September 2010 Archives

Facial judgements aren't a thing of the past


Queering the Color Line describes instances in which individuals are judged based upon their physical experience. In this reading, most physical differences were used as a way to isolate the individual and make that person seem inferior. Some of the judgments focused on genital differences (whether true or fabricated) to pass a judgment on the individual's sexuality. Alternately, full body images were used to pass a judgment on the individual's place in society. Saartje Baartman is a prime example of the full body judgement.

It seems like a very cruel idea. There is no scientific backing to it. Judgment based on appearance is probably just a matter of opinion. Therefore, it should be removed from our society, right?

Unfortunately, this is still very prevalent. In fact, it's being advertised! Barbara Roberts is an "Expert Face Reader" who has been doing face readings for 20 years. She was recently featured on the Tyra Banks show to express her "amazing talent."

Tyra banks isn't the only person who has encouraged Barbara. She has written her own book, provides her own class, has been featured on countless morning shows, and even been used by the FBI to help profile criminals!

Profiling based on facial structures has an eerie similarity to the photo showed in class about how different faces can be grouped to create a profile that is possibly completely false! Based on the following video, a person might decide to never date a person who has a small mouth.

My biggest issue with Barbara is that she profiles based on people she already knows are good/bad (Example, it's pretty easy to figure out Hitler was a bad guy.) You don't see her profiling the average Joe that she has never met before.

So, is there any validity in Barbara's "talent"?
Would you ever judge a potential friend/loved based on facial structure?
How is facial judging now any different than facial judgment in the late 19th and 20th centuries?

Research ethics: competition, recognition, sabotage...democracy?

Hi class! Today a friend of mine who is getting his postdoc at Stanford posted this story, entitled "Research integrity: Sabotage!" Here's the caption:
"Postdoc Vipul Bhrigu destroyed the experiments of a colleague in order to get ahead. It took a hidden camera to expose a surreptitious and malicious side of science."
As you'll read, while competition in science may push us toward more efficient sciences and technologies, it also has a down side. As in the case of Watson and Crick's double helix "discovery," science can be used toward anti-democratic ends--even as the developments themselves advance and/or protect our society. We've discussed briefly in class the high stakes, competitive atmosphere of many research labs, today and in the past. And in a few weeks, we'll spend time thinking about which methods and practices in science can better our democracy. But for now...any suggestions??

To be Gay, or Not to be Gay

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We have spent a lot of time in class talking about how homosexuality came to be this week. Both Somerville and Duggan point out the history of the term itself, as well as what it represents. Somerville even reminded us that homosexuality has always been around, it's just never been labeled as something bad or taboo before. I believe it was Duggan who said girl-girl relationships were called "chumming," a distinctly neutral word that has completely disappeared from our discussions today. What are now 'homosexual' and 'lesbian' relationships were once considered to be nothing more than particularly strong friendships.
This reminded me of a movie that I only just saw a few weeks ago: I now pronounce you Chuck and Larry. For reasons that are very well explained in the movie (and the clip below), Larry convinces his best friend Chuck to go into a domestic partnership with him, which winds up throwing them into a whole mess of shenanigans. They convince everyone they know that they are gay, losing friends, trust, and their reputations in the process. Eventually they wind up in court, in order to "prove" that they are in love, and both provide beautiful testimonies of their friendship. Neither man says anything about kisses, or dates, or touching, or anything romantic in the slightest until the very end when both conclude "I love him."
This is just an example of the power of friendship, and the feeling behind it. Chuck and Larry always loved each other, or they never would have been able to attempt this. But society used this new definition of "gayness" and used it against them.
I honestly wonder how many years it will be before the taboo of homosexuality finally dies. I wonder if it will be in my lifetime, especially since it's got such a strong hold on so many people now. My question is, how can we speed up the process? Will cultural things like movies be able to bring people to the light of understanding, or is it going to take more than that? Will culture even be willing to try?

Not Your Everyday Reference

So not a lot of people would know this about me, more or less because I find it a little embarrassing, but I am a huge fan of Japanese anime. I think the thing that I liked about it the most was not thinking about it very critically. In the last few years of taking Gender, Woman and Sexualities Studies courses, if there's anything I have learned it is that GWSS eventually takes over your brain and you think about everything critically. GWSS has lead me to pick a part Disney themes, television shows, literature and political/social commentary; I should have known it was only a matter of time before it got around to infiltrating my anime. My favorite show in this genre would have to be Inuyasha. It's about a present day teenager that falls down a well in her backyard and ends up in feudal era Japan. She falls in love with a half demon named Inuyasha and they must work together to find the shards of an ancient shicon (sacred) jewel so a demon named Naraku does not put them all together and become all powerful. Now I bet you are wonder what on earth would any of this have to do with our readings. In episode 103 season four: "The Band of Seven Ressurected.", Inuyasha finds himself fighting a resurrected ghost named Jakotsu. The character Jakotsu's gender is left ambiguous for the first part of the episode. Jakotsu has feminine attributes but his group, The Band of Seven, is described as being all male. I only really noticed this after reading the article by Somerville. Jakotsu is actually made out to be a homosexual character as he confesses his attraction to Inuyasha during their fight. When i read about the use of inversion or the thought of a female soul trapped in a male body this episode came to mind. The animator uses practically the same template for all the female characters in that their features are all the same but only the hair or clothes change. The animator used this same template to create Jakotsu, a homosexual male character. Another interesting note was that the character eroticised his fight with Inuyasha, giving him this persona of being a sadist. This paralleled the way Somerville explained that homosexuality was placed in the same category as sexual perversions or fetishes. When I read the article, I was surprised by the way people used to describe homosexuality and I wanted to believe that we have come so far. However, this episode was aired in 2005 not only in Japan but also as a translated version on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim. Is the way homosexuality used to be thought of really only in the past? What are some of the ways our thoughts have changed and what ways have they stayed the same?

Grey's Anatomy's 1st Homosexual Patient

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In the popular television show, Grey's Anatomy, several homosexual cases have been displayed - some with unfortunate endings. In season 6, an episode known as Time Warp consists of the resident doctors reflecting on stories/cases of their past. Richard (the oldest doctor and former chief of residency) speaks of the very first gay patient to be treated at Seattle Grace Hospital. When a patient comes in with sores (pre-mature lesions), Richard and Dr. Grey begin treating him and soon realize that he has contracted a new and unfamiliar disease that was believed to be only transmitted by homosexuals. Dramatic as television shows are, this patient had a girlfriend at the time. When asked if he had taken part in homosexual acts, the patient became extremely offended and refused to be cared for any longer at Seattle Grace even though he was advised to stay and receive treatment because the disease was/is incurable. After a few weeks the patient returned looking more ill than ever and with more lesions/sores on his skin. He admitted to his doctors that he had engaged in homosexual acts but was too ashamed/embarrassed/scared to admit it. Unfortunately, little was known about HIV or AIDS and the patient died abruptly. Of course it was sad when he died, but more importantly I found it worse that he died alone with no family or friends at his side. The purpose of this case was to show how horribly homosexuals were, and still can be, treated. Even though science/medicine has been seen as the "bad guy" in our first couple weeks of class, the doctors in Grey's Anatomy were the only people there for this particular patient. Still today people are cautious about declaring their sexuality in fear of judgement from others even though so many advancements have been made, so how do we make it more acceptable for homosexuals to "come out"?

Don't stop in the name of love?

In the article we read for today, and the activity we did in class, we created ties between a multitude of important terms regarding the class/sex/gender/race system and it's ties to the abortifacients used. A main theme(not the only) we found was that slaves tended to use abortifacients in order to not have children that were "born into bondage." It also talked about women (and other slaves, surely) that would commit suicide and other extreme means to avoid being imprisoned any longer.

There is a book(turned into movie) called "Beloved", written by Toni Morrison and acted out by Oprah Winfrey. The book is about a freed slave named Sethe who escaped with all of her children and traveled to a free area. In this book, a mentally unstable, dirty(literally), young women comes to Sethe's door and Sethe takes her in as if she was her own child. In fact the new member even takes the name of the daughter that Sethe lost soon after gaining freedom.

The truth of this situation is that the "schoolmaster" came looking for Sethe's children in hopes of forcing them to come back to "Sweet Home"(the plantation they were slaves for). Sethe tries to escape the "schoolmaster" and ends up attempting to kill her children in order to "save" them from being brought back to the plantation. She succeeds in killing one, "Beloved".

I spent a while trying to locate the scene from the movie where Sethe flashes back to that scene, but after a while of searching to no avail, I accidentally stumbled upon this video.

I found this video appalling. The kids in the video are not only mocking the pain and suffering that took place during this time, but they are also degrading the situation itself. By putting this scene to an interpretive dance to a song like "Bad Romance", which (by analysis of the lyrics) is about a relationship gone wrong. The song is a tragic idea of the kind of relationship that Sethe had with her children, and the whole act is terrifying in way it shows what Sethe went through.

However, if you want to read the book or watch the prepared. It is a very moving story, and a very difficult read. The movie is overwhelming.

The question I meant to pose was this: How much desensitizing is too much? Obviously a little desensitizing is important in specific areas of life, such as a doctor not getting uncomfortable around blood, or disease, but when does desensitization exceed carrying capacity? Is what these kids did okay, because desensitization is just part of the game, or is it too much for the severity of the situation?

Abortion Myths Persist


As a Planned Parenthood volunteer, the article "Feminist History of Colonial Science", struck a chord with me. At Planned Parenthood, I am a patient support volunteer, part of the team of "abortioneers" who help women at one of the hardest times in their lives. My job is to sit with women while they have a surgical procedure to distract them from pain, palpate nerves, and let them know someone is there just for them. With over a year of experience, I can firmly say that many of the abortion myths that existed in the colonial period, still exist today. My artifact of pop culture is one of the websites of one of the many "life" clinics. Instead of presenting women with all their options, as our educators at Planned Parenthood do, this "clinic" immediately says that there is only one option and shows women in a vulnerable position footage of a fetus and even a feature to "hear her heartbeat." "Life clinics" perpetuate myths of abortion to scare women into continuing their pregnancies.

What can I do with a GWSS major?

Hi students,
The timing for this event isn't perfect as it begins during our last 5 minutes of class, but I'm sure you'd find it worthwhile even if you arrive a little late:


Come join the owner of Cake Eater Bakery, Sheela Namakkal; Jennifer Pritchet from Smitten Kitten; Minneapolis City Councilman Gary Schiff; GWSS PhD. Candidate Katie Bashore; and political activists Sara Burt and Erika Wurst for an hour of informative, lively discussion.

Date: Wednesday, October 6

Time: 12-1pm

Location: 325 Education Sciences Bldg.

Light refreshments will be served.

Please RSVP to Judith Katz at

Sponsored by the Department of Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies.

Birth: Another Lense Revealing Systematic Ignorance

I messed up last week's weeks post by jumping ahead, both by focusing on the wrong week's reading and by trying to stretch it a little far how I was trying to connect the documentary The Business of Being Born to the Martin article.

That being said, I hope this post makes more sense and that I convince you to check out this film. Most of it is loaded on youtube (which is nice because you can take it in piece-by-piece) or if you have Netflix it streams free online.

In the article Coming to Understand: Orgasm and the Epistemology of Ignorance, Nancy Tuana uses the historical narrative of the scientific and societal discourse of women's bodies and sexuality to demonstrate how ignorance is systematically upheld. That is, the way in which we have come to understand the female body has to be understood as being inseparable from power structures that have an interest (whether conscious or not) in proving what they already believe to be true.

