Oct 282009

If not, put your glasses on :-)  I’ve been working on some substantive changes to the way the FPN site looks and works.  Still a few things to tweak but the  BIG change is the addition of the Facebook box on the far right side.  There are numerous times when I want to share a link without writing  a whole post about it and the Feminist Peace Network Fan Page is  a great way to do this.  There is only one catch–to see what is in the box, you have to become a fan on Facebook.  If you already use Facebook, this is easy, just click the link.  If you aren’t a member of Facebook, you will need to become one first.  I realize Facebook isn’t for everyone, but this will save me enormous amounts of time while still sharing the same amount of information.  It will also mean fewer but more substantive posts on the blog, which I think will be a huge positive in terms of quality.

Let me know what you think and especially if you see any glitches.

 October 28, 2009  Posted by on October 28, 2009 Comments Off on Notice Anything Different?
Oct 282009

After my post last week regarding the mixed data on the value of mammograms, I got a slew of mail the gist of most being, yes but what should I do? The only answer I can give is that you have to decide for yourself what makes the most sense, no easy thing when things aren’t clear cut combined with it being difficult to trust the information you get.  Our Bodies Our Selves has an excellent summary of the history of this issue which is informative and I hope useful.

For me, even though I’ve never had to face this disease myself, I find that I am extraordinarily fearful of it, and one of the things that I find empowering is to work on reclaiming the frame in which we talk about breast cancer by refocusing the discussion on cause rather than cure.  Clearly the current approach is less than satisfactory in terms of how patients are treated and what we are told about it.  Which leads me to highly recommending No Family History, which,

turns the debate about breast cancer upside down by proposing before solutions about prevention, rather searching only for a cure.

There are a lot of unknowns when it comes to breast cancer, and we need to ask some hard questions about what we ‘know’ so far and insist that cause be the starting point for treating this most difficult disease.

 October 28, 2009  Posted by on October 28, 2009 Comments Off on Breast Cancer–Taking A Hard Look At What We Do And Don’t Know
Oct 272009

Susan G. S. McGee’s excellent article, 20 Reasons Why She Stays: A Guide for Those Who Want to Help Battered Women, which was originally published in the Journal of the Michigan Bar in 1991 is now available on the web. When the topic of intimate violence comes up, all too frequently we hear the question, ‘why does she stay?’.  McGee points out that,

This is the wrong question.

The questions we should be asking are: Why do assailants terrorize and torture their partners? Why is it that the vast majority of batterers are men and the vast majority of survivors are women? Why does the community allow battering to continue?

We routinely scrutinize and evaluate the survivor. What is she doing wrong? How can she change? What should she be doing? By doing so, we avoid looking at the behavior and intentions of the perpetrator of the violence. This error rests on the assumption that if we could change the survivor or force her to leave, the battering would end. This allows the assailant to continue his terrorism unchallenged, since the focus is not on what he is doing but what his partner is or isn’t doing. Since violence and abuse in an intimate relationship is under the sole control of the assailant, by constant microscopic examination of the survivor, we miss how we can reduce or stop the violence. By our misplaced focus on survivor behavior, we also miss the ways our culture condones, supports and gives permission for battering.

People believe that if a battered woman REALLY, truly, honest to goodness wanted to leave she could just get up and go. (Therefore, if we can “get” her into shelter or convince her to leave we’ve done good. Our job is over). We overlook the environmental barriers5 that prevent women from leaving, ignore how the batterer is trapping her, and too often focus on psychological “characteristics” of survivors instead.

Further questions we should be asking are how do many, many women overcome incredible obstacles and achieve safety and non-violence for themselves and their children? Why do women/survivors leave? When do women leave? How can we be helpful to women in the process of leaving? Since women are usually murdered after they leave, how can we increase safety for women who do make the courageous decision to escape? Which specific counseling, advocacy and support methods are helpful to women and which are not? What does outstanding advocacy look like? How can we reach ALL survivors and get them the information and support they need? How can we mobilize the community to support survivors and to prevent domestic violence?

In our work in the community, we should be pushing for graduated, consistent consequences for batterers, including jail time (because if he’s in jail, he can’t assault her).

And by the way, why doesn’t he leave?

You can read the rest of McGee’s essay here.

 October 27, 2009  Posted by on October 27, 2009 1 Response »
Oct 262009

Here are a few rays of sunshine to start out your week:

Artists Beth Nolte and Mitzi Sinnott have plans to start a “a nationwide campaign, with multiple billboards, in various neighborhoods displaying suggestions of a more courteous way of interacting with each other. … ‘Thank you, Please, Hello, How are you? May I, Excuse me, You’re welcome.’ they [We] believe these basic considerations are necessary for us to begin to coexist in a new way, All Here Together (on Earth).

And thanks to  Guerrilla Mama on Twitter for pointing us to this  cornucopia of quotes from African American poet and activist June Jordan.  Here are a few that will feed your soul:

Overall, white men run America. From nuclear armaments to the filth and jeopardy of New York City subways to the cruel mismanagement of health care, is there anything to boast about?
–On Call, ch. 5 (1985). Written in 1982.)

