Komen isn’t the only hypocrite about breast cancer.

Posted in Editorials on October 8th, 2014
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So right now the internet is awash with the irony that is the pink drill bit that the Susan G Komen foundation is hyping to promote breast cancer awareness. They painted a fracking tool pink to raise awareness about a disease that is caused by fracking. Because this is the world that we live in today.

Just as the pro life movement doesn’t seem to care about the impact of pollution on fetuses, it seems like many aspects of the Breast Cancer Awareness movement make hypocritical mistakes. Until this year, Avon, which sponsors a walk for breast cancer, also sold cosmetics laden with carcinogens. They agreed to make their products safer in April 2014. Right now, the campaign for safe cosmetics is pressuring Procter & Gamble, the parent company of Cover Girl, Max Factor, Olay, and Pantene to do the same for their products.

I’m glad that corporations want to give to charitable causes. But it’s hard to take them seriously when they are claiming to try and solve a problem they had a direct impact in creating without first doing as much as they can to stop filling our bodies and our environment with carcinogens.

Related Post: I Speak For The Lorax

Dr. Vajayjay’s “Privatize Those Privates!” Not At All Like Vanessa Scott’s VaginalSurgery.Info

Posted in Editorials on March 6th, 2012
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Never in a million years would I have imagined myself to be using the word “Vajayjay” in a the title of a blog post that had my name on it – it’s a euphemism I find incredibly unsavory, especially because of its origins – but I will make an exception for this video. Produced in association with The New View Campaign, this video is a brilliant satire of the current state of cosmetic vaginal surgery. It came to my attention after a discussion with Vanessa Scott from vaginalsurgery.info in the comments section of a post I wrote asking people to sign a petition for greater oversight of labiaplasty. Apparently for some reason, this video and a link to my post were also featured on their website even though Ms Scott accused me of assuming women are “stupid easily misled.

What I find telling is that on vaginalsurgery.info, and in the comments on you tube, Vanessa and/or one of her colleagues makes light of it, claiming to enjoy the humor, “Obviously, if you see a doctor like this, RUN.” and insisting that in reality, cosmetic surgeons are nothing like that at all. However, on this blog, Vanessa used many of the same tactics that the fictional (and according to her sensationalized and “clearly put together by a group that has not bothered to talk with any women that have actually had the procedures done.”) Dr.Vajayjay did.

Creating A Need

In the video, Dr. Vajayjay is asked, “But labia are airbrushed out of porn, so this is not normal at all!” He responds, mugging angelically

“Can Dr. Vajayjay help it if this is what women ask for?”

On Political Flavors, Vanessa Scott says,

The vast majority of women I work with have been contemplating the procedures for years before they choose to go through with them. In interacting with doctors from all over the world, I routinely hear that their labiaplasty patients are the most satisfied post-op patients they have.

In the end all this publicity does is make more women aware that these procedures are available. And while some will be outraged, the truth is whether you approve, ACOG approves or I disapprove, these women want these surgeries and will have them.

On Youtube, “VaginalSurgery” says,

The industry is growing because women benefit from and demand them. Who are you to choose for them?

The before and after photos in this video seem to be taken directly from vaginalsurgery.info ‘s before & after page which is heartbreakingly titled, “Good & Bad.”

Make It Science

The video has Dr. Vajayjay encouraging other surgeons to use words like “rejuvination” and “labiplasty” which sound scientific but are a lot nicer sounding than “cutting off your labia, doing liposuction on the mons and injecting collagen into the vagina.”

VaginalSurgery.info calls itself, “The Most Comprehensive Vaginal Rejuvenation and Labiaplasty site on the Web!”

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists statement on this issue begins,

So-called “vaginal rejuvenation,” “designer vaginoplasty,” “revirgination,” and “G-spot amplification” are vaginal surgical procedures being offered by some practitioners.

Note that the above scare quotes are from ACOG – not The New View Campaign.

