Welcome NYC Unrated and Unfiltered: Planned Parenthood of New York City just launched a new blog with a snazzy name. Check it out.
A Super-Size Troupe Attracts Super-Size Praise: “Formed a decade ago by Juan Miguel Mas, this company of obese dancers has become a cultural phenomenon in Cuba, breaking stereotypes here of dance, redefining the aesthetics of beauty and, along the way, raising the self-esteem of heavyset people,” writes James C. McKinley Jr. in The New York Times. “While the troupe is not the first to employ larger dancers, its popularity comes as a surprise in a country known for its muscular, lean dancers in every genre from classical ballet to salsa.”
Recommended Reading: “Reading ‘The Invisible Cure’ is like traveling into remote and hard-to-comprehend territory with an unblinking and sure-footed guide,” writes John Donnelly, in a remarkably enticing review of Helen Epstein’s book about the fight against AIDS in Africa. “Epstein had unearthed a rare copy of a detailed study on the sexual behavior of Ugandans in the late 1980s and early ’90s, a period that coincided with the country’s historic drop in H.I.V. rates. In short, Epstein knew, the research done by Maxine Ankrah, an African-American academic, would give invaluable insights into what had halted the epidemic — insights that could then be applied to other countries with high rates of H.I.V. and AIDS.”
Speaking Terms: The Guardian reports on language lessons in the UK — sex workers in London are teaching English to migrants working in the sex industry. “I do not do anything without a condom” is required learning. “Our aim is to give women the skills to get out of certain situations they may not want to be in. So much of sex work involves language, and not having language stops people from negotiating with bosses and clients,” said a founder of the x:talk project, which is supported by the International Union of Sex Workers and is funded by the Feminist Review Trust.
Hey, Elaine!: The Today Sponge contraceptive is back on the market. “The new package is meant to have a more modern look: instead of a pink flower and a conservative-looking typeface, the box has drawings of hip-looking women, playful typography, and colors that Synova officials call ‘fuchsia and wine,’ writes Jane L. Levere at The New York Times. But keep this in mind:
Lawrence B. Finer, director of domestic research for the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit organization that does research and policy analysis on reproductive health, said Synova’s new campaign will bring its method of birth control “to the attention of a lot of women, and help place it in context along with other methods that have been advertised lately,” like the Ortho Evra contraceptive patch.
But health professionals agree that one of the Today Sponge’s biggest problems is its efficacy: research by Princeton University found that 16 percent of American women who had never given birth and may have used the sponge incorrectly or inconsistently became pregnant within a year, while 32 percent of women who had given birth and used the sponge this way became pregnant. The pregnancy rate for women who relied on condoms for birth control and may have used them incorrectly or inconsistently was 15 percent, while the rate for women using birth control pills in this way was 8 percent.
“For all the sponge’s cultural popularity, it isn’t as effective as many other methods,” said Dr. Katharine O’Connell, an assistant clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology and a family planning specialist at the Columbia University Medical Center in New York.
Why Do Men Kill Their Wives?: A Boston Globe Magazine story wonders if murder is a substitute for divorce.
Potentially Hazardous Home Chemicals: Women’s Voices for the Earth, a Montana-based nonprofit working to eliminate or reduce toxic chemicals in the home, released a report(PDF) last week that highlights health risks associated with cleaning products. Some products contain chemicals that are linked to fertility disorders in lab animals, according to the group. Here’s coverage from the San Francisco Chronicle.
Amnesty International Set to Affirm New Abortion Policy: “Despite an outcry from Roman Catholic and conservative leaders worldwide, Amnesty International seems likely to affirm a new policy supporting greater access to abortion when its top decision-making body meets next month,” reports The AP. Here’s Amnesty’s statement from June, defending access to abortion for women at risk.
Pioneer Feminist Theologian Dies: The Rev. Letty Russell, considered “a foremother of feminist theology,” and one of the first women hired to the faculty of Yale Divinity School, died July 12 at her home in Guilford, Conn. The cause was cancer, reports the L.A. Times. Nancy Richardson, a senior lecturer at Harvard Divinity School and a longtime friend, said, “She was teaching [feminist theology] before it had a name.”
“Feminist scholarship was not looked on as scholarship in seminaries,” Richardson said. “To be in academia and be a feminist at the same time wasn’t easy.”
A Slow Recovery, Slowed Down Even More: Part four of a NYT series on the recovery of New Orleans two years after Hurricane Katrina looks at the impact of closed hospitals. “Doctors’ offices sit empty behind five-foot-high water marks, and nearby clinics wait to be demolished. In back of one medical building, a gaping refrigerator still holds jars of mayonnaise and Mt. Olive Dill Relish,” writes Leslie Eaton. “Harder to see, but just as tangible, people here say, are the other ripple effects of the flood and the closed hospital: workers displaced, houses for sale and, of course, patients forced to seek health care many miles away. If they have returned to New Orleans at all, that is, given the grave wounds to the health care system.”