Vote for Women’s Health

This election, there’s a lot on the line – including your health. Cindy Pearson wrote on this topic for the National Women’s Health Network, a non-partisan organization that focuses on policy. She writes:

“Good health depends on more than just good medical care. Healthy food, clean air, and safe workplaces are just some of the non-medical parts of our lives with a tremendous impact on our health. We know that discrimination can compromise people’s health — whether those attitudes are expressed in the exam room, when a clinician disbelieves a woman’s report of disabling menstrual cycles, or in the workplace…”

At FemmePharma, we couldn’t agree more. The right to health is a fundamental human right, and true health is about holistic wellbeing. Women should not have to overcome discrimination from policymakers that compromises this. We have an absolute right to treatments and options that allow us to safeguard the wellness of our whole selves.

Pearson lists some of the important policies proposed by leading candidates that impact women’s health.  These include:

  • Repealing the ACA [Affordable Care Act]
  • Criminalizing abortion
  • Letting bosses decide whether insurance covers contraception
  • Defunding family planning
  • Banning laws protecting LGBTQ civil rights
  • Allowing approval of new drugs with few or no clinical trials
  • Opposing equal pay laws
  • Allowing political and business interference in decisions that should be based on science.

We have the power to put an end to these discriminatory policies. We can protect our right to health and wellness, for ourselves and every woman we know.

On November 8, stand up for women’s health. Vote.

 

You can find the full-text article here: https://www.nwhn.org/vote-womens-health/

Suicide Prevention – Communities of Support

Everyone has been touched by suicide in some way, shape, or form. For some, depression or a mental disorder may prevent them from living their best life. For others, anxiety is part of their daily life. Or someone may have a family member, friend, or neighbor who is suffering. For those dealing with such feelings, it can feel immensely isolating and lonely.

This week, during National Suicide Prevention Week, we’re here to remind you that you are not alone. There are organizations, resources, groups, and communities dedicated to helping anyone who needs it. There’s the saying, “it takes a village,” and it couldn’t be more true. Life takes a village and there is a community out there for everyone to be a part of. Here are just a few of those communities that are accessible online, to anyone from anywhere.

Humans of New York (link: www.humansofnewyork.com)

Recently, an anonymous story (http://www.humansofnewyork.com/post/149002654491/%C2%BE-sometimes-my-anxiety-would-get-so-bad-that) shared on Humans of new York (Hony) has gone viral about the importance of therapy and seeking help. This man’s story has been shared all across the internet, hitting close to home for many who have been touched directly or indirectly by depression, anxiety, PTSD, or suicide.

Photographer Brandon Stanton started Humans of New York as a photography project which quickly grew into a quirky, accepting community of not only New Yorkers but citizens of the world. Currently, Stanton is sharing stories of veterans affected by depression and PTSD and has partnered with The Headstrong Project (http://getheadstrong.org/) to bring awareness and help to the community.

Post Secret (postsecret.com)

Frank Warren, the keeper of secrets, created a community where people anonymously send in their secrets and share their most private, vulnerable thoughts with the world. Many have been touched by the secrets they’ve read or found connection through secrets shared. For some, reading these secrets helped them realize they are less alone than they think, and Post Secret has become an advocate and supporter for suicide prevention. New secrets are shared each week on Sundays and the secrets are often about depression and suicide. On Post Secret’s website, Frank shares a list of resources for those who are in need of help(http://suicideprevention.wikia.com/wiki/USA).

There are so many communities, resources, and people out there who want to help. If you or someone you know are hurting and need someone to talk to, you can safely call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline (http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/) and speak to someone at any hour of the day.

Another long-standing community, especially for teens, is the non-profit organization, To Write Love on Her Arms (https://twloha.com/)or TWLOHA, dedicated to helping bring hope and help to those struggling with addiction, depression, self-injury, or thoughts of suicide.

You Can Not Be Replaced (http://www.youcannotbereplaced.com/) is a community solely dedicated to building communities and strengthening communication in young people and their families to help prevent

It Gets Better Project (http://www.itgetsbetter.org/pages/about-it-gets-better-project/) is an organization dedicated to helping the LGBT youth around the world. This community helps provide a pathway to resources for LGBT youth struggling and in need of support, as well as a place to share hope, love and stories from other LGBT people.

The World Needs More Love Letters ( http://www.moreloveletters.com/) is an organization designed to build a community of love and support. Here, you can write letters of love and encouragement to make an impact to someone who needs a lift.

