, and the patient’s employer).

Many of these issues come down to how we view public vs private spheres of living and life. As technology starts to erode many of our assumed moments of privacy, and private spaces, this situation also creates problems regarding private versus professional life and living.  In your opinion, where should this line between the personal and the professional be drawn? How much control should a company be allotted over its employees? I would be interested in your thoughts on this.


Birth Control and the Gates Foundation

Wikipedia Commons
my book, Writing the Diaphragm Blues,
I discuss the need for a male version of the birth control pill. I also discuss
how research and technology is available and ready to offer the world a male
version of birth control pill, but unfortunately the world is not all that
interested in it. How can we tell? 
Funding. Just as funding is available by the truckload for new “Viagra”
like medications, there are few trucks loaded and ready with finances to test
new methods of birth control for men. 
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is one of the few organizations substantially
backing this effort. 
there is reluctance for this direction in birth control research. Indeed, many
men object to the idea of subjecting their body to hormonal forces that impact
their body negatively. Ironic enough, many of these same men do not seem to
worry about asking their female partners to subject their body to hormonal
drugs, but the line is drawn once the tables are turned. Yet I would argue that
it is not unreasonable to object to putting medications into your body that
would cause you some kind of harm. It is actually a very reasonable objection.
That is why research is now attempting to find a solution to the male birth
control conundrum, which does not include doses of hormones – but this research
is just in its infancy. Regardless, until a solution can be found, birth
control continues to be an issue that impacts women more directly, mostly
remaining a non-issue for men.
this past election cycle, the issue of birth control has shown its ugly little
head again (pun intended). It really should be a non-issue, and indeed it has
been a non-issue for centuries. It is quite ridiculous to suggest that the use
of birth control, and the need for birth control, is a rather new and modern debate.
The pill … yes, but birth control has existed for centuries, from the use of
natural herbs, to the intestines of animals that were used as a type of a
condom.  Why is birth control an issue now?  It
is an issue because people feel birth control is a form of population control
and a simple abortant.  It is also
an issue because it gives people the ability to control the social roles played
by the different genders in society. However, I have commented on the second
point a great deal in this blog, let me reflect a little on the first point.
Melinda Gates suggests below, the argument and the fear regarding the
widespread use of birth control is fear regarding purposeful population
control. This population point it’s not so much of a side issue as Melinda
Gates suggests in her discussion, but Gates is correct when she states that the
bottom line regarding birth control is this: people should have a right to
decide whether or not they are ready to bring a child into this world, and
whether they can care for that child. Birth control is indeed a personal,
egoist concept and “I,” and “my needs” are prominent in
this formula.  However, the utilitarian position, or the “we”
position is also dominate. So yes, population control is at issue as well. This
doesn’t mean I want or that I suggest we need to adopt a policy, such as is
seen in China, limiting how many children we bring into this world. 
However, there is something to be said about famine, a lack of resources, and
our inability to care for children that we bring into this world. It is simple irresponsible
to suggest through rhetoric or practice that humans have the right to bring
children into this world, but we don’t necessarily have to take responsibility
for caring for those children/people throughout their lives. The philosopher
Peter Singer brought up this discussion in ’72 with his well argued article “Famine, Affluence,
and Morality” in Philosophy and Public Affairs (1:1
). Although dated,
I cannot help but feel we should all revisit this discussion again.
I would agree that creating a general rule for the good of the majority is not
always a sound idea – frankly, it can be disastrous. Mandatory use of birth
control is as bad as an idea as is limited the amount of children a couple can
have in a society where the male child is valued over the female –
China has a mess on their hands because of this.
  Although I am a
utilitarian at heart, I’m also a pragmatist. I like to look at situations as
they, individually, occur and then weigh the consequences of potential
reactions to that situation before I act. It’s a process and I am a huge
supporter of focusing on the process rather than a particular, singular,
outcome. People and situations are unique, and they must be approached
uniquely. It is this approach toward birth control that is needed
does this mean in the end?  It means that we must have open access to
birth control throughout the world. It also means that men must have more open
access to different forms of birth control as well, and they must be encouraged
to make it part of their personal regiment, just as women do. It also means we
must educate the world on the use of birth control, and the responsibility that
comes with the use of birth control. We must teach people about sex, the
consequences of sex, the consequences of sexual assault, and… yes… the
consequences of overpopulation. The problem is that most talking heads are
making this issue in either or issue rather than looking at the consequences,
the wide affecting consequences, of a world without birth control. Enough.

