January 31, 2012

Women Affected by New Definitions for Mental Disorders {featured news}

The current process of revising the definitions for a range of mental disorders listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), has received quite a bit of attention in the media lately, in particular for how it may include or exclude people from qualifying for covered treatment. This article sums up some of the controversy around definitions for autism (a tightening of the criteria) and depression (a widening to include grieving after bereavement), and adding other definitions that include “binge eating disorder” (out-of-control bingeing, complete with self-loathing) “premenstrual dysphoric disorder” (a condition in which a woman has severe depression symptoms, irritability, and tension before menstruation) and “attenuated psychosis syndrome” (delusional thinking).

I was glad to see premenstrual dysphoric disorder recognized as the painful disorder it is. Women's premenstrual- and menstrual sufferings are too often silenced or belittled while in fact an estimated 75% of women suffer from premenstrual syndrome (PMS) during their childbearing years. Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) affects between 3% and 8% of women during the years when they are having menstrual periods. Steps to ensure covered treatment for this disorder seems overdue if anything.

Since 2000, antidepressants and a form of birth control pill have been federally approved to treat PMDD. Still there are critics arguing against including PMDD in the manual, saying that it may increase "the likelihood of being treated for what is normal behavior, or close enough," an argument which yet again dismisses a female specific illness as real and worthy of proper recognition as such.

January 30, 2012

The "Not Rape" Sexual Assaults {featured reads}

My friend Molly over at First the Egg has written a powerful post de-normalizing the sexual harassment and unwanted touches women in our culture are made to expect and stomach. "Have I ever had “ANY unwanted/undesired physical or sexual contact”? is the post's title, a question on a health history form. Her answer is yes and she describes her experiences in detail, giving words to the many unaccounted for experiences of sexual assault women experience on a regular basis, silenced because, as one commenter wrote, "I think it’s really easy for us (especially for women?) to minimize their own experience by saying “well, someone else had X experience which was worse, so I shouldn’t complain.” Concludes Molly:
I refuse to do the happy dance because I was fortunate enough not to be molested as a little girl and have not been violently raped. I refuse to be abjectly grateful for ‘getting off easy’ with the experiences I’ve mentioned here.

Because I deeply resent that they are normal.

January 24, 2012

See Me! Hear Me! This Is Who I Am: The Century Project

Rachel (17), a cutter on the path to healing
Girlhood in America is wrought with insecurities and complexes, wounds and shame, haunting many through womanhood. It can also be inspired by hopes and dreams, rebellion and empowerment. For two decades, photographer Frank Cordelle has given voice to the many silenced stories of numerous women’s all-too-real experiences with the disgrace and injustice done to them as girls and women, especially as they pertain to the women’s body image. The Century Project, a chronological series of nude photographic portraits of more than a hundred diverse girls and women ranging in age from the moment of birth through one hundred years, and accompanied by the women’s personal statements, is Cordelle’s magnum opus.

The exhibit has toured college campuses and galleries across the nations for nearly two decades. The book of the project, Bodies and Souls: The Century Project was published in 2006. Through the women’s own words and naked portraits we learn their powerful accounts of their conflicted feelings about their bodies and their vows to own and celebrate them.

The project is heart-wrenching and uplifting at the same time, and a very important contribution to our body-negative culture with its unrealistic beauty ideals and warped ideas about sex. Opposed to those, the participating women shed their clothes in defiance, not because they are exhibitionists, but because they refuse to be censured and dismissed, demanding to be seen for who they are. Real women, with real bodies and real issues, because we all have them, to a varying degree, whether it’s beating ourselves up for not looking just right, or the shame we feel for what has been inflicted upon us, by others or ourselves.

