Vaginal matters: Teeth and keepers

January 19, 2008 at 6:58 pm | Posted in Feminism, Film, Health, Women | 4 Comments
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I was just stunned to see that one of the oldest patriarchal myths has been revived: The vagina dentata, the toothed fanny, reenters the stage in the form a new horror movie: Teeth, the story of a female teenager who – luckily – is the president of a local chastity group – until an act of violence afflicted upon her lets her find out about this physical peculiarity.

I am not a good watcher of horror movies, although they do intrigue me, precisely because of their obsession with the repressed fears and desires of their present times. The first five minutes of Teeth made me want to see more – but I fear I’d have to keep my eyes closed or watch the film through the fabric of a lightly-knitted jumper for most of the time. 😛

And while we’re dealing with vaginal matters: I came across The Unreliable Narrator‘s blog and she has some weird stuff on her blog roll: A total of 13 links to pages who specialize in ‘alternative menstrual products’. Two types of products can be found in all online stores:

  • Reusable menstrual pads, coming in all kinds of fancy designs (zebra, floral, animals, camouflage…)
  • Latex or plastic cups (‘keepers’) to insert into your vagina to collect the flow (rather than absorbing it like tampons)

Wow. The first means that you’d have to carry around stacks of flannel pads (both unused and used), the second means that you’d have to empty and wash the cup before inserting it again (which – agreed – reduces waste; yet would you want to empty and wash your cup in a public restroom?). Does anybody know whether this product sells in Europe as well? Anyway, it sounds like such an unlikely thing to be successful in a country (i.e. USA) where feminine washes are available in every drug store – yet the USA, thankfully, also produced the most uncompromising feminists. Here is an interesting statement from one of the ladies using the ‘keeper’:

“I recently ordered my Keeper and think that it is the 8th wonder of the world. I am a graduate student of Psychology at Connecticut College and because of my love for my Keeper, have decided to conduct a research project assessing attitudes towards alternative forms of menstrual management. I hypothesize that participants who display an interest in alternative products will possess more accurate knowledge about menstruation, more positive attitudes toward menstruation and/or heightened awareness of environmental issues and feminism.” — JL, New London, CT

Below is a sample of those reusable pads, and a plastic version of a keeper:

Pads and Keepers

Bye-bye Mirena: No More Orc Weapons in MY Uterus

December 15, 2007 at 9:50 pm | Posted in Women | 12 Comments
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Yesterday I finally had the Orc weapon that goes by the name of Mirena removed from my uterus – it had been sitting there for 10 months and giving me all interesting sorts of pain. Even though it is a very convenient and effective form of contraception – thanks to the hormones it gives off, and also thanks to the pain it induces which doesn’t really make you feel sexy – I have finally decided that that isn’t worth the torture. The first month was characterized by tidal cramps, followed by several months in which the cramps vanished to an xtent that I could feel the sting more clearly that the instrument caused on both side (probably the entrances of the uterine tubes – the coil is T-shaped, the uterus, however, isn’t…).


Come June/July, the cramp attacks renewed – I am not very tolerant to pain, or rather, I may be able to tolerate it, but I can’t fail to notice all of its shades (my boyfriend might say I am paying too much attention to them, which I probably am).

I remember various incident, one where I was sitting in a beer garden with a friend, where the pain was so unbearable I had to try very hard not to curl up and grunt in public. I started using pain killers for cramps more often – in Austria, you cannot get these without a prescription, so whenever I went to Germany I stocked up on Buscopan and made sure I always had some in my pockets to ease the pain when it started.

The hormones in the coil sort of make your period go away – in my case, it was reduced to a very faint, yet all around the month bleeding. The pain also came and went as it desired – regardless of conservative monthly bleeding patterns.