In watching the clip, consider Tuana's words:

"Ignorance is frequently constructed and actively preserved, and is linked to issues of cognitive authority, doubt, trust, silencing, and uncertainty" (195)

And also quoting Eve Sedgwik,

"Ignorance effects can be harnessed, licensed, and regulated on a mass scale for striking enforcements" (195).

Is it reasonable to assume that it's possible that decisions might be made for economic gain and status and that greed and competition unjustly influence some (not all) information and understanding? How have we as a society come to view birth and reproductive health? Is there an interest (again, conscious or not) in keeping women ignorant of their options giving birth?


Our class discussions about PMS and menopause have, oddly enough, coincided very closely with one of my other classes, Life Cycle Nutrition (I'm a dietetics major). With talks of increasing one's iron stores floating through my head as I scanned today's entries, I had an idea I think worth sharing: the medical community seems to divide women's lives into phases based on whether or not they can give birth, while men (who claim their fertility until the day they die) are just seen as simply, holistically that--men.

Indeed, one can argue it may be necessary to view human beings as little more than coordinated systems of flesh and blood from time-to-time, but I think the scientific community may be taking it too far. Once a boy becomes a young, strapping lad, what was once a light burden to begin with no longer exists; he now possesses the ability to reproduce, and that is that. For a span of roughly thirty years though, it seems (and by all means, correct me if you feel I am wrong), an unspoken pressure is placed on women to reproduce. Men have every right to "play the field," but if a woman doesn't have a due date to share at family get-togethers before she even really hits her stride in light (has anyone seen "Bridget Jones"?) she is looked down upon. The phrase "biological clock" also comes to mind.

Women have a choice whether or not they want to have children, and perhaps the medical community's tendency to place them in either pre-, eu- or post- is its way of coping with that. A good question to throw out there would be: by placing women into these different stages, are we indirectly pressuring them to reproduce? Also, is the linear biological model (we're born, spread our genes 'n' die) the best way to view women, men or any form of life?

The Great Wall of Vagina


While browsing one of my favorite internet sites one day a few weeks ago, I came across something a little strange, it was a link to a "Wall of Vaginas". Curious, I followed the link...


This sculpture seemed a perfect fit for my Blog Pop post for a few reasons. First, I found it a little unsettling that I thought of the sculpture as provocative. Although sculptures of vaginas are not really a part of my daily life (and probably not many other people's, either) why should it be shocking to see an explicit portrayal of a vagina? I think this question can in part be tied to Nancy Tuana's article Coming to Understand: Orgasm and the Epistemology of Ignorance. Although our society is bombarded with sexual images in media, the most blatant references are to the male phallus and the vagina is still a slightly more taboo subject. As Tuana elaborates, the vagina and other parts of female genitalia aren't even given proper detail and importance in science and medical contexts. Because of this constantly reinforced ignorance surrounding the female body and the vagina, women are not encouraged to be completely comfortable with certain parts of our bodies. Looking at this sculpture, I still have a little tinge of discomfort or the urge to turn away. I hope that can change, not because I want to be staring at vaginas all day, but because I don't want to have negative ideologies surrounding female anatomy affecting how I perceive my own body or those of other women. I think it would be interesting to find out how other people react to this sculpture and if they feel that our class readings help to understand some of what that reaction is about.

Another interesting aspect of this sculpture is that its sculptor is male. Jamie McCartney does all kinds of sculpture work, mainly body molds. I can't quite decide if I feel this work is problematic because of the specific ignorances surrounding vaginas that work to the detriment of women. Does anyone think that this could be an appropriation of an already tenuous subject matter that is more easily accessible to the sculptor because of his gender?

Is menopause still a shame in the eyes of today's society?

It is commonly thought that menopause marks the end of womanhood or that womanliness dies during that fateful period of time. Is menopause still a shame in the eyes of today's society? Despite the advances in science and culture, menopause is viewed as a uterine-laden, character flaw, and this perspective gives rise to many shameful myths. A term such as, "the change of life", removes women from humanity itself, making females into useless beasts. Negative connotations tied to decreased libido, estrogen, and mood swings make middle-aged women out to be a burden that must be dismissed. It's as if a functioning uterus is the only redeemable quality in a woman.

For example: I had a hysterectomy at age 27 due to complicated circumstances, and I am often asked by both men and women about when I am going to bear a child. I usually reply, "I can't have kids, because I had a hysterectomy". They reply, "That's a shame". Then, I receive the standard barrage of menopausal questions like: "What did you do?" "What happened to your sex drive?" "Do you get mood swings?" "Do you get hot flashes?" "Do you feel like a woman still?" Now, these questions may seem audacious to a progressive mind, but they are alive and well. And for this, I believe that society still features menopause as a death sentence.

PMS: The Disease

In class earlier this week we talked a lot about Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English's very informative article about "The Sexual Politics of Sickness". They discussed the large class differences that were seen in the early 20th century and how all women were seen as "sick" just in different ways. Upper class women were "inherently sick" and very delicate, while working class women were "robust" and "inherently healthy". In reality they were exactly opposite of these descriptions but still it was a common belief to see women this way. They also talked about how menstruation was "regarded as pathological throughout a woman's life." As I read the article I couldn't help thinking about the below clip from Saturday Night Live that features a fake commercial.

Now I know it's a fake product and the reactions and everything are fake, but I think this clip tells us a lot about how society still has traces of those same beliefs from the early 20th century. Just the fact that we see this as funny shows how these ideas of women being inherently sick are still around today. We must have had some inkling of how women can be drastically affected by their periods to even know what was going on in this skit. Men especially have this view that women are different people and are not to be bothered during their periods. Maybe its because they know so little about menstruation, but maybe they feel that we do have sick tendencies. I do admit that some girls use this to their advantage though. They say they have cramps so they can get out of work or school, or blame their periods for their emotions or outbursts. So is there some truth to our inherent "sickness"? Are there still common beliefs today about our "pathological" menstruation? Do we still depend on the medical system for social reasons instead of biological needs?

Maxim's 100 Funniest Productions of Ignorance--I mean, Jokes

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I thought one of the most important (at least it spoke to me in a very important way) points made in our readings this week was Nancy Tuana's discussion of the epistemology of ignorance: "An important aspect of an epistemology of ignorance is the realization that ignorance should not be theorized as a simple omission or gap but is, in many cases, an active production" (195; emphasis mine). While I think upon consideration, many would find this obvious, I think it's so important to point out from time to time. Ignorance, while has, albeit, a negative connotation, it also has an implied passivity to it that is unrealistic. I set out to find an aspect of popular culture that illuminates this point, and as I suspected, I didn't have to look too far. At first, because they are so familiar to me, and I see the active production of ignorance running wild among them, I started typing familiar women's magazines into my Firefox address box. But after a recent bashing of Marie Claire in another GWSS class of mine, and reading about Cosmo by another blogger this week, I thought it time to widen (however slightly) my personal scope to Men's magazines. I immediately thought of Maxim because I had a feeling there would be plenty of material to work off there.... I was right. Besides the fact that every single issue plasters a half (sometimes more like almost completely)-naked woman on the cover in a super "sexy" pose, all of whom, from what I could tell, embody just one version of what it means to be sexy, I found this little gem of an article called Maxim's 100 Funniest Jokes. I only read the first 10-20 of them, and I did laugh at a good few, but I didn't have to look further than the first joke on the list (#100), to find ignorance being produced. This particular joke produces ignorance surrounding prostitutes, suggesting that they're stupid, and also, making light of potentially abusive situations. I'm really not a wet blanket when it comes to jokes. I appreciate the ability to laugh at ourselves, poke a little fun here and there. I laugh at jokes I know are borderline (and sometimes blatantly) sexist, racist, age-ist--all the -ists, really, and I don't necessarily think they should all be done away with. I just think it's interesting to look at them under this lens of the active production of ignorance.



During Friday's discussion on Weasel's article, "Feminist Intersections in Science: Race, gender, and Sexuality through the Microscope," we discussed the statement:

"Just as feminists have sometimes viewed nature and culture as separate, albeit related, entities in analyses of science, so too have we all too often failed to acknowledge the co-construction of categories such as gender, race, class, and sexuality within the tangled web of science (184)."
Interested in reading a few more thoughts on this idea, I came across this video on .
I found this clip extremely interesting, especially around 15 minutes in. The presenter, Emily Levine, discusses her "Theory of Everything" and incorporates similar ideas that Weasel presents in the above statement. Levine, for example, would like scientists to consider having an open mind and be less in search of dominance. While I would refer to myself as having the "scientist" mindset, I do agree that science likes to base its knowledge on fact and research and can ignore cultural ways that this research may be shaped. What Levine tries to do is not bash science but instead hope that we can avoid dominance so that all possible ideas can remain available. She finds that this dominance can often time lead to the disappearance of ideas and modes of thinking. After watching this lecture, my question to you is if you believe science should try to incorporate culture into its modes of research or continue to be based on the "cold, hard facts"? This is a tough question for myself to answer. For example, when I consider case of the HeLa cells and how scientists completely changed how they viewed Henrietta's cells after finding out her race I begin to feel apalled that their viewpoint would change based solely on someones skin color. Controversly, I agree that we cannot study science and society as separate entities. So, what are your thoughts?

Roles and Bodies

This week when we read "The Egg and the Sperm..." I noticed the emphasis on the language that we use when discussing science, and actually anything in general. Our language is so loaded with gender stereotyping and what roles each gender "should" play in our society in order to be acceptable. Using terms for sperm like "heroic", "brave", and "full of energy"; while the terms for the egg were "passive" and "damsel in distress." While yes, the article was written many years ago, the language is still around today. These descriptors aren't around for the egg and sperm much anymore, but are found many other places.

A Cut That Divides


It was a normal Tuesday morning. I sat down at my breakfast table as I always do, picked up the newspaper, and began reading the first article that caught my eye. Thinking nothing of the title that read, "A Cut that Divides", I dove into the article unprepared for the information that it contained about the practice of genital cutting by the Somali population. Although the more extreme forms of genital cutting are less frequently practiced in the United States, genital cutting has not disappeared completely. A milder form called the "clitoral nick" is becoming increasingly popular with the Somali population living in the United States. Instead of cutting or removing the clitoris, the clitoral nick is essentially a poke in the clitoris; however, the nick still causes scarring of the clitoris and makes it difficult for a woman to feel sexual pleasure when she is aroused.

After reading this article, I was honestly enraged. When we read Nancy Tuana's article about the power struggle for women's sexuality and how it is still repressed today, I thought that she was wrong. I thought that sexual repression was something we had moved past-we aren't in the dark ages anymore. However, when it comes to genital cutting, I think that this is an area where women are being repressed and also oppressed by a culture which makes them conform to this unnecessary practice. The main purpose for genital cutting is to keep the Somali women virgins until they are married. But what is the cost? The women who are victims of genital mutilation suffer from recurrent bladder and urinary tract infections, cysts, infertility, and open sores. Also, having sex is extremely painful for these women.

To those who say that women are free to have and enjoy sex just as much as men, I would point them to this article and encourage them to look again. There are many different cultures and religions in the world that are different from our own. If women are ever going to be equals with men, then we need to fight for freedom and education, especially for the women who are living under the dominance of men. If we don't provide a means and a way out for these women, who will? Will they ever truly know what it means to have not only sexual freedom, but the freedom to have control over their bodies?

