Feminist Philosophers

News feminist philosophers can use

Having a cocktail is such fun; let’s blame breast cancer deaths on it. April 12, 2013

Filed under: ageing,aging,breast cancer — annejjacobson @ 12:37 am

Goodness knows why alcohol got the blame, but it certainly did. A large study based on nurses’ self-reports was a very significant factor in this story.

Alcohol and Risk of Breast Cancer
Steven A. Narod, MD
JAMA. 2011;306(17):1920-1921. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.1589.

In this issue of JAMA, Chen and colleagues1 report findings from the Nurses’ Health Study exploring the relationship between alcohol consumption and breast cancer risk. The authors’ principal findings were that the cumulative amount of alcohol a woman consumes during adulthood is the best predictor of her breast cancer risk and that low levels of alcohol consumption (as few as 3 drinks a week) are associated with an increased risk of breast cancer.

Everyone (it seems) at the large, famous and amazingly effective cancer center, MD Anderson, is extremely anti-alcohol.

But that may not be the whole story. From today’s NY Times:

Alcohol consumption is known to increase the risk for breast cancer. But a new study suggests that moderate drinking has little effect on survival after diagnosis, and may reduce deaths from cardiovascular disease.

Researchers, writing online in The Journal of Clinical Oncology, studied 22,890 women with breast cancer, recording information on alcohol intake before diagnosis and, for a subset of 4,881 of them, after diagnosis as well.

After controlling for age, education, stage of cancer, body mass index, smoking and other factors, they found that breast cancer survival was similar in women who drank alcohol after diagnosis and those who did not. But women who drank moderately before diagnosis — three to six drinks a week — were significantly less likely to die of breast cancer and of cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular disease, the authors write, is increasingly being recognized as a mortality cause among breast cancer survivors.

There are a lot of questions left unanswered. One is about the difference between risk and death for people not yet diagnosed at age 50.

 

Feeling past it? Don’t! February 12, 2013

Filed under: ageing,aging,Uncategorized — annejjacobson @ 8:55 pm

I haven’t had time to watch the whole thing, but I’d bet it is heteronormative. On the other hand, its portrayal of African American women seems to be non-standard in a good way, though it might be classist. See what you think!

 

So you found the magic pill… January 2, 2013

Filed under: ageing,aging,appearance,autonomy — annejjacobson @ 7:41 pm

Let’s suppose you were given a prescription for a pill that will mean you lose 2-3 lbs a week, while you eat as much as you want of anything you want.

But it has some side effects.  One is getting seized by itching, which seems to move around your body at random.  (Cortisone cream helps.)  Another is that you can get tense and a bit bad tempered; your partner’s new and strange desire to help with dinner is irritating you a lot.  Digestion is not as simple as before, there may be mild hair loss(temporary), sleep can be disturbed easily and you have quite dry mouth.  And even with insurance, it is $10 a pill, one pill daily.

Of course, you strongly disapprove of the cultural obsession about women’s weight that is all around you.  But then you remember the recent remark on this blog that if you lose 20 lbs, your course evaluations will go up.  So it isn’t that you are endorsing these norms; you are trying to survive them.

Not everyone gets all the side effects.  How much would you tolerate to lose 15 lbs in 5 weeks?  Without ever being hungry, eating what you want, etc.

——————————

By the way, there really is such a pill.  Do you know which it is?

 

Seventeen December 23, 2012

Filed under: ageing,aging,appearance,autonomy,glbt,Uncategorized — annejjacobson @ 12:22 am

Seventeen is a magazine that tries to cater for late teen tastes.  I used to look at it occasionally when I was a teen, and so when I was trapped waiting for 45 min for a friend, I decided to take a look at its prom issue.  I could divide the comments in my head into two types:

From long ago:  1.  Some of these dresses look like night gowns; do you want to go to the prom in your underwear?

( a bit of a non-sequitur, but you get the idea)

2.  Thank goodness some of them are not strapless.

(the nuns would roam around with muslim muslin and safety pins to cover up an immodest girl.)

And then voices from the present century:

1.  Some of the dresses are sized 2-18 and others go as large as 24.  Fabulous.

2.  Big bottoms are clearly allowed and maybe even enouraged.  Yea!  (When I was buying Seventeen, we – already poorly endowed white women/girls – all wore girdles.)

3.  No more photoshopping of bodies, Seventeen says, and that’s actually likely.   Plus-size models are genuinely plus.  Hooray!

The down side:  the burning questions of today look awfully like those of the 50’s and 60′, which means way too many of them are about how he will react to you/her.   Gay couples don’t have any  problems??  There are no important problems that don’t have to do with sex?

O, Tra-la-la.  Life is deliciously trivial

 

Would you have expected this? November 22, 2012

Filed under: academia,ageing,aging,altruism — annejjacobson @ 7:26 pm

I was surprised by an incident – involving me – on my campus. I would not have expected this, and in fact I’ve embarrassingly agreed in print with Hume about our having a natural tendency to care about others, at least those in our community who are like us.