Using my pain killers, I managed to keep the cramps under control. Unfortunately, they didn’t help to get rid of the sting that I felt somewhere leftish in my nether regions – a sting that, curiously, sometimes made walking a bit painful. Eventually, it was there 24/7 – I felt it when I woke up and sometimes it stopped me from going to sleep. It’s a rather uncomfortable situation – knowing that some piece of plastic is stuck somewhere in your uterus and somehow dislocated or generally unfit for your body (else it wouldn’t hurt, right?).

So I finally, finally picked myself up and made an appointment at a gynecologist – not exactly happy about it, because the whole process of placing the thing in my uterus was already extremely painful. And I got news that was even worse: My previous doctor had cut off too much of the thread on the coil which is supposed to be used to remove it. And with no thread in sight, one would first have to search a bit for the thing (i.e. widen the cervix, and try to find and pull out the thing with a kind of crochet needle).

Too cut a long story short: We managed to get the thing out, with the help of my cherished yoga breathing techniques to distract me from the pain and that of the doctor’s wife who came in and whose hands I was allowed to pinch as hard as I needed it.

Mirena may work for some – it didn’t for me. Some say that women who haven’t given birth shouldn’t use a contraceptive coil because complications might render them infertile. I say: Women who haven’t given birth shouldn’t be given a coil by their doctors, because the inapt Mirena thing only comes in ONE size – and there’s simply not enough room in a virgin uterus to accommodate the coil generously enough.

Aren’t we living in an era of micro-gadgets? Is there no way of making the damn thing smaller? More flexible? Why isn’t it part of the package that the doctor first defines the size of the uterus and then selects the custom size contraceptive coil?

Because contraceptive coils are for WOMEN – you’d be surprised how quickly they’d come up with a customized solution if ever a MAN would have to stick a little peg up his prick.

Locked-in with 80 women

June 12, 2007 at 2:21 pm | Posted in Literature, Women | 2 Comments
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This is day 4 of the women writers’ forum, and day 2 of our stay in Rheinsberg, Mark Brandenburg. We are residing in an old manion on the first part of the lake, or rather the belt of lakes as their are all connected. Very interesting. It is still apparent that this is a historically challenged region, not only because of the 40 years of being part of the German Democratic Republic. The older houses which you can see here are often teeny-tiny (the mansion and the palace of course are relatively huge) and I can imagine that living here permanentally may be quite suicidal. But I’m here with a mission and the weather is more than gorgeous, so I have no reasons to complain:-)

One thing one could complain about: The Brandenburg session started with 60 one-minute lectures, with each of the writers presenting a teeny-tiny portion of their work. Apart from those regular 60 participants, there are the organizers, all of which published authors, who were scheduled to read in the evening. 8 of them, and 10 minutes for each. But, boy, bitches! The first one hogged the limelight for an incredible 23 minutes, the second one went up to 20 minutes, and both presented work that would have benefitted greatly if they had kept it shorter – essayistic, Joyce-esque writing and semi-automatic poems. Only two of those organizers stayed within the limit of 10 minutes they had imposed upon themselves – the others seemingly had the impression that they deserved more, dragging out the whole event to last 3 instead of the scheduled 2 hours.

Other than that: I left my drama workshop and joined the faction workshop, which was definitely a wise decision, in particular after having witnessed the performance of the lady in charge of drama. More about that later, maybe, gotta rush back to the theatre.

Marlene Streeruwitz rocks!

June 11, 2007 at 7:16 am | Posted in Literature, Women, Writing | 2 Comments
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On the 2nd day of the women’s writer forum, Marlene Streeruwitz spoke in a so-called panel discussion – why they called it a panel discussion I don’t know. The other woman who was invited to join the panel did not say anything substantial, but instead kept asking Marlene insidious, stupid questions (such as: “when is the female writer happy?” arf) or said banal things about her novels (“I find it difficult to identify with your characters”). I think the “discussion” lasted about an hour (with a moderator also taking a seat on stage) and I enjoyed every little piece that Mrs Streeruwitz said. I am unable to reproduce any of it, the general topic was ‘happiness’ and ‘feminine writing’ (as expected – but with a different twist), and the first thing that pleased me was her laid-back, almost cheerful manner – nothing of the slightly frustrated feminist that I thought to have noted the day before. She used the words ‘hegemony’ and ‘hegemonial’ about 20 times, and I doubt that only half of the people in the room understood what she was talking about, but it spoke to me and I drank all her words. She shook off all those banal questions and gave long, but elaborate and witty,often even funny responses – I am really looking forward to hearing more from her in the days to come.Btw: She also completed a PhD recently, at an American university – I need to find out with whom and about what exactly and add the info to Wikipedia.

