Category: public health

Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack

I’m feeling miffed this morning at the lack of awareness for health equity. I first read this piece during ‘Sociology of the Family’ my freshman year at college, and it profoundly impacted my worldview. The full list of 50 ways white privilege is hidden is available online.


White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack
by Peggy McIntosh

“I was taught to see racism only in individual acts of meanness,
not in invisible systems conferring dominance on my group”

DAILY EFFECTS OF WHITE PRIVILEGE

I decided to try to work on myself at least by identifying some of the daily effects of white privilege in my life. I have chosen those conditions that I think in my case attach somewhat more to skin-color privilege than to class, religion, ethnic status, or geographic location, though of course all these other factors are intricately intertwined. As far as I can tell, my African American coworkers, friends, and acquaintances with whom I come into daily or frequent contact in this particular time, place and time of work cannot count on most of these conditions.

1. I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.
2. I can avoid spending time with people whom I was trained to mistrust and who have learned to mistrust my kind or me.
3. If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing housing in an area which I can afford and in which I would want to live.
4. I can be pretty sure that my neighbors in such a location will be neutral or pleasant to me.
5. I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed.
6. I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented.
7. When I am told about our national heritage or about “civilization,” I am shown that people of my color made it what it is.
8. I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their race.
9. If I want to, I can be pretty sure of finding a publisher for this piece on white privilege.
10. I can be pretty sure of having my voice heard in a group in which I am the only member of my race.
11. I can be casual about whether or not to listen to another person’s voice in a group in which s/he is the only member of his/her race.
12. I can go into a music shop and count on finding the music of my race represented, into a supermarket and find the staple foods which fit with my cultural traditions, into a hairdresser’s shop and find someone who can cut my hair. 
13. Whether I use checks, credit cards or cash, I can count on my skin color not to work against the appearance of financial reliability.
14. I can arrange to protect my children most of the time from people who might not like them.
15. I do not have to educate my children to be aware of systemic racism for their own daily physical protection.
16. I can be pretty sure that my children’s teachers and employers will tolerate them if they fit school and workplace norms; my chief worries about them do not concern others’ attitudes toward their race.
17. I can talk with my mouth full and not have people put this down to my color.
18. I can swear, or dress in second hand clothes, or not answer letters, without having people attribute these choices to the bad morals, the poverty or the illiteracy of my race.
19. I can speak in public to a powerful male group without putting my race on trial.
20. I can do well in a challenging situation without being called a credit to my race.
21. I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group.22. I can remain oblivious of the language and customs
of persons of color who constitute the world’s majority without feeling in my culture any penalty for such oblivion.
23. I can criticize our government and talk about how much I fear its policies and behavior without being seen as a cultural outsider.
24. I can be pretty sure that if I ask to talk to the “person in charge”, I will be facing a person of my race.
25. If a traffic cop pulls me over or if the IRS audits my tax return, I can be sure I haven’t been singled out because of my race.
26. I can easily buy posters, post-cards, picture books, greeting cards, dolls, toys and children’s magazines featuring people of my race.
27. I can go home from most meetings of organizations I belong to feeling somewhat tied in, rather than isolated, out-of-place, outnumbered, unheard, held at a distance or feared.
28. I can be pretty sure that an argument with a colleague of another race is more likely to jeopardize her/his chances for advancement than to jeopardize mine.
29. I can be pretty sure that if I argue for the promotion of a person of another race, or a program centering on race, this is not likely to cost me heavily within my present setting, even if my colleagues disagree with me.

Peggy McIntosh is associate director of the Wellesley Collage Center for Research on Women. This essay is excerpted from Working Paper 189. “White Privilege and Male Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming To See Correspondences through Work in Women’s Studies” (1988), by Peggy McIntosh; available for $4.00 from the Wellesley College Center for Research on Women, Wellesley MA 02181. The working paper contains a longer list of privileges.

Tattoo Parlors > Mall Kiosks for Piercings

I read this great piece in TIME on why tattoo parlors are better for piercings. My first piercing was the ears. Like many

Ear Piercing Gun

girls my age, I was absolutely dying to be deemed grown up enough to pierce my ears. My dreams came true on my 7th birthday: I remember sitting in the lavender chair in a Claire’s at the mall, the odor of rubbing alcohol heavy and my ear lobes cold, trying not to squirm while a woman put a dot on each ear and shot an earring through a piercing gun. I clenched my eyes tight and hoped that the dots would be parallel and centered, or ‘straight’ in 7-year old speak.

