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The ‘breast is best’ lobby has left women feeling judged and unworthy

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In a dramatic public letter to all National Childbirth Trust (NCT) stakeholders – it finishes, “please keep on keeping on, if you can” – its president Seána Talbot has resigned. There is clearly a lot of personal chagrin (Talbot talks of coercion, bullying, a toxic culture, mistrust between staff and volunteers) which would be unfair to adjudicate from a distance. She laments the organisation losing members – a drop of 55% since 2016 – although doesn’t mention that since 2015 it has not been obligatory to become a member in order to take the prenatal classes.

However, competitors have sprung up in the prenatal business, organisations parents-to-be prefer because they’re less expensive and less doctrinaire: in many ways, the surprising thing is that the NCT dominance lasted so long, given that for years the trust has been known for its fierce views on the “medicalisation” of childbirth. Women came away with the idea that epidurals were for wimps, caesarean sections meant you had failed, and the Syntocinon injection was only for the kind of weakling who couldn’t eject a placenta with the power of her mind. To be fair, 60 years ago, this started as the “natural” not “national” childbirth trust.
The kernel of the dispute, as Talbot sees it, is this: “The executive team has taken the charity away from our core mission of birth and breastfeeding, and towards a more generic ‘parent support’ with an emphasis on postnatal mental health.” The charity doesn’t dispute that postnatal depression is, currently, where most of its resources are going (via a campaign called #hiddenhalf), but contends that this and breastfeeding support are not mutually exclusive.

In fact, though, they are: when your position is that breastfeeding is the only real choice of the responsible mother, it’s difficult to claim a meaningful, simultaneous care for her mental health, and often this orthodoxy works actively against her confidence and mental wellbeing.

Feeding is the ultimate parenting culture war. The principles are absolute (breastfeeding is only good, bottle-feeding only harmful); the borders policed (breast milk, exclusively, for six months, which is vanishingly rare in real life). This ideal was evangelised until it became a public health standard that very few women could meet. Crucially, breastfeeding advocates react very badly to any notion of coexistence – that mothers who bottle-feed can enter the same conversations, forums, Instagram feeds, on the same terms. They will always be suboptimal mothers, though it won’t be their fault – rather, they didn’t get enough “support” to do the right thing.

The trajectory of this has been interesting; it started with a battle against priggery, that women should be able to breastfeed in public. Twenty years ago, I wrote my first column for these pages; a rant against that campaign. I didn’t mind the feeding. But in a bid to normalise it in public places, someone had railed against the “sexualisation” of breasts, which seemed to distil something of the self-righteousness of parenting: we all had to have our breasts culturally desexualised, just because some of us might need them, for a time-limited period, for something else.

In retrospect, I can see the virtue of that drive – rates of breastfeeding climbed, steadily from 2000 to 2010, according to the Infant Feeding Surveycarried out twice a decade since 1975 (then discontinued by the coalition government as part of its general corrosion of the fabric of society). Still, it was unfortunate that the point had to be made by dividing women – in this case, into mothers, who were using their breasts properly, and non-mothers, who weren’t.

Yet a more damaging division was sown by the growing certainty of the pro-breastfeeding position: its health benefits were ever more trenchantly stated. It didn’t just protect against a tummy bug; it protected against cancer. It wasn’t just a tender, beautiful connection with your baby; you couldn’t bond properly without it.

The methodology was often problematic – unless you could point to a specific mechanism, some element of breast milk that could account for the higher IQ, or the superior digestive tract, you would always return to this impossible conundrum. How do you distinguish, causally, between the benefits of breastfeeding and the benefits of being the kind of mother – vigilant, informed, obedient – who decides to breastfeed? Had this been a neutral medical space, like a fungal nail infection, a compromise position would have been reached; this seems to work, but if it doesn’t work for you, try something else. But the space was anything but neutral: breastfeeding got into a feedback loop with a distinctively 21st-century risk aversion around every element of mothering, from a woman’s behaviour in pregnancy to her single-mindedness as a caregiver.

