MUM Expands to Include Women's Health

You'll notice that this week MUM includes many items about women's health, in addition to menstruation. This will be the pattern for the future, in order to be more useful to the MUM readers.

New Site About Menstruation

Kelly Coyne alerted me to her The Red Spot, worth looking at for information about the physiology of menstruation and women's reactions to it. It's well done!

Our Human at Girlcon '97

Board Member Miki Walsh (not the floating spirit of MUM at left, but the one making a point; drawing by H. Finley) represented this museum and gave a talk at a gathering of young feminists at Wellesley College called Girlcon '97, right outside Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A., in the middle of April; men were barred from giving presentations. She fired this e-mail off to MUM headquarters, and I present it here, electrons still crackling:

I've had more menstruation in April than one girl is supposed to have! No, literally, I've been right on track, thank you very much, BUT menstruation for me this past month has far exceeded the boundaries of my little uterus!

For starters, Harry [Finley, MUM director] asked me to join the board of MUM, as one of the youthful members . . . I guess he figured that it would be a good idea to have a board member who has at least another good quarter century of menstruating years ahead of her! And, as a part of my duties as a MUM board member (hey, I feel like I just won the Miss America Pageant, or something. No, wait, that was Harry's GRANDFATHER'S thing!) I fled to Boston to represent MUM at the National All Girl Slumber Party (aka Girlcon '97) at Wellesley College, the weekend of April 11-13. This is the tale of my weekend adventures at the conference!

First of all, I must point out that this was the first time I've given a seminar to a group of adults. I'm actually a pre-kindergarten teacher, and I had the feeling that I was going to get up there to speak and I'd forget where I was and I'd start off with, "If you can hear me, touch you nose! If you can hear me, touch your bellybutton! Good! It looks like I have a lot of people ready to be good listeners today!"

Well, about 20 or so humans gathered for my presentation. I chucked the lectern that they had so generously supplied me with, and sat, um, Native American Style on a table in the front of the room for my talk. Now, I can say with complete honestly that I don't remember a damn thing that I said! Apparently, I was pretty amusing, 'cuz the humans were laughing a lot . . . of course, I'm not sure if they were laughing WITH me, or laughing AT me! :) Anyway, I certainly hope that I covered the basics of the museum, talked about the past, present and future of it, and told how I got involved . . . this is what I planned to say, but, as I said, I have no recollection of what I said for 25 minutes up there . . . although I'm quite certain that the phrase "Spastic Menstrual Girl" DID exit my mouth . . . oooops! :)

No one badgered me with questions that I couldn't answer, OR attacked me because they were offended that a man had started MUM, which made me Thankful Girl! I then showed "Under Wraps," which really IS the best film about menstruation ever made! Everyone, run out and get it right now! The humans really seemed to like it . . . in fact, I was asked to lend it to the conference for the weekend so that other humans who missed my talk (many did, as it was the first thing scheduled for the conference, but I didn't mind too much!) could see it as well.

For the rest of the weekend, humans came up to me and told me that they liked my talk and film, so I guess that it went well! But, here is my favorite thing that happened. Apparently, (not that I remember this!) I told them the story about how Harry told Johnson & Johnson what o.b. stands for in English (it's ohne Binde, which is German for "without a napkin," not "without a belt," which is what the J & J rep thought) and some humans asked me how to spell it, 'cuz they wanted to name their band Ohne Binde! I was amused! So, if y'all ever hear of a band by that name, you'll know what inspired it! :)

The rest of the weekend I spent attending the other events from the conference. There were several highlights for me! My favorite was a talk by Sarah Wood, founder of G.E.R.L.L. press, regarding racist trends within the early birth control movement (Margaret Sanger was NO saint!) and current racist trends in reproductive control. Also, I enjoyed a workshop on racism within feminism given by Nohelia Canales, who is Ms. Foundation's Young Feminist Visionary of the Year. In addition, I saw several women musicians perform, went to a poetry reading, and saw a lot of great artwork. All in all, it was a great weekend, and I was pretty much ecstatic to be a part of it!

Look at a Fantastic Anatomy (Book, That Is) - Better Yet, See the Show!

If the show is as good as its catalog, run to the Philadelphia Museum of Art sometime between now and 14 June to see a stunning collection of anatomical art created from the 14th to 19th centuries! This will be the only place in the United States you can see this traveling exhibit. It has already been in Canada at the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, and in the Vancouver Art Gallery, but Israelis can see it from 8 August to 7 September in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

I thought that Max Brödel of Johns Hopkins was the first real artist of medical illustration, but I was wrong. (But check him out anyway at the Walters Art Gallery in Baltimore, where several of his great drawings and paintings can be seen for a short time.)

The catalog of the show, called The Ingenious Machine of Nature, was published by the National Gallery of Canada in 1996, and is magnificent. There are over 125 illustrations, some stunning, not only artistically, but conceptually.

The text is readable and edifying. Dr. Mimi Cazort, co-editor and Curator of Prints and Drawings at the National Gallery of Canada, writes, "Uterine dissection was the focus of female dissection and its representation from the fifteenth until the second half of the eighteenth. This singular preoccupation of anatomists and artists with the female reproductive apparatus is sometimes explained today as reflecting the ideological obsessions of a male-dominated profession, but a single-lens view seems facile. There is another explanation, of crystalline simplicity: the eternal hope for an answer to the question "Where do we come from?" (Color highlights not in original.)