What Women Want

Dr. Vajajay advises doctors to run away when asked about research and focus on “what women want” by providing customer testimonials.

In response to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists statement that

Women should be informed about the lack of data supporting the efficacy of these procedures and their potential complications, including infection, altered sensation, dyspareunia, adhesions, and scarring.

Vanessa Scott tells me that:

The reason ACOG dropped the ball is because they know full well that their members have been doing these procedures for decades (tightenings & labia reductions). They just hadn’t been marketing them for sexual benefits. Instead of stepping up and acknowledging the procedures and providing the oversight that is now being sought, they chose to denounce them in the hopes they would scare women from wanting them.

That’s exactly what New View is saying these surgeons do – ignore research and turn the conversation back to consumer demand.

Make It Pink

Dr. Vajayjay tells cosmetic surgeons to make these procedures seem like a spa treatment. Use flowers, silhouettes and beach landscapes.

The banner for VaginalSurgery.info is a happy couple on the beach.

I don’t see anything wrong with that, per se. But it’s uncanny how accurate the parody is and to see Scott deny that it is at all accurate is quite comical.

Make it Feminist

Finally, Dr. Vajayjay advises surgeons to “make it feminist.” Remind women that this surgery is what they want and to empower women with “knowledge, choices and alternatives.”

The tagline for vaginalsurgery.info is “Compassionate Advice & Empowering Information”

Dr.Vajayjay goes on to say the best person to present this information is a woman, because, “a woman can never be sexist.”

Vanessa Scott told me:

We women are not as weak and impressionable as some would like us to believe. It is infuriating to me that we women would suggest or propagate that sentiment.

Women are not stupid and easily misled.

But since this is such a private procedure you don’t often hear them screaming from the rooftops about it. And why would they when they are deemed as “victims of society” for desiring the surgery. Is it not our right as women to desire to live happy, healthy and comfortable lives? Or does that make us weak, naive women that all want to look like porno stars?

First she claimed that I as a woman am infuriating for suggesting that these surgeries might usually be unnecessary, and that I am saying that women are stupid and easily misled. And then she dressed it all up in faux-feminist empowerment language. Make it feminist indeed.

***

I wish that this video was just a humorous infomercial for a fictional doctor that is competing for the clients of McNamara/Troy on “Nip/Tuck.” But it’s eerily close to the way that these potentially harmful procedures actually are marketed to women. The only humor I find is in Vanessa Scott’s denial that she is anything like the caricature on the screen.

LI Families Responds

Posted in Site News on February 28th, 2012
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Proof that a firm but polite email can work wonders, LI Families has taken down the paragraph suggesting that there are no risks at all for pregnant women to get manicures, pedicures or hair treatments that I objected to in my “Not So Healthy” post. Well done, LI Families!

LI Families – Not So Healthy

Posted in Editorials on February 23rd, 2012
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EDIT: The paragraph I objected to has been taken down. LI Families did not inform me directly, but when I shared this post on their message board another commenter pointed it out. Good work, LI Families!

On February 10, the website Long Island Families sent out an email and posted an article entitled “Mommy To Be Myths” debunking various old wives tales about pregnancy. I’m no expert, but most of it seemed to be sound and healthy advice that I had heard before. But the last one startled me.

Cut out your routine manicures/pedicures/hair appointments False. Although being in a very fume-filled environment is not the best for long periods of time for anyone, you will not harm your baby in any way by getting your routine mani/pedi. Scheduling your appointment for a quiet time at the salon will help cut out any fumes you may be exposed to.

I really object to the way this downplays the risks of the chemicals found in many nail polishes, nail polish removers, hair dyes and hair straighteners. It’s true that some brands of nail polish have become safer in recent years, but risks still remain in brands that haven’t changed and in many nail polish removers.

Additionally, the post mentioned nothing of the recent controversy about formaldehyde in a popular hair straightening treatment or the health risks of breast cancer and fibroids from hair care products frequently used by black women.

