Posts filed under ‘feministing




Salsif-eye or salsif-eee?

Reasons to smile:

Big snowflakes at the farmer’s market this morning. Leaving and seeing a random guy out in his boxer shorts giving the weather a raised eyebrow.

The mysterious appearance of a large toy alien in the entrance lobby of our building.

Smugly making our own coffee than popping out to get some.

The feeling of cutting a garlic bulb in half and sticking the whole lot in the oven.

Picking out the perfect bottle of Riesling. (German, I have a sweet tooth when it comes to wine)

Landlord agreeing to rent reduction!

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Salsify is a pain in the arse to wash, peel and prepare. It’s also very sticky, but no one tells you that (rather like the Things That No One Tells You About Childbirth). Luckily it’s a joy to cook and devour. Pan-roasted in olive oil = win.

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Since being in Obs & Gobs, a lot of people have asked me about the numbers of men in the field, and what could possibly attract them to it, revealing the horror that they could possibly be turned on by it? Answer – I’m a bisexual woman – there is nothing to be turned on by in gynaecology. Staring inside someone’s vagina trying to visualise their cervix is as mundane as filling in prescription forms by hand – maybe mundane is the wrong word. It could just be me, but I have a hard time getting aroused by simply staring at someone’s genitalia in the cold harsh light of day.

I remember the sweet irony of reading on a feminist site (from a feminist) that a lot of men are attracted to ob/gyn – not because of teh patriarchy – but because it’s ‘easy’. Here’s a cluepon – think about all of general medicine as applied to women, the diseases, the meds, and throw a pregnancy into the mix. Bet cardiology isn’t looking too bad now, eh?

Add comment February 1, 2009

Too big for words!

Poor Madonna. Not the best time to be her is it? Naturally as a woman, the onus falls on her and her lifestyle ultimately being responsible for her marriage breakdown, whether it’s her religious views, career or even her physique! She joins the ranks of Angelina (home wrecker), Posh (too focused on her career than husband) and Heather (gold digger).

I didn’t intend on talking about her upcoming divorce, but I thought I would home in on something that has started to grate my nerves in recent months. I’m always happy to talk to women – including perfect strangers about weight training as I think it has so many benefits as well as making one look quite buff when naked, but no sooner mention the word dumbbell and out comes the almost conditioned response:

“But I don’t want to look like Madonna!”

I guess what they mean when they say this is that they do not want a physique like Madonna. Which is fair enough, she’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. What baffles me is the assumption that by lifting something heavier than a pencil, one will end up pumped like Arnie. Perhaps it’s a mixture of both ignorance and fear; somehow we’re programmed to believe in many walks of life you can get something for nothing. This however, doesn’t work in the gym unless you’re abusing various substances.

My point is, to build a body like Madonna; you have to train like Madonna, you have to eat like Madonna, you have to rest like Madonna, you have to work like Madonna. If you train like you’re bumbling along nicely on the cross-trainer while reading Heat magazine then go home via Subway, don’t be too surprised when you don’t look like the fitness model you wanted to be in 6 weeks.

Building a muscular physique can be incredibly difficult as a woman. It takes time, dedication, focus and some sweaty bloody hard work. Coming into the gym, lifting a 1kg dumbbell and then going home holding a handbag heavier than anything you’ve worked out with doesn’t make sense to me, but challenge any of these people, and there appears to be an assumption that they’re somehow so special that they work differently to all physiological processes and will pack the muscle on. Perhaps I’m being quite harsh as I knew sweet sod all about weights before I started, but there comes a time where the logical processes need to be shifted up a gear.

Being ‘too big’ is a spectrum anyway. What is ‘too big’? Some people consider Madonna too big, some will say she’s too small. Musculature comes in a variety of shapes and sizes and there’s no ‘one size fits all’ solution that will please everyone (not that it’s the purpose to anyway). Some people dedicate an awful lot of time and energy to become the way they look, and even if you don’t like the way they do, perhaps it’s worth applauding their commitment than a putdown of, “Eww, I don’t want to look like that!” Maybe once we start appreciating how difficult it can be then the mass panic of, “I don’t want to look like Madonna!” will stop. Or maybe not.

Recommended reading:

Gubernatrix: Why do women still avoid the free weights room?