Melinda Gates TED talk on Birth Control.

The Ethics of Birth Control

Justice Should be Blind, Not Stupid
Erin Solaro over at the Seattle PI’s Civic Feminism blog wrote
a delightful post about the
Politics of Contraception
.  I
left a comment there, thanking her for her fantastic post and also posing this
Why are these people (those who want to take birth control away from
woman) only concerned with the moment, the act of potential procreation and not
the consequences resulting from that moment?
What worries me terribly is the simple fact that these men
(and they are almost all men) working to deny women access to birth control
never bother to look at the potential consequences of what happens when we deny women access to birth control (Yes women, men have historically been given clear access to birth control, but women denied).  All these politicians and pundits are concerned with is the act of potential procreation. This is the ethics of short-term egoism
that refuses to look at long-term consequences of this action: Birth control
denial.  This short-term ethic set is downright
irresponsible of lawmakers, and certainly an
example of why many citizens no longer trust of hold hope in their political
(consider this, recession is simply a result of short term
rationale of fast profit that had devastating consequences for the US and
globally as well). This is a huge problem not only with politics, but with our
society today: short-term satisfaction and, ironic enough, birth
control is not about short term satisfaction, no matter how much Rush Limbaugh
and others like him wish to frame the issue with such misguided rhetoric: give a woman birth control and she will screw anyone, anywhere, anytime.
Here are some long-term consequential considerations we must
consider before denying women birth control:
  • What happens to women that have been raped?
  • What happens to women who need birth control for general
    health reasons related to hormonal imbalances?
  • What happens to a market place devoid of cheap female labor (the more children a woman has, the more likely she will have to leave the market place)?
  • What happens to a home’s economics when it loses ½ of its income making members once she leaves the market places and becomes a homemaker. 
    • (I am not putting down the life of the homemaker. However, many homes need both adults
      working to survive. If we have no birth control, the average family could have
      up to 4-5 children, making it important for one parent to stay home to care for
      the children. If history has demonstrated anything, it will likely be the woman who stays home.  where will the money come in this world today to feed and care for a such a family well?)
  • What happens to all the unwanted children in this world? The
    “disposable” children abandoned, lost, and not cared for?
  • What happens to women’s rights generally and how society
    views women?
  • What happens when the death rate of women skyrocket as more
    births occur and as more women die during child birth?
  • What about over population in relation to famine and a frightfully
    shrinking natural resource pool in this earth?
These few consequential considerations are only the tip of
the iceberg regarding potential problems and dramatic socialist structural changes as a result of such a drastic act as
denying easy access to birth control. To make things more clear, let’s take a case study: Ireland’s Magdalene Laundries.  As I wrote in my
comment on the PI:
Taken in an Irish Laundry: Location Unknown
In Ireland (and globally but Ireland becomes the case study
par excellence), hundreds of thousands of women were placed in Laundries and
forced to become nothing more than slave labor for the state and church of
Ireland. Major targets? Single mothers and any woman deemed amoral as compared
to her society’s spiritual temperament. These women had no choice, as law
regarding their bodies were clear: A woman’s body was not their own.  Their body was their fathers, their
brothers, their husband, the church or the state, but there was no true
anonymity. And the children, ripped from these Magdalene Laundresses? Either
they were shipped out of Ireland, adopted to foreign Catholic parents, or
placed in workhouses; horrific state run institutions of abuse (Read the Commission to Inquire into child abuse).
Birth control plays a huge role in this travesty, because
here was a society that denied birth control to women and, at the same time,
did not consider any of the consequences of this so called moral action.   We are headed there if we do not
stop this nonsense now.  Denying
women birth control is wide raging consequences, consequences that must be
addressed and seriously debated. Otherwise, we are simply caving to egoistic,
short sighted, and misguided proclamations that will harm all of our society,
not simply the women it’s trying to control.

