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Posts Tagged ‘women

“I just saw some idiot at the gym put a water bottle in the Pringles holder on the treadmill”*…

 

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Like millions of other people, I put a fair amount of effort into “being healthy.”  I don’t smoke, try to eat a reasonable diet, and so forth.  I do all of this with the backing of a strong scientific consensus that such behaviors are likely to be very good for my health and longevity.  None of this makes me special in any way; I am trying to follow what one might call the medical truth of health.

What I want to suggest here is that there is a dark underside to all that healthy behavior. The underside is that the healthy behavior encourages the view that individuals are largely responsible for their own health outcomes, and that if people end up unhealthy or diseased, it’s their fault for not having engaged in sufficiently healthy behaviors.  Call this a “social truth” of health.  This social truth has real consequences. On the one hand, if individuals are to blame for their poor health, then they should bear a lot of the cost of their disease.  After all, there is a sense in which they “chose” to be sick because of their unhealthy lifestyle.  On the other hand, policies designed to create healthier environments or at reducing structural factors associated with poor health outcomes, like poverty, start to seem less important.

“Healthism,” as a prescient article from 1980 called it, has been a growing part of the American social landscape since the 1970’s, when jogging emerged as a fitness trend.  The rise of healthism coincides with the rise of neoliberalism, a loosely-grouped set of policies that aim at analyzing all parts of society in economic terms, expanding the reach of actual markets, encouraging competitive behavior between individuals, and encouraging people to view their lives in entrepreneurial terms (for example, treating education as an investment the value of which is measured in terms of its probable future returns in the form of higher income). Because of the focus on individuals and market behaviors, neoliberal governance tends not to see systemic or public problems except insofar as they can be reduced to the problems of individuals…

It is in this context that we need to see our healthy lifestyles and the dilemma they pose.  It is obvious that those who have the good fortune and the means can and should want to be healthy, for its own sake.  On the other hand, the effort to be healthy directly feeds a narrative that says that poor health is the product of poor management, in the way that poor returns on financial investments might be.  No one is ever simply “healthy;” even health today may hide illness to come, future illness that must be detected and prevented.

The problem is that the wellness narrative causes us to over-estimate the degree to which it is fair to blame individuals for their health outcomes…

The importance of separating what is an individually-healthy behavior from good health policy: “Is Your Healthy Lifestyle Bad For You?

* meme

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As we emphasize empathy, we might recall that it was on this date in 1850 that the first classes were held at The Female Medical College of Pennsylvania, the second medical school in the U.S. exclusively for women.  (The New England Female Medical College had been established two years earlier.)  It soon changed its name to The Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, then much later was renamed as The Medical College of Pennsylvania after opening its doors to men in 1970.

The school’s first building

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Written by LW

October 12, 2017 at 1:01 am

“There was a sound in their voices which suggested rum”*…

 

Pirates Ann Bonny and Mary Read depicted in 1724

How many real-life pirates can you name? While Captain Kidd or Blackbeard might come immediately to mind, names like Anne Bonny and Mary Read probably don’t. But as noted historian Marcus Rediker writes, they were just a few of the many women who sailed the seven seas disguised as men.

These women pirates have been almost completely obscured by the lore that surrounds their male counterparts. But they weren’t that uncommon: Marcus writes that women pirates “were not entirely unusual cases” and that they were part of “a deeply rooted underground tradition of female cross-dressing, pan-European in its dimensions but particularly strong in modern England, the Netherlands, and Germany.”

This tradition hinged on women with nothing to lose: people so marginalized and forgotten that all was opportunity. Women dressed as men to escape poverty and follow adventure on land, and women like Bonny and Read did it at sea…

Tap the barrel of rum at “Women were pirates, too.”

* Robert Louis Stevenson, Treasure Island

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As we raise the Jolly Roger, we might spare a thought for William Kidd; he was hanged on this day in 1701. Better known as “Captain Kidd,” he was a Scottish privateer, hired by European royals to attack foreign ships, mostly in the Caribbean.  But when, on an expedition to the Indian Ocean, his crew insisted on attacking the Quadegh Merchant, a large Armenian ship laden with treasures, Kidd found himself on the wrong side of the British government.  He was publicly executed in London in 1701, as a warning to other pirates.

