AIC goes to Hollywood:
Why We Should Watch MTV’s Faking It

MTV’s half-hour romantic comedy series, Faking It, will feature a character with an intersex condition (or DSD) this season (see the Hollywood Reporter story here).


This is not the first time a character with Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (AIS) has appeared on the small screen. Individuals with AIS have typical male chromosomes, but the bodies of those with “complete” AIS (CAIS) cannot respond to androgens, and so are phenotypically female. Some in the US may recall the quirky and smart and short-lived series, Freaks and Geeks from the late 1990s. The series closed with a girl’s revelation of her CAIS to her sweet and startled boyfriend. While a gutsy storyline to introduce, its impact was minimal. Aside from the low ratings that had guaranteed the series’ premature end, there was little in the way of public awareness that would allow any uptake of AIS in particular, or atypical sex anatomies in general.

Six years later, there was a notorious second-season episode of House, featuring a supermodel who, as Dr. House crassly informs her and her abusive father, has testicular cancer. Repeatedly referring to the patient as “a man,” Dr. House tells the distressed teenager that she’ll be fine “after I cut your balls off.”  Continue reading

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“Remember #BringBackOurGirls? This Is What Has Happened In The 5 Months Since”

It’s depressing.

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“‘Why Didn’t You Just Leave?’: Six Domestic Violence Survivors Explain Why It’s Never That Simple”

To follow-up thematically to the New Yorker article linked below, these stories from HuffPost.

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“Time to End Sex-Testing of Female Athletes”

Because of an International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) and International Olympic Committee (IOC) policy, Dutee Chand, an 18-year-old Indian sprinter, was blocked from competing at the 2014 Commonwealth Games because her body makes too much testosterone. She has been prohibited from competing at all national and international sporting events on the grounds that she has an unfair advantage over her competitors. These actions left Chand feeling “completely shattered.”

Her situation might sound familiar, because it is.

Find the full article by Georgiann Davis at Ms. Magazine Blog.

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“A Raised Hand: Can a new approach curb domestic homicide?”

Dorothy Giunta-Cotter knew that someday her husband, William, would kill her. They met in 1982, when he was twenty and she was fifteen: a girl with brown eyes and cascading dark hair. Over the course of twenty years, he had kidnapped her, beaten her, and strangled her with a telephone cord. When she was pregnant with their second child, he pushed her down the stairs. After visits to the emergency room, he withheld her pain medicine and, at one point, forbade her to wear a neck brace.

Find the full story at the New Yorker.

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Visual Critique: Illustrating the Issue of Street Harassment

Over the last couple of months, various artists have spoken out against the phenomenon of cat-calling. Last year, Buzzfeed released a list of “18 Kickass Illustrated Responses to Street Harassment,” but I only recently noticed many more such responses on social media. The blog Robot Hugs, for example, put together a very clear comic strip that explores the verbal objectification of women in public spaces.


More recently, Playboy released a “flow chart” illustrated by Shea Strauss entitled, “Should You Catcall Her?” The flowchart inevitably concludes that unless the woman in question has confirmed that she enjoys being called at in this way by you (the man), catcalling is not appropriate—no matter the situation.

Continue reading

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“Get Stolen Naked Photos Off the Web: Congress needs to change the law to force Reddit and 4Chan to do the right thing.”

It’s time to extend the protections copyright offers to victims of involuntary porn. These images are clear invasions of privacy, and it’s not hard to judge whether there is value in making them public (as it might be for a celebrity’s stolen emails, for example). Once a site like 4Chan is on notice that it is hosting nude or sexual images that a star like Jennifer Lawrence—or a person who is not famous at all—says she didn’t consent to distribute, the law should give that site every reason to take the photos or video down. This will not put free speech or the free Internet at risk. It will just give solace to people who clearly deserve that.

Read the full article from Emily Bazelon at Slate.

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“Monument Seeks to End Silence on Killings of the Disabled by the Nazis”

The first to be singled out for systematic murder by the Nazis were the mentally ill and intellectually disabled. By the end of World War II, an estimated 300,000 of them had been gassed or starved, their fates hidden by phony death certificates and then largely overlooked among the many atrocities that were to be perpetrated in Nazi Germany in the years to follow. Now, they are among the last to have their suffering publicly acknowledged.


“The stigmatization of people with psychological illnesses and intellectual disabilities did not end after 1945, which is certainly a reason why the public acknowledgment of these crimes has remained so difficult to this day,” said Gerrit Hohendorf, a historian at the Technical University of Munich involved in research for the memorial.

Find the full story at the New York Times.