These are just a few of the many communities out there dedicated to helping a friend, or stranger, in need. Help us grow our list of communities by sharing your thoughts in the comment section below!

 

How is Public Breastfeeding Even A Point of Discussion?

Looking through photos to accompany this article, I ran into an image of a woman sitting on a bench, breastfeeding an infant that was flagged with an “Adult Content Warning.” My jaw dropped. How could this sweet, simple picture warrant a warning? But then I realized: this bizarre occurrence is a perfect example of the conversation around breastfeeding in public that’s taking place right now. Should women (who choose to breastfeed versus use formula) be “allowed” to feed their children in public, or is it “too inappropriate”?

The problem is: this argument, at its crux, is ridiculous. The thought that the discomfort of some adults should in any way affect the nourishment of all newborn children within their line of sight is, quite frankly, preposterous. In case there’s any confusion, babies cannot feed themselves. They’re completely reliant on their mothers for life and nourishment. On average, newborns feed 8-12 times per day, taking up to 20 minutes per breast. That’s an average of up to 8 hours a day new moms can spend breastfeeding.[i]

Are we meant to say that new mothers should live in isolation in a nursery-cave, hidden away as to not offend the delicate sensitivities of a few strangers, doing nothing but function as human udders? Or, if they do dare venture out, they must be sure to pack enough pre-pumped breast milk for their little one, not to mention the pump itself in case they need to express? Or, or! Must they employ the ever-appealing option of feeding their child under a tarp, regardless of the baby’s temperature or comfort? Honestly, not even the baby will stand for that one most of the time.[ii]

This isn’t even a matter of breastfeeding rights, or boobie rights, or whatever other cute name you may hear it called: it’s basic women’s rights.

Policing how and when women feed their offspring is an act of oppression.[iii] It’s not the kind of oppression that is as obvious as child brides or unequal wages, but it’s the kind of subtle, insidious oppression that helps keep women marginalized. Shackled by obligatory nursing covers, breast pumps, or the need to run for shelter every 90 minutes or so, nursing women are not free to walk the world on equal footing as men.

Relatedly, telling women what to wear, how much to wear, and when to wear it is a tactic of control.[iv] This is seen again and again in cultures and religions across the globe. And it goes both ways: women are told to wear both less and more to be appealing. The incongruity of the messages is irrelevant; what matters is the way in which they control the recipients. (To be clear, I’m not condemning women who choose to wear certain coverings to honor their religion. I’m standing up for those who are made to wear things without choice.)

If you, as a mother, feel more comfortable covering up while breastfeeding or using bottles then please, do so. If you feel more comfortable breastfeeding in the privacy of your own home, do so. But you should never be confined to these rules or locations. The point is that women should be free to choose whichever solution best cares for themselves and their babies. Let’s end the judgment, the oppression, and the absurd regulations.

 

If you feel differently, by all means, let us know in the comments.

 

[i] http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/breastfeed-often.html#

[ii] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/katharine-mckinney/breastfeeding-in-public_b_2814004.html

[iii] http://www.phdinparenting.com/blog/2010/5/14/50-reasons-for-breastfeeding-anytime-anywhere.html

[iv] http://www.phdinparenting.com/blog/2010/1/27/covering-up-is-a-feminist-issue.html

Gazing into Someone’s Eyes Could Lead to Love

We can probably all agree that love is weird – beautiful, but certainly odd. And just to complicate things, here’s a study that proposes all you need to fall in love with someone is 36 questions and four minutes of eye contact.

Back in 1997, psychologist Arthur Aron[i] aimed to see if he could make two strangers fall in love in a laboratory. Randomly paired partners asked one another a series of increasingly intimate questions, then silently stared into one another’s eyes. The experiment aimed to accelerate the experience of sharing and vulnerability it takes to create a close relationship.

While the study admits it couldn’t replicate certain pivotal relationship aspects that necessarily take time to develop – qualities like loyalty, dependence, commitment, etc. – they did find that participants reported increased feelings of intimacy to their partners, and several maintained relationships after the study. The best part? One pair even got married six months later and invited the whole lab to their ceremony.

There have been several subsequent similar studies since Aron’s years ago, as well as anecdotal reports of couples finding success (i.e. love) using his methods.[ii] If you have your eye on someone sweet, you may want to round him or her up and try it for yourselves. You can find the complete list of questions here.

