After the terrible loss of life on the Malaysian Airlines flight MH17, including six AIDS researchers and activists who were on their way to an International AIDS conference in Australia it seems that work in this medical field is particularly bleak right now. However, even though there has been much loss, there is some interesting news emerging from HIV and AIDS research. Namely condoms that have an antiviral compound to protect against HIV, Herpes and other STDs and the news that the Lancet has called for global action to protect sex workers from HIV and AIDS by decriminalising sex work.
When you think about the future, what do you envisage? Rocket boots? Meals reduced down to a pill? Robot servants? Remote control contraception? Yeah it's featured in all the sci-fi movies and films set in the future. In fact in Back to the Future II all the ladies are zapping their contraceptive chips right? That's what the kids will call it. Apparently come 2018 a'remote control' contraceptive chip will be available and I like to think a whole host of family sitcoms will feature baffled dads trying to change the TV channel with their daughter's contraception remote will follow. This form of contraception does not actually appear to be quite as exciting as it sounds, until you hear doctors discussing how the device can't be hacked. Hacked!
"May God curse every one of those who has failed to free our girls", these are the words of Enoch Mark, whose daughter and two nieces are missing, along with over 100 students abducted from the Government Girls Secondary School in the Chibok area of the north-eastern state of Borno. The young women were abducted two weeks ago. Two weeks we have known about this. Since I heard about the abduction on the news I have been listening out for it. Call it bad timing, perhaps the media thinks we can only handle one disaster at a time but the story quickly fell to the end of the news, just before the sport. And I didn't say anything. Because I like to post slightly flip articles that tend to cover middle class white girl angst or males encroaching on female space. We're just a small feminist blog. I thought someone else would say something. Because I didn't know what to say.
In March of this year the definition of domestic abuse was changed to include the term 'coercive control', this was added to the domestic abuse definition of "any incident of threatening behaviour, or abuse between adults who are or have been intimate partners or family members, regardless of gender or sexuality". Now a campaign is under way to pilot a bill through parliament making emotional blackmail a crime. The new draft bill proposes making it illegal to "make contact with a victim in an aggressive way" and to "intend to control or coerce" your partner.
Such a crime will carry the penalty of up to 14 years imprisonment. It is another step towards not just acknowledging the damage domestic abuse can cause but helping victims define what is happening to them and realise their partner's behaviour is not usual in a healthy relationship.
I don't know anybody who has what can be described as a 'good' smear test story as such. Funny? Yeah, sure why not. Shocking? Yes. Embarrassing? Uh, yes. But I don't know one woman who can tell, or hear a smear test story without automatically crossing her legs. It isn't something that comes up much in polite conversation because eeeeesh! Charity PR don't seem to be able to make the entrance to the womb cute. Which is silly because, armed with my Biology AS Level I understand it to be pink. That's a lady marketing dream, no? And there doesn't seem to be much happening in way of making the test less invasive. Bar tips on demanding plastic speculums, or if it is metal, demanding it be warmed. A friend once got her labia nipped by a speculum. What can you recommend to solve that? Loose lips...Speculum nips.
It is the subject that divides feminists more than the subject of male presence in feminist spaces. More than what importance we place on being cis or not being transphobic. More than the luxuriousness of our bikini lines. More than whether or not we heat our communes by using putting bras in the brazier (I slay me). It is the subject of sex work. Should we support it or not? How do we define the peculiar line of 'selling your body' (if I seem biased, it's because I am)? Who is exploiting who here? Or are 2 (or more) consenting adults entering into an agreed service purchase? Argh, so many questions! What I do know as a responsible feminist is that we don't want the adult sex workers (note distinction from traffiked humans) who live this life, work this work, making any of the decisions over their lives.
Iain Banks Image: Stuart Caie
In an announcement that caused his website to crash, author Iain [M] Banks yesterday shared the devastating news that he has late stage gall bladder cancer, and may only have months to live. Squeamish Louise and Gareth pay tribute to the work of an extraordinary writer...
The announcement was beautifully written - emotive, with a strand of dark humour. Of course it was. But it was impossible to read without an almost physical reaction of sadness. Banks has written 26 novels - 14 as Iain Banks and a further 12 as Iain M Banks. But when he dies we'll be losing more than just a prolific author.
How do you like dem apples? (pixelated for decency) Image:Srqpix
Porn. It’s the big subject Western feminists have, depending on your stance, the luxury to bicker over or the calling to destroy all forms of it. Recently there has been a lot of concern that young people’s first exposure to sex is porn, which they use in lieu of proper sex education at school or from their parents. It’s possible this causes huge misunderstanding about bodies and creates…expectations. It’s been blamed for sexting (I blame phones) among teens and causing greater anxiety over body issues. Many people find it just plain offensive.
Maybe we would all like some good porn related news. Yeah? Yeah. According to a study at Indiana University watching porn (any porn) makes heterosexual men more tolerant of the idea of equal marriage. If you don’t think that is good news, perhaps you should go watch a little porn. Right now. You’re online, it’s pretty hard to avoid. I’ll wait.
Breast exam. Image: SteveR
WOMEN! Are you a woman? Then you absolutely must have a smear test at the age of 20! It's a matter of life or death! No, actually 25. But it's still a matter of life or death! Glad that's over? Oh you have to have that every couple of years. Also you're hurtling towards a very necessary/unnecessary breast exam, do you check your breasts? Right, you must check them, you can do it anywhere. At the bus stop, at the till, doing the school run, nobody will notice. Oh no wait that's kegels. Do not check your breasts anywhere. Do your kegels like you've got a ping pong tournament approaching and check your breasts in a private moment.
As women get older we all know they begin to fall apart. This can be due to excess bloating, migraines, crow's feet, cellulite, excess bikini line hair and shameful constipation that results in flat hair. Also flat hair. As if those afflictions weren't enough there is also the possibility of cervical cancer and breast cancer to contend with.
Today is the first ever United Nations International Day of the Girl Child (The term 'Girl Child' here is used to highlight the particular struggles young women and girls under 18) . Today's International Day of the Girl was lobbied for by the people behind the Because I am a Girl...campaign Plan UK in order to have a “day in recognition of girls' rights and accomplishments”.
Plan UK hope, through new awareness, to generate more signatures for their petition to put pressure on UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon to “lead action by world leaders to make girls' education a priority.”
Global statistics show that 1 in 3 girls are denied a secondary education due to poverty, discrimination and violence. If that doesn't convince you to add your signature how about the statistic that every 3 seconds a girl is coaxed, coerced or forced into a marriage?