I had been at a large and fairly formal lunch. No alcohol, but I was in my best daytime attire. Shortly after I left the hotel on campus where the event was, I stumbled and fell. Fortunately, my left hand and arm got most of the damage; my head didn’t touch the ground and nothing was broken. But I was very shaken up. So I decided not to move for a while.

So picture this: definitely older woman, black silk trousers, quite nice red top, a rope of pearls, sitting on a campus sidewalk, her back against a wall, and her legs straight out onto the pavement. A few possessions scattered by her side. A university name tag still on her top.

I think something like 20-25 students passed me. No one stopped and asked if I needed help.

Of course, I could have asked for help, but decided not to when no one seemed the least bit concerned. But I hardly looked to be just enjoying myself; I hope I would have stopped if it were someone else.

 

The Sunday cat feels grateful to observant human beings with cameras! July 22, 2012

Filed under: aging,cats,Uncategorized — annejjacobson @ 2:52 am

another good case of color coordination.

 

Complete and Beautiful June 13, 2012

Filed under: aging,appearance,beauty,disability,self-esteem,Uncategorized — femphil @ 3:52 pm

Check out Complete and Beautiful, a new website celebrating “every girl and woman, of every shape, size, ability, skin tone, age, and uniqueness.”  Here is a letter of invitation from Jessi Lax, the site’s founder.

To the girls and women of the world,

Let me introduce myself. My name is Jessica. I graduated from college in May 2011.  I have a labradoodle service dog, Darby, who means the world to me.   I’m 5’0” on a good day. I’ve never been one to sit on the sidelines.  One of my nicknames is Cinderella because my shoes are constantly falling off of my feet.  And, like Ellen DeGeneres, I believe in dance.

I am in the process of starting a beauty campaign: Complete and Beautiful. The mission of Complete and Beautiful is to celebrate all girls and women, inside and out. The beauty campaign is not just about your appearance; it is about how you see yourself as a person, and how other people see you as well. Complete and Beautiful is a website that, I hope, will evolve into something much bigger. But first, let me explain where I’m coming from.

I have a mild case of Cerebral Palsy.  It affects my legs and my left hand. I did not even realize that I was differently-abled until I was ten. I did not begin to deal with my circumstances until my senior year of high school.  My ability status, along with other societal preferences regarding appearance, fueled my troubles with body image.

My body is not representative of the standard ideal. For years I thought I was ugly. For years society has told me directly and indirectly that I am not valuable, not worthy, not desirable, and not complete.  In our society, people, especially girls and women, are inundated by messages that they are unattractive or deficient in some way, making women self-conscious and insecure.  Women worry and fuss, almost constantly, about things like their weight, skin tone, and  age.  All girls and women, even those judged to be classically beautiful, struggle as they try to reach and sustain an impossible perfection. Looking beautiful is unfortunately no guarantee of feeling beautiful. All of these factors and more contribute to possibly one of the most damaging messages of all: “You cannot be loved.”

I was one of those girls. I had that pain; I felt unlovable. But I refuse to keep the cycle going. I’m asking you to help me change lives; perhaps even save them.  I am miles ahead of where I was a few years ago. Admittedly, I still have my share of bad days. However, more often than not, I find myself smiling at my reflection. Why? How? I started to make a concerted effort to believe in and see my own beauty.  It was extremely difficult, and at times it still is, but I did it.

This is for every girl and woman, of every shape, size, ability, skin tone, age, and uniqueness. This is for you–because you are complete and you are beautiful.

Go to:  www.completeandbeautiful.com and share your story today.

Sincerely,

Jessica Lax

 

Alarming health news May 27, 2012

Filed under: ageing,aging,medicine,Uncategorized — annejjacobson @ 1:55 pm

Studies about diet are always somewhat questionable, an article in the NYTimes says, when they rely on self-reports. Still, the possibility raised by a new report is just scary:

The latest study, published online in the journal Heart, was the largest and most detailed to date on calcium intake and disease, involving more than 24,000 people who were taking part in a large continuing analysis called the European Prospective Investigation Into Cancer and Nutrition. The subjects, ages 35 to 64 at the start of the research, were followed for 11 years and questioned about things like their health, their food intake and their supplement use.

In an attempt to rule out or minimize the effects of other factors that contribute to heart disease and could complicate the results, the authors took into account age, physical activity, body mass index, diet, and alcohol and cigarette use …

But looking specifically at supplements presented a more alarming picture. People who got their calcium almost exclusively from supplements were more than twice as likely to have a heart attack compared with those who took no supplements. The researchers speculated that taking calcium in supplement form causes blood levels of the mineral to quickly spike to harmful levels, whereas getting it from food may be less dangerous because the calcium is absorbed in smaller amounts at various points throughout the day.

This is round three on calcium supplements. We’ve also looked at round 1,“no, you almost certainly  don’t need extra calcium, ” and round 2, “yes, you probably do need extra calcium”.