January 16, 2012

If You Want Your Sex Talk to Stay in the Family

Recently all the Good Vibrations Sexy Mama bloggers received the following email from the editor:
I was chatting with a friend the other day about talking with kids about sex and she mentioned something interesting. Part of her resistance to doing so, despite her awareness of the value of it, is her concern that she'll have to deal with the fallout if her kid passes information along to other kids, who then tell their parents. Another is that kids are learning about what's ok to talk about in public and she didn't want to deal with situations of her child saying something about sex at the supermarket.
What are some ways to deal with other children's parents? What happens when your child says something in public that would be fine at home but feels embarrassing when it's out among strangers? How do you deal with the social repercussions of other people's negative reactions? How do you teach your child that you have different expectations and awareness about sex than lots of their friend's parents?
The above parent recognizes the importance of talking to her kids about sex, but she prefers the sex talk to stay in the family. I personally feel a responsibility to publicly stand by everything I teach my daughter about sex, but my position does not match this parent's comfort level. To her, my position might seem idealist and impractical. While I would at least try to encourage her to see how she in fact could have a positive effect also on her child's friends if her child were to pass on what she teaches her child, I would give her this as another option: Tell the truth.

sex talk

January 13, 2012

Fotoshop by Adobé {featured video}

This commercial isn’t real, and neither are society’s standards of beauty.

By Jesse Rosten.

January 10, 2012

It's OK to Be Neither | Rethinking Schools {featured read}

This is an inspiring account of one teacher's experiences with teaching young children about gender, gender bullying, gender stereotypes and helping young children debunk narrow gender roles.


As teachers, we often use gender to divide students into groups or teams. It seems easy and obvious. Many of us do this when we line students up to go to the bathroom. In one conversation that I had with Allie’s mother, she told me that Allie did not like using public bathrooms because many times Allie would be accused of being in the wrong bathroom. As soon as she told me I felt bad. By dividing the children into two lines by assigned gender, I had unintentionally made the children whose labels aren’t so clear feel uncomfortable in more ways than one.

When we lined up to go to the bathroom, I kept my students in one line until we reached the bathroom, and then let them separate to enter their bathrooms. Allie usually said she didn’t need to use the bathroom. The few times that she did, I offered the bathroom around the corner, a single-stall bathroom that was usually unoccupied. When the kids came out of the bathroom, they wanted to line up as most classrooms do, in boys’ and girls’ lines. Instead, I thought up a new way for them to line up each day. For example: “If you like popsicles, line up here. If you like ice cream, line up here.” They loved this and it kept them entertained while they waited for their classmates.
Read More at Rethinking Schools >>

January 2, 2012

How To Talk About Porn With Kids | Sexual Intelligence {featured read}

Experienced sex therapist, author, and educator Dr. Marty Klein has put together a brief blog post giving accessible and practical advice to parents about how to talk to their kids about porn.

Here’s what we know: All children are sexual. That means they have sexual feelings and thoughts. [...] How parents deal with their feelings about their children’s sexuality will shape how they feel about, and what they do about, their kid looking at porn. [...]

Even parents who accept the reality that their kids are sexual and masturbate can be concerned about porn. What if it’s violent? What if it encourages values of which I disapprove? What if it’s confusing? The answer to all three questions is: it might. [...]

If your kid watches porn, he or she might easily get confused: Is that what sex is really like? Is that what most people look like naked? Do strangers really have sex together so easily? Are some people really rough with each other in bed? (This is where you explain that just as kids play games on the ballfield, pretending to be mean or brave when they really aren’t, some adults play games in bed, pretending to be bossy or submissive when they really aren’t.)

Questions like these deserve answers. And if you remember your childhood—before the internet—you know that kids develop questions (and confusion) about sex even without porn. After all, you did.
The response to “my kid’s watching porn, what do I do?” is—you talk about it. You ask lots of gentle questions. Your kid squirms. You explain stuff. You squirm. No one’s comfortable talking about this. You talk anyway. That’s what parents do—they talk about subjects even when they’re uncomfortable.
Just like kids need media literacy, kids need porn literacy. They need to understand that they’re watching actors playing roles, not documentaries. They need to understand that just as Glee and Harry Potter are edited, so are porn films. None of these media products is an accurate portrayal of real life. For example, porn usually omits two crucial parts of sex—the feelings and the talking.
Read More at Sexual Intelligence >>
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