Off to the Autorinnenforum – and my ghost keeps writing

June 7, 2007 at 11:09 am | Posted in Gender, Literature, Women | 5 Comments
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Tomorrow in the very early morning I am going to get on a train to Zürich-Flughafen
and from there take a plane to Berlin to visit some friends and the attend the Autorinnenforum, the actual reason of going to Berlin. It’s going to be a six-day-event and I suppose that can only mean that the majority of those who are going to attend do NOT have day jobs to tend to (unlike me). The list of participants is out now, the names of nine women at the bottom appear out of alphabetical order, including mine – I take this as an indicator that my name was on indeed on the waiting list, and 9 sounds to me like a relatively high number of people who decided they couldn’t make it (probably those with days jobs).

I am both excited to go and a little concerned: after all, I am going to attend a meeting where the main criterion of selection is going to be sex (not even gender). But that’s not the top-most criterion of my social selection. In a random group of people, I might begin by introducing myself to the females, but at the end of the day I would probably have had more significant exchanges with men than with women. Who’s to blame – me or the women (or the men, maybe?) The good thing is, however, the older you get, the less you will be confronted with random groups, which raises the ratio of interesting women tremendously.

As a teenager, I found the process of social gender formation extremely painful – I observed how the girls in my age group slowly transformed into little women, but the result was nothing but appalling to me. They talked nonsense most of the time and began to bounce their boobs, shake their hair and show their bellies. They also began to develop a typical co-dependent female identity – dependent upon the approval and attention of the boys (of course I wasn’t able to describe it with such terms back then). It was next to impossible to have a decent conversation with them – and at a slightly later stage of being a teenager, I found out that decent conversations with guys were well possible.

Of course there were exceptions from the rule – I know that the women that I care about today made similar experiences back then, and also that until today their guest lists are often dominated by men. The question has also to be raised whether we – as former guy-girls (Kumpelmädels) – aren’t probably sometimes a bit biased toward other women. At the place where I (still, but not for very much longer) work, I initiated a women’s circle a while ago – that’s nothing that was to be expected from me, but there was an apparent need for networking among the women. And I was surprised to see how much I enjoyed the meetings – of course this wasn’t a random selection of women either, with all of them having a master’s degree or even a doctorate. Most of these women are ten or more years older than me, and that also made things easier, I guess, as undoubtedly these women know a lot and have an incredible amount of experience to share.

So if the women I am going to encounter at the women writers forum are all going to be like them, I will be fine. I also don’t think that I must expect a significant amount of mainstream, I-stopped-developing-my-identity-when-I-snared-myself-a-husband females (they still exist – I just had an irritating encounter with one of our former secretaries who is my age and does nothing but push her pram about town ever since she married and had her first child a year ago – it was hard to talk to her before, now it has become next to impossible). But I am a little afraid of an encounter with women who are keen on all that talk about the superior emotional intelligence of women, generally with women who think that a room full of women is per se better than anything else, and I am also a little of afraid of a particular type of literature that is considered feminine, which often doesn’t have a plot but offers lengthy examinations of altering emotions. So I admit that I am a bit afraid of écriture féminine. Or actually: not of écriture féminine, but of lame attempts at écriture féminine, and of people who think that a text, by virtue of being enigmatic and being written by a female, must be of superior quality. I hope there isn’t going to be much of that.