Cosmo's Orgasm


I have been reading "Cosmopolitan" for as long as I can remember. I of course always read the sex articles because they are interesting and it is fun to learn new things. Well I never thought about where the sex and orgasm tricks really came from, I assumed that it was always the notion that women could orgasm just as well as men could. This was my thought until I read Nancy Tuana's article "Coming to Understand: Orgasm and the Epistemology of Ignorance". This brought my thoughts into a new direction, apparently women were ignored in the sense that they had no pleasure during sex, it was strictly for reproduction. I recently read the May 2010 "Cosmopolitan" edition and right on the cover it claims "The 7 Best Orgasm Tricks in the World!". In the article it talks about the clitoral kinds of orgasms along with the vaginal kind. Tuana's article talks about both kinds of orgasms and how there was/is an ongoing debate about if there were/are two kinds of orgasms. I have not thought once, after reading these articles in "Cosmopolitan", about sex as reproduction, but as something that I should enjoy just as much as my man. So my question is, do you think that "Cosmopolitan" would have started publishing articles on orgasm tricks had Tuana and others not recognized that women could orgasm too? Do you think "Cosmopolitan" could even be a magazine as half if not more of the magazine is all about sex in every single edition? Go to and click under Sex & Love for endless sex and orgasm tips. (I could not find a link to the May 2010 edition but there are plenty of examples under the website)!

HeLa and Weasel

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In today's lecture we watched a short video clip on HeLa Cells and we learned of how, where it came to be and most importantly whom it came from. I personally thought that Weasel's article was very interesting and adding the video allowed the story of Weasel's research become much more fascinating. Today in class Professor Garvey handed out 4 questions to respond to relating to the article, and I couldn't help but think about one of the question I received and while reading other comments. The question had to do with interpreting and explaining how you viewed Weasel's choice of words when talking about he HeLa Cells. Do you think that Weasel was byist on whom the HeLa Cells came from? An African American woman? Or do you think that her choices of words were to show how ironic it was that an African American woman, who was judged and looked down upon for her race, was the only fit to create the HeLa Cell that has helped make some of the most amazing scientific and well known discoveries? I think that she meant well with her choices of words that could help understand better how everything connects and that without a piece of the full puzzle, nothing could ever be worked out.

Here's another cool article about HeLa Cells. Check it out!

Who do you picture?


In our discussions this week regarding how the language we use in science can shape the way we view women and men, I was wondering what kind of women we were all picturing when we, and I was as well, arguing that words about reproductive health socially construct how we understand gender roles? As we learned in the article about Henrietta Lacks, women are not all the same. The use of her cells is all the more significant because she was a poor, black woman who had her cells taken without her consent. Especially significant now that they want to categorize her cells in a regression of evolution, making her cells the "weeds." Her cells are being treated as she likely was when she was alive, as a second-class citizen, no matter how much she had to contribute to the world. These readings made me think about a blog of sorts I saw once called "Stirrups and Stories." It's a series of pictures of women who have stories to tell about gynecological exams and how that is not always an experience where women feel respected. The picture here is especially moving to me, because as we have learned, not all women are the same, and we cannot treat them the same, and further, science should not treat them all the same. Feel free to page your way through the rest of the pictures, they are truly thought provoking. I leave you with the question, what does it tell us about societal construction of gender roles that all women who visit their gynecologist are asked if they want a pregnancy test or who they have been having sex with, with the underlying assumption that it is a man? What does it tell us that women must get annual exams but men do not? What does it tells us that pap smears and pelvic exams are often treated as "secret" information that you are only encouraged to talk about with other women in hushed tones?

Humor in Old Spice Guy's Hyperboles


Recently, the Old Spice Guy, Isaiah Mustafa took home the Creative Emmy Award for Best Commercial of the Year. The popularity of the commercial did not rely upon special effects, but Mustafa's hilarious delivery of the cleverly crafted script. His instant popularity resulted in his character blitzing the Internet with responses to twits or facebook comments. On his youtube channel, the Old Spice Guy responds in character, saying ridiculous comments. These remarks are hyperboles of gender specific stereotypes within society. Emily Martin in her "The Egg and the Sperm" defines these stereotypes as "central to our cultural definitions of male and female". I have posted two links of his responses. Both are supplying the material for voice splicing on answering machines, one is for men and the other for women.

In her article Martin claims that society has conceptualized men (sperm) as agile and "invariably active" with agency. The Old Spice Guy character exacerbates this ideal man. He can do anything, no matter how impossible it seems. In his faux voicemail he describes the recipient as a "tall accomplished man". Then he proceeds to define this as being so powerful as to crack walnuts with his "man mind". Man has shifted part of speech from a noun to an all-encompassing adjective. In this, the Old Spice Guy openly and sarcastically mocks the ridiculous social constructed notion that men are strong. To complete the mockery, he is even portrayed as a shirtless, extremely muscled man who speaks with a stereotype fulfilling "sexy man voice".

The exaggerations of the female stereotype are seen in the counterpart faux voicemail. The woman is introduced as possessing socially acceptable good attributes: beauty, intelligence, talent, etc. Yet, these appealing characteristics are defined in their relation to the Old Spice Guy/ the zenith of naturalized masculinity. Her voicemail is a replica of the picture Martin decries, "A Portrait of the Sperm"; the female recipient is present in every situation, but never focal. Old Spice so satirizes the sleeping beauty stereotype that the woman will literally not survive on the moon if it were not for his masculine sexuality. This is similar to how eggs are depicted as dying "unless rescued by a sperm".

Martin ends her article by claiming, "Waking up such metaphors, by becoming aware of their implications, will rob them of their power to naturalize our social conventions about gender". Is the Old Spice Guy breaking gender stereotypes and exposing their inherent fallacies? Or is he an example of our society so fully naturalizing these roles that one accepts his caricature as a role model?

Can a building have a gender?

Anyone who has been to Chicago or seen the Windy City's skyline may have noticed a shorter building with an angled top resembling a diamond. This building is known officially as the Smurfit-Stone building, but some Chicago natives have nicknames for it such as the Y building, the vagina building, and diamond building. Much controversy exists about whether this building was designed to be a feminine contrast to the male dominance seen throughout the rest of the Chicago skyline; was it meant to look like a vagina? The architects, Epstein and Stone, maintain a position that was not the original intent, but instead it was meant to be an eco-friendly building.
The intent is not the big issue. This is an example of Tuana's theory of the epistimology of ignorance. Instead of relating to science, it is now being related to architecture. Having spent time in Chicago, many people I spoke with ignored the femininity of the building. They remembered once hearing about the idea of a gendered building, but had disregarded and ignored it. In a way many of the Chicago natives I spoke with had unlearned what this building could possibly symbolize. To quote Tuana on page 195 of Coming to Understand: Orgasm and the Epistemology of Ignorance, " An important aspect of an epistemology of ignorance is the realization that ignorance should not be theorized as a simple omission or gab but is, in many cases, an active production. Ignorance is frequently constructed and actively preserved, and is linked to issues of cognitive authority, doubt, trust, silencing, and uncertainty." She is relating this to the unlearning of female orgasm and anatomy, but it can also relate to the Smurfit-Stone building. Whether it was intended to represent female genitalia or not, the juxtaposition of the building's shape against the Chicago skyline does bring an idea to mind.
Can a building have a gender and if so, what does this say about society as a whole? Are Chicagoans truly falling into the trap of ignorance or is it not that big of a deal?

Where is the humanity in science?

For decades science has failed to acknowledge the contributions of women to science based on their race, gender, and sexuality. As we have read in Ruth Hubbard's article Science, Power, Gender: How DNA became the Book of Life last week, Lisa H. Weasel's paper also brings in to light how cultural categories and nature shape science. In Weasel's paper we see how science has overpowered humanity, taking in to account the fact that Henrietta Lacks was an African American woman in the 1940s. Before I read this article I didn't know who Henrietta Lacks was, though I am in science and have heard of HeLa cells and know scientist who work with HeLa cells. All I was told when I asked was that the HeLa cells came from a women with cervical cancer and how it has been used in research for decades: but I learned nothing about her life or her family. I am sure most young scientists are not aware of the story behind the cells they work with everyday. As scientist we tend to focus on our scientific studies and discoveries and not so much on humanity behind our "big discoveries." I believe this might be the main reason society and science clash most often.

I took the following paragraph from the article titled Henrietta Lacks: the mother of modern medicine I found from the Gaurdian, an online newspaper, written by Joanna Moorhead . You can also follow the Link to read the whole article.

But the biggest point Skloot wants to make is that behind every test-tube of cells there lies a real, human story. "Tissue is so often dehumanised - it's referred to in medical reports and documents, and no one ever seems to remember that for every single biological sample that's used in any laboratory, anywhere, there's a person." Perhaps surprisingly, she says the people who most conspire to make this the way it is - the very scientists whose experiments require human cells and tissue - have greeted her book favourably. "One researcher said he'd never thought about the person behind the cells and now he knows the story, when he's working on HeLa cells he feels there's a ghost in the lab - the ghost of Henrietta.

One question I can't seem to answer after reading Henrietta Lacks' story is: where is the humanity in all of this? Do we deserve to be treated in such a way just because we are deferent in race, gender, and sexuality?

Just a small boy on her bike...

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This week brought to mind a song by the folk artist Dar Williams, "When I was a Boy." A lot of the discussions and reading for this week centered around the stigmas and stereotypes that come with being a woman. I think "When I was a Boy" does a good job at recognizing these stereotypes and showing how people don't always fit in with how society says we are supposed to act depending on sex. While, biologically and "scientifically" our sex is determined by our genes like the readings have pointed out, our gender is not. Unfortunately, I feel like many people have fallen prey to society telling them "to get a shirt" or "find a nice man to walk [them] home" or not to cry (if they are male). Like this song illustrates, some women may have started out as "boys" and some "girls" may have grown to be men. However, is this a good thing? The girl in the song says to her partner "Now you're top gun, I have lost and you have won." He answers that he hasn't won because he used to be a girl. That exchange makes me wonder if they both are really happy as who they are now, or if they both feel like they "lost" because of what society has told them to be. Originally I thought this song was just about a tomboy growing up, but the readings this week made me think it probably does have a deeper meaning. I guess the questions it raises are how should we let biology be used in determining who we are? Should we let biology/our sex determine who we are and who society says we are due to our physical make up? Or should we not take the "pills they have to sell" and get the "implants they have to put in"? I feel like the readings for this week have pushed this issue as well. How much of our sex organs and sex cells are our personality? Are eggs the social norms of women and sperm the social norms of men? Furthermore, how much of sex/biology do we use to determine our gender? 100%? 50%? ...0%?

Basic Foundations

When talking about "The Egg and the Sperm" by Emily Martin in class, we discussed how throughout history, the egg was seen as a passive part of reproduction while the sperm was the "streamlined" and powerful aspect. It has also been said how the egg is a damsel in distress that needs to be saved by the sperm, the heroic warrior, in order to survive. Many fairy tales and short stories have been drilled into us since we've been born that have these reoccurring themes.

An egg by any other name...

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... would be just as passive. Let me explain.

