New this week: Plastic shopping bag from a German drugstore

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Important Women's Health Exhibit Opens

The Changing Face of Women's Health opened last week at the Maryland Science Center in Baltimore, Maryland (U.S.A.). According to the Center, it's the "first-ever major exhibition devoted exclusively to women's health issues [and] represents the most up-to-date information anywhere." It closes 31 August. (Read my earlier discussion of this.)

This museum lent some booklets to the exhibit, which travels the country the next three years among members of the National Health Sciences Consortium, consisting of

The Exploratorium (San Francisco), Franklin Institute Science Museum (Philadelphia), Maryland Science Center (Baltimore; this is the lead institution for the project), Museum of Science (Boston), Museum of Science and Industry (Los Angeles), Museum of Science and Industry (Chicago), National Museum of Health and Medicine (Washington, D.C.), New York Hall of Science (New York City), and the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (Portland).

Sponsors: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and Office of Women's Health and the Office of Research on Women's Health, National Institutes of Health (NIH).

(See also the Women's Health Initiative at NIH and the National Women's Health Information Center, and more links.)

A reporter who attended the press-only tour before it opened to the general public - I have not yet visited - told me

the menstrual-education booklets this museum contributed sat grouped with sexually transmitted-disease education and how-to-put-a-condom-on-to-prevent-AIDS information, etc., in an area boxed off from the rest of the displays. Visitors meet a sign alerting them to these embarrassing things.

I do understand that these subjects upset American parents, who must answer their children's questions besides wrestling with their own.

And while I am very happy that the exhibit shows the booklets at all, this separate grouping with disease-prevention information must reinforce many people's belief that menstruation is not normal and certainly shameful.

The longer I run this Web site and MUM the sillier and stupider this attitude seems to me. Somehow I equate my progress in this area - I have crept out of the cave into the sunlight in the past six years - with the public's.

Read some of my ideas for a permanent museum of the history of women's health (suggest a better name!) that will be more open and inclusive than what exists today. In this proposed museum you would be able to see a display of the subject of Rachel Maines' book, below, together with a display about hysteria through the ages, among many other things.

Women's sexuality disturbs many people, and not only men.

You must read Rachel Maines' book (buy it) mentioned last week (read the excerpts from the preface!), The Technology of Orgasm (Johns Hopkins Press, 1999), which discusses this very point in a history of the treatment of hysteria (read a definition of hysteria from patent-medicine maker Lydia Pinkham), among other things. Famous physicians for centuries advised doctors and midwives to massage women's genitals to orgasm to relieve them of hysteria.

The electric vibrator - an English doctor invented it in the 1880s - cut the time to orgasm from an hour to 10 minutes, or thereabouts, enabling doctors to spare their fingers, treat more patients, and make more money. There was a large repeat clientele.

Yes, doctors and midwives masturbated women, a fact the author stunned even doctors with. But, she says, nobody wanted that job. Society was, and is, confused about women's sexual feelings and how, if at all, they should be satisfied.

Males in the 19th century, and many today, certainly President Clinton, defined sex as vaginal penetration, and the doctors of the last century kept their practices sex-free and their consciences clear by vibrating the vulva and lower abdomen, not by inserting a vibrator into the vagina - and doing so duplicated precisely how most women reach orgasm!

Maines also speaks of the "intrinsic pathology of the feminine" and "the innate 'wrongness' or 'otherness' of women," an attitude coloring the way we look at menstruation. It was true with me.

By the way, Maines thanks the people at Johns Hopkins Press for their courage in printing this book. A university she once worked for fired her, partly for her research into the history of vibrators.

And by the way, again: during the McCarthy hearings, in the 1950s in America, when the senator pursued communists and supposed-communists in the government and elsewhere, Johns Hopkins promoted one of its professors, Owen Lattimore, the "Pink Professor," when he was under McCarthy's fire. Some other universities booted out their teachers under attack.

Years later, as a college sophomore, I took a course in Asian history from Lattimore, watching him lecture without notes and write Chinese on the backboard. He awed me.

What a man! What a university!

And what a woman!

Letters to Your MUM

Next week I will catch up with both letters and other topics on this site. See you then!

The BBC wants to hear from you if your cycle is a blessing, makes you creative, if you have experience with menstrual seclusion, or know about current research !

Here's your chance to say how you feel about menstruation!

Please, may I post a letter on your letter page?

I'm researching a documentary for the BBC [British Broadcasting Corporation] about menstruation - myths and facts and blessing or curse.

I have much information about the curse and predjudice but I am finding scant information about the blessing! I was thrilled to find medical information linking surgery for breast cancer and the menstrual cycle and the New Scientist report about differing medication levels required during the 28-day cycle, and the research about eating requirements differing during the cycle etc., but I want to hear from women who have evidence of the cycle as a blessing, for example, artists, writers, etc., who are at their most creative whilst menstruating.

I also want to meet women who practice menstrual seclusion, as with menstrual huts of the past [and of the present; women still use menstrual huts].

And anything and everything to do with research into menstruation.

Next week I am interviewing Mr Peter Redgrove and Penelope Shuttle who wrote the first book on menstruation that offered positive information, The Wise Wound, 1978. I am very excited about asking many questions resulting from the book. If you have any questions for them pertaining to the book or their second book, Alchemy for Women, about the dream cycle corresponding to the menstrual cycle, I would be delighted to forward them to them on your behalf. They are not on the net so any questions would have to have addresses!

Thank you so much for this glorious Web site [many thanks to you for saying that!] and I look forward to hearing from visitors to your site.

Ali Kedge. or

Help Wanted: This Museum Needs a Public Official For Its Board of Directors

Your MUM is doing the paper work necessary to become eligible to receive support from foundations as a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation. To achieve this status, it helps to have a American public official - an elected or appointed official of the government, federal, state or local - on its board of directors.

What public official out there will support a museum for the worldwide culture of women's health and menstruation?

Read about my ideas for the museum. What are yours?

Eventually I would also like to entice people experienced in the law, finances and fund raising to the board.

Any suggestions?

Do You Have Irregular Menses?

If so, you may have polycystic ovary syndrome [and here's a support association for it].

Jane Newman, Clinical Research Coordinator at Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard University School of Medicine, asked me to tell you that

Irregular menses identify women at high risk for polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which exists in 6-10% of women of reproductive age. PCOS is a major cause of infertility and is linked to diabetes.

Learn more about current research on PCOS at Brigham and Women's Hospital, the University of Pennsylvania and Pennsylvania State University - or contact Jane Newman.

If you have fewer than six periods a year, you may be eligible to participate in the study!

See more medical and scientific information about menstruation.

It's Too Late to Call Your Congressman About the Proposed Tampon Safety and Research Act! Congress Had More Important ;-) Things To Do! Here's How and Why for Next Time.

New this week: Plastic shopping bag from a German drugstore

PREVIOUS NEWS | First Page | Newest News | Current News page | Contact the Museum | Menstrual Products Safety | FAQ | links | DIRECTORY OF ALL TOPICS

Take a short tour of MUM! (and on Web video!) - FAQ - Future of this museum - Tampon Safety Act - Contact the actual museum - Board of Directors - Norwegian menstruation exhibit - The media and the MUM - Menstrual odor - Prof. Mack C. Padd: Fat Cat - The science and medicine of menstruation - Early tampons - Books about menstruation - Menstrual cups: history, comments - Religion and menstruation: A discussion - Safety of menstrual products (asbestos, dioxin, toxic shock syndrome, viscose rayon) - A Note from Germany/Neues aus Deutschland und Europa - Letters - Links

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