Posts Tagged ‘stigma’

Clitoris Awareness Week meets National Bike Month

May 7, 2013


May is National Bike Month and this week is International Clitoris Awareness Week. So, how do the two fit together?

Clitoris awareness, unlike penis awareness, is not a given. Female children and girls are less aware of the details of their anatomy than boys are. And historically the clitoris has been an object of denial, scorn and even violence (as in female circumcision). This article, for example, documents the  psychological harm done by lack of accurate emphasis on this important organ.

So what does any of this have to do with cycling? Aside from anecdotal reports of spontaneous orgasms occurring during cycling (both men and women), there are other effects of bicycle seats meeting female genitalia, as well described in this blog post . Similar problems occur for men (sometimes resulting in impotence), but this is not Penis Awareness Week — one could argue that every week is.

If you find yourself shocked, embarrassed, or snickering about this blog post, you have just demonstrated the need for Clitoris Awareness Week. I admit, I first heard about it on Weekend Update (on SNL, a comedy TV show) and thought it was pretty silly. But further thought has convinced me it is also serious, and worth publicizing.

For all you ever wanted to know about the clitoris, and more, see this web site.


Do you know a fat person?

July 20, 2010

Call them obese, huge or fat — the stigma won’t go away. And I’m not sure it should.  Obesity is bad for a person’s health, bad for the planet, bad for fellow airline passengers, and even bad for babies born to obese mothers (which, in turn, is bad for the economy; see NYTimes article).  When something causes this many personal and social problems we usually assume it is not a good thing to have or be.

“But,” some say, “we mustn’t blame the victim.  Obesity isn’t a weakness or a fault; it’s genetic. When we stigmatize people, they suffer even more, and may even avoid seeking help.” There is a kernel of truth to this concern, but it distracts us from the main point: obesity can and should be eliminated over time, through more research, and through attacking many known contributing factors (factors such as the  marketing and subsidizing of unhealthy foods).

The most active researchers who advocate against “weight bias” and “weight stigma” (Kelly Brownell and Rebecca Puhl at Yale, for example) also tell us that the obesity epidemic is growing and the health consequences are horrible.  They do not claim the problem is due to a change in genetics.  People can do a lot to prevent and even treat obesity, without altering genes (see many of my posts in this blog).

An anti-obesity program in Singapore that targeted overweight children was discontinued because of concern about stigma, even though the program was effective (reducing the percentage of overweight children from 14% to 9.5% in fourteen years — 1992 – 2006; click here for more information). I don’t know what should have been done in this case; there are no easy answers.

Outright discrimination against people based on appearance is generally wrong, and fat people should be treated sensitively and humanely, no matter what caused their affliction.  (Many equate stigma with discrimination, but I see a difference between the two concepts.)

Whether or not it reduces stigma, television has recently upped its focus on obesity by producing such shows as “Drop Dead Diva,” “Huge,” “Mike and Molly,” and, of course, “The Biggest Loser.”  A new series starts next month, “Too Fat for Fifteen: Fighting Back,” and at least one other obesity-related series is in the works. See this article for a discussion of how obesity is being addressed on TV.

[The photo at the top of this post is from ABC Family’s series “Huge”]

The stigma of not owning a pet

August 12, 2008

I confess, I don’t have a pet in my house. Increasingly, I feel I have to defend myself for my non-pet status, or at least fend off well-meaning friends and relatives who clearly believe I am deprived (at best) or depraved (at worst). People assume, because I don’t want a dog, that I “don’t like dogs.”

I love animals, and have had pets (dogs and cats) most of my life, but when our last cat died a few years ago, I vowed to go pet free for the indefinite future. My wife is ambivalent about this, and would love to have a dog or cat, until her emotions calm down and she reasons it out. We are extremely busy, love to travel, and don’t have good outdoor space for a dog. But more and more people we know are getting dogs, and apparently feel it is their duty to convince us to get one, too (cat-owners seem less interested in spreading the joy). We tell them that as soon as I die  my wife will get a dog (on the way home from the Emergency Room, she says), and we have named him or her “Skippy.”

Pets (“animal companions”) do seem to provide people with some health benefits (dogs, for example, take us for walks), and they are great for lonely people and people who like being a caregiver. I am not denying they can be a lot of fun.  Now, 39% of U.S. households own at least one dog (of those, 37% own more than one), and we in the U.S. spend over $43 billion a year on our pets (up from $23 billion in 1998). The average dog-owning household spends $1425 annually (estimated) on food, boarding, vet care, toys, etc. (the comparable figure for cat-owners is $990). See these sites (here and here) for statistical information.

I am interested in what you think. If you have a dog, do you want others to, also? If you are not a pet owner, do you ever feel defensive because of it?