After our discussion Monday about the various representations of the sperm and the egg, an old movie was brought to mind: Look Who's Talking. I never saw the whole movie, and had to search to even figure out the title, but I do remember one of the first scenes in the movie is a computer animation of sperm swimming towards an egg. From what I remember, the sperm are making all sorts of noises and there is an eager anticipation coming from them, and nothing but a healthy glow coming from the egg. This is a fairly typical representation, right? In Emily Martin's article "The Egg and the Sperm..." she bemoans the fact that eggs are commonly viewed as the passive, feminine participant in conception and the sperm and active, masculine, and even vigorous participants.
This bothered me a lot.
Of COURSE the sperm has been considered the active participant: it has a TAIL. (Scientifically, I believe the term is 'flagella,' but that is somewhat irrelevant.) The simple truth is that sperm are more active during the process of conception. They swim all the way from the lucky guy's tip into the maybe not-as-lucky girl's uterus and find the egg, probably spending a good proportion of whatever energy they have. The egg? It literally just sits there. It does not try to find the sperm, it does not help the sperm find it, it sits and waits. That is just how the biology works. So, naturally, that is how it is going to be explained by scientists.
I will not deny that there has been some sexist language in the scientific world, and that more should be taught about what the egg DOES do once it has attached to a sperm, but I will deny accusations of sexism when scientist are actually describing what is happening. As seen (and somewhat personified, as is the style of the movie) in Look Who's Talking, the sperm make the way to the egg, the egg sits and waits for the sperm. "Sleeping Beauty" or not, that is the biology of our bodies, and that is something that everyone is just going to have to accept.
The real issue, then, is how long will it take for the information about what the egg DOES do to become common knowledge? Many of the science majors in class hadn't heard any of the information we read about this week, and some of it is still experimental, so that gives at least another five years before that information is available to everyone. Will it be tainted with "sexist" language too, or will it be the hardcore feminists misinterpreting again?

PS- I did not see that the blog posted prior to mine also referenced "Look Who's Talking." It doesn't really surprise me though. Another example of this passive/active representation is any number of commercials that have been banned and conveniently placed on YouTube. One such isn't even for condoms, it's for a bank in Belgium:

Science vs. Media

Our discussion Monday regarding how the egg has been portrayed as passive while the sperm is seen as aggressive reminded me of a movie I used to watch growing up - Look Whose Talking. These roles that have been given to the sperm and egg are largely due to science and how its male representatives worded their findings, however, media has also been responsible for displaying these typical characteristics of the egg and sperm. In the filmLook Whose Talking, the opening scene shows sperm swimming up through the fallopian tubes, into the uterus, and eventually the into the egg. The sperm are swimming as though its a race, competitive - typical trait for males, while having a good time almost as if its a party. When they finally reach the egg after their strenuous struggle - showing men are capable of long endurance, the egg is waiting patiently glowing - being attractive to her male counterpart. The sperm then compete again with who can be the first to pry into the egg's walls. A voice of a sperm calls for the others to "dig in" showing that the egg is the victim and not helping with the process. Not that I don't remember learning about reproductive processes in school, but when I visualize the process I recall this scene and think of the passive egg and the aggressive sperm. Therefore I think media or pop culture is just as responsible as science for putting this false picture into our imaginations. Who deserves the blame for depicting the reproductive process as the egg being passive and the sperm being aggressive?

Gender Roles

In class on Monday we discussed Emily Martin's "The Egg and the Sperm: How science has Constructed a Romance Based On stereotypical Male-Female Roles." As we were picking out the metaphors used for the female egg and the male sperm I began to think about why we have there gender roles. I believe that I've had these gender roles because of how I was brought up. At a young age we are constantly taught that boys wear pants, girls wear dresses. I was taught that boys are strong and girls should ask for help. Even today, when I'm at home and something needs to get fixed, I usually call my male neighbors over to help even though I'm pretty sure I could fix it myself. Disney movies have drilled into our brains that there are gender roles that we must follow. All Disney princesses have long flowing hair and always need rescuing from the tall hansom muscular prince. I tried to think of a Disney movie where the roles were reversed but I really can't think of any. I found a few youtube videos that made me laugh about these gender roles. The first is a video about the gender roles in Disney movies. The second one is an interview done with some kids about gender roles and the third video is one from the show Friends about the difference between men and women regarding their emotions. Even with our emotions we know that women are supposed to be loud and outspoken while men are supposed to keep them in. Why do we have these roles and why do we not change them up? I want to see a Disney movie that changes these gender roles.
(this one wouldn't let me embed the clip)

Them's fightin' words!

On Monday we had a lovely discussion about the various metaphors used to describe the male and female reproductive cells and their respective functions. The basic tenet was that people are taught through metaphor that sperm cells are dominant and that egg cells just wait around to be dominated, a relationship that our featured author found problematic on the grounds that this metaphor is easily and unconsciously applied to the hosts of said cells. In other words, Martin said that the laguange used to teach this phenomenon reinforces patriarchal hegemony. During the discussion the idea was proposed that no such problem exists in reproductive discourse, that the work of feminists antagonizes these issues and thus creates discourse that one would not otherwise encounter. This really grinded my gears. To denounce this particular case as antagonistic I think is to invalidate wholly the mission of this course and those of critical theory, cultural studies and feminist science studies all together. The objective here is to take account of all of that which the traditional disciplines do not, to "read between the lines" of the "facts" in order to explain why and how they came to be acknowledged as "fact" in the first place. For our purposes with this article, the objective was simply to be critical of the language used in this particular corner of science. In discussion today (9/22), I heard the "antagonist theory" reiterated with respect to the Tuana article. The reason women don't brag about how prolific their ovaries are is because it just sounds dumb, I overheard someone say in response to why men brag about junk size. I'm starting to agree with the idea that feminists are the source of all this...but they have no evidence! To find evidence for the claims made by critial theorists would be to unveil truths about decisions that people make which never provide us with the opportunity for objective observation. The only empirical evidence that could come out of the egg & sperm example would be from a massive survey that asked former Sex Ed. students how they thought the gendered discourse of reproductive cells shaped their views on gender roles over the years. Ridiculous? Maybe. Maybe not. I don't know. The point is that we can choose awareness or we can choose ignorance. Feminist science studies chooses awareness. Arggh.

I should mention that I'm all about logic, epiricism, proof, etc. and always hestitate to make a decision without them on my side, but there are simply gray areas where their light doesn't shine!

Knowledge is Power?

The field of science prides itself on being impartial, objective and unbiased. In theory, it is, however, science is practiced by a set of people that are inherently marked by their cultural background. which include biases. I will be the first to admit that I was angry and somewhat offended by the Hubbard and Martin articles because I felt like they were accusing people in science of supporting a sexist and patriarchal worldview. I still maintain that some of the examples given are dated and no longer used, however, I've discovered that although scientists do not intend to use language riddled with sexist undertones, in our efforts to be objective we ignore the fact that sexism and patriarchy prevail in our society, including in science. I feel this idea is best summarized by Tuana in her exploration of the female orgasm:

"The general point, however holds that we cannot fully account for what we know without also offering an account of what we do not know and who is privileged and disadvantaged by such knowledge/ignorance."

Our ignorance, pretend or otherwise of the social constructs and power structures that exist behind science often come at the expense of certain groups like women and minorities. In the case of Rosalind Franklin, even though similar things have happened to men, we cannot simply ignore her story out of defense of our own field without first examining the possibility that she was ignored because of her gender. When we open ourselves up to examining science through different lenses, we may also be capable of making new scientific discoveries.

With this in mind, I leave you with this Calvin and Hobbes comic, because I think it perfectly describes why we often time choose to ignore the bigger picture.


As scientists, we often look for very specific knowledge, and we don't like shades of gray. It's easier to ignore the language we use or the power structures we operate in than it is to confront them. So my question is this: how can we detect and be aware of things like sexism and patriarchy in our field, while still maintaining the objectivity required of the scientific method?

Oh, She was just hysterical...

In the article/pamphlet we just read about medical practices and how they tend to be unobservant to women, Ehrenreich and English state on page 87 that "..the medical handling of pregnancy in our culture undoubtedly contributes to our anxieties about pregnancy, and anxiety can transform a minor discomfort into an urgent need for medical attention. The 'need' is real enough at the time but in a sense if is artificial, manufactured to enhance our dependency on the medical system." In this scene from Friends, Rachel experiences a problem called "Braxton Hicks Contractions" which is otherwise known as false labor.

The doctor in the scene even uses Ehrenreich and English's own words stating that "Braxton Hicks" is minor discomfort. However, this minor discomfort leads Rachel to believe she is going into labor. It is the fear of labor that leads Rachel to panic. Ross comes into the scene later saying "...most women don't even feel them." All of this shows that the pain and discomfort Rachel felt is being downplayed by the medical system as something that should not be a big deal. However, the fact that there is even a name and a diagnosis for this syndrome, shows that it is a big enough deal for the doctor to recognize it and be able to treat it. This is another trick that medicine plays on women and people in general.

Are things like Restless Leg Syndrome and ADHD really diseases that should be treated and diagnoses? Or are they(along with things like "Braxton Hicks") just manipulated to increase the urgency of medicine and to increase the dependency of people on doctors? Or is it really something to worry about when you think your body is going into labor prematurely?

Doublethinking Sickness

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After reading excerpts from Barbara Ehrenreich's Complaints and Disorders: The Sexual Politics of Sickness and our discussion in class, I am reminded of the concept of "doublethink" from George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. Working class women in the nineteenth century were supposed to be robust and healthy, and able to work long hours and still maintain healthy families and children. But the reality was that they were very susceptible to illnesses, especially those related to childbirth and tuberculosis. On the opposite side of the coin, wealthy women were seen as in a state of constant sickness. They were viewed as frail and delicate creatures that needed to restrict their activities to non-physical ventures. However, these women were generally healthier than their working class counterparts. So these are complete contradictions being put into the minds of women by society. In Orwell's novel, the society exists in a state of contradictions. But the people accept these contradictions without question. And that's exactly what working class women in the nineteenth century did. Society made them believe things that they knew were not true. I find it really interesting that Orwellian concepts were already happening decades before Orwell even thought to write his novel. This poses the question, is the same thing happening today? Are women or other groups in society being told to believe contradictions? And do they accept them?


Leeches: Not so "useless and bizarre"

While reading Complaints and Disorders: The sexual politics of sickness, I was intrigued by page 33 of the reading (which is page 63 of our text.) The quote that sticks out to me is "Every patient suffered from this kind of hit-or-miss treatment, but some of the treatments applied to women now seem particularly useless and bizarre." The paragraph continues by talking about bleeding by means of leeches. Leeches were used to help bring a menstrual cycle by attaching them to the cervix or the labia. Now as I read this article my first thoughts were, "That's disgusting and horrible! Why would they even think of such a thing?!"

Then, I was watching an old rerun of Ripley's Believe It or Not on the Science channel. The episode talked about how leech therapy was coming back into popularity. The leeches are capable of consuming 5 times their weight in blood. They also have a natural anti-coagulant so the blood doesn't clot inside their bodies. It showed surgical video of a little boy whose ear was being re-attached by surgeons who used leeches to eliminate the extra pooling blood that was left behind due to torn arteries. Unfortunately, I couldn't find video clips of this episode online to post here. However, I did some more research and found that the PBS show NOVA recently did a show about leech therapy as well.

Here's the NOVA Video WARNING: This is a VERY graphic video with actual surgery scenes and lots of blood. Don't watch it if you're squeamish!

Both of these videos make leech therapy seem like no big deal. Now granted, it does seem cruel to attach them to women's genitals, but there is slight justification (though it seems stupid to us now) to use leeches. Doctors wanted the blood to come for menstruation, leeches attracted blood. It's that simple. So my questions to ponder are as follows:

-Was it really that cruel to use leeches back then when there is some logic behind it and the surgical/medical technology we had was so limited?
- If you had the option for more surgery or using leeches (the same decision the man in the NOVA video had to make) would you choose surgery or leeches?

Personally, if I was about to loose my fingers just like the man in the NOVA video, I wouldn't care what the doctors used!

A Disguised Female Identity?