Where Do Babies Come From: A Roller Derby Story

Chapter one in Writing the Diaphragm Blues and Other Sexual Cacophony’s,
looks at the question: where do babies come from? When I was a kid,
before my mom had the opportunity to give me the birds and the bees
talk, I was told by a very reliable kindergartner that babies come from
pumpkin seeds. This information created quite an incident in my house,
the day I walked in on my mother baking pumpkin seeds, a little bit
before Halloween. Horror!

Eating may cause an unexpected pregnancy

Upon researching my book, I found that this was a rather common story. Another common story (preformationism)
was that fully formed humans babies reside in the male penis
(homunculus), the sperm and are squirted into the woman who then
functions as a high tech, biological, incubator. I was rather surprised
that this myth still exists – a discussion for a different blog posts

Preformationism illustration

Well, it occurred to me that we humans tell the baby
origin story differently, depending upon our backgrounds, resources, and
general knowledge. We also love to tell this story using metaphors. For
example, the birds and bees are a metaphor for sex and procreation.
While walking down the street the other day, I was reminded of someone
who tried to use roller derby as a metaphor for doing business; and it
occurred to me, roller derby is really is a great metaphor for
everything, including the story of where babies come from … And …
Birth control.

Where Babies Come From: a Roller Derby Tale

rules of roller derby are easy. Each team has five skaters on the
floor. Four of the skaters are blockers, and they make up a pack. One of
the blockers is a pivot, or the lead blocker who can also score points
if she has to take over for the jammer. The jammer is the only one who
can score points, and she will score a point for each time she passes,
legally, an opposing teammate. The blockers try to stop the jammer from
earning any points, while helping their jammer pass through the opposing

Now let’s talk nature.

Scene: Roller Derby Bout somewhere in WA state. A mother and a child, both derby girls, are sitting down watching a bout.


Mommy, where do babies come from.

MOMMY AKA Mental Pause

Well that’s a very important questions my dear!  Let me try and answer it in a way that you will understand.

MOMMY AKA Mental Pause

babies can be made many ways today, including in a hospital test tube! 
But, the most common way is when a man and a woman have sex. You see,
women have eggs in their body and men have sperm and when you introduce
the sperm to the egg, during sex, a baby starts to grow! But, it’s
important to know that you do not have to have a baby every time you
have sex. That is why people use birth control, to make sure that all
babies are wanted and planned, just like you my pumpkin smasher!

I don’t get it!
MOMMY AKA Mental Pause

Let me put it this way.  You see the bout being played?

MOMMY AKA Mental Pause

pretend that the woman is the roller derby bout; that is, she is the
person who will bring life into the world. The blockers and the
pivot are her birth control. If she finds the right combination of birth
control, she can make sure that the jammer cannot get through, making
her pregnant. The jammer, in this strangely constructed metaphor, are
the sperm. The jammer tries to break through the birth control, the
blocker pack, in order to make the game pregnant. The more times the
jammer can break through the blockers, the better the likelihood that
the woman will get pregnant.  So, if the woman doesn’t want to get
pregnant, then she better have great defense with her blockers!

Now that I can understand! What happens when the jammer gets a whip though?
MOMMY AKA Mental Pause
Let’s just save that for another blog post, shall we?

Solving Deficit by Denying Birth Control

These Make Excellent Space Ships for Child’s Arts & Craft Projects

Conservatives slash the budget by denying women birth control! …. Right?

War, unemployment, and catching terrorists opening small business checking accounts at local banks has caused our deficit to balloon in the United States. Let’s face it, the US has been irresponsible with spending by helping large numbers of the lazy unemployed population and giving children healthcare, and so now we are in an impossible situation. As we are continuously reminded, liberals simply want to spend, spend, spend monies that the US does not have, when what we really need to do is cut, cut, cut in order to break the deficit down. The solution to this problem? Curbing women’s family-planning rights.

Yes, I understand that it is difficult to see the connection between a ballooning deficit and women’s rights, but there is a connection. Well, at least I suspect there must be a connection since conservatives are making these topics their focus this election term: birth control, and the deficit … B&B for short.

