Category Archives: Health and Wellness

Wheels of Change: How the Bicycle Empowered Women – The Atlantic

As it warms up and the ice puddles have shrunk, some of you may be digging your bicycles out of the garage/shed/storage unit.  After you’ve taken that first ride of spring, check out this awesome article about how bicycles liberated women!

Wheels of Change: How the Bicycle Empowered Women – The Atlantic.

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breaking for spring

I am aware some of you fortunate folk are off bathing on a sun-baked beach or zip-lining through jungle tree tops or reclining by a pool on the deck of a cruise ship.  And to all of you I say, “I am jealous!”  For those of us who stayed home for spring break, this can still be a wonderful time for self-care and rejuvenation, even if it means rejuvenating after work hours.

I love this time of year, not only for the well-timed (and much-needed) break, but because the days are getting longer and the sun is feeling warmer on my face.  Though my windshield was a bit frosty this morning, the sun melted it in a moment and I am wearing sandals!  It has to be spring!

It’s at this point in the year when I need to do some cleaning.  There are wintry cobwebs on my ceilings.  The house smells stuffy and the windows beg to be opened.  The wool and cotton need to trade places in my closet.  And my wool coat and down comforter need a trip to the dry cleaners before they are stored away for the summer.  And the clutter HAS to go!  I have stacks of books and magazines littering every surface of my house (thanks graduate school!).  Since my last bout of spring cleaning, my odds and ends for crafting have accumulated in spaces beyond the dresser it should fit in.  Basically, I need a big box and the willpower to sort the junk from the treasures and make deliveries to the appropriate second-hand stores.

With spring cleaning comes not only a sense of accomplishment, but a sense of peace.  I feel calm when my house is clean and organized.  I  feel in control.  I think it’s because as I sort out all of the clutter, I do an internal assessment of clutter.  I let go of a grade that could have been better and pour the energy spent worrying into productivity on the next assignment.  I clean out my internal cobwebs and dust and junk and allow myself to really take in the spring time.  Spring is a time for energy and wellness.  This is apparent from the significant increase in joggers in my neighborhood over the last couple of days.

After Spring Break, we have only six weeks before finals.  How will you make the most of the last month and a half of the semester?  Do you have some personal goals?  Do any of those goals include time to breathe in the coming spring or relax in the sunshine?  Maybe a nice pedicure or register for that 5K or half marathon you’ve had your eye on?

This is a great time in the semester to remember to take care of yourself.

Written by Liz Steinborn, Equity and Social Justice Educator at the MSWC.  Stop by or email if you want to work on goal-setting or just chat about making it to the end of the semester (eas123@iastate.edu).

News of Note

Check out this insightful article found in the Iowa State Daily newspaper on Friday, January 7th.

Did you miss the special MTV did on teen abortions called “No Easy Decision” during winter break? You probably did, considering MTV did not promote the special that aired after the “16 and Pregnant” reunion special in any way whatsoever. They even put the special in the after hours graveyard spot of 11:30 p.m. eastern time.

So what’s the big deal? Well, the fact that it wasn’t promoted or advertised gives in to the popular idea that having an abortion is something not to be talked about and something to be ashamed of. If their own network is afraid to tackle promoting this difficult subject, how are women who had abortion supposed to feel?

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The stand alone special featured three teens — including Markai, who gave birth to another child on the show “16 and Pregnant” — and their decision to terminate their pregnancies and the emotional aftermath. While the special did a good job showing abortion in a fair light, the lack of promotion hurt its chance to be helpful to teens struggling with abortion decisions.

Nearly one-third of all teen pregnancies end in abortion, according to the Guttmacher Institute, yet “16 and Pregnant” does not feature any teens who chose this option. Then again, this is the same show where very few mothers have chosen to give up their child for adoption. What does it say when a “reality” TV show refuses to show all of the options, mainly abortion?

On the “16 and Pregnant” reunion special that was aired before “No Easy Decision,” Markai talked with Dr. Drew about life after her baby was born. Not once was her abortion discussed at all, but was the main story on the special. Even when discussing birth control and plans for having another child, her abortion was ignored.

Of course the reunion was highly publicized on MTV and was expected to have a high viewership, unlike “No Easy Decision” which you watched only if you stayed long enough after the reunion to care.

MTV isn’t the only one to shy away from the abortions. Movies such as Juno, “Knocked Up” and “Waitress” all feature unplanned pregnancies but talk little about abortion or use the word. In “Knocked Up” it is called “taking care of it” or a “Rhymes with Susmortion.” In “Waitress” it was simply “the other thing” In “Juno,” Juno goes to the clinic for one, only to be change her mind when learning the baby has fingernails.