While reading Hubbard's "Science, Power, Gender: How DNA Became the Book of Life," I started thinking about how much different the past would have been if we removed the bias that is associated with woman by disguising the female identity. For example with names such as Barbara McClinton and Rosalind Franklin, people are bound to know these are names of women. But if we had names such as B. McClinton and R. Franklin, their gender would be indistinguishable. I think many females do not receive the recognition they deserve. For example, instead of acknowledging Rosalind for her discoveries as a scientist, Watson and Crick criticized her based on her female identity (Hubbard 797).

Joanne Rowling is a writer who tried to remove the female identity. She is probably better known as J. K. Rowling, author of the popular series Harry Potter series. Here is a link with a little more background about her. J.K. Rowling used initials as a pseudonym, to conceal her gender in attempt attract more male readers. She slowly gained popularity and her books became a success.

What if at that time Rosalind Franklin disguised herself as a male? Would Watson and Crick focus solely on the theory she was presenting rather than judging her by her gender? Personally, I feel outraged that women have to remove their female identities in order to receive credit for their works and for others to take her seriously. Aren't there better solutions out there for equality?!

Foucauldian Confession and the American Red Cross

Confession in the foucauldian sense is largely due to Western societies' concept of "subjecthood", where we are "subjects in both senses of the word". It subjugates us to the powers extracting the confessions and makes us conscious of our individual subjecthoods. Confession is used as a tool for promoting the ideals of society and controlling those within it.

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The Red Cross, among many other humanitarian functions, collects and stores human blood for emergency situations. Because of the plethora of blood borne pathogens, it requires screening of all potential donors, including (but not limited to) the forced confession of your age, national origin, ability, gender, and sexual proclivities. There is a clear distinction between "appropriate" and "inappropriate" sexual proclivities, in particular, if you are a man who has sex with men. This form of discrimination goes back to the beginning of the AIDS epidemic in the 20th century, and the Red Cross continues upholding it into the present. Screens for HIV/AIDS are made regardless of what sexual activities you do (or don't) engage in, and does not require the complete dismissal of gay men and men who have sex with men from donating.


What can we as a society do to challenge the standard power of confession? How can identities that are marginalized by this power gain more agency?

No More Excuses

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After Friday's discussion on the difficulties women have had in the sciences and becoming prominent figures, I was slightly dissatisfied with a few thoughts brought up in class. Historically, yes, women have had a long battle in making it to the top in the sciences and having their ideas become validated. However, I believe that this issue barely exists anymore. Moreover, I think women have an advantage in the scientific fields. For example, there are numerous scholarships available to women studying engineering here at the University. Secondly, scientific companies are looking for a diverse staff and many times receive funding for having a more equal percentage of men and women. However, this struggle has taken a while to overcome but no longer should women or critics of science be able to place blame on a person's sex as the reason their voice is unheard or why a person's work is not noticed. Traditionally, girls at young ages were led in a direction of perhaps a housewife, cook, or a non-science degree. Today, girls are highly encouraged to get into the sciences. Follow this link: link. With opportunities like this it is extremely encouraging to see girls at a young age being given the option of divulging themselves into science. With that being said, do you think men these days need to prove themselves more than ever to remain in a position of power? Do women, perhaps, have it easier when applying to scientific programs or jobs simply because they add to the diversity of an organization?

Blog Pop: The Business of Being Born

I highly recommend this documentary, released in 2007. The way in which birth and motherhood have been conceived by Western Medicine (especially in the United States) has changed the way society responds and reacts and is attributed largely to scientific discourse and accepted medical opinions that have more or less come into being during the past century.

At the end of The Egg and Sperm, Martin quotes Ludwick Fleck: "the interaction between what is already known, what remains to be learned, and those who are to apprehend it, go to ensure harmony within the system. But at the same time they also preserve the harmony of illusions, which is quite secure within the confines of a given thought style" (19).

What is unique and powerful about this documentary is that it shows how the United States developed down a much different path that much of the rest of the world (including modern industrial countries). Presumably driven an increasingly profitable medical industry as well as a dramatic shift away from holistic and natural systems toward professional scientific advice, it is argued that in terms of the extent we (the U.S.) have shifted is out of sync with the rest of the world. I am curious as to how profit and ego increase the particular drive of keeping with 'the harmony of illusions'.

A few questions: What do we think of the equating of the feminine to holistic thought and masculine to western scientific thought? How does capitalism complicate the United States health care system as well as the information we receive about our health and what to do about it? Are we losing more connection to our bodily processes and putting too much trust into the hands of modern science? What are the scare tactics used that naturalize/normalize our fear and separation from ourselves and our bodies?

Finding Nemo and Genetics

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In genetics class, our professor first day of class mentioned that in the movie, Finding Nemo, there are many discrepancies. The main one being that, Marlin, Nemo's father would have changed into Nemo's mother after Nemo's real mother died. Clown fish have the ability to change sex. This really made me wonder why that was. I found that all clownfish are born males. Clownfish travel in groups that contain a dominant male, a dominant female and a few adolescent males. When the dominate female dies, the dominant male becomes the dominant female and one of the younger males moves up and becomes the dominant male. This is fascinating to me. If the human population worked like this, I believe it would be easier for our population to have equality. I say this because every society will have some sort of hierarchy, which would be the dominant female and male; however, if the rest of the population was similar, inequality between sexes would be eliminated. I know that this is farfetched and that technologically and genetically human would probably never be able to do this, but it was something to ponder. Disney (or maybe it's Pixar) really needs to get its facts strait. Marlin should have been named Marlena.

Message Mix-up

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After the very informative class discussion on Friday about McClintock and Franklin and how gender influenced their scientific accomplishments, it got me thinking about women's role in science. Where these scandals really based on gender or were these incidences just flaws in scientific practice? Coming from more of an art background this was my first place to look in understanding how woman are being portrayed. I didn't find very many results but I did come across the cartoon shown below.
Initially when I saw this cartoon I thought it was quite humorous. After further analysis I realized a few things about it that made me question the message being sent. First of all, it is clear that these characters are representing a male and a female. This is made obvious because of the baldhead and more stereotypical male colored clothing of the character on the left. The character on the right is representing a female because her name is Natalie, she has long hair, and is wearing a pink outfit which is more stereotypically a feminine color. The male seems to be having an authority position over the girl based off of what he is saying. The girl on the other hand, seems to be very excited about her "not so scientific findings".
The image could be read in multiple ways. A few possible messages being sent could include: women are not making very scientific discoveries, that men tend to have higher positions than woman when it comes to fields in science, that "students" aren't taking science very seriously, it could be mocking scientists discoveries in general, or maybe this cartoon was just suppose to be humorous. Part of me just wants to believe that this was just suppose to be funny, and part of me thinks that because it was purposefully made very evident what character was portraying the male and which one was the female that a statement about gender in science was being made.
Do you think this cartoon is just humorous or is it a statement about women's role in science? Also, do you think that because this was the only cartoon I found about women in science that woman don't have a very substantial role in science fields or are they playing an important role like McClintock and Franklin and just not being recognized?

"Legally Blind"

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In modern day society most of people's ideas and viewpoints of the world are influenced and formulated around stereotypes, with basis in religion, race, sexuality, gender, interests, and abilities. One such stereotype found all over college campuses and one that I encounter on a day to day basis is the typical college "sorority girl." Sorority girls continuously bear the labels of stupid, slut, partier, catty, exclusive, conceited.... Almost everyone on a College campus knows and hears these stereotypes on a daily basis. Even girls who posses these qualities within sororities claim they are not the "typical sorority girl," not wanting to be an example of the negative stereotype.

I am in a sorority. I too have claimed that I am not the "typical sorority girl." I am smart, determined, hold school as a very high priority, and I don't party. I am going into science and hope one day to find myself in a highly respected field of medicine. However everywhere I go, with my every endeavor, I find myself plagued by the labels associated with being a "sorority girl." In all my classes, most being biology and chemistry courses, I am looked down upon and not trusted with the "smart stuff" because I may be wearing my letters. People have instantly formulated faulty opinions and judgments about my intelligence without my ever saying a word.

Having personally been viewed in a negative light by the scientific community I can relate to womens discrimination and stereotypes in science. Barbara Mclintock. Rosalin Franklin. These women, as well as countless others throughout history, not only in science, have not been taken seriously nor had much merit based on their gender. Women have always been burdened with these negative connotations and stereotypes especially in the scientific field and will continue to be. Why does society give so much authority to stereotypes? Why are our ideas governed by these false conventions today as they always have been?

Christine O'Donnell and "You-know-whatting"

Delaware's GOP Senate primary winner Christine O'Donnell has come into the spotlight recently, surprisingly in part by her appearance in a 1996 TV show where she talks about her views on (gasp!) masturbation. The sudden resurfacing of this video prompted this CNN bit, which features clips of news reporters appearing visibly uncomfortable discussing the topic, and leading one reporter to refer to masturbation as "you-know-whatting" and "getting busy with [yourself]". According to the CNN correspondent covering the story, reporters avidly avoid using the word itself, leaving it to "their most outspoken pundits".

I have one word to sum up my response to this.... Seriously?? Is our society really so sexually repressed that we cannot do so much as SAY masturbation in a professional atmosphere without acting like a sixth grader getting a physical? The parallel between this pop culture tidbit and our Foucault reading is nothing short of blatant. Take a quick look at our current music, film and advertising trends (or the Lady Gaga and Axe posts below mine) and try NOT to see the oversexualization of well, pretty much anything and everything. Sex/uality is being discussed and examined through all these mediums. Yet at the same time even the suggestion of including masturbation into a child's education curriculum is enough to get a surgeon general fired.

As a peer educator, a potential future mom, and as a human being, this is a very concerning situation. How can we expect adolescents to develop healthy views and practices concerning sex/uality when our society seems to think the whole topic in general might give us cooties? What, if anything, can be done to mitigate the increasingly polarized stance our society takes on sexuality?

Do gender specific stereotypical mindsets affect the success of female scientists today? Absolutely, it begins the moment children enter kindergarten. The encouragement to pursue science rests upon the teacher's role, and it is rationed out to male the students. Social learning causes females children to participate less within the field of science. A study showed evidence that teachers had a tendency to overrate male students' mathematics capability, have higher expectations for male students, and hold more positive attitudes about male students. This leads to a short percentage of college level females in the field of science. For example: fields such as math (35% female), engineering (16%female ), and physical science (34% female).

What specific factors comprise of the differences in males' and females' level of performance in mathematics? Attention and the different kinds of attention payed to female and male students, beliefs in abilities, and self-esteem are the key components to succeed in the field of science.


Angelo, J.M., & Branch, A. (2002). TIMSS: Gender inequalities still exist.
District Administrator, 38, 9-10.

Egg and Sperm

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I was reading the "Egg and Sperm" reading for class tomorrow and I kept getting distracted back to the first couple pages with all of the stereotypes of the egg and the sperm; the egg as a damsel in distress waiting for the masculine sperm to come and rescue it. It makes me think that the stereotypes of women and men today still resonate due to these descriptions of our anatomy. Women are helpless and "float by" unless they are "rescued" by a strong man. Women are constantly named as being a bitch or cold if they are independent and strong on their own, or if we express our sexuality the same ways men do we get named as whores or sluts. Pop culture has tried to debunk these stereotypes with "women power" songs such as the Destiny's Child anthem "Independent Women" and "Survivor" or Christina Aguilera's "Can't hold us down" and "Fighter". I'm sure many women love these songs just like I do, but there are women as well that listen to the lyrics but do not believe them. This stereotype of passive women and strong men has been driven into our minds for so long that even though we may want to believe it, we cant. Are women ever going to not be "held down" or be accepted as "independent women" or are we destined to live under the wing of a "masculine" man?