Gubernatrix: Why lift weights

Stumptuous: Lies in the gym

Stumptuous: Other reasons to lift weights

Skwigg: Define bulky

Add comment October 22, 2008

And it was all yellow

I’m finding it increasingly difficult to call myself a feminist. Well, perhaps that part isn’t true; I’m finding it increasingly difficult to associate myself with feminism as a movement and other feminists. This has been mulling around for a while, and for some reason it came to light during a time when I should be focusing on more important things than ideas flying around in my head.

The library is my home this weekend. Just a shame that the Victoria line is off limits, but it means a nice bus journey around Hyde Park.

I have been cooking with yellow courgettes recently. My grandmother used to cook with them a lot, I absolutely love the heady aroma, I’m thinking of throwing them into a curry with some chickpeas.

3 chin-ups. Almost happened. I’d call it a 2.8, I’m sure it will happen next time.

Add comment June 14, 2008

Gone protestin’

I think the highlight of my day had to be the anti-abortion protestor complaining to one of the Abortion Rights organisers that our singing was too loud, and the 1000 pro-choicers were drowning out the 50 or so antis.

I’m taking a bit of an internet diet at the moment as my revision programme is starting to get intense. Long periods in the library are proving difficult in terms of eating. I feel rather odd bringing in a Thermos flask in the summer (or what should be anyway). I keep having horrible visualisations of my muscle wasting away at a rate of knots. I had an interesting conversation with a patient a while ago about visualisation techniques and relaxation; maybe I should visualise ‘the pump’ and muscle being packed on?

Add comment May 20, 2008

Birth Rape

In an ethics class I was once in, we were presented with a real-life situation that had happened in the hospital. It went something along the lines of:

You are a medical student witnessing a colonoscopy. The patient is still in a lot of pain despite the maximum amount of sedation/analgesia given. The patient then starts to shout, “Stop, please stop!” At which time, the surgeon sees the lesion that they want to biopsy. What should be done?

Our class came to the consensus that the doctor should have stopped what they were doing i.e. not progress with the colonoscopy, and explain to the patient that they have just seen the lesion, and could they have permission to continue and take the biopsy, given that the circumstances had changed. If the patient said no, then they were then to proceed with withdrawing the instruments.

At the end of the class, the teacher asked us, “Who would have gone in and taken the biopsy anyway?”

The majority of the class put their hands up.

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There’s a big debate going on at the moment on the subject of Birth Rape. The first time I heard of this term, it was through circles which advocate natural birth (I don’t advocate any sort of birthing process; that’s for the woman to decide provided she has all the facts, risks and benefits presented to her), then I went onto read stories written for the Birth Trauma Association and went to debates surrounding the ‘Too Posh to Push’ myth. The midwives and doctors who spoke at this conference suggested that given the birth trauma a lot of women experience, they are surprised the c-section rate isn’t higher than it is.

Then an article was written for the F-word entitled, “Not a happy birthday”. To me, it appears that there are two issues: procedures done without consent and the medicalisation of childbirth. Given the amount of money paid out to couples with infants who suffered hypoxia or other injury due to the team or doctor not intervening ‘sooner’, I don’t think medicalisation can be solely blamed on the idea that OBs/midwives want to do nasty things to women out of power/greed/sadism etc. Nor do I think the natural model is going to help matters or is the answer to birth trauma. Presenting the idea of birth to women as a natural, beautiful process doesn’t help those who then require intervention (I think 30% of homebirths in the UK result in a transfer, mainly for analgesia, but don’t quote me on that) and could leave someone with more trauma if they never prepared for the eventuality that they would need help. I see a lot of birth plans which are incredibly rigid and seem to assume that birth is something we have some control over if things were allowed to progress as in nature.

On the issue of consent, doing things to patients without their consent when they have the capacity to do so is assault and battery. Birth rape seems to have been born of experiences where women have been penetrated with fingers and/or objects and have either refused this or withdrawn consent and the doctor/midwife continued regardless. What whatever reasons I am still trying to work out, using the term birth rape makes me uncomfortable. What makes me even more uncomfortable is questioning this, as I was sexually assaulted when I was 15, so I should at least be gunning up with the Sisterhood. The assault had a lasting impact on me for a long time, in terms of triggering events, feelings of violation (3 years later I had my purse stolen from my handbag, oddly enough the same feelings came flooding back). Luckily it had no effect on the relationships that I made.