Even in the ever cheesy Canadian Show “Degrassi” when they did an abortion two-part episode, the American channel The N, refused to show it due to it controversial content. This same network had no problem showing teen pregnancy, drinking, STDs, school shootings, but abortion is controversial. Especially since the show has many plots dealing with sexuality that puts characters with an unplanned pregnancy.

Why is it that while Roe v. Wade case decision turns 38 this month, that abortion is still looked down upon, or not talked about at all in television?

Why is the media so scared to show abortion as a reasonable choice for women? Sure it is controversial, and not a simple choice to make, but it is happening. By not publicizing it doesn’t mean abortion will magically go away.

TV seems to feature abortion plots more than movies, but never in an even slightly positive light. If a character does have an abortion or is thinking about on in a movie or television show, there are several options for her:

1. She magically miscarries before she has an abortion such as on “Dawson’s Creek” and “Beverly Hill’s 90210.”

Because while miscarriage does happen, there is a slim chance that by wishing you don’t want the baby it will magically happen.

2. She is very much distressed with and turns to alcohol drugs or other bad behavior, or she dreams about dead babies, like in “Six Feet Under.”

While I think it is safe to say that abortion can cause emotional stress, it does not mean that all women react the same way. So why does our media show only the worst possible scenario?

3. You die. This occurs after the abortion, when after backlash from people who find the plot controversial and boycott your show and then screen writers decide to kill off the character to appease them. This happened in the short lived “Jack and Bobby” series.

Because higher forces will punish you by death for having an abortion regardless if you believe in them. I’m sure Planned Parenthood says otherwise.

4. At the last possible minute she will change her mind and keep the baby. Naturally everything is turns out okay, such as in a plot in “Sex and the City” and more recently “Private Practice” and the god awful “Secret Life of the American Teenager.”

While abortion is not the right choice for everyone, these shows send the message that it’s not the right choice for anyone.

Friday Night Lights” is the only show I can think of that recently did a good job with this topic, with Becky clearly stating why she wanted it. She was in the 10th grade with no money and knew she couldn’t raise a child. After having the abortion she thought she made the right choice. We shall see if screenwriters and advertisers allow her to keep this decision.

In the 1970s, there was one show that portrayed abortion in a fair light, “Maude.” While Maude was upset about it, she didn’t die, change her mind, or turn to drugs. In the end she was okay with her decision and moved on. That was 30 years ago, and we have made little progress since then.

There might be more abortion friendly plots I am missing considering I don’t spend all day watching TV, but the fact is they are few in number, and if they are there they are narrow in their views.

What do I want to see in 2011? An abortion storyline on television portrayed in a fair light, where while the decision was difficult they feel like they made the right choice. Oh and for it to be shown at a decent hour.

What happened to the days where TV was more progressive than the movies? Where they pushed the envelope on what you can see on TV and were advocates for social change? It seems now days they are too worried about backlash and loss of advertisements dollars to do anything outside the box.

Women in Disguise

Undercover working mother: I dress like a SAHM for the doctor

One mother swaps business suits for yoga pants when she takes her children to the doctor, after discovering that a “stay-at-home mom outfit” gets more respect. Have you ever pretended — or let people believe — that you stay at home with your kids when you actually work, or vice versa?

By Mommy Moments for BlogHer

As I was getting dressed this morning, Hubbie and I were discussing the plan for the day.  The one that involved a doctor’s appointment, a sick child, one who needed to get to the school bus and then of course ballet after school.  When I finally said I had to run, he looked at me and asked why I was wearing jeans.  A reasonable question since it’s the middle of the week and my office is notoriously dressy.

But this morning Bugaboo had an appointment at the Ear, Nose and Throat specialist.  The one whose wife gave up her career to stay at home with their two boys so he could work 80-hour weeks.  I know this because the boys went to the same pre-school two days a week that Sugar Plum went to five days a week.

“You may not want to hear this,” I said, “but they treat me differently if they think I work.”

My husband didn’t believe me. How could he? If he rushes into a doctor’s appointment in a suit (or in his case a uniform), he’s considered “Dad of the Year” for taking time out of his busy day to take his children to the doctor.

I have three children. All of whom have seen some form of specialist. I promise you that the days I show up in jeans are the days they listen to me, while the few times I’ve shown up in a business suit, I’ve been questioned about how well I know my child’s daily activities.

As a working mother, I already carry enough guilt in my life, and on more than one occasion I’ve been told:

  • My child wouldn’t be as sick as he/she is if they didn’t “have” to go to daycare.
  • I couldn’t possibly know all of my child’s symptoms since they aren’t with me during the day.
  • That they can’t just prescribe antibiotics so I can drop my child off at daycare and get back to work.