Let me just say, at once: I am not now nor have I ever been a white man. And, leaving aside the joys of unearned privilege, this leaves me feeling pretty good
–On Call, ch. 10 (1985). Written in 1984.)

Like a lot of Black women, I have always had to invent the power my freedom requires …
–On Call, ch. 9 (1985). Written in 1984.)

And finally, this reminder of our true empowerment from Abigail Adams:

I cannot say that I think you are very generous to the ladies; for, whilst you are proclaiming peace and good-will to men, emancipating all nations, you insist upon retaining an absolute power over wives.

But you must remember that arbitrary power is like most other things which are very hard, very liable to be broken; and, notwithstanding all your wise laws and maxims, we have it in our power, not only to free ourselves, but to subdue our masters, and without violence, throw both your natural and legal authority at our feet.
–May 7, 1776

Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.
–March 31, 1776


 October 26, 2009  Posted by on October 26, 2009 Comments Off on Monday Morning Inspiration
Oct 222009

According to the New York Times, The American Cancer Society is planning to restate its claims about the benefits of early cancer detection.  That these claims are questionable is not new information, in fact I wrote about it in 2005 (see below for excerpt) and again last year.  What is new is that we will no longer be told that mammograms absolutely save lives because the truth is a lot more complicated than that.  As the NYT reports,

While the limits of cancer screening have long been known in the prevention community, the debate is new and confusing to many patients who have been told repeatedly to undergo screening.

Indeed it is, but while I am profoundly pleased that the ACS is finally acknowledging this, what is disturbing is that it has taken so long for them to do this because as the NYT notes, this issue isn’t new.

As for individuals trying to decide what they should do regarding their own health, the first thing is make sure you understand what is and isn’t known about early detection.  The NYT has a  second piece on the subject here which you should also read.  I’m sure others will weigh in on this in the coming days as well.

But lets go back to the issue of why it has taken so long for this change of policy which brings me to the piece that  I wrote in 2005, The Booby Trap: Does Breast Cancer Awareness Save Lives? A Call to Re-think the Pink. In that piece I pointed out that,

ACS and Komen are both big supporters of annual mammography for women over the age of 40. Over and over, both organizations tout early detection as a lifesaver. They both also receive substantial funding from makers of mammography equipment such as GE and DuPont.

Unfortunately, the truth about mammography and early detection is not so cut and dry. Mammograms may detect cancer earlier (although the majority of women detect their own cancers) but they do not prevent cancer or protect women from cancer and early detection does not necessarily translate into longer survival.

Many women whose cancer is detected by mammograms have slow-growing cancers that will never be life threatening while others are very aggressive and would be lethal no matter when they are detected. Early detection does not appear to impact the life expectancy of either of these groups of women. In addition, because breast tissue in pre-menopausal women tends to be denser, mammograms may miss suspicious masses. The breast tissue of younger women is also more susceptible to damage from radiation.

It is interesting to note that no nation other than the U.S. routinely screens pre-menopausal women by mammography. According to activist Jennifer Drew, in England the practice is for “women aged between 50 and 64 who are registered with a General Practitioner (to) receive a letter inviting them to attend a Breast Screening scan. The age is being raised to 70 years from 2004. Women between these ages can have free mammograms every 3 years. The Government here in the UK believes once every 3 years is sufficient based on medical research.” In contrast with the United States, only one in nine women are stricken with breast cancer in the UK, a statistic also true in Canada. Routine screening guidelines for Canadian women are to be screened every two years after the age of 40. Only one in eleven women in Australia are stricken with breast cancer and women there are advised to get mammograms every two years between the ages of 50-69.

What is perhaps the most important to understand is that survival rates are counted from when a woman is diagnosed. So if a woman is diagnosed in 2000 and lives for 15 years, this is no different than if she was diagnosed in 2005 and lived for 10 years. She would still die in 2015. In other words, a woman may live longer past a diagnosis that occurs earlier, but not necessarily longer overall.

Now if there is anything we’ve learned lately, it is that  women’s bodies are a healthcare commodity.  The U.S. has the highest c-section rate in the world, but at the same time we deny a woman who has had a c-section health insurance.  Women are routinely charged more for health insurance if they can get it, but they can’t if they’ve been raped and take anti-virals to guard against HIV or if they’ve been a victim of domestic violence.  In the case of breast cancer, some of the same companies that sell chemicals to cure this disease also sell chemicals that cause it.  In this case, it has been known that mammograms were being misleadingly portrayed but GE, Which makes mammography equipment also owns NBC News, and it would not be in their best interests to publicize this information because while it might be good for our health to know this, it would not be good for their bottom line.  The company has also provided support to both ACS and Komen.  I’m not saying these vested interests were a determining factor in ACS’s policy, but they need to be considered.

Like any situation where there aren’t definitive answers, it is hard to make decisions and there aren’t necessarily right or wrong ones.  But is wrong is that it has taken so long for this change to be made because whatever choices we make, we have the human right to honest and accurate information about the medical tests and treatments that are recommended to us without having to worry about corporate vested interests trumping our lives.

 October 22, 2009  Posted by on October 22, 2009 2 Responses »