 

What’s wrong with dying? May 15, 2012

Filed under: ageing,aging,autonomy — annejjacobson @ 4:24 pm

Shelly Kagan has a new book out on the topic and an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education. I don’t think it is behind any wall or requirement, and it is interesting to read. And quite puzzling.

Kagan favors the deprivation view:

Maybe nonexistence is bad for me, not in an intrinsic way, like pain, and not in an instrumental way, like unemployment leading to poverty, which in turn leads to pain and suffering, but in a comparative way—what economists call opportunity costs. Death is bad for me in the comparative sense, because when I’m dead I lack life—more particularly, the good things in life. That explanation of death’s badness is known as the deprivation account.

Dying is bad for you, on this view, because you are deprived of the good things in life. But there is a huge problem right on the surface: If you are not around, then how can you be deprived? It seems you can’t.

Most of the article discusses this problem; Kagan concludes that not all the puzzles can be resolved.

Now, let me admit that I know there is a lot of writing on this that I haven’t read. So I mean be rushing in, etc, etc. Still, for various reasons I have recently read a great deal written by women with terminal illnesses, particularly stage 4 cancer (which I am not anywhere near having, in case you wonder). Any stage 4 cancer is terminal; it can’t be cured and it will kill you if nothing else does. In what I have read it is very clear what the women hate about the thought of dying. The awful thing about dying for most of these women is that they are integral parts of social groups, particularly families, that they care a great deal about, that they put a large amount of energy into, and that will be harmed by their death, or even destroyed.

Even women who lament that they will not see their youngest daughter graduate, or their son get married, are often not thinking, “O, that’s a good time I won’t have.” Rather, their thought is more about how their child will have a large gap in the normal social surrounding. Other grads get photographed with both parents; theirs will stand out as not having a mother.

Is this true for all of us? It might seem not. A young person might not give a fig about children, or her parents for that matter. What is most important is winning academic recognition, perhaps. Having the honor of receiving the Nobel Prize, or an Oscar. Such desires might be much more self-regarding than those of nurturing one’s family. Still, it may be that these desires are less about one’s own experience and more about the social world one is invested in.

For myself, the thought of death right now is most frightening because I will leave someone who does actually need me to be around, and who is helped a lot by my presence in the world. I expect we vary on this, but I’m pretty sure I’d be close to indifferent to survival if all my social world was somehow evaporated. Or so it seems right now.

I am saying this, I should say, after 4 weeks in Oxford where we’ve had, it seems, about 3 sunny days. Perhaps during a period of fine weather, I’d feel the emotional ebullience that leads to the thought: Not me! I can’t go! Take all my friends, but I must be left (along with enough good food, music, art, etc). Death is too awful.

I just don’t know that we should expect to find that rational. What do you think?

Or, to put the point simply: if we think of the goods that accrue individualistically, then death means one doesn’t get any more, but then one isn’t around to experience the lack. If, however, we think of the good socially, one’s death can be very destructive to things one has spent significant parts of one’s life on. One might not feel the destruction and loss, once dead, but it will be there unless, as many people do (I think) one goes to some lengths to see that such things will survive one’s death.

 

Health care cost skyrocket, recommendations for screening women reduced March 27, 2012

Filed under: ageing,aging,cancer,gender,medicine — annejjacobson @ 6:30 pm

From the NY Times:

For nearly three generations, women have been taught that annual Pap smears, mammograms and visits with their doctor were essential to good health.

Now all that is changing. National guidelines are urging less frequent screening for breast and cervical cancer. The declining use of menopause hormones means that older women no longer need to check in with their doctors to obtain annual refills. Women are delaying childbirth, and some birth control methods are effective for five years, giving women even less incentive to schedule a regular appointment.

I have very mised feelings about this.  I’d love to know what others think.

I do think that the early introduction to the gynocologist that so many young women experience can easily become part of the pathologizing of the female body.  There are so many bits, and they need constand vigilance because they can turn against you at any monent.  And that’s just day to day life; if you become pregnant, little choices you make can ruin two lives, or indeed more.

On the other hand, I do not really understand the argument that the yearly screening is bad because there are a number of false positives that cause a lot of stress.  Doesn’t a human life typically involve facing the possibility of really bad news?

For example, at the age of 16 children’s brains are  not yet developed enough to give their owners the self control that adults more typically have.  And that’s when they can get control of a car to drive around.  Now there’s stress.  Or how about the stress of having a mean boss or getting demoted, turned down or even ridiculed in a social context.  What’s worse:  getting a really nasty review or having to go back to have the mammo redone just in case?  Or even having a biopsy because there is a lump.

And then there’s the suspicion that the reductions are occurring just when health care costs are receiving so much attention.

So what do you think?  I’m really interested in hearing what people think about the early pathologization of the female body.  It would also be great to hear from people not from the medically self-conscious USA.

I do remember Michael Dummett claiming that American concerns with, e.g., smoking argued a national narcissism about perfecting the individual.

Please let us know your views.

 

 
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