Yet the B&B correlation is a bit convoluted.  After all, wasn’t the issue of birth control solved years ago? At first, I thought the connection had to do with the recession and a general resentment toward women. More men than women had lost their jobs during the recession (look at the California numbers alone).  Sadly, the reality that this was due to the fact that these men had full-time positions, which paid well and included benefits, didn’t enter into the conversation as much. Women kept their jobs because they were cheaper for companies to retain.  Include with this reality the fact that more women have college degrees than men, threatening the normal gender balance of things, and “Huston, we have a problem!” Indeed, these are the making for viable threat to the way things are in the good USA.  So maybe, I thought, the attack on birth control this election cycle was really just an attempt to rally the male conservative vote.  If we get women back into the kitchen, and keep her there, then we can return man to his rightful position in the work place. 

The logic seemed sound enough but as we recover from the recession, men are recovering and gaining full-time work much faster then women, putting a wretch into my original theory.  But then came Ron Paul; Ron Paul made me see the light!  The other night, Ron Paul announced on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” that he regretted prescribing birth control back when he was a OB-GYN in Texas, because:

“I was also putting myself out of business, all this birth control … They had less babies.”

See way back when, Ron Paul’s concern of helping women bring only wanted and planned for children into this world was skewed. Indeed, He should have been seeking simple profit.*  That is the American dream, after all.

But then I realized that Ron Paul had a point, and I could finally see the brilliance of the conservative’s plan!  I made the leap from birth control for women to a ballooning deficit. 

If we take birth control away from women, we could make a crap load of money from women having babies.  Once those babies are born, many of them unwanted and unplanned for, we can stow them and their wanton mothers away in work houses, laboring for our country (it will be easy to revert child labor laws now that most unions have been destroyed – yes!).

(B&B Formula) Free labor = profit = shrinking deficit!

So the solution to our country’s wows is simple, and so obvious that no wonder I was originally confused (being a woman and all).  Let’s bring back workhouses!  Bring back the Magdalene Laundries; only in today’s world we should exchange the task of cleaning laundry for electronic assembly lines.  Regardless, we have a solution America! Ladies, what are you waiting for?!?? It’s time to do the patriotic thing!  Flush those pills down the toilet! Let your kids have your diaphragm for an art project (they make awesome spaceships), and start birthing slave labor!
* An example of why we have a medical system that avoids prevention and rather seeks only to use band-aids for many medical issues: profit over wellness/ over logic. Such a statement supports this logic as well: that’s why I encourage my patients to smoke, the more they smoke, the more sick they get, and the more sick they get, the more money I make!

And They Danced In the Streets

Grab your diaphragms, your Birth Control Pills, your IUDs and come dance!  Thanks to legislation finally signed, insurance companies must totally cover birth control without co-payments!  Kids, this one was a long time in coming, but rejoice and dance in the streets.  Planned Parenthood is and I only wish Margaret Sanger was here to see this joyful moment. The following is a video produced by Planned Parenthood, showing folks dancing for joy Bollywood style.  I wish I could have joined them myself!

Goal two?  Male birth control!


The Misguided and Archaic #1

“The Misguided and Archaic” will be a new series on this blog where I log and discuss misguided and archaic quotes regarding gender, sexuality and birth control.  I am not simply trying to criticize, but I will offer rebuttals in a direct way:

For this first entry, I am actually starting with the news from July 21st because several misguided posts and editorials were made after the July 19th publication from the Institute of Medicine.  An independent panel argued that insurance companies should offer birth control to women without co-payments:

1)  Jeffrey T. Kuhner in his July 21st post, “Obama’s Culture of Death,” Writes:

The administration is now contemplating forcing health insurance companies to provide free birth control – including the “morning-after” pill – as part of Obamacare.  … The proposal is profoundly immoral. Contraception violates the natural moral order. It decouples sexual intercourse from its main purpose: procreation. It entrenches the hedonistic ethic that sex is about recreation and individual gratification.