PROTEST! National Day of Action for Education Rights

"Say no to the tuition hikes, staff layoffs, and budget cuts that are threatening our access to a quality education at the U of M. Send a clear message to the U administration that we will not be silent while our education is under attack." -Students for a Democratic Society

Sex is "Taboo"

While reading the selection by Michel Foucault one of his most prevalent ideas was that sex, although one of the most natural and passionate acts that takes place in human nature, is a taboo topic in our society. What we say about it is regulated by the government in conjunction with the media, and can only be talked about in a purely scientific manner. This creates a gap in the way we think about sex and the way that it is talked about. Thus, making us experience feelings such as shame whenever we have these "inappropriate" thoughts or experiences that make sex out to be more than just an agent of reproduction. Then, while watching T.V. the other day I saw a commercial for axe that was advertising "clean balls" referring of course to balls that would be used on courts such as tennis, basketball, golf, and soccer. However, this was also an obvious play on words to reference a sexual act. This commercial can be viewed below.

Literally, this advertisement was only viewed once or twice before it was taken off and edited to seem more appropriate for the public. Unfortunately, I could not find the new version of this commercial, but in a summary all the inappropriate parts were taken out so that this 3 minute commercial was now 30 seconds and showed only the actual types of balls being cleaned. There was very minor sexual reference still involved. Still, this commercial was too offensive and now I'm pretty sure it is off the air. This is a prime example of how sex is such a taboo topic in our society. We cannot make references to it in the media and we have to talk about it from a purely political standpoint or else it is deemed inappropriate. Our society has turned a purely primal and natural act into something that is now shameful and embarrassing, unless talked about from a biological standpoint. This amplifies Foucault's theme of the government discretely structuring society to think the way it deems appropriate, in this case that the subject of sex is not to be talked about in any matter that is remotely suggestive. Thus, I chose this example to show how Foucault's ideas still remain true in that society is still, to a certain extent, governed by more powerful sources. Therefore, until we regain more control sex will remain a "taboo" topic in our society.

You nearly have to be literally living under a rock these days to have avoided seeing at least one image of the woman who calls herself Lady Gaga wearing one or her famous (or infamous, I suppose, depending on who you are and what she was wearing) outfits. Gaga airport.jpg lady-gaga-meat-dress.jpg Gaga has one of the widest ranges for exactly how much skin she shows--from covering literally every inch of her body in lace, latex, walking around LAX wearing little more than a bra and underwear--but regardless of what she's wearing at a given time, people undoubtedly link the popstar almost inextricably with sex and sexuality (evident through things like the intense fascination with whether or not she has a penis). And Gaga herself seems perfectly content with the link, as sex plays a large part in nearly all of her widely-viewed music videos... Foucault talked about how there is a taboo placed on sex, and how the more and more sex got talked about in the scientific realm, the more and more repressed we became sexually. I am sure this opression has not been erased, and that we still live in a society that is highly sexually oppressive (however subtle the means may be), so is Lady Gaga (and women before her like Cher and Madonna) pushing through that oppression, fighting (however purposefully or not) the taboo on sex, trying to get rid of the shame that has come to be associated with sexuality? Is this kind of sexual freedom only acceptable for those under pop culture's spot light? Are Lady Gaga and the rest of her sexy pop culture cohorts simply manifestations of the sexual oppression Foucault concerned himself with?

What is the purpose of science?

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Throughout the many articles we have already read for this class, there appears to be a common theme as to how science is conducted and who can conduct it; however, these articles seem to give science a bad name. Therefore I think it would be prudent to review what science is, the understanding of the world around us. Science is not responsible for the previously mentioned themes specified in the articles we have read. Science does not discriminate against who practices it, nor how it is conducted. These are determined by the civilization of the time. This practice of discrimination is not an isolated case in science either, but rather it is present in many other areas in today's "modern" world. For instance, women have almost always been subject to the "glass ceiling" in the business world. In contrast, men interested in the arts, such as dance, often times have difficulty obtaining acceptance from the greater community. So as you can see society is the culprit behind these actions. Therefore my question to you is how do we correct this problem? It's true society has grown more accepting over time; however, it has taken years to get where we are now, which is still not enough. So how do you get society to change its long accepted standpoints in a brief period of time?

Look, Listen, and Take Heed


I admit it. I indulge in the occasional sexist joke. Having been raised in a household where my father does all the cooking, and generally performs the "duties" of a stay-at-home mom, jokes about a woman's "place" in the world always struck me as particularly ridiculous. Mom would tease my dad about how she was too "delicate" to understand much beyond how to cook a good loaf of bread, and dad would return with a joke about how women wouldn't know what to do without a man's direction. The point of the matter is, sexism always seemed more of a joke in my household.
After reading Ruth Hubbard's article on how two female scientists were both disrespected and discredited, and according to the article, based solely on the fact that they were women, sickens me. I just want to scream of the injustice of it all. Watson and Crick didn't even understand Franklin's data until they had it explained to them by her assistant! I feel as if they would deserve their nobel prizes more had they actually been close to a breakthrough. If they had, for example, just reached a dead end in their research and Franklin's presentation caused them to rethink data they already had, their nobel prizes would be well deserved. I feel I could concede that Franklin was just some collateral damage that could have happened to any scientist, regardless of gender, but sadly that is not the case.
As I stated before, growing up in the household I did, I have a certain appreciation for sexist jokes. As seen in the video I posted, the recurring theme here is that women couldn't possibly understand the complex ideas of modern science/economics. My question I guess is this, why? Why is it a widely (innerly) held belief that women are still inferior to men? That because someone is a female, the same education couldn't possibly have had the same effect as on a male? As a girl going into a largely male dominated field, the question seems of even more importance. Why must I prove myself all the more to be accepted? But the more important question seems to be, what can we do to stop it?

Gender Bias Bunk


Many people cry, "Inequality!" and "Descrimination!" when they compare the number of women and men involved in the science and engineering fields. Although men have typically had greater involvement in the sciences, an increasing number of women have begun to take part in the sciences, especially the health and biological fields. In order to further advance the involvement of women, large organizations such as the National Science Foundation have created programs for "the advance of women in science." One program funded by NSF is appropriately called Advance. The author of the attached article argues that foundations such as Advance marginalize women in science by encouraging them to be single-minded and competitive in their pursuit of science. In doing so, they ask women to ignore all other areas of their life and become so focused on science that they spend all of their time working, but never finding the success that they might have had from leading a balanced life. The author argues that instead of encouraging women to pursue the sciences, they should be encouraged to pursue whatever field of study they would like. (Click here to read more.)

Because of the creation of programs such as Advance, I believe that the scientific community is acknowledging discrimination and bias in their field that I don't believe is present. From being in the College of Biological Sciences at the University, I've had first-hand experiences with both female and male professors. Independent of gender, my teachers encourage men AND women equally to get involved in the sciences. They don't care about a person's gender; they care about the person's attitude toward science. They want people involved in science who can succeed and want to succeed. Looking at the graphs during our class period on Friday, we saw that women are involved in the sciences, but a significantly larger amount of men were involved in physics and engineering. This could be attributed to the simple fact that more men enjoy doing this type of work. What I don't understand is why we are so concerned with making sure that there is equality in the sciences? If men enjoy science more than women, then why don't we encourage them to pursue science? I think science really needs people who are dedicated to the advancement of science, regardless of their gender. Why does it matter if the number of women equals or exceeds the number of men in the sciences?

Where's the line?

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After reading Ruth Hubbard's article about the discovery of DNA and our subsequent discussion in class, I've begun to wonder: where is the line between being scorned in academia due to gender differences and scorn due for other reasons? As the Hubbard article says, both Barbara McClintock and Rosalind Franklin's achievements were not really recognized until they were either very late in their life or deceased. And I think it's fair to say that a big reason for this marginalization is because they were women. However, is it also fair to say that they were marginalized for the same reasons male scientists that came before them were too? That they were simply too unknown or too young, as has plagued other eventual famous scientists? For example, in the Hubbard article, she speaks about the geneticist Gregor Mendel, who today is seen as the father of genetics. When Mendel published his work in 1865, there was little to no notice in the greater scientific community. It wasn't until 1900, 16 years after Mendel died that his discoveries were noticed by the broader scientific community. Gregor Mendel was a man, but his work was marginalized just like McClintock and Franklin's work, and just like Franklin, his work wasn't recognized until after he died. So I must ask, where is the line between being marginalized because of your gender rather than for other reasons?

Going Blue?

These days it seems like everyone and everything is about "going green". In other words doing your part to save the environment. It has become a huge trend today, and it seems that I'm told to recycle on a daily basis. I think that this global trend is also saying something about how far women have come in our society seeing as our planet is often referred to as Mother Earth. In Carolyn Merchant's Dominion Over Nature she talks about how, "Female imagery became a tool in adapting scientific knowledge and method to a new form of human power over nature" (16). She refers back to a time very different from today when women were a minority and nature was not so precious. Merchant tells us about one of the "fathers of modern science", Francis Bacon, and how he "transformed the magical tradition by calling on the need to dominate nature not for the sole benefit of the individual magician but for the good of the entire human race" (17). This view of nature, it seems, couldn't be farther from the general view of nature today as something to be preserved. Nature's growing importance in our society parallels the leaps made by women in the last few centuries. Nature and the earth in general have become such huge talking points that our news, entertainment, music, shopping, and food are all dominated by it.

In fact, THE largest grossing movie of all time is centered around this topic. And I'm sure almost everyone has seen it: Avatar.
Yes, that movie with the blue people.

The movie finds a bunch of futuristic, and quite destructive, humans on a completely new planet. This planet is inhabited by native creatures who worship their natural world like a God. It is even given a god-like name (Eywa) and female characteristics. I found it very interesting how an entire new world was created from scratch, but where their God is a woman and goes hand in hand with nature. For all three of those to be encompassed in one was a different concept for most people watching the movie. The fact that so many people saw the movie makes me think that there is a very strong message behind it. So, do you think Avatar is a movie that is promoting "going green," or could there be a secret message hidden in it that is promoting the female gender to our modern world?

A rose by any other name?

| 1 Comment far does a word go? A picture is worth a thousand of them. Eloquence is deafeningly important. The English Language is full of words that can describe situations in ways that are indescribable. Word choice is everything in writing. It can be the difference between good and great, ridiculous and asinine. I am the first one to correct a lesser known acquaintance about using derogatory terms such as "gay" or "retarded" when meaning stupid, and I spend a lot of time nose deep in thesauruses trying to find just the "right word" for a paper but, when is a word just a word?

This week we spent a lot of time debating word choice in articles, and it seemed like the writers chose to articulate only negative things about the word choices in science writing. Science writing is not English writing. It is not meant to be eloquent. It is meant to fit. When it says a sperm penetrates and is not necessarily compared to the way that a rapist "penetrates" his victim. In fact, the definition of "penetrate" (as defined by Webster) never mentions the use of force whatsoever. The definition of penetrate is to pass through or pierce. As in the way an earring penetrates an ear lobe or a lip. A sperm literally pierces an egg. There are so many misnomers that were put in place by the authors we read.

A great example of this negative manipulation of words is Mutation. A term used in science to describe a gene that has changed due to natural or unnatural causes, leading to a change in the phenotype of a trait. It actually is not a negative thing at all. If you have blue eyes, it is because there was a mutation many years ago that created a recessive gene. However, if one hears the word mutation, they automatically think of a "mutant", a creepy, deformed human or animal.