It was, in my view, part of a wider drive to situate every conceivable problem a person might have, from obesity to poor housing to being bad at maths, as their own individual failure, or if that wouldn’t fly, the failure of their mother – a necessary ideological precondition to unpicking our collective insurance structures against misfortune, known broadly as “the welfare state”. But – like the benefits of breastfeeding, in fact – that’s quite hard to prove, so it’s not a hill I’d die on. The upshot has demonstrably been a rigidity that leaves huge swathes of women – for reasons practical, economic, physical, medical, personal – feeling judged and unworthy, and codifies women by class, at a time in life when social distinction seems least relevant and most absurd.

I would like to see a new wave of parenting campaign energy, its founding principles: “Is anyone hungry? Is everyone happy?” This is what the NCT is already doing, in directing itself towards mental health, and in the process towards a more inclusive attitude to infant feeding. But the spirit of compromise, of good enough, of whatever works, is itself deeply political, an existential challenge to the creed of parental perfection, and this internal strife at the NCT is just the beginning.

• Zoe Williams is a Guardian columnist

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LIFE

Men Also Contract HPV. So Why Aren’t They Tested Like Women Are?

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Most sexually active women in the modern era know about human papillomavirus. Some were offered the HPV vaccine in their early teenage years and saw the ads all over television about reducing the risk of cervical cancer.

But women aren’t the only ones who contract HPV. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 79 million American women and men are currently infected with HPV. And while awareness about how men can contract and spread the virus is increasing, there’s still a gap between women and men when it comes to prevention and treatment.

Simply put: Men aren’t routinely tested like women are. In fact, there’s currently no approved test for HPV in men.

PORTRA VIA GETTY IMAGES
“Men can be tested during an anal pap smear if they request that the tests include one for HPV,” said Sunny Rodgers, a sex educator and ambassador for the American Sexual Health Association. “However, an anal pap smear is not usually included in male exams unless the individual has tested positive for HIV.”

Most people with HPV have no symptoms, so they wouldn’t necessarily know to request testing for the virus. If they do develop symptoms, the most common is genital warts in both men and women.

“These warts usually appear near the sex organs … and can be a single bump or a group of bumps close together,” Rodgers said. “They can have different shapes ― some are raised, others flat, and in groups, they can look like the head of a cauliflower. They can be flesh-tone, white, pink and red in color.”

Bumps may also itch ― and they can be treated, said Carlos Malvestutto, an infectious disease expert with The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. “There are topical antiviral medications to treat genital warts,” he explained. “Larger or more numerous genital warts can be treated with cryoablation, laser ablation, electrocautery or surgery.”

That said, most people have few or no symptoms of HPV, and the immune system will clear the virus on its own in the vast majority of cases. High-risk HPV strains that are never cleared from body are usually the ones docs are most concerned about because they’re linked to an increased risk of cancer; specifically, HPV16 and HPV18 may lead to cervical, anal, oropharyngeal, penile, vaginal and vulvar cancers.

Why Men Aren’t Tested, Even Though HPV Affects Them

GETTY CREATIVE
So, if men and women both get HPV that can cause disease, why aren’t men also regularly tested at a doctor’s appointment? It has to do with whether discovering HPV can lead to any form of prevention.

Women are tested for HPV as part of their pap smears, which they typically get once every three years from ages 21 to 65, unless their doctors decide more frequent testing should occur. This is specifically to look for abnormal cervical cells.

“The American Cancer Society has found that cervical cancer can be prevented. Therefore, HPV is tested for during female pap smears because HPV can lead to cervical cancer,” Rodgers said. “There is a direct correlation between testing and prevention. But thus far, there is very little research showing male anal HPV testing as a certain preventive measure for cancer.”

The Food and Drug Administration approved HPV testing as a primary screening for cervical cancer in 2014. There is ongoing research being conducted on an HPV test for men, but so far the FDA hasn’t approved one. According to a study published in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, testing a man’s mouth or throat was not an effective way to discover HPV.

Discovering a test for men is vital for the culture that surrounds HPV as well, Rogers said. Since only women can currently be tested, it reinforces the notion that HPV is a woman’s sexually transmitted infection. However, the CDC reports that approximately 25% of men in the U.S. have high-risk HPV, compared to only 20% of women.

