Tag Archives: Social justice

Who knew closing the gender and race gap could be so easy?

I thought this article on a 15 minute writing exercise that improved the performance of women in physics and students of color in high school was beautiful in its simplicity.

Think about the things that are important to you. Perhaps you care about creativity, family relationships, your career, or having a sense of humour. Pick two or three of these values and write a few sentences about why they are important to you. You have fifteen minutes. It could change your life.

This simple writing exercise may not seem like anything ground-breaking, but its effects speak for themselves. In a university physics class, Akira Miyake from the University of Colorado used it to close the gap between male and female performance. In the university’s physics course, men typically do better than women but Miyake’s study shows that this has nothing to do with innate ability. With nothing but his fifteen-minute exercise, performed twice at the beginning of the year, he virtually abolished the gender divide and allowed the female physicists to challenge their male peers.

The exercise is designed to affirm a person’s values, boosting their sense of self-worth and integrity, and reinforcing their belief in themselves. For people who suffer from negative stereotypes, this can make all the difference between success and failure.

People who are in the minority (and I mean a power minority, not a numerical one) – people of color, women in science classes, disabled people, etc. – often feel that their values and needs are invisible in an academic situation. This exercise simply affirms that this is not necessarily true.

I want to go into academics one day. I may need to do this exercise in my classes.


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I’ll tell you what I regret, and what conclusions I am jumping to

*Trigger warnings for discussions of sexual assault*

I don’t want to go into a lot of details about this, because I don’t want to violate HIPAA or trash any of my peers or future peers specifically. Suffice to say, I find it very disappointing that people in the medical community, including people who should really know better, don’t realize that someone who is severely intoxicated cannot consent to sex. It’s not “next day regret”, and I am not “jumping to conclusions” for following that theory. It’s sexual assault. End of story.

We are supposed to be advocates for our patients. It’s bad enough that people in the community don’t understand that rape isn’t just some scary dude jumping out of the bushes and clubbing some demurely dressed virgin over the head, and dragging her off to violently violate her. When physicians and future physicians dismiss (or worse, joke about!) sexual assault on intoxicated individuals, or even worse than that, discourage a peer from following that line of questioning with a patient because it would be “jumping to conclusions” because “we weren’t there and we can’t say if she consented”, it absolutely infuriates me. Especially if such a person has a history and physical strongly suggesting that this is a likely scenario.

OK, rant over.


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Excellent blog post on the BS that is abortion parental notification laws *link fixed*

I have always been against parental notification laws because it seems like the teenagers that would have the problems with notifying their parents probably have a good reason, and a good relationship with your parents cannot be mandated by some law. It seemed to be these kids who don’t have good parental support would be the least likely to be able to navigate the legal system, and probably have the least social and familial support necessary to be a successful parent, especially a teen parent.

Also, it seemed ironic that a minor is no longer considered a minor and can make medical decisions for herself once she becomes a parent, and supposedly can be trusted to make decisions for an entire new life – her baby, if she decides to continue the pregnancy and gives birth, but she can’t be trusted to make one single medical decision for herself to not continue the pregnancy. And finally, I was worried about abusive parents or parents that would throw a minor out of the house for becoming pregnant.

At a Medical Student for Choice conference, all of the abortion providers on a panel said it was much more common to see parents come in and try to coerce their minor daughters to terminate, and the daughters to be resistant, than the other way around. Of course, they refused to do terminations under those circumstances.

Well, Harriet at Fugitivus has an awesome post up about what the reality is like for teenagers trying to get judicial bypasses. She describes the many situations she sees, from a missing in action dad, to abusive parents, to dead parents, to illegal immigrant parents, to rape victims, etc. Here is an excerpt from the section on abuse victims:

She may know she’s from an abusive family. She may not. She may simply be used to not talking about it, because it’s so shameful. She may not know there’s anything to talk about, assumes that everybody lives this way.

She will not disclose to us, and she has not disclosed to the clinic, because we are complete strangers. The clinic doesn’t have access to her medical records, which could possibly help them discover the history of abuse. The clinic is not her usual doctor, or usual clinic. This girl does not disclose because abortions are performed as something separate and segregated from other routine medical care, and at a time during which this girl may have the guts to tell somebody what is happening to her, she is surrounded by complete strangers, and called a whore and a murderer whenever she tries to access those strangers.

