Friday, Jul 26, 2013, 5:08 pm · By Lindsay Beyerstein
Last year, Republican senate candidate Todd Akin gained instant nationwide notoriety with his assertion that “legitimate rape” doesn’t cause pregnancy. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down,” Akin said.
Akin’s opinion was so wildly implausible to anyone with a third-grade understanding of human reproduction that it seemed as if he must have been voicing a wholly original crackpot theory. As it turned out Akin, was parroting a view widely held by anti-choice extremists. In an attempt to excuse the lack of rape exemptions in their proposed abortion bans, extreme anti-choicers have seized on the convenient fiction that rape never causes pregnancy anyway.
The notion that pregnancy is somehow incompatible with rape has cropped up repeatedly in Western medicine and law over the centuries. An early version on the myth posited that pregnancy from rape was impossible because female orgasm was essential to conception. The assumption was that if a woman turns up pregnant, she must have had an orgasm, and therefore she couldn’t have been raped because rapes never cause orgasms. We now know that female orgasm is not necessary for conception and that orgasms during rape are relatively common.
Friday, Jul 19, 2013, 10:20 am · By Lindsay Beyerstein
Rolling Stone put a selfie of Jahar Tsarnaev on the cover of its August 1 issue, and all hell broke loose. The headline for Janet Reitman's cover story reads: "The Bomber: How a popular, promising student was failed by his family, fell into radical Islam, and became a monster." CVS is refusing to sell it, Mayor Thomas Menino of Boston called the cover a disgrace, and people I'm 99 percent sure have never read Rolling Stone are loudly threatening to cancel their subscriptions.
Their complaint is that Rolling Stone has glamorized terrorism.
Rolling Stone's art directors didn't make this image, Tsarnaev did. It was culled from one of his social media accounts and published in the Washington Post and the New York Times. It's a self-portrait of Tsarnaev doing his best impersonation of a sensitive, moody rock star, presumably taken around the time he was planning to blow up the Boston Marathon. You can tell it's a selfshot because Tsarnaev's right arm is outstretched inside his baggy Armani Exchange t-shirt in the universal symbol for "selfie." It's like a million teenage selfshots in which the photographer strains to project an idealized image.
Tuesday, Jul 16, 2013, 4:53 pm · By Lindsay Beyerstein
McDonald’s and Visa are being widely mocked for issuing a sample budget for their low-wage employees that fudges basic living expenses like heat and health care in order to make their meager wages seem livable.
In a post entitled, “That McDonald’s budget people are making fun of isn’t cruel. It’s realistic,” Timothy B. Lee of the Washington Post argues that many minimum wage workers really do live on $2,060 after-tax dollars a month and chides McDonald’s critics for being out-of-touch with how real Americans live. Way to miss the point.
Monday, Jul 15, 2013, 11:58 am · By Lindsay Beyerstein
A group of mothers in Bethesda is taking the mantle of feminism to advance the cause of prudery. The moms are up in arms about a local billboard for Equinox Gym and they are gathering signatures to get it taken down.
Saturday, Jul 6, 2013, 12:50 pm · By Lindsay Beyerstein
On Friday afternoon, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed into law a bill that could shutter two of the state’s four remaining abortion clinics. The law, which goes into effect on July 8, will require all abortion providers to have admitting privileges a hospital within 30 miles of a clinic where they provide abortions—a provisions that will force clinics in Milwaukee and Appleton to close, if the law survives a pending pro-choice court challenge.
Wisconsin is the latest of eight states to require admitting privileges for abortion providers. Texas' SB 5, now under debate in a second special Senate session, includes such stipulations and would force an estimated 42 out of 47 abortion clinics in the state to close. Alabama and Mississippi are blocked from enforcing their versions of the law while challenges work their way through the courts.
So-called Targeted Restriction of Abortion Providers (TRAP) laws impose medically unnecessary but financially and logistically onerous restrictions on abortion clinics in the hopes of driving them out of business. Currently, over 90 percent of abortions in the U.S. are performed in outpatient facilities, including clinics and doctors’ offices.
Common TRAP tactics include requiring abortion clinics to upgrade their facilities to the level of ambulatory surgical centers. These laws force clinics to waste medical resources. Money that could have gone to free care for poor women is now being wasted widening hallways and installing special ventilation systems. These high-tech amenities may be necessary for performing an out-of-hospital gastric bypass or knee replacement, but they are completely unnecessary for a 5-minute suction abortion under local anesthesia.
Friday, Jun 28, 2013, 1:09 pm · By Lindsay Beyerstein
People hate and fear what they don't understand. There is no more vivid illustration of this truism than the pronouncements of the religious right on sex and reproduction.
Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) set the gold standard for medical inaccuracy when he dragged the "legitimate rape" canard onto the national stage during his senate race, leaving a perplexed nation wondering what the hell he meant. "If it's legitimate rape," Akin opined, "the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."
The notion that rape never results in conception was used to unfairly discredit rape allegations for hundreds of years before science discredited the idea, but the modern anti-choice movement revived this dud in a disingenuous bid to convince the public that abortion bans don't need rape exemptions. One paper in particular, contained in a 1972 volume funded by Americans United for Life, has been, uh, seminal in reviving the myth in anti-choice circles. The author's evidence for this claim ranges from a pseudoscientific "experiment" from a Nazi concentration camp to his assertion that rapists masturbate too much to get their victims pregnant. The backlash against Akin's "legitimate rape" probably cost him the senate race. Akin's claim became the best known of a series of ignorant and condescending remarks about women's health by Republican candidates in 2012 that helped discredit Republicans in the eyes of women voters.
This month, as Texas debated an anti-abortion bill, anti-choice Republicans have been spouting misinformation so fast and so furiously that it's difficult to keep all the myths straight. For your reference, I offer this handy crib sheet of the latest Republican reproduction howlers.
Wednesday, Jun 19, 2013, 11:14 am · By Lindsay Beyerstein
Last week, the New York Times published an op-ed titled, “Is Forced Fatherhood Fair?” The author, Laurie Shrage, argued that, since a woman has the right to decide whether or not to carry a pregnancy to term, men should have the right to unilaterally opt out of fatherhood (which some proponents call a "paper abortion.") Fair’s fair, right?
Not so fast. Since a woman is carrying the pregnancy in her body, she gets to decide whether or not it results in a child. Since men can only cause pregnancies in other people’s bodies, they cede control over whether sex will ultimately result in a baby. The only alternative would be to give biological fathers the right to force the women carrying their babies to have abortions or give birth, which is clearly unacceptable.
Thursday, Jun 6, 2013, 3:46 pm · By Lindsay Beyerstein
Ah, the New York Times’ Ethicist, the advice columnist who exists to make Dear Prudence look rigorous. Last week, Ethicist Chuck Klosterman blithely gave a college student permission to hand in the same paper for two classes without getting the permission of either professor, even if his school’s honor code forbids it:
The more I think this over, the more I find myself agreeing with your position. I don’t think this is cheating. I wouldn’t say it qualifies as “genius,” and it might get you expelled from some universities. Yet I can’t isolate anything about this practice that harms other people, provides you with an unfair advantage or engenders an unjustified reward.
Of course a student who breaks the rules and hands in the same paper twice is getting an unjustified reward and harming others in the process. By writing one paper instead of two, he cuts his workload in half, which gives him an academic edge. A student who followed the rules might only be able to produce two B papers in the time allotted. Whereas, the dishonest student can devote all his time to writing one A paper, to be graded twice. It’s not fair that the honest student gets two B’s while the underhanded student gets two A’s for doing half the work. If the dishonest student’s inflated GPA gets him a spot in medical school, the honest student he beat out has been harmed.
Friday, May 31, 2013, 4:27 pm · By Lindsay Beyerstein
Ibragim Todashev, a 27-year-old Chechen immigrant with ties to the Boston bombing suspects, was shot and killed during an interrogation in Orlando, Fla. on May 22.
Todashev was being questioned in his home by an FBI agent and two other officers about a 2011 triple murder in Massachusetts. One of the victims was reportedly the best friend of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the late Boston bombing suspect. Tamerlan was rumored to have been involved in Massachusetts murders.
Friday, May 24, 2013, 11:28 am · By Lindsay Beyerstein
Sarah Polley's new film, "Stories We Tell," is a documentary about unraveling a family secret. At the age of 28, Polley learned that her mother's husband, Michael, who had raised her from birth, was not her biological father. This was news to Michael, too. His wife, Diane, had gone to her grave without divulging the secret.
In an attempt to piece together her true origins, Polley interviews Michael, her older siblings and some of her mother's friends and relations. The interviews are interspersed with Super 8 home movies from Polley's childhood and recreations of pivotal moments in Diane's life, also shot on Super 8.
Polley appears in the film, but not as an interview subject. She is present as interrogator and auteur, constructing the story of her birth from the memories of others. It's refreshing to see a movie that depicts a young female director in cool creative control. Michael remarks that Sarah's going to take all this interview footage and edit it to be whatever she wants it to be. We know he's right.