“The stigma associated with women having to be the primary individuals tested for HPV is so evident that there are has been research documenting it,” Rodgers said. “According to the BMJ, raising public awareness of the sexually transmitted nature of HPV can potentially increase women’s feelings of stigma, shame and anxiety ― but their research also found that when women learned HPV was common, it helped reduce these feelings by ‘normalizing’ the infection.”

How To Prevent HPV

KOLDUNOVA_ANNA VIA GETTY IMAGES
In the absence of a test that can screen for HPV, prevention mechanisms are still powerful.

The majority of people contract HPV when they become sexually active, according to the CDC. Experts stress that the vaccine is something everyone should ask their doctor about.

Gardasil prevents nine different strains of HPV, including two low-risk strains that cause genital warts and seven high-risk strains that are linked to cancer. While it’s typically given to boys and girls when they’re 11 or 12, it’s often recommended for ages up to 26 ― and perhaps even later than that.

“Prior to October 2018, Gardasil was used to vaccinate males and females from ages nine to 26 only,” Rodgers said. “But on that date, the FDA approved its use for people aged 27 to 45.”

The approval was based on a long-term study of 3,200 women in this older age group, in which the vaccine was 88% effective in preventing infection and cancer. Men in the older age category should see improved prevention as well, according to the FDA.

“Even for someone who has a history of genital warts or has been found to have HPV-associated lesions, there is still benefit to taking the vaccine because it will protect them from acquiring any of the other high-risk genotypes that they could become exposed to,” Malvestutto said.

The importance of the vaccine can’t be understated, Malvestutto added. “Widespread adoption of this vaccine is leading to a reduction in incidence of cervical cancer in several countries around the world,” he said. “In Australia, it is estimated that cervical cancer may be eliminated by 2028 due to the widespread adoption of the HPV vaccine.”

Aside from the vaccine, you should also reduce your risk of contracting HPV by practicing safe sex, though complete prevention isn’t always possible.

“At some point in their lives, most people will have the HPV virus,” Rodgers said. “There is only one way to not contract the HPV virus, and that’s totally avoiding any sexual contact.”

Condoms can offer some protection from HPV infection, though, and shouldn’t be discounted as a way to prevent the virus. “The HPV virus may be on skin that isn’t covered by the condom, but polyurethane condoms are made from a special type of plastic that helps prevent pregnancy and STI infection,” Rodgers said. “They are also good alternatives for anyone allergic to latex.”

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Everything In This New Line Of Clean Beauty Is Under $8

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While we can appreciate an elaborate skin care routine, sometimes you just need something easy and effortless — whether it’s makeup wipes to use while traveling so you can skip your usual double cleanse, or products simple enough for any beginner to start a basic morning routine. In a world of countless beauty products and new brands popping up, however, that idea of a no-frills routine sounds easier said than done.

That’s where Brandless comes in. The retailer offers affordable and quality products in slick packaging, with the goal of bringing morning routines back to the basics — without breaking the bank.

Brandless already has a pretty wide selection of clean and cruelty-free beauty and personal care items, including a grapefruit facial cleanser for $4 and a green tea and aloe body wash for $4. The new items — include a depuffing eye gel, rosewater facial toner spray, face wipes and vegan brushes — were added by customer request, and they’re all under $8.

We’re especially excited about the facial wipes, which come in a package of 30 for $4 and are made out of 100% plant-based ingredients in four different formulas to detox, exfoliate, rejuvenate or simply remove makeup — all perfect for refreshing on the go. There’s also an $8 depuffing eye gel formulated with probiotics, green tea, pomegranate and caffeine to stop swelling, banish dark circles and reduce fine lines — perfect for popping in your beauty fridge and applying after a late night or during allergy season.

If you’re not familiar with Brandless, it launched in 2017 as an online retailer for high-quality, affordable and consciously-curated products across categories like home, food, personal care. We called them the “Ikea of food,” without the furniture. The idea behind Brandless is that better doesn’t have to cost more, so the company offers items like organic snacks for $3 and compostable plant-based disposable plates for $3. Plus, for every purchase made on the site, Brandless donates a meal to someone facing hunger, in partnership with Feeding America.