So I lie. Well, actually I don’t really lie, I just don’t dress the part. It’s like being undercover to see how the other half live. I am proud that I am a working mother (if you want to continue to believe that statement don’t read this), but I do realize that in some situations I am clearly labeled before I walk in the door.

In my high heels, black suit and patten leather purse, I am a working mother who drops her children off at daycare. In my jeans, flats and diaper bag I am a mother concerned about her child and willing/able to invest the time in their care.

True, it’s not every doctor. Our family doctor is an inspiring working mother who knows I always put my children first and doesn’t ever care what I’m wearing. But the specialists, who in our case are almost all men, treat me very differently depending on what they perceive me to be.

So I wear jeans or yoga pants. Even if that means changing into my working mommy uniform in my van in the parking lot at work. These are the things I’ve learned. The things I never even considered before I had children. Children who seem to ALWAYS be sick.

I want to be angry. I want to click-clack on the hard hospital floors in high heels and black suits and demand my opinion count as much as the mother’s whose children are home with her all day. But I don’t. I just dress down.

Whether it’s pathetic that this is true or I’m pathetic for giving in is almost indistinguishable.

After explaining this to my husband, he doesn’t question me. I’m not sure he actually believes me, but he knows better than to question.  He’s a smart man who is probably sorry he asked the question why I would wear jeans to work.

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Re-posted by Liz Steinborn eas123@iastate.edu

Breast-mania

Of all the products invented to enhance and display the breasts of women, I think the funniest thing I’ve found is called “The Kush”.  Simply wedge this cute little foam separator between your boobs at night to support C-cups or bigger to keep the skin between your breasts from wrinkling.  Yes, you read correctly: wrinkling.

Prevents boob-sweating AND wrinkles. Just what I've been looking for!

We’re worried about wrinkles between our boobs?!  Now I hate that I’m about to put this link on here, but seriously, I cannot resist.  Check out the most ridiculous video where “doctors” evaluate the usefulness of “The Kush” http://www.thedoctorstv.com/videolib/init/1415 Go ahead, check it out.  I’ll wait…

I couldn’t decide to laugh or punch the computer screen when the doctor on the far left said “Mine’s bigger than yours” (for those of you who didn’t watch the video, that doctor was a man).  Now, the Kush’s actual website suggests using your Kush to support your breasts during pregnancy…maybe I’ll believe that…  But the video and the “doctors” seemed much more concerned with preventing unsightly cleavage wrinkles from appearing between large breasts.

When I Google the word “breast” 29,100,000 hits appear in .32 seconds.  That’s a lot of boobs!  In the side bar of Google, “Natural Breast Augmentation” appears to tell me that I can use my own body fat to enhance my breasts.  The second add is “What’s your bra size?” and that’s self-explanatory.  Do I get a free boob-separator with the purchase of Natural Breast Augmentation?

One big message is given to me: you need big breasts and they need to appear perky and fantastic and for heaven’s sake, make certain you don’t have wrinkles in your cleavage!  And for those of you who’ve wished for bigger, perkier breasts: good luck! because Mother Nature and gravity don’t think big and perky go together very well.

I distinctly recall a summer, one year before going through puberty, where I spent a part of each day wishing and praying for breasts.  A. Whole. Summer.  Be careful what you wish for my friends, because it became apparent to me that my time spent wishing was directly proportionate to my current bra size.  And now I wish they’d shrink down about a size-and-a-half.  My friends and I used to sit around and, naturally, talk about our breasts.  The big joke was that I could share equally with three of my smaller-breasted friends and then we’d all be even.  The grass is always greener…

I do find it a bit ridiculous that we have such an obsession with the sexy appearance of breasts and a revulsion towards their actual purpose.  For instance, when people see a woman nursing her child in public, women and men alike act appalled.  All manner of products have been designed to cover and conceal nursing children because it’s “inappropriate”.  Actually, nursing a baby is one of the most appropriate reasons for seeing a breast.  It sure beats some of the cleavage-bearing tops we’re subjected to seeing and wearing (and only when we pair it with a plunging bra with spaghetti straps – and frankly, if you’re bigger than a B-cup, those narrow straps leave a sexy gouge in your shoulder…maybe we need a Kush for that?!).  For more information about breastfeeding and lactation locations at Iowa State, visit the MSWC Homepage.

I think the sexualization of breasts is a reason Breast Cancer Awareness month has so much power.  A combination of good marketing and the fact that breasts have been used to define women for many years has made October the pinkest month of the year.  I am not attempting to say that Breast Cancer Awareness isn’t an awesome cause and that dollars do need to be raised to find a cure.  But did you know that heart disease kills more women than all cancers combined?