Other than that: Although I am away, the posts will keep coming. I couldn’t sleep last light and cranked out quite a few which are timed to be published over the next few days.

I’m going to the Women Authors’ Forum!

April 16, 2007 at 6:41 pm | Posted in Literature, Novel, Women, Writing | 10 Comments
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I really won me a place in the Autorinnenforum! Sometimes life is just to good to be true – my endorphin levels were already ridiculously high after being accepted at the Microlearning conference, and now I am in for another Writer’s high.

Now, this one is by far the higher one. When I came home from work today, I had two big envelopes in the post: my weekly subscription of the SPIEGEL and another one, soon to be identified as a message from the Forum. Interesting looking envelopes are normally ripped open right away, but I didn’t dare to do that today. It’s not that I have participated a lot or in any significant writing competitions so far (this definitely being the most important one), but if I really think back hard, there might have been two or three or even more, most of which are already blissfully forgotten or repressed;-)

But the sight of the envelope brought back those feelings of disappointment and irrelevance that always followed the arrival of mail from the organizers of such competitions. In the past of course, the envelopes were the small ones – the sight of a BIG envelope immediately kindled the hope that it might after all come true: That I might be among the few chosen ones. And I didn’t want to open the envelope too fast, I wanted to hold on to that sweet sensation…

…and I don’t think I’ve ever been engulfed in a similarly delirious emotion like I was in the first twenty seconds after realizing that I was indeed invited to join the forum:-) YEAH! YEAH! YEAH! YEAH! Still can’t believe it – and hope it’s not too late to respond, because they request the registration form back by April 16 – which is today. Then again, the message was only mailed on Friday the 13th (my lucky day from now on;-) so I must have been on the waiting list. Double lucky me!!!

Ok, and here’s the deal: The forum takes place in Berlin, from the 9th until the 14th of June, it includes a festive opening night, a symposium and three days of writing workshops. Woah! 548 women entered their texts, 60 were chosen. There’s also prize money to give away on which I shan’t put any hopes, as a likely waiting list candidate, but the workshop (as a first trigger to the shaping of my writer personality) was what I was in for anyway:-) I signed up for short story (1st wish), novel (2nd wish) and drama (3rd wish).


Doing it all for equality

March 21, 2007 at 10:23 pm | Posted in Women | 2 Comments
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That was a tough day at work today, and with little immediate effect, although I think everything went alright. I’m an equality officer without a budget at the place where I work, and there is absolutely no infrastructure in place to integrate the EQ officer in any of the crucial decision that have to be made in a place like this (description of vacancies, appointments, definition of strategies – nada). All I can do is keep my eyes open, like a tiny chihuahua trying to oversee a herd of buffaloes. My latest effort now is to set up a forum for our women in sciences: a support network, a counter public (Gegenöffentlichkeit?), a non-gender-biased agenda, a launch pad for career development.

More than half of the women that were invited came, and I am very happy with that result. It’s not as though women in sciences, just because they are women, do all think positively of EQ strategies. Quite a few think that’s all big fussing about nothing – mainly women who have found other ways of dealing with the drawbacks of being a woman in an academic/scientific community. You’ll find all stereotypes represented: the ones that deny their femininity, the ones who’ve turned to workaholism and think that that’s the only road to salvation, the ones that think that all problems are nothing but a result of them looking at the situation as problematic (and who therefore deny that there’s a need for a strategy to counter-balance gender-bias), the ones that think that feminism has harmed women more than patriarchy, the ones that wear miniskirts to carve out a career for themselves.

The discussions today were good, but some of the participants were dissatisfied because they had a very specific result in mind, a very specific idea of the action that should be taken. My thought was, however, that we cannot just skip the phase of brainstorming, and that all ideas must be heard at the early stage. I still think that this decision is the right one, it just needs a little patience from everyone now.