The prices are pretty competitive when you compare them to other retailers, and then there’s the added convenience of not having to waste time comparing prices and ingredients between different brands. In a world where there are almost too many choices, it’s a refreshing change of pace.

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UFI releases figures showing global economic impact of exhibitions

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PARIS – For the first time, the total global economic impact of exhibitions has been calculated. With a total output of €275 ($325) billion in business sales annually, the exhibition sector is on a par with sectors such as machine tools or medical and surgical equipment.

UFI, the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry, worked with Oxford Economics to produce the ‘Global Economic Impact of Exhibitions’ report, which was also supported by SISO (Society of Independent Show Organisers). 

“This truly is a first for our industry,” says UFI President Craig Newman. “This new data will support us when we talk to stakeholders about our industry, especially as it’s broken down into the direct, measurable economic impact per exhibiting company – right down to the economic value of every single square metre of venue exhibition space. And on top of that, it makes me proud to work for our industry, knowing that we are securing over three million jobs.”

Based on UFI exhibition metrics, the model developed by Oxford Economics provides results for the world and also regional data for Africa, the Asia-Pacific, Central and South America, Europe, the Middle East and North America.

Key findings
The report shows the far-reaching impact of the exhibition sector, which generates €68.7 ($81.1) billion in direct GDP and contributes a total economic impact of €275 ($325) billion. This ranks the sector as the 56th largest economy in the world, larger than those of countries such as Hungary, Kuwait, Sri Lanka, and Ecuador.

In 2018, approximately 32,000 exhibitions directly involved 303 million visitors and over 4.5 million exhibitors across more than 180 countries. The total impact of €167 (US$198) billion in global GDP includes the direct spending and jobs that are specifically involved in planning and producing exhibitions, and for participants and exhibitors to travel to exhibitions, as well as other exhibition-related spending. Following the ISO definitions, an exhibition, show or fair is defined as an event where products, services or information are displayed and disseminated. Exhibitions differ from conferences, conventions, seminars or other business and consumer events, and exclude flea markets and street markets.

Europe was the largest market in terms of visitors, welcoming 112 million in 2018. This represents 37% of global exhibition visitors in 2018. North America ranked second, with 91 million visitors, followed by the Asia-Pacific with nearly 82 million visitors.

In terms of total GDP, North America ranked first with over €78.2 ($92.3) billion of total GDP attributable to the exhibitions sector. This accounts for nearly 47% of the sector’s global impact. Europe followed with €48.6 ($57.3) billion of total GDP, representing 29% of the sector’s global impact.

Overall, exhibitions globally generated €60,700 ($71,700) of total sales per exhibiting company and €7,900 of total sales per square metre ($870 per square foot) of venue gross indoor exhibition space.

Research will continue
As with every piece of global UFI research, such as the Global Barometer or the World Map of Venues, this study on economic impact allows country and market profiles to be added, using the same metrics. UFI has secured an arrangement with Oxford Economics that allows industry associations who are UFI members to have specific profiles for their home markets added to the report.

Kai Hattendorf, UFI Managing Director and CEO, says: “We are happy to be able to provide this new set of data which highlights the impact of the exhibition industry. The methodology can be used at national level wherever needed, and we hope that it will contribute to consistent data across the world for this important element of economic impact.”

David Audrain, SISO Executive/Managing Director, comments: “SISO is very pleased to have partnered with UFI in funding the production of this report. Having reliable statistics is key to measuring the growth and impact of the Industry. We hope that organizers from around the world will use this data to showcase the value of this industry to their stakeholders and governments.” 

Global Exhibitions Day to highlight the economic impact
The research was timed to provide the data during the run-up to Global Exhibitions Day 2019 on 5 June. Around the world, exhibition industry professionals, companies and associations, are organising a multitude of events and activities to highlight the critical role the industry plays in driving and fostering the growth of regional, national and international economies.

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