[i] http://psp.sagepub.com/content/23/4/363.full.pdf+html

[ii] http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/11/fashion/modern-love-to-fall-in-love-with-anyone-do-this.html

What Does It Feel Like to Use the Wrong Bathroom?

BathroomMeredith Russo, in her compelling New York Times Op-Ed piece What It Feels Like to Use the Wrong Bathroom, writes about her experience of doing something as a transgender woman that many of us take for granted: using the restroom while at work. She describes the day she came in to work for the first time dressed as a woman. It was 2013 and she was working at a call center:

Things went well at first, with co-workers taking it in stride and customers reading my voice as female, but then one of my bosses demanded to speak with me.
She wanted to talk about bathrooms.
“Have you had the surgery?” she asked. (Have you ever talked about your genitals with a superior at work? It’s not exactly a party.) I told her no. “Well, then, you’ll have to use the men’s until you do. We can’t risk a lawsuit.”
I headed to the men’s room, where I waited for the solitary stall to open up. I considered going all punk rock, hiking up my skirt at a urinal and flipping off any man who looked at me funny. But there is probably no meeker creature on earth than a newly transitioned woman.
The man who emerged from the stall looked at me as if I were a jug of spoiled milk. I waited on the toilet until the bathroom was empty again, but as soon as I started washing my hands, another man entered. He looked at me for a long time and then made a beeline for the urinal next to the sink, inches away from me, his stare never breaking.
There was a lot of turnover at this job, so every two weeks a fresh batch of employees seemed to come in. This meant that every two weeks new men would come into the bathroom, assume they’d accidentally entered the women’s room when they saw me there, and then glare at me when they figured it out. Some insisted that I was in the wrong place — until they realized what I was, and got really angry. It got so bad that I stopped going to the bathroom at work altogether, and I developed urinary tract infections. So then I stopped drinking water before and during work.

Russo is from Tennessee, where the law does not currently bar her from using the women’s restroom. Law aside, however, she lived in fear of being fired for disobeying her employer’s wishes, choosing to instead jeopardize her health. Eventually, she found a way to leave the situation altogether:

After a year, a book deal let me quit my job to write full time. Nobody can harass me for using my own bathroom. In many ways, I have it easier than others: I’m white, and I sort of pass when I’m wearing makeup. I haven’t been assaulted or raped, a common experience for trans people.
That doesn’t mean it’s not still an issue when I have to use a public restroom. The fear is still there — that someone will take offense, get angry and attack me, or that I’ll be made to leave a business, that I’ll be accused of sexual misconduct, arrested and sent to men’s jail.
That’s the main thing I wish the supporters of these laws would realize: We are much more frightened of you than you are of us.

You can read more by Russo in her young adult novel “If I Was Your Girl” and find the full text of the article excerpted above here.

Planned Parenthood is much more than just Abortion!

Planned ParenthoodIn a statement presidential candidate Jeb Bush made recently, (and later redacted), he said, “The next president should defund Planned Parenthood.” He also went on to say, “I’m not sure we need a half-billion dollars for women’s health issues.” Mr. Bush’s definition of women’s health falls into the ‘good old boys’ mentality solely focused on reproduction. Sadly, he is not alone.

He further went on to equate women’s health with abortion, failing to see the broader needs of women, thus further downplaying the role Planned Parenthood plays in helping women. Other candidates such as Huckabee, Cruz and Fiorina, who vigorously support defunding of Planned Parenthood, raised similar opinions in the recent Republican debates. Governors Christie, Bush and Kasich all proclaimed their prior actions to defund the agency in their respective states. Senator Cruz, in a clear political grandstand, is threatening to close down the government unless Planned Parenthood is defunded. The actions of many politicians, although swaddled in moral and religious justification, are clearly motivated to gain favor of a large segment of the American population who still have not come to terms with a woman’s right to manage her reproductive health.

Many of our leaders experience tunnel vision when it comes to the definition of women’s health. Bush again mistakenly targets Planned Parenthood when he states, “Abortion should not be funded by the government.” Huckabee has taken an extremist anti-abortion view stating recently that a 10-year-old child who was raped by her stepfather should be denied access to an abortion. A large number of our elected politicians, both Republican and Democrat, support the concept of not using federal funding for abortion services. They should all be fully aware of the Hyde Amendment, which already prohibits the use of federal funds for abortion, except in cases of incest or rape. Thus, whatever federal assistance Planned Parenthood receives currently does not cover abortion services.