I want to do Obstetrics. I love women, I think the female reproductive system is awesome, and I want to help out those who have had high risk pregnancies or had a change of events in their labour. I don’t want to be perceived as a rapist, or even a potential rapist. But am I stuck between a rock and a hard place? If you refuse my intervention and I carried on, giving you a live healthy baby, will you look to me with contempt and lump me in with the rest of the Bad Doctors out there? If I respect your wishes, and something happens to your baby, will you do everything in your power to ensure I don’t practice medicine again?

The problem with obstetrics is that things can go very wrong, very quickly. When a friend gave birth, the baby’s head was crowning then suddenly the heart rate crashed. The baby needed to be out now, every second counted, time = brain cells, and there was no time to even ask for consent or discuss what was to be done – an episiotomy was cut, and the baby was resuscitated.

That case was pretty extreme and luckily doesn’t happen everyday. Slapping patients, humiliating and degrading them by words or force is pretty repulsive, and I question why those individuals entered the profession. But I think there needs to be some dialogue on both sides to find a way to improve outcomes, minimising birth trauma.

Does the term birth rape help this? I don’t think so. This is only my opinion, and I am not implying that what those women experienced was not rape, I don’t believe it’s anyone’s right to tell someone what they did or didn’t feel they experienced. I think it distracts from the issue of birth trauma, because as a very new term, and what it implies, it’s bound to be controversial.

What can help to minimise birth trauma? I believe communication, including full debriefings afterwards and opportunities for further meetings. On the patient’s part, considering a birth plan to plan for every eventuality – don’t act as if you are immune from a c-section just because you’ve read Ina May or have a positive mindset and positive affirmations. Face the fear: if you needed a c-section, do you want the operating surgeon to communicate with you with the same detail as they would talk to a medical student? Do you want them to shut up and get on with it? Do you want the screen up, or do you want the chance to see your baby being born? For professionals, don’t demean or ridicule what someone is feeling post-natally, ‘You have a healthy baby’ is all well and fine, but that baby still needs to be raised by a mother, and tends to do better when that mother feels healthy in herself.

In this case, the dialogue has been broken down. It seems a war of words has been started by the F word and Dr Crippen and no resolution will really occur. The medical professionals don’t want to be thought of as potential rapists, the women affected don’t want to be fobbed off and told they’re being hysterical.

I can see both sides of the issue. Being a gynaecologist is looking better all the time.

6 comments May 15, 2008

Pro-choice butter

There are generally very few things that really tick me off. I meditate on public transport; the most stressful part of my commute (changing from mainline Victoria to to the underground) is a breeze. Boy likes to drink milk straight from the carton – I let it slide. Boy again, breaks wind on purpose while sitting on my lap – I let it slide, and slap his arse.

The following things are guaranteed to make my blood pressure go whoooosh!

* ‘I want to tone up, can you tell me how to tone/sculpt/firm? Weights? I don’t want to look like Arnie! You don’t understand, I’m the sort of person who bulks right up! Would those 0.0002kg pink weights be ok? What about pencils?”

Normally after a deep intake of breath, I can verbally kick arse just by pointing the poor deluded soul in the direction of Stumptuous. The next is probably the one that really gets my bugbear.

* “I’m pro-choice!” Awesome, brilliant, let me set up a fondue in your honour. “I’m pro-choice, but I’m against abortion if it’s over x weeks. And if it’s for y reason. And if the person hasn’t been using z contraceptives. And only if the woman feels really bad about it afterwards. And she must never have one again! What, she’s had one before? Disgusting, someone should sterlise her. In fact, no one should get an abortion!”

I’ve spoken about pro-choice butting before so I don’t really need to rehash that again. One thing I will ask is why Nadine Dorries is claiming to be neither pro-life or pro-choice when she seems to be doing a hell of a lot to convince me it’s the former. Call a spade a spade, if you’re anti, fucking say it.

The Ministry of Truth after some searching have come up with evidence that shows that:

“Dorries is just the clean-skin trojan horse for the evangelical Christian right but the problem with lying is that somewhere, somehow, you’re bound to slip up…

…and Dorries has done just that.”

More here including a screen-shot from the horse’s mouth regarding the upper limit.

You are right about one thing, I do want to go lower than 20 weeks – I would settle for the European average of 13 weeks, but would prefer 9.

