I listen to a lot of podcasts. I love to let my eyes leave the screen for a while and let my brain grapple with information in another way. It’s generally a very enjoyable way to spend time.
As I recently prepared my place for guests, I clicked on the
science fiction cast StarShipSofa #240 to make the cleaning go faster.
Everything was going great, as usual, until J.J. Campanella’s Science News. His
intro to the first story began, as you may remember like this: “The first story
of the night may make the male part of the audience a bit uncomfortable because
it has to do with, well, female plumbing, so to speak. So if you have kids
listening or are just uncomfortable about the topic you may want to skip ahead
about five or six minutes to get beyond this particular story. So what is this
anti-macho, squirm-inducing story?”
The answer to that is: a very technical
story about the human microbiome, specifically that of the vagina.*
This embarrassing intro not only undercut the cool science
of the story but it also made me feel incredibly angry and sad. Here’s
why: First it suggests that male
audience members are so immature as to find a rather dry (though interesting)
story about vaginas somehow unlistenable. StarshipSofa often includes stories where
men and women fuck each other, most often, vaginally—including the story before
this one. So imagining a vagina is cool if we’re talking sex, but if we are
talking science, it’s gross? Way to reinforce negative stereotypes of science
fiction fans, Dr. Campanella, while undercutting your own science reporting at
the same time! At its most innocuous, this kind of intro panders to the
immature and close-minded, more insidiously, it provides support to the idea
that it is totally reasonable to think that women’s bodies are gross, that it's
okay, if you are a man, to be ignorant of the non-sexual aspects of the vag.
And, worse than gross, apparently “the topic” is unsuitable
for children. Considering half of those hypothetical kids have vaginas
themselves, this idea is absurd at best. It is definitely a pretty terrifying
statement about how many people conceive of reproductive organs, especially
those of women, as shameful, embarrassing, and most importantly, a dirty
secret. If you, as a parent, are not comfortable with your kids knowing about
their own bodies, or them hearing the correct terms used for their parts, then
you are failing in your job. Frankly, any parent listening to a podcast aimed
at adults, full of violence and other adult situations, with their children
better be prepared to answer much more challenging questions than “What’s a
Even though the terms “anti-macho, squirm-inducing” are
thrown out a with a little cheek, it is still incredibly disappointing to hear SSS’s
science correspondent use those words to describe a story about a part of half
of the population’s bodies. Why do I have to hear this shit on a podcast
dedicated to the world of the fantastic, fiction or fact, where anything is
* Here's the article: P. Gajer, R. M. Brotman, G. Bai, J. Sakamoto, U. M. Schütte, X. Zhong, S. S. Koenig, L. Fu, Z. (. Ma, X. Zhou, Z. Abdo, L. J. Forney, J. Ravel, Temporal Dynamics of the Human Vaginal Microbiota. Sci. Transl. Med. 4, 132ra52 (2012).
Monday, June 04, 2012
Amy Shearn: A Goofy State of Mind
The Vatican, yes that Vatican, has opened, and is sending out, a portion of their massive "Secret" archive. The real, live items will be exhibited in Capitoline Museums in Rome, but you can see some very intriguing tidbits here: Lux In Arcana
I started buying magazines. So many subscriptions bought, forgotten about, then appearing, regularly in the mail. B did the same during the contagious fugue state where credit cards flashed to the sound of glossy pages flip flapping. It was a good idea: Cabinet, Gastronmica, wax poetics, bitch, BOMB, The Coffin Factory, and more now come to our door.
I grew these and now they are gone.
The rest of the summer is waiting.