In Bush’s amended statement designed to clarify his original statements on funding for Planned Parenthood he said that he was referring to the $500 million in funding that goes to an organization that “…was callously participating in the unthinkable practice of selling fetal organs.” He was referring to a heavily edited video of Planned Parenthood doctors discussing the donation of fetal tissue for scientific research to develop treatments for a variety of clinical conditions. The problem with his statements is that they focus on only one aspect of the services Planned Parenthood provides and ignore many others.

Politicians feel free to target Planned Parenthood solely for political gain with minimal concern for the women they affect. Why is women’s health always reduced to just reproductive conditions? Unfortunately, by the nature of its edict, Planned Parenthood addresses many of the reproductive and gynecological needs of women and doing so limits the definition of women’s health. This narrow definition of women’s healthcare serves to ignore the broader needs of women. A variety of medical conditions such as endometriosis, breast cancer, mastalgia are exclusive female disorders which have a significant impact on women, but others such as depression, urinary incontinence and various autoimmune diseases disproportionately affect women. Where are these needs being addressed?

Currently, 79% of Planned Parenthood clients are at or below the poverty level. In 2012 alone, they provided services for 3 million people. So beyond abortion, what do these services actually entail?

STD Testing

STD testing and treatment accounts for 41 percent of the PPH services, including testing for HIV. Without affordable, accessible clinics like this, many of these diseases would go untreated, spread and potentially take lives.

Contraception

Affordable contraception is the next biggest service that PPH provides, accounting for 34 percent of their total services. This includes birth control, emergency contraception and vasectomies – it does not include abortions. Sadly, getting birth control still isn’t easy, especially if you’re a teen. Without affordable contraception, unplanned pregnancies and STDs would become an even bigger issue than it already is.

Cancer Screening and Prevention

PPH offers this: Cancer screening and prevention equals 10 percent of their total services. That includes everything from PAP tests to breast care to colposcopy procedures to LOOP/LEEP procedures. These services get expensive fast if you don’t have decent health insurance even with Obamacare.

Other Services

The remaining 1 percent of other services that PPH Services provides includes areas such as adoption referrals, urinary tract infection treatments and other family practice services. Additional funding for PPH or other similar organizations would allow for expansion of these non-reproductive services to better meet the needs of women.

Now that you know the extent of services that are provided by Planned Parenthood, you understand why broad statements such as those made by ill-informed politicians concerning defunding women’s healthcare can be seriously detrimental. Women’s health goes well beyond contraception and planning to become a parent. We need to enlarge the definition based on what we know of women’s diseases and disorders.  Let’s imagine for a moment changing the name and focus of Planned Parenthood to WHC Services and then examine the breath of services it would provide beyond reproduction. Expansion into women specific conditions such as endometriosis and mastalgia would be possible through adequate funding. Areas that are not thought of as typically women’s diseases but have a higher prevalence in women such as metabolic diseases like diabetes, depression, and services for those living with autoimmune diseases could also be addressed.

It is critical that we change the nature of the conversation and clarify what constitutes services for women and women’s health. Without funding to keep these services affordable and accessible, as well as expand their range,

The dictionary defines a woman as “a female adult” and a female as “ denoting the sex that can bear offspring or produce eggs”. It is time that we stop using the terms as if they are interchangeable!

Our Right to Tampons!

Tampons




Pathetic and stupid. That’s only the beginning of the insults that were thrown at college student Zoey Freedman. Why?  For writing a column in her school’s newspaper about subsidized tampons.  Yep, you read that correctly: pathetic and stupid – just for talking about tampons. Seems like a little much, no?

In her column, titled “Free tampons would slow the flow of gender inequality,” Ms. Freedman argued that tampons – and other feminine hygiene products, like panty liners and pads – are essential to women’s health. Therefore, they should not be treated as a “luxury” in the eyes of the government. She writes: “Free or subsidized tampons through health care services can ensure that women at least have the right to a happy and healthy lifestyle, especially when that time of the month rolls around.”

The response to her article was horrifying. Seriously, read the comments – you would have thought she was advocating to sterilize men everywhere.

What’s with all of the commotion? Although modern tampons with applicators weren’t invented until 1929, tampons have been around for thousands of years. First, ancient Egyptians crafted them from softened papyrus; later, ancient Greeks made them from lint wrapped around a small piece of wood. (Sounds comfortable.)

