Important Women's Health Exhibit Opens
The Changing Face of Women's Health opened
last week at the Maryland Science
Center in Baltimore, Maryland (U.S.A.). According to the Center, it's
the "first-ever major exhibition devoted exclusively
to women's health issues
[and] represents the most up-to-date
information anywhere." It closes
31 August. (Read my earlier discussion of this.)
This museum lent some booklets to the exhibit,
which travels the country the next three years among members of the National Health Sciences Consortium,
A reporter who attended the press-only tour before it opened to the
general public - I have not yet visited - told me
booklets this museum contributed sat grouped
with sexually transmitted-disease education and how-to-put-a-condom-on-to-prevent-AIDS
information, etc., in an area boxed off from the rest of
the displays. Visitors meet a sign alerting them to these embarrassing
I do understand that these subjects upset American
parents, who must answer their children's questions besides wrestling with
And while I am very happy that the exhibit shows the booklets at all,
this separate grouping with disease-prevention information must reinforce
many people's belief that menstruation is not normal
and certainly shameful.
The longer I run this Web site and MUM the sillier
and stupider this attitude seems to me. Somehow I equate my
progress in this area - I have crept out of the cave into the sunlight in
the past six years - with the public's.
Read some of my ideas for a permanent
museum of the history of women's health (suggest
a better name!) that will be more open and inclusive than what exists today.
In this proposed museum you would be able to see a display of the subject
of Rachel Maines' book, below, together with
a display about hysteria through
the ages, among many other things.
Women's sexuality disturbs many people, and not only men.
You must read Rachel Maines' book (buy
it) mentioned last week (read the
excerpts from the preface!), The Technology of
Orgasm (Johns Hopkins Press, 1999), which discusses this very point
in a history of the treatment of hysteria (read a definition of hysteria from patent-medicine maker Lydia Pinkham),
among other things. Famous physicians for centuries
advised doctors and midwives to massage women's genitals to orgasm to relieve
them of hysteria.
The electric vibrator - an English doctor
invented it in the 1880s - cut the time to orgasm from an hour to 10 minutes,
or thereabouts, enabling doctors to spare their fingers, treat more patients,
and make more money. There was a large repeat clientele.
Yes, doctors and midwives masturbated women, a fact the author stunned even doctors with. But, she
says, nobody wanted
that job. Society was, and is, confused about
women's sexual feelings and how, if at all, they should be satisfied.
Males in the 19th century, and many today, certainly
President Clinton, defined sex as vaginal penetration, and the doctors of the last century kept their practices
sex-free and their consciences clear by vibrating the vulva and lower abdomen,
not by inserting a vibrator into the vagina - and doing so duplicated precisely
how most women reach orgasm!
Maines also speaks of the "intrinsic pathology
of the feminine" and "the innate
'wrongness' or 'otherness' of women," an
attitude coloring the way we look at menstruation. It was true with
By the way, Maines thanks the people at Johns
Hopkins Press for their courage in printing
this book. A university she once worked for fired her, partly for her
research into the history of vibrators.
And by the way, again: during the McCarthy hearings, in the 1950s in
America, when the senator pursued communists and supposed-communists in
the government and elsewhere, Johns Hopkins promoted
one of its professors, Owen Lattimore, the "Pink Professor," when
he was under McCarthy's fire. Some other universities booted out their teachers
Years later, as a college sophomore, I took a course in Asian history
from Lattimore, watching him lecture without notes and write Chinese on
the backboard. He awed me.
What a man! What a university!
And what a woman!
Letters to Your MUM
Next week I will catch up with both letters and other topics on this
site. See you then!
The BBC wants to hear from you if your
cycle is a blessing, makes you
creative, if you have experience with menstrual
seclusion, or know about current
Here's your chance to say how you feel about
Please, may I post a letter on your letter page?
I'm researching a documentary for the BBC [British
Broadcasting Corporation] about menstruation -
myths and facts and blessing or curse.
I have much information about the curse and predjudice but I
am finding scant information about the blessing! I was thrilled
to find medical information linking surgery for breast cancer and the menstrual
cycle and the New Scientist report about differing medication levels required
during the 28-day cycle, and the research about eating requirements differing
during the cycle etc., but I want to hear from women
who have evidence of the cycle as a blessing, for example, artists, writers,
etc., who are at their most creative whilst menstruating.
I also want to meet women who practice menstrual
seclusion, as with menstrual huts of
the past [and of the present; women still use menstrual
And anything and everything to do with research into menstruation.
Next week I am interviewing Mr Peter Redgrove and Penelope Shuttle
who wrote the first book on menstruation that offered positive information,
The Wise Wound, 1978. I am very excited about
asking many questions resulting from the book. If
you have any questions for them pertaining to the book or their second
book, Alchemy for Women, about the dream cycle corresponding to the menstrual
cycle, I would be delighted to forward them to them on your behalf.
They are not on the net so any questions would have to have addresses!
Thank you so much for this glorious Web site [many thanks to you for
saying that!] and I look forward to hearing from visitors to your site.
Help Wanted: This Museum Needs a
Public Official For Its Board of Directors
Your MUM is doing the paper work necessary to become eligible to receive
support from foundations as a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation. To achieve
this status, it helps to have a American public official - an elected or
appointed official of the government, federal, state or local - on its board of directors.
What public official out there
will support a museum for the worldwide culture of
women's health and menstruation?
Eventually I would also like to entice people experienced in the law,
finances and fund raising to the board.
Do You Have Irregular Menses?
If so, you may have polycystic ovary syndrome
[and here's a support association for it].
Jane Newman, Clinical Research Coordinator at Brigham
and Women's Hospital, Harvard University School of Medicine, asked
me to tell you that
Irregular menses identify women at high risk for polycystic ovary syndrome
(PCOS), which exists in 6-10% of women of
reproductive age. PCOS is a major cause of infertility
and is linked to diabetes.
Learn more about current
research on PCOS at Brigham and Women's
Hospital, the University of Pennsylvania and Pennsylvania State University
- or contact Jane Newman.
If you have fewer than six
periods a year, you may be eligible to participate
in the study!
It's Too Late to Call Your
Congressman About the Proposed Tampon Safety and Research
Act! Congress Had More Important ;-) Things To Do! Here's How
and Why for Next Time.
© 1999 Harry Finley. It is illegal
to reproduce or distribute work on this Web site in any manner or medium
without written permission of the author. Please report suspected violations