It’s clear to see the most recent effort has nothing to do with wanting to reduce the limit to 20 weeks. If you want to chip away at abortion rights, piece by piece, the legal limit is the easiest one to go for, as it’s the one that strikes unease with a lot of people, some pro-choicers included. Throw in some cutesy 4D ultrasound scans, a little pseudoscience (or in Nadine’s case, outright misinformation and lies) and you have a good case for lowering the limit.

A legal limit of 20 weeks won’t be enough. Soon would start the campaigns for ‘cooling off periods’ – enforcing time limits on women (which is against you in pregnancy) between confirming that she wants an abortion and getting that abortion. Then they might want to suggest women have to look at the ultrasound scan prior to having the termination, just so that they’re ‘informed’. That might be a good time to reduce the legal limit from 20 weeks to 16. Then doing away with ‘social abortions’ – and reducing the legal limit for that to 12 weeks. The possibilities are endless.

I sincerely hope my IUD is doing its job.

Add comment May 8, 2008

“It’s uterUS Marge, not uterYOU!”

Nadine Dorries (rather like a stubborn turd that won’t flush) yesterday launched the 20 weeks campaign in an effort to reduce the UK’s legal limit of abortion from 24 weeks to 20 weeks. I’m with Zoe Williams in that the 20 reasons read rather like a bit of GSCE coursework.

What stumps me a bit is that she insists that she supports a woman’s right to choose yet uses rather un-pro-choice sound quips like, there are ‘too many’ abortions, and we need to ‘slow down’ and have a ‘more moderate and common sense approach’ to abortion. Call me old fashioned, but isn’t the whole point of being pro-choice supporting someone to let them make their own decisions about their body, than applying some rather non-women friendly tenets that play right into the antis hands?

Now I support the legal limit as it stands as I believe women who are terminating at that gestation are among the most vulnerable women who choose to end a pregnancy. That’s not really why I’m writing on the subject, I just want to know how people decide what is ‘too many?’

It’s no surprise to me that antis take numbers and say that there are too many abortions, but with pro-choicers, that confuses me a bit. It confuses me that we use numbers at all – shouldn’t the focus be on the number of women who have been able to have the opportunity to terminate a pregnancy they didn’t want? Dare I say, isn’t that a good thing?

I guess the numbers game comes down to this for me. If 200,000 is too many, what’s to say that 100,000 won’t be? What’s to say that 50,000 isn’t to many? Or 10,000, or 5000? Or 50, 20, 10? Because what really seems to be suggested is that 1 abortion is too many.

Anyway, I hope that the campaign is unsuccessful, because I don’t believe there is a need to lower the time limit yet. I just hope any debate is structured around scientific evidence, and not froo-froo truths. Ben Goldacre wrote brilliantly on the subject.

2 comments May 7, 2008

A submissive and a feminist walked into a bar…

So recently there was a piece written on the F word on the subject of pornography and abuse. Subjects such as pornography, BDSM and sex work are massively polarised among feminist groups. I do watch pornography, and I think pornography would benefit from a greater spectrum of direction than the heterosexual man’s perspective. That’s for another debate though.  

So a few comments down, the subject matter comes onto BDSM. I respect the right for any individual to have their opinion (unless you don’t put your weights back) but the following snippets left me with an overwhelming feeling of Le Sigh.

“Choice” and “consent” are besides the point: the point is that BDSM is based on the idea that one person is gratified by “punishing” and spitting down upon another person so explicitly, and that the recipient of this abuse should enjoy the degradation. When you see this dynamic, how is it any different than rape?

[…]

Has it ever occurred to you that women are brainwashed into enjoying pain or hurt? I am not judging individual women for getting into BDSM. I am criticizing the whole mentality and power system that created it and perpetuates it.

Holy missing the point and a few generalisations in there Batman! There is more, but I’ll leave it to you.

I like to think that my readers have the intellectual capacity to deduce the fact that issues of choice and consent are not besides the point – they are the whole point. And my choices are no less valid because I choose to occasionally engage in something seen less desirable in terms of feminist critique – if it is, then kudos to you for alienating me. As for being brainwashed, I started having fantasies of being in situations where I want to submit long before I had any internet access or was even aware of what S&M stood for. This is the stage where I’d imagine, a lot of the (for want of a better word) the deconstruction starts. Is there an underlying event, pathology or reason why I should turn to something like this?