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In Memoriam, Anne Donchin

Anne Donchin 1930-2014
Co-Founder, International Network on Feminist Approaches to Bioethics
Professor Emerita of Philosophy (Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis)
Professor of Philosophy, Philanthropy, and Women’s Studies, 1982-2001 (IUPUI)
Director, Women’s Studies, 1990-1992 (IUPUI)
Coordinator, Women’s Studies, 1983-1985 (IUPUI)
Ph.D. (University of Texas, 1970)
M.A. (Rice University, 1965)
B.A. (University of Wisconsin, 1954)
Ph.B (University of Chicago, 1953)

I first met Anne in San Francisco at the inaugural FAB Conference in 1996. This and the accompanying IAB were my first international bioethics conferences. I’d come away from the IAB somewhat depressed and unnerved as it seemed that possessing male gender might be a prerequisite for being a bioethicist. Thus it was a joy to immediately feel at home in the vibrant and enthusiastic sisterhood of FAB. I’d already had communications with Anne, who as treasurer (as well as, with Becky, founder and co-coordinator), had answered my anxious emails and presented me with a small travel grant. I couldn’t believe my luck when Anne invited me to breakfast the day after the conference ended, as there were a few of us late flying out. There I was made to feel welcome, taken seriously as a nascent scholar, and Anne generously provided me with a draft copy of her “Understanding autonomy relationally: Toward a reconfiguration of bioethical principles” which proved invaluable in my doctoral research.

Anne’s vision and energy were critical to the founding and development of FAB. She was a tireless advocate for feminist bioethics, and a peerless ambassador. Anne contributed her time and energy in multiple ways, from securing a Ford Foundation grant to support international participation in the 1998 Congress, to co-editing two volumes based on presentations at FAB conferences: Embodying bioethics: Recent feminist advances (Rowman & Littlefield, 1999) and Linking visions: Feminist bioethics, human rights, and the developing world (Rowman & Littlefield, 2004); and two special issues of Bioethics based on FAB Congress papers.

As FAB members, we benefitted in various and many ways from Anne’s energy and enthusiasm, thoughtfulness, her scholarship and her mentoring. In recent years, Anne was unable to attend FAB Congresses in person. Nonetheless, she participated in absentia in providing her reflections on twenty years of FAB at the 2012 Congress, noting that “we had never in our wildest dreams imagined that the group would have so illustrious a future.” (IJFAB 2014; 7 (1): 204).

Anne was a towering figure in feminist bioethics. In her scholarship, her contributions to FAB, and her passionate advocacy for women, she will be long remembered and honoured, and sorely missed. May her vision of feminist bioethics long inspire us:

We look toward a future when feminist thought has a more profound influence on bioethics, when the voices of the socially marginalized are more fully recognized, and the needs of all social groups are integrated into a system of health-care justice that is responsive to the diverse needs of humans across the globe (IJFAB 2014; 7 (1): 206).

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“The Dark Side of Almond Use”

Okay, so there’s nothing specifically feminist about this one, but it makes a nice point about the importance of thinking about the foods we produce and eat in broader terms than just their touted health benefits. Everyone knows how terrible the cattle industry is for the environment (click here for a nice comparative chart), but almonds–a plant food–seem so innocent. Not so, it turns out.

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Kidney Markets, Criminal and State-Sanctioned

After seeing this New York Times’ piece last week, “Transplant Brokers in Israel Lure Desperate Kidney Patients to Costa Rica,” I was surprised to hear a transplant nephrologist on WNYC discussing the advantages of the the Iranian system, in which the sale of organs is legal and regulated–and which is the only country with no waiting list for kidneys. (I would not have been surprised if I had read the article more carefully and noticed the paragraph mentioning Iran and linking to this academic study.) Googling around also turned up this piece by two economists arguing on utilitarian grounds that the Iranian model should be adopted universally.

I have some concerns about this from a social justice perspective–most obviously, that it is the poorest among us who have the greatest incentive to sell their organs, and that these procedures are not without risk–but I find these reservations largely outweighed by the greater and more equitable availability of organs to those who need them,  better compensation offered to those providing the organs, stronger medical oversight, and elimination of the various harms and dangers accompanying black market transactions. What do readers think?

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Black women’s bodies matter

Check out SUNY Professor Janell Hobson’s excellent piece on female pop star videos in the context of Ferguson. What are your thoughts?

Image from Dr. Janell Hobson's "Bodies on the Line: The Streets vs. Pop Culture," Ms. Magazine Blog, Aug. 20, 2014

Image from Dr. Janell Hobson’s “Bodies on the Line: The Streets vs. Pop Culture,” Ms. Magazine Blog, Aug. 20, 2014

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