It’s International Women’s Day

Paul Raven @ 08-03-2011

Did you know that International Women’s Day has been celebrated for over a century? I didn’t know that, and it shames me to say so, but it’s never too late to learn (or so I hope). I’m sure someone will decide to tell us how we don’t overlook the achievements and freedom of women at all, which will be frustrating… but will also demonstrate the presence of the very blindspot it attempts to deny. And so it goes.

All I can say in response is that the feeling that comes from having this particular cultural myopia pointed out to oneself – which always feels to me a little like being debagged in a public space, though less severe each time – is perhaps best looked at in the same way as the muscular pain that comes from unaccustomed heavy exercise, or that brain-stretched sensation that comes with learning something challenging and new. Does it feel like an unwarranted personal attack? Well, welcome to how a lot of women feel. All. Of. The. Time. Your mother, your wife or partner, your sister, your friends.

Oh, they haven’t told you that they felt that way? Well, perhaps there’s a reason for that. Give it some thought.

Anyways, here’s Annie Lennox and a bunch of successful British women discussing the meaning of feminism in the 21st Century. A quote from novelist Monica Ali:

There’s a perception that as countries develop economically issues of gender and inequality will automatically get better, whereas the whole thing needs to be stood on its head so that gender inequality is at the very centre of it all. A lot of studies show that if you focus on women’s rights that in itself is an engine for development. Female literacy rates strongly correlate with fertility rates, so if you educate women you will have fewer and healthier children. If you invest in women, the money they make will then be more likely to be invested in their families and local communities. Gender isn’t something to be dragged along behind.

As we look to the changes in the Middle East, and as our governments ponder what sort of intervention methods will best suit their long-term interests there, let’s at least all spare a moment to imagine the difference that investing in education and literacy could make to the lives of the less-fortunate, and speak in favour of it. Silence is complicity. And remember that while the situation for women in the West is much improved by comparison to those in developing nations, equality gets more lip-service than air-time. I am guilty of this, too, but I am working to do better. Perhaps you will, too.

Every woman is your sister. Every one.


Flibanserin: Viagra for ladies?

Paul Raven @ 17-11-2009

Viagra pillI guess we can look forward to a new pharmacological trade name appearing in our spam folders in the near future. A failed antidepressant, flibanserin will soon enter clinical trials in the UK to determine whether it’s safe to be marketed as the Female Viagra, accompanied by pointed questions from sexual health experts as to whether there’s really any genuine need for it:

Doctors involved in the study said the drug may prove to be an effective treatment for low libido, a problem they estimate affects between 9% and 26% of women, depending on their age and whether they have been through the menopause.

The drug has proved controversial among sex researchers. Some argue pharmaceutical companies are exaggerating the number of women affected by low libido to expand their market, and are pushing a pill that will not deal with psychological issues that might put someone off sex, such as poor body image or stress.

With the hopefully obvious caveat that I’m not a woman, I’m siding with the skeptics on this one. Viagra solves a, er, mechanical problem that prevents men from having sex, whereas flibanserin appears to be psychological in effect from the details described – a ‘randiness’ pill, to put it crudely.

Personally, I’m all for personal pharmacological freedom – if there’s a pill out there that does something positive for you, then who are you harming other than yourself? But I’m not sure that that a lack of libido in women is a pathological problem in the same way as erectile dysfunction, and this has all the hallmarks of Big Pharma rolling out another “lifestyle” drug designed to cure something that isn’t really an illness. [image by Felixe]

I remain surprised that libido suppressants aren’t so readily available as their opposites, though. If there’s a market for chemicals to switch on a certain body response, surely there’s going to be one for chemicals to switch them off? One might argue in response that libido suppressants could be easily misused, given to people who neither wanted or needed to take them… to which I’d respond that the same surely applies to flibanserin and Viagra.