Legends persist about Captain Kidd and the treasure some believe he buried in the Caribbean.

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Written by LW

May 23, 2017 at 1:01 am

“A girl should be two things: who and what she wants”*…

 

From Lapham Quarterly‘s issue on The Future, an excerpt from Meta Stern Lilienthal’s 1916 book Women of the Future

The young maidens of the future, healthy in body and mind, will go forth from educational institutions to perform their life’s work in their chosen trades and professions. Be they cooks or laundresses, weavers or dressmakers, typewriters or telephone operators, teachers or physicians, they will be assured of a decent livelihood and of the wholesome enjoyments of life in return for their services to society. They will be young as few are young today, even among the favored classes. They will work and enjoy themselves and live with an amount of youthful energy and enthusiasm that is rarely met with in our present enfeebled, overworked, poverty-stricken world. The haggard faces, anemic complexions, and drooping shoulders which are so prevalent among the working girls of today that the average city dweller fails to notice them, will disappear like the white plague and other preventable curses of humanity. Bright eyes, ruddy complexions, and straight, strong bodies will be the inalienable rights of youth. We know that health and strength and vigor are not only possible but natural to youth. Young savage women, untouched by the evils of civilization, show it, and the athletic daughters of the propertied classes, spared from the evils of civilization, show it also. The maidens of the future, strong, healthy, active, and educated, will be physically and mentally fit for wifehood and motherhood as not one in a hundred is today. Eventually every Jill will find her Jack, according to individual needs and circumstances, but economic causes will not retard marriages or prevent those who love one another from joining their lives. Jill will not ask, “Can Jack support me?” because she will be fully able to support herself, and Jack will not inquire whether Jill can make good pies—unless pie making be her trade—because he will be able to get all the pies he wants, even better than “mother used to make.” Instead, they will ask themselves seriously, intelligently, questions such as these: “Do we love deeply and truly?”

Springtime for Women

* Coco Chanel

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As we agree with Niels Bohr that “prediction is very difficult, especially about the future,” we might send birthday greetings in the Agrarian tradition to Caroline Ferguson Gordon; she was born on this date in 1895 (so was likely one of those “young maidens” of whom Lilienthal wrote).  A novelist and critic of distinction– while still in her thirties, she won two prestigious literary awards, a 1932 Guggenheim Fellowship and a 1934 O. Henry Award– she was also (with her long-time partner, the poet and critic Allen Tate) the convener of a salon in her Tennessee home that hosted some of the best-known writers of their time, including F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, T. S. Eliot, Robert Penn Warren, and Ford Madox Ford, the author whom Gordon considered her mentor.  She was herself a mentor to younger writers, perhaps most notably, Walker Percy.

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Written by LW

October 6, 2016 at 1:01 am

“When we women offer our experience as our truth, as human truth, all the maps change”*…

 

Louise E. Jefferson, “Americans of Negro Lineage,” Friendship Press, 1946. (Used by permission of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA. All rights reserved worldwide, 2016.) Larger version here.

Women have been making maps for centuries. They have developed and applied new technologies, data collection techniques, and visual presentations to their maps as they charted new terrain, illustrated historical narratives, and pushed political and social agendas. In the 20th century, women mapmakers continued this work in larger numbers than ever—and no short post can account sufficiently for all of their contributions over a century that saw technological and social revolutions, one after another.

Examining just a small sample of the many compelling maps made by North American women in the 20th century, a theme emerges: aesthetic mastery.

In the days before the women’s liberation movement (except for a brief moment during World War II), most women didn’t have access to technical training in cartography. “Civil engineering, where topographic drafting was taught, was not a ‘girls’ subject,” writes Judith Tyner, a professor emerita of geography at California State University, Long Beach, in a presentation given at mapping conference earlier this year. But this didn’t stop women from participating in cartography. It simply meant that many who did started with a background in the arts…

More of the story– and several beautiful examples– at “How 20th-Century Women Put the ‘Art’ in Cartography,” the third installment in a series on women and maps; see also Part 1 and Part 2.