EDIT: The single good thing about being an equality officer is that you can suddenly be completely outspoken about all your concerns about the patriarchal structures of the institution around you. It’s actually almost expected that you do that, and while you still might find women who think you’re a pathetic feminist, you won’t get that response from men – for as long as they know you’re the equality officer. They’ll even listen to you eagerly, at least the men here do, because they know what a fucked-up place this is in terms of gender equality, and they’re afraid that you, the EQ officer, might officially point your bony finger at them.


I do IUD

February 27, 2007 at 9:21 am | Posted in Gender, Health, Women | 5 Comments
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Just a brief note: I’ve got a new friend now, Mirena. Who needs enemies if you have friends like these. What a painful encounter. I was as white as a sheet when I walked home, happy to live at a 5 minutes distance from my gynaecologist. Have taken painkillers now, as my uterus, quite understandably, is trying to eject the intruder. Hope that won’t work, because it cost me € 380. The thing itself and the instruments used to insert it probably had the diameter of a pen. Imagine the pain of giving birth in comparison! Or, as a friend of a friend once said: Imagine popping something the size of a water melon through your nostril. Shudder…

A gender politics critique: According to the sources on the web, they give you an anaesthetic to numb the pain beforehand, an injection into the uterus. I didn’t get one, because my doctor said that wouldn’t be necessary. How is he supposed to know being a man? I suppose women are much more pain tolerant. They go through this kind of pain once a month. But does that mean that there is no need to avoid as much of pain as possible? Blimey!

Mirena or Multiload? 4/40

February 24, 2007 at 10:07 am | Posted in Lent, Women | 16 Comments
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Here is one for the girls (the boys may also comment, but I might not take their advice seriously; they are also not allowed to take offence). On Monday, I need to take a decision regarding a new long-term companion: Mirena or Multiload? While the first one sounds like the given name of either a white Afrikaans Southafrican or of someone born in the former German Democratic Republic (where the regulations for chosing a child’s name were much more liberal), the latter makes you think of a shovel excavator or a monster truck. They’re both IUDs, Mirena comes with hormones, Multiload with copper ions, but both look scary in their own peculiar way.
Mirena (left) meet Multiload, Multiload (right) meet Mirena.

I actually don’t want to take hormones, hence the turning to IUDs (or coils, which is more reminiscent of the German “Spirale”), but apparently the dosage is significantly lower than with other types of contraception (“the pill”). The one might reduce the loss of blood to an absolute minimum, the other one is said to make it stronger (up to seven days). And the one goes for € 380, and the other for € 120. How am I supposed to decide? I already see myself deciding against this completely.

If you have any experience or advice, please leave me a message!

EDIT: I made a quick tag check only to discover that all posts tagged with birth control related issues are firmly in the hands of stern catholicists. Pages and pages ranting on about contraception being a sexual sin… puke, puke, puke! Please read this post on what happened to a rape survivor in Tampa, Florida to fuel your rage against those self-declared protectors of life (mostly men) who believe they are morally entitled to override and violate a woman’s souvereignity.

LentAnd my Lent message of the day: I am doing fine, and although I am absolutely not fasting in the sense of eating less, I have the feeling to sense the effects of it already. The development of gas is quite unbelievable! (I might get an award for the most disgusting post of the day today:-P) Of the three things I gave up – sugar, meat and alcohol – sugar is the most difficult one. Not a surprising – there are hidden sugars lurking behind any corner! Sadly, I looked at the preserved figs, the jarred apple sauce, the honey nut cornflakes today and decided that they were not for me. Alcohol might become more difficult during social events, but I have no doubt that I won’t fail or falter. Meat – easy as pie. Oh – only on Monday it will become hard – I’m having a lunch date with my favourite local woman and in the Outlook appointment it read “Schnitzelchen im Steinhäuser”. And they make the best Wiener Schnitzel ever. With cranberry sauce. And we normally have white wine spritzers with it.

A triple no-no!

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