 I find several problems with his basic rhetoric.  First up is Kuhner’s belief that the “Morning-after pill” is somehow worse than the normal birth control pill.  This is incorrect.  The Morning-After pill is simply a stronger version of the birth control pill, which can be taken up to 3 days after unprotected intercourse. By including the phrase “including the ‘morning-after’ pill” as an addition to “free birth control,” Kuhner is arguing that it is entirely different, more nefarious somehow.  He needs a better metaphor, so consider this: if the birth control pill was aspirin, then the morning-after pill would be extra-strength aspirin.

Next is Kuhner’s belief that birth control is not natural. Nature, in her beautiful wisdom, has provided humanity for centuries with natural forms of birth control.  Here is a top ten list!  Granted, many herbs such as the Blue Cohosh is not as effective as the birth control pill or the diaphragm, it is effective. When you think about it, birth control is as natural as deciding to drive, wearing clothing and so on.  Indeed, if we are talking about “natural” vs “unnatural” in the world of
medicine, then all medicine, including anything that might save a
life, should be off limits under Kuhner’s logic- if man-made does not equal natural that is. So, no Viagra for you, or aspirin, or antibiotics, and so on.

Finally, I take objection to Kuhner’s belief that sex and the use of birth control “entrenches the hedonistic ethic that sex is about recreation and individual gratification.”  This “individual gratification” concern seems to miss the point of consensual sex- I should hope to shout partners in sex all receive gratification.

2)  Bill O’Reilly – on his July 21st show, he expressed the following:

“Many women who get pregnant are blasted out of their minds when they have sex and [are] not going to use birth control anyway.”

I do not mean to be uncouth, but WTF?  What women have you dated Bill? Seriously – you have a warped understanding of women and sex.  I guess there are some women out there who enjoy mixing sex with drugs, but all women? As if that is the only way a woman can bring herself to having sex?

I am afraid dear O’Reilly that you are displaying “truthiness” logic here – based only on your imagination and nothing else.  I’m feeling a bit sorry for your wife.

3)  Summer Eve’s “Hail to the V” campaign.

What do we have here?  Talking vagina hand puppets. Gotta see them to believe them:

lady Wowza – Targeting Black American
Leopard Thong  – Targeting Latino Americans
BFF-Targeting Anglo-Social Medial-Americans

The only good thing about this ad campaign was that it was finally pulled. “Hand puppet vaginas” do not bother me really, hell I have some great comic bits already forming in my brain. But the message does.  The message being that without a special product, I am somehow unnatural.

As far as I am concerned, douche ads have always been horrific and sexist. As women, we are told that we should be offended by how we smell.  Just another reason to be wary of the vagina. We are told we are not natural, or normal. Bad jokes such as telling a woman she smells like “fish” has been promoted for decades.  To combat it, we must feel fresh and clean!  Take this ad from 1948 for example: ladies douche with Lysol so that your husband will actually, finally, want to take you to bed. You will smell as clean as the kitchen! 

B is for Boobs and Birth Control

Today I am working on Chapter 6, writing about two nicknames I have been given by my peers at different times in my life – nicknames around the topic of sexuality.

The first and most frustrating nickname I was given was One-Boob-Becky when I was a child. I think the name speaks for itself. I got this name when I was at Kino and in 6th grade. The name followed me through to JR High and High School, when I finally left for WA state with my family.  To celebrate this memory, I thought I would do two things.  First, I invite you to look at this interesting Twitter feed/search on two terms: “lopsided Boobs,” as well as “Boobs.”I love searching Social Media for key words and topics because it lets me see a slice of spontaneous opinion about the ideas and topics.  If you linger on the Boob link for long, you will see that the updates are continuous on that topic! People like to speak about boobs.

For the heck of it, I also decided to Songify part of the chapter, a monologue I wrote on the topic of growing up with one boob.

Finally, I want to direct your attention to this interesting article from NPR that talks about the possibility of birth control being deemed mandatory for Insurance coverage: Birth Control Without Copays Could Become Mandatory. 

For years, many insurance companies would willingly cover the entire price of an abortion but NOT for birth control.  I have written and studied about this situation before and the logic continues to boggle the mind.  It is about time that birth control is seen as normal part of health care need for women.  The battle over this issue is tomorrow, when “when the independent Institute of Medicine is expected to make recommendations about preventive health care services for women.” I’ll be waiting and watching myself.