* Ursula Le Guin

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As we contemplate cartography, we might spare a thought for Francesco Petrarca– Petrarch:  on this date in 1341, he became the first poet laureate since antiquity, crowned by Roman Senatori Giordano Orsini and Orso dell’Anguillara on the holy grounds of Rome’s Capitol.  Considered by many to have been “the Father of Humanism,” and reputed to have coined the term “Renaissance,” Petrarch was famous for his paeans to his idealized lover “Laura” (modeled, many scholars believe, on the wife of Hugues de Sade, Laura de Noves, whom he met in Avignon in 1327, and who died in 1348).  But Petrarch’s more fundamental and lasting contribution to culture came via Pietro Bembo, who created the model for the modern Italian language in the 16th century based largely on the works of Petrarch (and to a lesser degree, those of Dante and Petrarch’s frequent correspondent, Boccaccio).

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Written by LW

April 8, 2016 at 1:01 am

“I do not wish them [women] to have power over men; but over themselves”*…

 

One of 29 maps from WomanStats, plotting the status of women around the world.  Visit Landesa for more on this particular issue, and for what you can do to help.

* Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman

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As we realize that the greater good is in out self-interest, we might send transcendental birthday greetings to Albert Hofmann; he was born on this date in 1906.  As a young chemist at Sandoz in Switzerland, Hofmann was searching for a respiratory and circulatory stimulant when he fabricated lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD); handling it, he absorbed a bit through his fingertips and realized that the compound had psychoactive effects.  Three days later, on April 19, 1943– a day now known as “Bicycle Day”– Hofmann intentionally ingested 250 micrograms of LSD then rode home on a bike, a journey that became, pun intended, the first intentional acid trip.  Hofmann was also the first person to isolate, synthesize, and name the principal psychedelic mushroom compounds psilocybin and psilocin.

He died in 2008, at the age of 102.

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Written by LW

January 11, 2016 at 1:01 am

“I can excuse everything but boredom”*…

 

that’s very interesting… oh, that’s very interesting… THAT’S very interesting… that’s VERY interesting… that’s very INteresting… THAT’s VEry INteresting

 

oh, how INTERESTING… yes, how INTERESTING… that sounds so INTERESTING, doesn’t it, Claudine?…  oh my yes, i’m extraordinarily INTERESTED in it DO GO ON…  yes please, go on, do it’s so terribly interesting

 

Much more conversational coaching at “Women Trying To Politely End Conversations With Men In Western Art History.”

* Hedy Lamarr

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As we demur, we might trip the birthday fantastic for Freda Josephine McDonald– better known by her stage nameJosephine Baker– the dancer, singer, actress, and civil rights activist born on this date in 1906 in St. Louis, Mo.  By the mid-1920s, the “Black Venus” had become the toast of Paris and a celebrity throughout Europe; in 1934, she became the first black woman to star in a major motion picture (Zouzou) and to become a genuinely world-famous entertainer.

Baker was a vocal opponent of segregation in the U.S.; she worked closely with NAACP and refused to perform for segregated audiences.

Known for assisting the French Resistance during World War II, Baker received the French military honor, the Croix de guerre and was made a Chevalier of the Légion d’honneur by General Charles de Gaulle.  Her funeral service in Paris in 1975 drew 20,000 people, and she was the first American woman to receive a twenty-one-gun salute from the French government.

[Update from friend Ted Coltman: “Not to quibble, but I thought France, like most nations, reserves a 21-gun salute (i.e., with artillery) for heads of state, including the president of the French Republic.  Are you sure it wasn’t a “3-volley salute” by a 7-member rifle party, which would still constitute ‘full military honors’?”  Ted may well be right about this– as about so much else.  FWIW, my source was this piece from the National Women’s History Museum.  Either way– quite a woman.]

Carl Van Vechten’s 1951 portrait of Baker

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Written by LW

June 3, 2015 at 1:01 am

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