I admit a bias towards tattoo and piercing parlors: my undergraduate honors thesis was on the gender differences in piercing preferences, and involved a number of interviews at local businesses. I found shop owners and artists to be respectful, honest and scrupulous about sanitation — which I can’t say for any mall kiosk on the planet. When I got a nose piercing and entered the world of body jewelry purchasing, I found businesses ready to offer advice and suggestions, often with simple instructions and easy DIY recommendations.

In sum: save time and headache and likely money – go to a tattoo parlor for all your piercings. 

Why I Took My 7-Year-Old to a Tattoo Parlor

By Bonnie Rochman
“Last month, following a long period of girlish cajoling, my daughter finally got her ears pierced in celebration of her 7th birthday. The setting was not the traditional mall kiosk staffed by some bored and minimally trained 16-year-old. Instead I took my daughter to a tattoo parlor.

Surprised they even allow 7-year-olds in those kinds of places? Think again. A growing number of parents are apparently turning to tattoo parlors to bejewel their children’s little lobes. I didn’t come up with this crazy idea out of the blue; I’m a reporter, after all: I researched where to take Shira and weighed the pros and cons. I found that tattoo parlors — despite the blaring heavy metal music — were mom-approved by a local parenting email list. When even a nurse cast her vote in favor of the tattoo parlor, I deliberated no longer.

“There is a stigma attached to tattoo parlors that they’re dirty and will be bombarded by foul-mouthed people,” says Sarah LaRoe, a mom with multiple facial piercings and tattoos creeping up her neck, who pierced my little girl’s ears so tenderly that she left her not in tears but with a big, happy smile on her face.

Contrary to what you might think, tattoo parlors — at least the one I went to — are actually bastions of cleanliness. Some states regulate them, and reputable ones use disposable needles and sterilize all their equipment in an autoclave. In contrast, mall piercers and many jewelry stores use piercing guns that have been associated with complications and can’t be completely sterilized. Armed with that knowledge, which would you choose?

While some parents might be freaked out by the idea of taking their kid to a tattoo parlor, I looked upon the outing as an adventure, joking with my daughter about getting a Hello Kitty tattoo for mom. What I didn’t expect was that the experience would evolve into a lesson in tolerance. In that unnerving way little kids have of speaking their mind, Shira took an initial look at LaRoe and stage-whispered: “I think she looks ugly like that.”

I immediately flashed her my scary mom eyes to signal her to clam up. But later, after we’d left the store, her comment served as an opportunity to point out that just because someone looks different, it doesn’t mean she’s not a good person. LaRoe, regardless of her unconventional piercings, was super-professional and extremely kind.

For professional piercers like LaRoe, who stick needles through noses, eyebrows, tongues and nether regions, ears are the most mundane of piercing locations. But that doesn’t mean they don’t take it seriously. LaRoe spent nearly an hour with us, versus the quick in-and-out that I remember from getting my ears pierced at the mall as a girl. Before leading us into the piercing room — which looked just like a doctor’s office — LaRoe handed the birthday girl a bag with a lollipop, which expertly distracted Shira from being overly nervous about what was going on.

The bag also contained non-iodized sea salt and instructions for mom on how to mix a saline solution to clean newly pierced ears. Unlike the alcohol that mall kiosks recommend for cleaning, salty water doesn’t burn.

Now for the gory details: at tattoo parlors, piercers use hypodermic needles to core out a sliver of skin, making room for an earring — a relatively painless procedure. In contrast, at the mall, the piercer uses a gun that painfully jams a blunt-tipped earring stud into the ear lobe; the process does not remove skin, but effectively pushes it aside.

LaRoe is so convinced of the superiority of needles over piercing guns that she’s signed petitions to ban the guns; one such petition makes the case that “only cowboys use guns.” In her quest to reform the ear-piercing industry, LaRoe leaves her business card at schools and pediatricians’ offices. When she takes her own son to the doctor, she’ll frequently get questions about her multiple piercings; sometimes she gets customers that way too.

Ultimately, though, change starts parent by parent, through word of mouth. “It kind of acts like a trendsetter,” says LaRoe. “All it takes is one little girl who goes to school and says it didn’t hurt.”

It didn’t hurt? Well, maybe a little. But so little that Shira didn’t even blink when LaRoe pierced her first ear. During the procedure, LaRoe had her do some deep, yoga-like breathing, which Shira is familiar with from her weekly yoga class. In and out, in — pierce! Of course, the lollipop helped too.”