When you are reading these articles and the author puts a term in a negative light, I want you to stop and think about what the word actually means and whether or not the meaning could be something else that has just been turned derogatory or is trying to be turned derogatory in order to create the picture that they want you to see. Think about it. Queer means gay now? Or does it just mean weird? It will always mean weird. That is a definition. Can it mean both? Why can or can't it? Gay means happy. Or does it? Do not let people cover words in a derogatory lens for you. Think about what it really means. Can you actually think about what it really means or does the author's wording just penetrate your thoughts?

Witchy Women

Even the infamous Monty Python doesn't hesitate to take the classic stereotype of a witch and use it for the benefit of entertainment. A witch is dangerous, mean, deceitful, and something to be dealt with, rather than a woman with thoughts and feelings. During the witch hunts of the 1600s, any woman with knowledge of nature--midwives, healers, etc--were persecuted without fail as witches. Women have always been associated with nature, and as Foucault, Merchant, and Fox Keller point out, this wasn't necessarily a bad thing until about that time in human history. Since the witch trials, however, the term 'witch' has been nothing but derogatory. Even the rather modern religion of Wicca, which worships nature, has been quietly but securely labeled a religion of witchcraft and devil worship. Popular culture always runs until it's been trampled into the ground, and the idea of a relationship with nature has only recently become acceptable.

What I find most interesting, however, is how the label of "witch" has been so derogatory for so long, and yet the long-awaited change in this view was brought about by J.K. Rowling and her world famous Harry Potter series. Rowling was able to take something still taboo (at the time) and turn it into every child's dream. The books became best-sellers, causing movies to be filmed that make millions and even a theme park devoted solely to the Harry Potter world to be built. Even Star Wars didn't make that much of a splash. Now young girls play at being witches, and while some people still quietly disapprove most just want to play along! Across the country and around the world people of all ages dream of vacationing in Florida just so they can see Hogwarts, and pretend just for a little while that magic is real. What used to condemn a woman to an awful, terrifying death has finally become perfectly acceptable thanks to Rowling's books.

Thumbnail image for hp girls.jpg

My question, then, is will this change of heart last? Harry Potter has been popular since it was initially published and has rocked pop culture ever since, but as many fads do this may fade into the history books. Will the old standard of a mean, devil-worshiping woman re-take the definition of a witch, or will witches remain simply women with knowledge of nature and, of course in this case, magic?

Dominion Over Nature

While reading Carolyn Merchant's "Dominion Over Nature", I came to the conclusion that I had not realized how much women have been exploited throughout time through the objection that women have been the icon for nature. It got me thinking about several movies I have watched throughout the years that suggest women really are the icon for nature. One movie in particular is Pocahontas; I remember in the movie that although all Native Americans women and men were one with nature, they too portrayed nature as the "mother", and also the wise. There is one scene in which Pocahontas runs through the forest to the talking tree which of course is a woman, her grandmother to be specific who is now a spirit. The tree explains to her that although others are telling her what to do she should look to the spirit inside her and listen to the nature surrounding her and decide her own path. Meanwhile, Smith's "boss" so to speak is tearing down the land and destroying it. (Smith is the handsome man Pocahontas falls in love with)
In "Dominion Over Nature", Merchant describes nature as being 'her' or 'herself' meaning a woman. She states, "Nature is denoted by the female gender, degraded and made possible the exploitation of the natural environment"(71). Just like what is happening in the story how nature is being exploited by Smith's "boss". Nature is being 'raped' and/or destroyed. Merchant also states, "The third instance was the case of art, man operating on nature to create something new and artificial"(71). In the story of Pocahontas Smith explains his view that they as Britain's can teach the Natives how to use the land 'properly' by operating on nature to build something artificial.
My question is, now that I have an understanding of how long women have been exploited and how nature and the female gender have been going hand in hand, how long will this exploitation continue? 30 years? 70years? More?

Influences and Discrepancies

It's clear to anyone who even glances at "The History of Sexuality" that Michel Foucault had very pronounced beliefs about sex/uality, and just like sitting Freud down on his couch at Berggasse, wouldn't it be interesting to see how Foucault's convictions carried over into his personal life?

A quick Google supplied the Frenchman's Wikipedia page, and I soon learned that Foucault had a lover of twenty years, one Daniel Defert; on Defert's page, it describes the relationship he held with Foucault until his death in 1984 as a "state of passion" (a sentiment I think anyone can appreciate). Seeking more information on Foucault and Defert's relationship, I scanned another biography, which mentioned Defert but--to my surprise--as nothing more than a "philosophy student...whose political activism would be a major influence." Indeed, the European Graduate School makes no mention of Foucault and Defert's courtship; my questions, therefore, are two-fold:

*How might Foucault's pronounced beliefs about sex/uality have affected his twenty-year relationship with Daniel Defert?

*Why does Wikipedia state Defert to be Foucault's lover, while The European Graduate School doesn't? What kind of motives (intentional or not) could be behind this omission?

Human & Nature

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I'm sure everyone has seen the film "Mean Girls," starring Lindsey Lohan; I happened to watch this movie yesterday night with my siblings and I couldn't help but relate two scenes from the movie with the GWSS 3202w lecture this week on "Dominion over Nature" by Merchant Carolyn, and the article from The Onion.
There are two scenes in the movie where Lindsey Lohan is in the cafeteria with the queen bees of the school and in the mall looking for prom gowns when all of a sudden everyone in the scene goes wild! The actors and actresses are on all four, fighting with each other; two girls are fighting over a boy and its crazy. These scenes happen to show how nature affects the mind and physical state of teenagers, revealing wild and free personalities. I thought that this was pretty much a cool way of connecting what I saw in the movie and what I learned in lecture.
Merchant's article talks about how Bacon views nature to be used for mans benefit, using it as a source and "slave" to please human desires. Nature brings out the wild side of people like in the article of The Onion, where the forest was "raped," because humans couldn't resist. Can it be that with Bacons theory, where nature is used as a tool to gain certain desires, the cause for such acts like rape, inappropriate media and inappropriate actions of a person?

The Convergence of Science & Consumerism... women's expense?

Check out this report from the U of M's Carlson Business School news page, "Research Finds Ovulating Women Unconsciously Buy Sexier Clothing to Outdo Attractive Women."



In the study, postdoc fellow Kristina Durante (pictured above), explores "how social and biological factors unconsciously influence consumer behavior." She concludes that "The desire for women at peak fertility to unconsciously choose products that enhance appearance is driven by a desire to outdo attractive rival women," and "If you look more desirable than your competition, you are more likely to stand out."

This report brings to mind several questions and concerns from a feminist science studies standpoint. Feel free to expand upon, debate, or critique the following thoughts by commenting.

-How does this study rely on the evolutionary model of competitiveness and survival of the fittest? What might feminist science studies offer as alternatives to this [hegemonic] model?

-Does this study reinforce the stereotype of competition between women? (Think Mean Girls)

-How might the study emphasize physical attractiveness among women, in addition to, or instead of, intelligence, talent, or other valuable traits? Does it reinforce the valuation of women according to beauty/attractiveness?

-How might a consumerist agenda be legitimized or validated by science--in this case, that shopping, etc, is governed by hormones? If consumerism is a biological fact, does it make dismantling corporatism and classism the more difficult?

-Is this research heteronormative? That is, from this brief article, it seems to presume that women unconsciously seek to outdo other women in competition for [one] man. Might some evolutionary science challenge the idea that women are monogamous and heterosexual? If this research is true, and women compete with other women for attractiveness when they're ovulating, what if the women are looking to attract other women? Would they still want to compete with them?

-How does this study discuss, or fail to discuss, the class implications of consumerism? What of the women who can not, and therefore do not, "dress up," buy new accessories or clothes, and wear special makeup when they're ovulating because they have neither the time nor money to care?

-Is this study representative of yet another way for science and industry to capitalize on women and their bodies, while binding them to sexist standards?

Who is Rosalind Franklin?

For as long as I can remember it has been hammered into my head that even at any early age boys tend to prefer math and science while girls choose reading and writing. Although constantly reminded, I was always confused by this stereotype because I am a woman who enjoys math over all other subjects, especially reading and writing. Because of this stereotype I feel that women scientists have been oppressed as Ruth Hubbard shows in "Science, Power, Gender: How DNA Became the Book of Life," with the story of Rosalind Franklin. Although I have always enjoyed science, my studies have not allowed me to explore the fields as much as I would like to so my knowledge of the matter is basic. Before reading this article I had never heard the name Rosalind Franklin, however, I did recognize the names Watson and Crick and associated them with the discovery of the double helix model. It was addressed in class today that science is propelled by competition and building off of each other's ideas, but as a part of that I think its important to remember integrity. Just because it's a competitive field doesn't mean that no credit should be given for work accomplished. If Watson was able to share credit for the double helix model with Crick (and Wilkins), why was Franklin not considered, or asked, to be a co-finder of the double helix structure?

7th Annual Women's Health Research Conference

Not sure if we can get credit to go, but this looks amazing. We read some of Deborah E. Powell's work last semester in Feminist Debates. She offers valuble critique and insight into racial disparities and intersectionality.

The Deborah E. Powell Center Proudly Presents
7th Annual Health Research Conference
A Focus on Health Disparities and Domestic Violence

Monday, September 20th, 2010
Registration: 8:30am
Conference: 9:00am - 3:30pm
McNamara Alumni Center, University of Minnesota

FDA to approve GM Salmon?

For those of you interested in food safety, genetically modified and transgenic organisms, ecological health or salmon politics, read the transcript or listen to today's MPR Mid Morning podcast with Kerri Miller.


"A scientifically improved salmon stokes debate
Broadcast: Midmorning, 09/17/2010, 9:06 a.m.

The Food and Drug Administration holds hearings next week which could lead to approval of the first genetically modified animal for human consumption. A Massachusetts company wants federal approval to market a genetically engineered salmon but is the verdict still out on whether such foods are safe to eat?"

Meet the Author: America & The Pill

...Another event opportunity directly related to our course topics:

U of M professor and author Elaine Tyler May will discuss her book, America and the Pill, at the University of Minnesota Bookstore on Wednesday, September 29 at 4:00 p.m.

Who: Elaine Tyler May
What: Discussion and Book Signing
When: Wednesday, September 29 at 4:00 p.m.
Where: University of Minnesota Bookstore 300 Washington Ave. S.E. Minneapolis
Contact: Kari Erpenbach, University of Minnesota Bookstore (612) 625-6564,


MINNEAPOLIS, MN--(September 7, 2010) University of Minnesota professor and social historian Elaine Tyler May will discuss her book, America and the Pill: A History of Promise, Peril, and Liberation, on Wednesday, September 29 at 4:00 p.m. at the University of Minnesota Bookstore in Coffman Memorial Union, 300 Washington Ave. S.E. Minneapolis.

May traces the birth control pill from its beginnings to the present day, illuminating what it has and has not achieved over the last five decades. America and the Pill provides a historical context about its effects including its impact on feminism, marriage and many of the contentious issues that have shaped the last half of the twentieth century. Examine how the first oral contraceptive and the quest for reproductive rights has posed challenges to the authority of medical, pharmaceutical, religious, and political institutions while resulting in changing sexual mores and behaviors; the reevaluation of foreign policy and aid; and women's rights.

May will sign copies of her book following the discussion. This event is free and open to the public. For more information, or to order a signed copy visit

Sexism in Science


After reading Ruth Hubbard's piece, Science, Power, Gender: How DNA Became the Book of Life, I have realized a lot about how sexism has really limited some great women in science in the past century. Ruth talks about two very skilled, female scientists in Barbara McClintock and Rosalind Franklin (both of whom I regret to admit I know quite little about).