Finally, there was no mention that phthalates found in many common cosmetics pose a risk of hyperactivity once the child is born.

I know that pregnant women are bombarded with all kinds of pressure and unsolicited advice. But to simply hand wave away a legitimate concern is irresponsible. There are plenty of ways for a mother to be to relax without increasing the risk of harm to her or her baby.

Letter Writing Sunday Oversight for Labiaplasty

Posted in Editorials on January 22nd, 2012
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In my review of Orgasm, Inc. I talked about the New View Campaign, and organization dedicated to challenging ideas about female sexuality promoted by the pharmaceutical industry.

Recently, I also watched the documentary “The Perfect Vagina” (hat tip Christopher Ryan’s facebook page) a BBC film about the growing incidence of labiplasty and other genital cosmetic surgery done on women.

The has FDA approved labiplasty in the United States even though the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists issued a statement in 2007 against the procedure,

These procedures are not medically indicated, and the safety and effectiveness of these procedures have not been documented. Clinicians who receive requests from patients for such procedures should discuss with the patient the reason for her request and perform an evaluation for any physical signs or symptoms that may indicate the need for surgical intervention. Women should be informed about the lack of data supporting the efficacy of these procedures and their potential complications, including infection, altered sensation, dyspareunia, adhesions, and scarring.

The New View Campaign has started a petition, asking people to sign it and urge the FTC to regulate labiaplasty more strictly. I believe that this is an excellent course of action. Because sometimes these surgeries are performed because a person has a legitimate medical need, and because I believe that people should be able to modify their bodies as they see fit, I am not in favor of prohibiting this procedure. However, because of the risks involved, I do believe that women must be informed of them so that they can make an educated decision. Requiring surgeons to inform patients of all of the risks involved is one of the provisions the New View Campaign is calling for.

You can sign the petition here.

Letter Writing Sunday: Safe Chemicals Act

Posted in Editorials on January 15th, 2012
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Last month, Senator Gillibrand announced her support of the Safe Chemicals act:

More than 84,000 chemicals are currently listed on the EPA’s database, many of which are used regularly in consumer products, but there are three classes in particular that have been found to cause hormone disruption and reproductive deformities when children are exposed in-utero and at young ages. The three major classes of chemicals which children are directly exposed are:

1. phthalates, found in soft plastic products like teething rings, balls, and plastic dolls;
2. BPA, found in hard plastic toys, such as action figures, electronics, and playmobil toysets; and
3. flame retardants found in children’s pajamas and bedding.

….

Senator Gillibrand is cosponsoring the Safe Chemicals Act, legislation introduced by Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), which requires chemical companies to demonstrate the safety of industrial chemicals and the EPA to evaluate safety based on the best available science. Specifically, the legislation would:

Require chemical companies to develop and submit safety testing data for each chemical they produce. EPA would have the authority to require any additional data needed to make a safety determination before a new chemical is introduced into commerce. The submission of this data is not currently required by TSCA prior to commercialization, and can only be requested by the EPA once they have reason to believe that a chemical poses a risk to the population.
Require EPA to prioritize existing chemicals for testing based on risk into one of three classes: immediate risk management, safety standard determination, no immediate action to facilitate a risk-based approach for analyzing the approximately 84,000 chemicals currently in the EPA’s database.
Allow the EPA Administrator to issue orders or initiate judicial proceedings to protect the public from chemicals that may “present an imminent and substantial endangerment to health or the environment.”
Provide the public, market and worker access to reliable chemical information by publishing a database housing chemical information and decisions made by EPA about chemicals.
Establish a Children’s Environmental Health Research Program, which requires the EPA to establish an advisory board on children’s health as it relates to toxic chemicals, provides grants to support research into children’s vulnerability to industrial chemicals.
Incentivize safe alternatives by establishing a research grant program targeted at priority hazardous chemicals for which alternatives do not presently exist.