Therein partly lies the problem, especially among some feminists. It can be useful to look to the past in explaining present behaviours, but I don’t know how useful it is to pick away at the carcass of something that maybe doesn’t require that much explanation? For me, it’s merely a tautology. I like being submissive because it turns me on. It turns me on because I like being submissive. I am a feminist in my day to day life; I am a feminist when I am submissive. I haven’t been brainwashed by the patriarchal forces, if I wanted to enter a different position of power, such as a dominant in the bedroom, that wouldn’t be a huge problem. I have the capacity to consent; I have the choice and power to make it stop with one word.

That aside, I don’t think we should pathologise and extrapolate different power dynamics in the bedroom to everyday life; it can be healthy and fun. I don’t think unequal power dynamics in the bedroom are necessarily a bad thing when both parties are into it, it doesn’t make it unhealthy or abusive. Does it change the way we [boy and I] interact and treat each other outside of this context? If it has, I haven’t noticed.

If anything, exploring my submissive side has benefitted me in my everyday life, including my identity as a feminist. I found a quote on the pro-sm feminist blog and it echoes how I feel on the subject:

Bizarrely, perhaps, the more I delve into submission, the more I make sense of my taste for psychological masochism and degradation, the less shit I take in situations where I would usually be subordinate.

This rings true for me, especially in medicine. Submissive does not = passive. I’ve had registrars give me lip and expect me to merely stay nice and quiet – I don’t put up with it, and give as good as I get. When we are taught not to question certain things because ‘that’s how they are’ and we’re only medical students so we should sit there and take it, I don’t stand for it. When you’re trying to push my arms off the seat rests on the Tube because you want to read the Telegraph, you’ll find out how strong my arms are. You may want me to submit, but I’m aware of my own parameters to know when it’s time to break through the fence. So no banana for you!

If anything, with a little mutual respect and understanding, I think a lot of feminists could learn a lot from the people who engage in BDSM (probably those who engage in it more often than I do!) As the final comment on the F word said, this is something that challenges the heteronormative view on sex and sexuality – and anything that does that can’t be a bad thing in my book.

6 comments April 19, 2008

BDSM, feminism and deadlifting

I have a lot to write on the subject of feminism and BDSM, but it will have to wait till later or tomorrow as I have a long afternoon of teaching (medical statistics, joy) then a class on examination technique.

This morning I discovered this: Let them eat – pro-sm feminist safe spaces and I fell in love.

I’m also getting ready to go to the gym where my lower half is going to get a punishing.

 

1 comment April 17, 2008

These 5.30am starts…

Today was a day of many firsts.

I was in the fracture clinic this morning and saw quite a few patients. Some were children, so it was great to get some paeds experience. I’m now very paranoid about falling out onto an outstretched hand.

My firm also got a lot of praise from the consultant, as we were all working really hard getting out histories and presenting back. The Swedish registrar said he had never seen the clinic finish so early.

I mastered my form on the push press, yay! I could really feel it in my delts, I’m glad I discovered this exercise.

And someone on The F Word said: I’m sorry but I just don’t believe that you “deadlift” 60Kg. Thats more than I weigh!  I’m not quite sure why the ‘ ‘ on the word deadlift (perhaps it’s something to do with moving corpses?) but it made me raise my eyebrow just a little. Ignoring the egocentric portion of the comment, it’s not really much skin off my nose what a person thinks of my routine, weight training isn’t to everyone’s taste, but be assurred, if I was going to lie about my workout, I’d pick a sexier number than just 60kgs!

Also, from a feminist site, I wonder how the moderation team would have reacted had it been something like I’m sorry but I just don’t believe that you “were raped”. I’m sorry but I just don’t believe that you were “fired because of a pregnancy” or I’m sorry but I just don’t believe that you “were unable” to breastfeed.

Their rules and regs prior to posting specify that they decide what’s anti-feminist. In all honesty though, I don’t believe that what said to me was anti-feminist (just a bit rude) and I have much bigger things to care about in the grand scheme of things, but I do understand how some women feel alienated by feminism, especially my girlfriends who refuse to call themselves that for that very reason.

More importantly, I was pleased to be walking around the flat in clothing, as my flatmate returned home earlier than I expected.

2 comments April 9, 2008

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