Yes, my breasts are on the outside and are very visible reminders to raise awareness about breast cancer, but underneath my breasts lies a heart.  And if I don’t take care of my heart, my breasts (and wrinkles) won’t matter.

Written by: Liz Steinborn
Questions or comments? Email: eas123@iastate.edu

Self-Love: need we say more?

Two Vagina Warriors were published in the Iowa State Daily today.  Because heterosexual sex has been a hot topic in the Daily the past couple of weeks, the Warriors wanted to respond with the notion that sex doesn’t always have to be with a partner and can be just as fulfilling (if not more so) on your own.  So here’s what our Warriors had to say:

By Ahna Kruzic and Liz Steinborn – guest columnists

In an attempt to ward off any criticism about being man-hating feminists, sex with a partner can be great. That said, the next 500 or so words are dedicated to the date that will never let you down: your own two hands and Duracell.

Guess what? Women touch themselves — and not just when they’re in the shower. Masturbation is a natural and empowering way to feel good about your inner-most self. We do it. We like it. Get over it.

My hands are perfectly capable of opening my own doors. They are also capable of getting into my own pants; I may or may not ask for help. But that’s for me to decide and you to find out.

Ladies first is good in theory and on paper. Sometimes, it’s good in bed. Most of the time it’s a half-hearted attempt at “seducing” us into letting you go all the way; it ends up being about you, not us. I can tell the difference between your best efforts at making me orgasm and you just wanting to get off.

Hot tubs and warm baths are great for self-love. And you ought to love yourself.

I can fake it and you can’t tell, because sometimes I’d rather just get it over with and go watch TV than have to put up with some lame attempt at mind-blowing cunnilingus. If you’re certain your partner has never faked it, check out the orgasm scene in “When Harry Met Sally,” it may change your mind.

I’ve been touching myself since kindergarten. So stop trying the crap you learned in men’s health magazines, and let me show you how to get it done.

Here’s a gender dichotomy to deconstruct: Women hate sex and men can’t get enough. Women hate sex because men can’t get us off — or at least aren’t very willing to try. Frankly, women spend more time talking about sex with their friends and preparing for it than our male counterparts.

Women: We would like to challenge you to speak out. Liberate your labia: Talk about your vagina and clitoris. Talk about touching it. Talk about what feels good and talk about what doesn’t. Your vagina will thank you.

And yes, we used the word “vagina” twice just then. Go ahead, say it. Because you shouldn’t be afraid to use the actual word for your genitals. Seriously.

Ladies, if you want to spend a satisfying night in, all it takes is clean hands, short fingernails, the Energizer Bunny and some comfy pillows — and explicit instructions for your roommate to knock. You can take as long as want. You can make it as quick as you want. And you don’t have to worry about any “refractory” periods.

For all you relationship people: Sex is only as exciting as you make it. Change it up, spice it up, but always do so safely.

If you think condoms are gross, stick with someone you can absolutely trust: yourself. If he won’t put it on, you shouldn’t have to put it in.

You can get from 0 to 60 in 30 seconds on your own. With someone else, you’ll have to allot 10 or more minutes unless you have a three-way with you, yourself and your partner.

Stay tuned for the next installment — The Gift that Keeps on Giving: Sex Toys and You.

Posted in , on Sunday, November 14, 2010 3:48 pm. Updated: 5:08 pm

Knitting Therapy

It’s getting cold out.  I walked outside this morning and noticed a crisp frost lay on the ground.  And I didn’t have a single knitting project with me!

I have crocheted two hats in the last week – on top of presenting three projects in class, moving back into the Sloss House and getting settled.  No big deal.  I need to work with yarn in a tangible way in order to breathe.  So I take little breaks from paper and project-designing and I sit down with a bag of yarn and some crochet hooks or knitting needles.

There’s an alchemy in taking sticks and strings and turning it into some sort of wearable fabric.  It’s true: I make fabric.  I love the connection between a loved pattern, a loved yarn, and loving creation for a loved one.  It has been over a year since I’ve knit or crochet anything for myself.  Everything I produce has been sent off to friends or family.

I feel that everyone should have a connection with the fibers.  So if you have a desire to knit or crochet – or to learn – join us at the Sloss House every Friday afternoon from 12-1pm.  We have beginner equipment to teach you with, or bring your favorite yarn and tools.  We can’t wait for you to join us!

“Sex Talk”

Check out this web comic about “communication, consent, and gettin’ it on”!

How often do you have a conversation about your wants and desires BEFORE you have sex?  It isn’t weird, it isn’t strange, and it certainly isn’t rude to communicate your wants and needs in the bedroom (in the backseat, in your residence hall, in a library corner, or under the campanile).

Do you have these talks with your partners before you have sex?  Any advice for others out there?

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