Please read the entire post. It is wonderfully written, as all of her posts are, and it is chilling and moving. But, most of all, it is rooted in practicality and reality. I think a lot of social conservatives want to wag their fingers and think that is all it takes to make other people live the way they think they should ideally live, based on their own particular lofty standards, and then wash their hands of the consequences of what happens when real people don’t meet those standards. I prefer to live and reality, and would like to make reality work better for the most people. Parental notification laws are the opposite of that.


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Funny, funny fetuses (feti?)

This has to be the funniest and most deft synthesis of pregnancy, current events and humor I have ever seen. Dare I call it hysterical?

From Tom the Dancing Bug on boingboing.net:

Beware the plotting fetuses

Click to embiggen, or follow the original link.

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Nothing like bad news to drive a message home

(Trigger warning for poor obstetrical outcome)

Less than one week after I blogged about the maternal mortality crisis among black women in our country, I lost a friend. She was of Haitian descent, a fellow medical student, an aspiring ob/gyn, and a kind and wonderful person. She was eight months pregnant with her first baby, and newly married. We talked for a while last week about her taking time off, breastfeeding, and pumping when she got back to rotations. She was incredibly happy about becoming a mother.

She went into premature labor this weekend. She had a hemorrhagic stroke. She died. The baby is doing fine.

This was not an underprivileged woman by most definitions, at least not currently. She may have been raised in an impoverished home. The Haitian population in South Florida in general is devastatingly poor. She was well educated. She was not “advanced maternal age”. She was not a teen mother. She was not obese. She had good prenatal care and insurance. She had family support and was happy about her pregnancy. As far as I know, she had no health conditions, didn’t smoke, and didn’t do any drugs.

But, she was a black woman in America, which puts her at much higher risk of premature labor and death. In recent years, the maternal mortality rate for black women in Miami has been up to 10 times that of white women. We don’t completely understand why. Different delivery of care, early life malnutrition or lack of health care, the stress of racism, biological or genetic differences…these all may play a role.

But, right now what we do know is that a baby is born without a mother, and a husband is welcoming a new baby in his life with a dead wife, and no mother to help raise it. That is a horrible shame.


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Proud to be an American

Happy birthday, USA!

When I say I am proud to be an American, (a USian, really, but I am quoting a song title), I am proud of what we have done that is progressive, such as women’s suffrage, and the civil rights movement. I am also optimistic of the potential we have to improve ourselves. I do not think that means we have to ignore problems that we have, or not admit mistakes, as many people mistakenly consider patriotism to be. I think having low standards and ignoring our issues is the opposite of patriotism.

Anyway, despite the partially successful civil rights movement of the 60’s, there is still glaring racism and racial inequalities in our country. Please check out this blog carnival at the Uneccesarean. It’s a round up of posts discussing the shockingly and depressingly high rates of infant and maternal mortality suffered by black women and infants in our country.

And, before someone goes there (which has happened before on this blog and on others so often it’s on racism bingo cards), it’s not a class issue. These inequalities still exist even when the mother is college educated, compared to white mothers who don’t even have a high school degree. This is more pervasive and deeper than class. Not that poverty isn’t important, but there is no quota for issues we should address to make this country even greater.


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Michel Martin rocks the mic

I have been a Michel Martin fan ever since I got satellite radio, and I was able to listen to her NPR show Tell Me More. She is a great interviewer, and I love the Barbershop segment.

But, it’s her “Can I Just Tell You?” commentaries that really impress me. She is thoughtful, analytical, intelligent, and not afraid to draw conclusions and make judgment calls. So much of journalism is pure regurgitation of talking points, it is refreshing to hear someone, especially a woman of color, not just break news, but put it back together, to paraphrase an NPR advert.

Well, her most recent “Can I Just Tell You” segment, No, We’re Not Going to Sit Down and Shut Up made it on my Newsfeed on Facebook, since I am a fan of NPR. Good for them for trying to increase exposure to this commentary.

She not only crosses ideological lines to defend Sarah Palin from some pretty atrocious sexism, but takes the unfortunately predictable blame-throwing response and uses it to paint a really insightful big picture. I recommend you read or listen to the whole segment at the link above, but here is a particularly great part:

“I cannot help but think that what the fury is really about is the loss of entitlement. It used to be that men with a shred of power could say whatever they wanted about women and women had to put up with it, or get a man to duel for them or something. Well now women get to rock the mike too.

It used to be, and often still is, that one set of values or perspectives dominates the way we look at issues and talk about them. You can see where the people who share that particular perspective begin to feel they are entitled to shape the conversation for all time. But things change — new voices rise, different people win elections, or dare we say it, get on the radio. Maybe some people have a problem with that. Tough. Because we’re not going anywhere.”

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