What Do We Mean by ‘Unintended’ Pregnancy?

pregnancyTestI like Jezebel, and I reallly like Jezebel’s commentators. Check out this piece on ambivalence towards pregnancy and the two awesome responses I’ve reposted below.

“The CDC says that about half (or 49%) of all pregnancies are unintended. And those aren’t all teen pregnancies. In fact the largest percentage of those occurs in women aged 18 to 29.”

This, yes, exactly, from laureltreedaphne: “If you’re using the pullout method and you get pregnant, is that really an accidental pregnancy? This argument drives me crazy, and as my friends and I have shifted into our late 20s / early 30s I see it happening all the time. If you and your partner choose to forgo birth control and then get pregnant, I don’t really believe that’s an accidental pregnancy – an accidental pregnancy is birth control failing, or someone not understanding how it works. Your pull-out birth control didn’t fail – you weren’t using birth control.

I really feel like there is this weird phenomenon where women don’t want to admit that they want to get pregnant. So they switch to the pull out method, because of all the side effects of birth control. And then 4-5 month’s later they’re “accidentally” pregnant. It’s a way to not own your choice, and it really bothers me. I don’t care if you want to have a baby, just have one. Don’t create this whole false “whoops” narrative.”

and this by rokokobang: “Just own it! The withdrawal method is making an active choice not to use birth control. That’s not the same as your condom failing because you left it in a hot car. It makes the conversation go like this:

“Wow! Congratulations!”

“Thank you! Yeah, it was a total surprise!”

“Oh, it was? Like did birth control fail, or…?”

“Oh, well no, we weren’t actually using anything.”

“So…why were you surprised?”

“Well, we weren’t trying!”

“But you weren’t preventing pregnancy.”

“Well, right. But we weren’t trying.”

“IF YOU AREN’T TRYING TO STOP IT, THAT IS KIND OF LIKE TRYING.”

3 Unrelated, Thought-Provoking Articles

In no particular order:

1. How to Ditch Happily-Ever-After and Build Your Own Romantic Narrative. Courtesy of Good, a site that routinely posts articles and perspectives that challenge or intrigue me. This article made me a little uncomfortable, but in a good way. An excerpt: “Though society’s stock romantic narratives and rigid gender roles may seem like childish stories you grow out of with age and experience, I’ve noticed that the older I get, the more they attempt to exert their influence over my life. My peers and I—out of the dorm room but not yet into a mortgage—have found ourselves squirming under the slow suck of societal pressure, which encourages us all to settle down and get married already, or else acquire our dozen cats and our witching license and shut ourselves in forever. Intellectually, we know that these narratives can be sexist, boring, and alienating. But emotionally, they can be clarifying, simple, and temporarily satisfying…”

2. No Money in a Dirty Kitchen: The Repercussions of NYC’s Restaurant Grading System. Huge fist pumps for this one from The Atlantic. “After almost two years of the program, the earliest quantifiable returns are coming in and the mayor couldn’t be more pleased. Salmonella cases are down 14 percent and diner satisfaction is sky high.” Score one for public health! I have no sympathy for restaurant owners. If you do your job right there’s no fine and no illness. Of course the inspections are random, that’s the point! Yes, you get fined to incentivize following protocol – because sticks work better than carrots.

3. Is Everything I Do Actually Killing Me? Thanks to Lifehacker, at least I’m not the only cynic who asks this question. What’s the point of not heating food in plastic, avoiding sucralose, or skipping carcinogenic tasty BBQ since I’m gonna get cancer or have a heart attack anyway?

Okay, I lied – there are actually 4 articles stuck in my brain today:

4. Aurora Tragedy Shines Spotlight On Medical Schools.I’m not familiar with this site, Popehat, but I am intimately acquainted with the medical school system, and health care system. Several friends whom I respect – and who are caring doctors – reposted this piece which made me take a look. I don’t think there’s a causal relationship between psychopaths and medical students, but I agree that we should pause and examine the type of people that medicine accepts and produces. We assume that soldiers who face death and killing and high stress return from deployments with a very different outlook on life. Why are doctors so different? Maybe the medical environment is more sterile, but hierarchy is absolute, death is part of every day, the powerful overule the powerless, people lose their humanity and become faceless cases. And don’t forget the infamous doctor as god complex.