 

Vintange Tampon Ads From the 1930's and 1940's
Vintange Tampon Ads From the 1930’s and 1940’s

 

By 1973, when Playtex introduced the plastic, dome-tipped applicator, tampons were used by 70% of American households. According to Tampax, their tampons are used by more than 100 million women in 150 countries. In a woman’s lifetime, she will, on average, use 11,400 tampons!

Ms. Freedman’s points are valid: feminine hygiene products are both expensive and necessary. Every month (typically), women get their period and they need a combination of pads and tampons to stop the flow. Without these, we would be free bleeding. These products, which can cost close to $10 a box, ensure that women have one less thing to worry about 4-7 days out of the month.

According to A New York Times blog post, “for the more than 40 million women in this country living in poverty or on the brink of it – and for whom the cost of feminine hygiene products is yet another burden on an already stretched budget – periods are no joke. A year’s supply of tampons and pads costs upwards of $70 and is not covered by food stamps. For homeless women, the problem of lack of access to menstrual hygiene care is often compounded by ‘minimal access to safe sanitary spaces’ like toilets and showers.”

Currently, healthcare covers erectile dysfunction treatments, including penile transplants. While erectile dysfunction is certainly unpleasant, it is not something men are born with and it primarily impacts a man’s sexual performance. Why is a man’s sexual pleasure given precedence over a woman’s basic health?

What a frightening thought.  What are your thoughts on this issue?  Let us know in the comments!

New York Magazine : “I’m No Longer Afraid’: 35 Women Tell Their Stories About Being Assaulted by Bill Cosby, and the Culture That Wouldn’t Listen”

We’re so proud of these 35 women for their tremendous bravery by appearing in New York Magazine’s cover story. It takes so much for victims of abuse to come forward and, by shining a light on the real people, we hope it encourages more victims to tell their stories. #endrapeculture

Here is the article.  ‘I’m No Longer Afraid’: 35 Women Tell Their Stories About Being Assaulted by Bill Cosby, and the Culture That Wouldn’t Listen

Animals: A new tune encouraging disrespect of women.

encouraging discrespect of women

Are women empowered, strong and independent? Is gender equality significantly improved? Are the images of women consistent with respect, equality and empowerment?

The recent release of Maroon 5’s song “Animals” has sparked an outrage on twitter and in the media. If you are the kind of person who listens closely to the lyrics of your favorite tunes—and don’t just stomp your feet to the beat—this is not news to you. Furthermore, if you have seen the video, you know exactly what we mean.

If you haven’t seen it, the Maroon 5 video tells the story of a deranged butcher who stalks a beautiful woman and fantasizes about her in a freezer amidst dead pigs. Oh, and about having sex with her in a cascade of blood. As Katherine Hull Fliflet, Vice President of Communications at RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network) put it: “Maroon 5’s video for ‘Animals’ is a dangerous depiction of a stalker’s fantasy”.

Unfortunately, this “stalker’s fantasy” is not the first video where forcing yourself on a woman is encouraged. Remember Robin Thicke, Pharrell and T.I.’s “Blurred Lines” from last year? It would seem that ever since the 1990’s (I’m thinking “Baby Got Back”) the sexualisation and objectification of women has gone against the stream of improved gender equality. Contrary to the general empowerment of women, music videos, movies and magazine covers only promote a sexy, skinny woman who is pleasing to the eye but whose brain is completely ignored.

It is time that the entertainment industry jumps aboard the equality train and helps keep our young people safe and sane. This constant exposure to barely dressed women and fully dressed men close to their backsides must stop! The fact that these images are now a normal part of your day is desensitizing you, whether you are aware of it or not. What effect do you think that has on young kids?

We all love a great beat, but we can’t condone lyrics and graphics that demean, or worse, encourage sexual violence and abuse of women. Katherine Hull Fliflet hits the nail on the head: “[…] no one should ever confuse the criminal act of stalking with romance. The trivialization of these serious crimes, like stalking, should have no place in the entertainment industry.”

With less violent and sexualized imagery like this, the following recommendations would not be necessary. But things being as they are, please remember the following safety tips:

  • Don’t walk alone at night or in unfamiliar neighborhoods
  • Don’t leave your friends at parties
  • Do let people know where you are
  • Only practice safe, consensual sex
  • If something does happen, call the police
  • Don’t be afraid to reach out, there is help: 1-800-565-HOPE (National Sexual Assault Hotline) and www.rainn.org