I’ve written before about my concerns about pthaltes and other toxic chemicals found in cosmetics and every day products. I applaud Senator Gillibrand and Senator Lautenberg for their work on this issue. If you live in New York or New Jersey, send them a call, email, or even a tweet or facebook message to thank them for their job well done.

Otherwise, you can contact your Senator and Congressional Representative through the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics by clicking this link.

Both Sides Now – Way Off Base On HPV

Posted in Editorials, Podcast Reviews on September 28th, 2011
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As I previously posted, I am a fan of the podcast, “Both Sides Now.” I think it’s refreshing to hear a debate between right and left that isn’t about name calling. However, I was shocked to hear such ridiculous rhetoric coming from all three participants about the HPV vaccine while listening to the September 17 episode. I’m really starting to understand Amanda’s obsession.

Mary Matalin and Arianna Huffington insisted that it’s wrong for the government to mandate vaccinations – especially this one because it’s “a personal decision.” Matalin made a point that her daughter is still a virgin and Huffington said “it doesn’t make any sense at all…They’re 12 year olds!” Both seem to miss the point that the vaccine is supposed to be administered before the onset of sexual activity, and so it would be most appropriate for a 12 or 16 year old who has not had sexual activity with a partner yet.

Mark Green, the moderator, chimed in that it’s not a personal decision because the disease is “easily spread.” Matalin retorted “Then vaccinate men!” No one brought up that the vaccine has been approved for men for the past two years! Huffington said that if you don’t have it, you can’t spread it, which is hopelessly naive considering the amount of people who have HPV – the chances of getting it from one sexual encounter (including vaginal intercourse with a condom, oral sex, manual sex or even kissing) are very high. It sounds like she’s promoting abstinence – which unlike the Gardasil – stops working the minute you have sex.

Green inexplicably states that a girl “without a mother as good as Mary or Arianna” could have sex and get HPV – and he sounds astonishingly ignorant, for someone who expresses concern about issues pertaining to women and girls all the time. Just because a person has sex doesn’t mean that they had bad parents. Each one of the people on the panel has has had sex, (evidenced by the existence of their children) and Mark Green’s daughter has had sex (as evidenced by his proud proclamation that he is a grandfather)- was something wrong with the mothers of these pundits or with Mark Green’s parenting skills? Parents who raise healthy children will not, in all likelihood stop them from having sex. Parents who get the HPV vaccine for their children can make sure that when they do have sex, their children will not get vaginal, labial, cervical, penile, anal or throat cancer.

Mark Green then suggests that people opposed to the HPV vaccine are anti science, but then immediately drops the point when Matalin scoffs at him that “it’s not measles, it’s not Contagion and it’s not the Ebola virus, you have to engage in sex irresponsibly – one would hope that you would find out from their partner if they have an STD [before you have sex with them].” Matalin ignores the possibility of one acquiring the virus during from shaking or holding hands, while kissing, during a sexual assault, or from a cheating partner one wrongly believed to be monogamous.

Green states “but science says that it works” before backing off completely. He doesn’t elaborate on the concept of heard immunity which, campaign donations aside, is the practical reason why governments mandate vaccines. I would be interested in a conversation about why Matalin and Huffington think an individual’s right to refuse a vaccine overrides the plain fact that if we are all vaccinated, we protect the health of everyone. How is a mandate for a vaccine different from a mandate for seat-belts (passengers ejected from a car during a crash can hit other cars and cause another accident) smoking bans in restaurants (which Green did bring up but no one addressed) or laws against drunk driving?

Matalin did say that the vaccine was too new and untested to mandate. However it has been on the market since June 2006, for over five years. At what point would it become acceptably safe for her?

They all do agree that it is a good thing that the vaccine exists though, which, regrettably, is something to be thankful for in the current climate. I was very disappointed with this segment, and while it wasn’t the first time I have disagreed with the hosts, it was the first time I felt like the discussion was just as silly and uninformed as most of the noise on cable news.