McClintock (shown below) did marvelous things with genes in plants which, most of the time, went almost unnoticed. Despite the lack of support from many of her peers, Ruth goes ahead to call her work "pathbreaking" in the essay.

Franklin (also shown below) seemed to have paved the path for other male scientists to come up with the DNA structure. With her work on an X-ray camera, it gave Crick and Watson the evidence they needed to come up with the model. Besides all of that, Franklin had a very short, but accomplished, life.

I had a hard time reading this essay without feeling the slight bit uneasy about what this women had to endure to try and succeed in what they loved doing. I just hope we aren't making the same mistakes today (e.g. not letting great scientists work without harassment) without knowing it.

The misconceptions of Rosalind Franklin


As a Biology major who is also going into teaching, I'm very interested in how biology is taught. What a biology student learns is fairly dependent upon the teacher and the textbook used. Rosalind Franklin is one topic that wasn't discussed equally from my high school teaching to my college education. In fact, my college biology course has provided a completely different perspective of Rosalind Franklin.

In high school, my biology teacher was always one for telling us "the whole story." One thing that was very apparent was his hatred for Watson and Crick. He called them "A couple of bafoons who happened to have all the hard work handed to them." We watched a video entitled "The Secret to Life: The DNA Double Helix" which was a PBS special. It expressed in full the story of how Rosalind's work was taken without her knowledge and without her permission. It also talked about how unjust it was for Watson and Crick to receive the Nobel Prize for this discovery while Franklin received little to no recognition for her work.

My college biology class paints a completely different picture. I currently use the textbook "Biology" By Brooker, Widmaier, Graham, and Stiling. Brooker is actually my current Biology professor. The section on DNA shape discovery is almost insulting to Rosalind Franklin.

The title of the section is "Watson and Crick Deduced the Double Helix Structure of DNA." The section says That they discovered it with "experimental studies of Pauling (a biochemical modeler), Chargaff (who studied base composition), and the X-Ray work of Rosalind Franklin. It acts as if they all worked as a team together and all were consenting to the research. Then it goes on to say how much trial and error Watson and Crick went through until they just happened to discover the right one. The truth of the matter is, that "discovery" happened very closely to the time that they saw Rosalind's work. She had the missing puzzle piece; they stole the puzzle piece and claimed the puzzle as their own.

I hate how much these two teachings differ. One is a story of deceit and betrayal; the other is a story of partnership.

One thing I would like others to consider is if this college book portrayal of the story is meant to minimize debate about the topic, or if this is just another instance of Rosalind Franklin's hard work being minimized on purpose?

Eduardo Kac

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After reading Carolyn Merchant's article about Francis Bacon I remembered an artist I had studied a few years ago. Eduardo Kac has been a pioneer in the fields of bio-art and transgenic art. Kac collaborated with a University of Minnesota researcher on his most recent work: "Natural History of Enigma." This piece centers around petunias that have been genetically modified to express one of Kac's genes. The phenotype or expression of these genes can be seen within the flower petals: red veins on the petals are the physical manifestation. kac.nat.hist.enigma.01.jpg

This work of art is especially poignant because of the relation to Merchant's writing on the use of science. It is a modern day example of science being used to manipulate and unlock nature. Throughout history the flower has been associated with woman(hood), female sexuality, and general femininity. Taking that into account, this piece of art is a prime example of Merchant's argument. She states on page 68 of her chapter Dominion Over Nature, "Female imagery became a tool in adapting scientific knowledge and method to a new form of human power over nature" (Merchant, Carolyn. "Dominion Over Nature," The Gender and Science Reader. Eds. Muriel Lederman and Ingrid Bartsch. New York: Routledge, 2001: 68-81.). This piece is using a female symbology to make known the secrets of science.

"Natural History of Enigma" also plays on Bacon's utopian society discussed in his book The Atlantis. Merchant quotes Bacon on page 77, "... And we make (by art) in the same orchards and gardens, trees and flowers to come earlier or later than their seasons, and to come up and bear more speedily than by their natural course the do. We make them by art greater much than their nature, and their fruit greater and sweeter and of differing taste, smell, color, and figure, from their nature". Kac has taken this piece of nature, this flower, and transformed it by inserting himself. The New Atlantis discussed the manipulation of nature being something for the good of society. It is/was something revered. This piece, though not created in a modern Arcadia, is something revered and cherished within society. The act of inserting his genes made nature something that can be controlled and adapted. This piece is nature in a conventionally feminine form. She has been altered by the virtue of science and the power of a man. That man inserted himself into the petunia to alter its expression. Nature was ultimately made subject science and displayed in a gallery.

Durer's "Draughtsman Drawing a Nude"

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I thought I'd post this piece to our blog and invite you to extend today's conversation by commenting on it (this could count as a graded blog comment). In particular, I'm looking for folks to analyze the drawing itself, and how Carolyn Merchant or Evelyn Fox Keller might interpret it.


Likewise, I invite you to further elaborate on The Onion article we read today, "Raped Environment Led Polluters On, Defense Attorneys Argue," in relation to Merchant and Keller. the Cellular Level?

Class, this announcement was just emailed to me (9/14) and I thought I'd share it with you all. I'm particularly interested in what the organizers of the event have to say about our physical/biological responses to racial difference, and how a better understanding of this might dismantle white privilege. FYI!


More Than Skin Deep: Uprooting White Privilege & White Supremacy One Cell At A Time

All it takes is a small upset, a new situation to deal with, or a tough task at hand, and suddenly your stomach tightens, your heart beats faster, and you find it hard to sleep. Behind this anxiety lies a biological mechanism that is part of how we are wired to be human. Any disturbance to the environment, whether it's physical (cold, hunger, infection, etc.) or emotional (fear, mourning,deadlines, etc.), triggers a response from the body aimed at guaranteeing its survival by maintaining its internal balance, The issue is not that we react, it's what we do with these reactions. And then it's about the institutions we create to help us control or alleviate or hide these reactions, to maintain our "internal balance". This process is as true for something as seemingly benign as stubbing one's toe, to the more complex, complicated and intense responses we have to issues of racism and white privilege. And while dramatically different in their intensity, impact on society and import in our lives, their physiological roots are the same; thus, to understand this root is to begin to find a deeper, and hopefully more effective, pathway in responding to issues of racism and white privilege in our lives.

This workshop is for white people who already have an understanding of white privilege and white supremacy (WP/WS) and want to learn more about how to dismantle WP/WS through embodiment work, education, visioning and practical action.

The intention of this training is to use critical race content and embodiment exploration to uproot ideologies of white supremacy and systems of white privilege in our lives. This is done through becoming more conscious around the presence of WP/WS at our deepest selves as well as in our work to end racism. To be clear, this is not about subtly re-centering whiteness, but instead is work we as whites must do in the service of ultimately dismantling the structures of racial oppression in our society, in our workplaces, in our communities, and in ourselves.

This workshop provides a mixing of critical race and embodiment content delivery and practical application. So, white folks who are used to doing this work through a typical analytical workshop lens will be asked to lean into playing with personal transformation and likewise those who come to this work from a framework of personal exploration, will be asked to engage in deeper analysis via the critical race content presented.

Susan Raffo is a writer, community organizer, craniosacral therapist and global somatics practitioner. Her interest is to bring together embodiment work and experiences with political work and experiences to end oppression and further social justice.

Heather Hackman teaches university courses in social justice and multicultural education, heterosexism and homophobia in the US, race and racismin the US, and oppression and social change.

While we have been doing this work individually and together for a number of years, we feel it important to note that we are not positioning ourselves as "experts" on the issue of race, racism, white privilege or white supremacy as white supremacy would have us (and any whites doing this work) subtly do. Instead, we are simply attempting to share some of the experience we have gained in doing our own work and working with others around these issues and welcome your contributions to this workshop as we grow together.

Upcoming workshops open to everyone are scheduled for:

Sunday, October 17th from 10am until 5pm
Saturday, January 22nd from 10am until 5pm
Sunday, April 3rd from 10am until 5pm

Advance registration is required for each of these workshops - space is limited to 40 participants.

The cost of the workshop is based on a sliding fee $25 to $75 and includes the cost of lunch and materials. Call or email Susan at 612-245-4056 or or Heather at 612-599-1221 or for registration materials and information. Registration closes two weeks before each workshop.

Lunch: A vegan lunch and some snacks throughout the day will be provided. Please let us know if you have any additional dietary needs.

1. Wear comfortable clothes - there will be some level of movement, but that will be determined by your level of comfort and not by any directive from us. Plus, it's a long day and so we would like you to be comfortable.
2. Please bring paper and pens for writing, notes, and journaling.
3. And of course bring an open heart, an open mind, a willingness to lean into your edges, and an acceptance of inevitable change.


This is my first blog and I am not technologically savvy by any means, so please bear with me. I am a non-traditional student in the quiet field of mortuary science. People are either quite curious about funeral service or they are utterly afraid of the subject. Some people confuse funeral service with forensics, but it is not that glamorous. Funeral directors are trained to prepare both the deceased and their loved ones for last rites. We help people during very dark times. I chose this major because I truly want to help bereaved people honor their loved ones.

I enjoy exercising, beading, my 2 cats, my new puppy, scary movies, Family Guy, The Office, painting, and drawing. I treat people the way I would like to be treated, and I strive to find the goodness in others. I'm afraid of space aliens, Carrot Top, Ronald McDonald, and ghosts. I am a member of the Women's Student Activist Center (WSAC) located at 202 Coffman Union, so feel free to stop in and hang out with some cool feminists.

Kind Regards,

Sample Post

Here is where you write your brilliant entry!!

Here is my awesome link:

Natural-Crossdressing.jpg's another one by Bjork.


Hello class! Consider this entry my official, virtual welcome to our online classroom. Though I have little experience administering blogs, I am excited about the potential for us to embark on this adventure together.

I'm going to use this entry as an example of the kind of posts and comments I'm looking for with regard to your blog assignments. We'll go over in greater detail how to use this blog and post entries of your own during class. For now, I'd like to share a piece of artwork from one of my favorites: Nina Katchadourian. This piece:
is entitled "Artificial Inseminations" (1998). You can find out more about Katchadourian and her work here.

I think you'll find that much of her work will resonate with our course topics and discussions, but with regard to this photograph, I'd like to ask about the literal connotations of "Artificial Inseminations." Here we see pictured a deliberately placed avian egg in a ceramic bowl, presumably submerged in water and accompanied by swimming tadpoles. We're familiar with what this image conjures: a sequestered, placid egg surrounded (ambushed?) by eager and active sperm. We will discuss the sexed and gendered metaphors of this trope when we read Martin's article, "The Egg and the Sperm." But for now, why do you think Katchadourian has displayed--and displaced--this otherwise familiar image as such? Does it speak to inter-species relations or engineered manipulations? Human mastery over nature? Evolution versus intelligent design? Is it a play on popular "reproduction"--that is, the way mass culture is replicated? What do you think?

So, in this example, you'll see I've asked plenty of evocative questions. In your posts, you're only obliged to ask one--but more are always generative! I'd also like you to relate your pop artifact and question to the week's topic or a specific reading from that week (which I haven't done here because our semester has just begun!). Should you choose to comment instead, make sure your answers express your opinions in relation to the week's reading(s) as well.

Best of luck to you all! I'm really looking forward to seeing what popular artifacts you'll integrate into this course!


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