Did you know that medical students in the 18th century examined life-size wax figures of humans, which inspire horror and fascination in this viewer, or that "there are sixteenth- and seventeenth century double portraits of husband or wife for display in their private rooms: one image shows the subject of the portrait in full bloom of handsome youthfulness, while the complementary picture is a representation of the same head as it decays in the grave - a dreadful, ever-present, personalized reminder of death, a true memento mori."

Order the catalog through a bookstore ($50), or, better yet, buy it at the show!

And Speaking of Books...

You cannot buy a better book for $19.95 anywhere! I'm talking about The Healing Hand, which shows and discusses the treatment of wounds in the ancient world (the word surgery comes from the ancient Greek word for hand), over 500 pages of illustrations everywhere and erudite, although lively, readable text, by Dr. Guido Majno, the chairman of the Department of Pathology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. And the appearance of the pages, as with the book above, is wonderful.

Harvard, the publisher, shows its enormous endowment. How else could such a book be published without being subsidized?

We Get E-mail - Do We Get E-Mail!

The following communication whacked my Macintosh last week, and it has made me really think about what I wrote:

"Regarding this:

'Someone - a woman - suggested to me that a man gives more credibility to the enterprise [this museum], as offensive as that may seem, because men generally run things in our society. Another woman felt that if the museum were run by a woman, she would probably be far left in politics, and perhaps a lesbian, thus putting off the vast majority of the public in two ways. The museum would be marginalized as a feminist whim.'

Look, I like your website quite a lot, and appreciate it very much. But don't flatter yourself thinking it's this cool because you are a man. It's cool because you clearly have a brain and a heart - the penis doesn't matter. And I don't see how this could be more marginalized if written by a lesbian. That would certainly make it acceptable to lesbians! Who's to say what would be more offensive to the narrow-minded masses - a lesbian, or a man discussing something he has no personal experience with? I mean truly, if people accuse you of being a woman-hater or a gay man, their logic is so failing that they probably would hate lesbians as well for the same bullshit reasons - "oh, you hate femininity and want to be a man . . . ."

And what the HELL is a feminist whim!? That's kinda like saying "a bad day of the month," isn't it?

Okay, rant over. I loved the site. And it does impress me that a man dared to do it with such intelligence.


Sonia Araña"

(For people thinking of writing MUM: I don't publish communications without the authors' permission; the same applies to signatures or any other identification. You're safe.)

Do Girls Mature Earlier Today?

Researchers led by Marcia E. Herman-Giddens of the University of North Carolina report in the current journal Pediatrics that at age 7, 27% of black girls and almost 7% of white girls had pubic hair or breast development. The girls had been brought to participating pediatricians' offices around the country for many reasons. The researchers were surprised at the early signs of puberty, although the comparison study used by medical textbooks was conducted in England in the early 1960s, and may not apply as well to Americans.

Interestingly enough, the average age of first menstruation is about the same it was in 1950, about 12.8 for whites and 12.1 for blacks.

Some researchers suggest that the blacks mature earlier because of placenta and estrogen put in hair products for black women. The decline in age in general may come from the presence of estrogen-like chemicals in the environment. But wouldn't that affect the age of menarche?

One problem caused by girls maturing earlier is sex education. These girls are confronted with social situations that even their sisters years older have trouble dealing with. And girls who mature early tend to have less social confidence.

Is a Cure for Bladder Infections Around the Corner?

By identifying the substance that allows Escherichia coli bacteria to cling to bladder cells, scientists from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.A., report in the 25 April Science that they hope to be able make a vaccine which would prevent many bladder infections in women. The development of such a vaccine could lead to similar ones for pneumonia, gonorrhea and ear infections.

Male and Female Hormones in Environment May Have Similar Effects in Men

Certain environmental pollutants can bind to both androgen and estrogen receptors in humans.

A substance that mimics androgen can bind to androgen receptors in men, but shut off natural androgens, thus in effect feminizing males.

Benjamin J. Danzo of the Vanderbilt School of Medicine in Nashville, Tennessee, U.S.A., published his findings in the current issue of Environmental Health Perspectives.

The effects of these environmental substances might be most visible in rapidly dividing cells, such as those in the fetus or in young children, and could be very dangerous, influencing the sex of children or a couple's ability to have children.

One Year of, 2.5 of MUM!

Time flies, as we all know, and this time last year I had just figured how to get this [expletive deleted] Web site into cyberspace, made difficult by the fact that I had (and have) a Macintosh; I have never heard "duh!" from so many smart people in my life, and from me too!

Here's what I predict for the coming year:

  • this site will double in size
  • MUM the physical museum will become legally a non-profit
  • funding will start, allowing the museum to start searching for a completely public home
  • you who have read the MUM literature or listened to me rant and rave know what I want in a permanent home for MUM: permanent and temporary exhibition galleries, information storage center, laboratory for the speedy testing for safety of every new menstrual product to come on the market, gift shop (oh, the possibilities!!) and book store for menstruation and women's health, auditorium and meeting rooms, and DA DAAAA! a German-style CAFE with garden and pond, where people can sit around and do nothing except drink great coffee (etc.) and eat fabulous German pastry (etc.). Do you think I spent 13 years in Germany for the climate?? Certain tables will have pull-down arms from the ceiling holding reference works or computers to help settle academic points; dispute settled, you push the arm back up. Folks, I have dreamed about these arms for at least twenty years, when I would discuss stuff with my best friend sitting in the Sauer'sche Cafe in Heidelberg (I once illustrated a front cover story for my magazine about that cafe!)! I have been accused of starting MUM just to start a cafe with reference arms!

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