Where Are All The Bookworms?

By Patrick James Quinn.

It’s a tale as old as time. The objectification of women as sex symbols or eye candy, told by society and the media to forego intelligence and values for skimpy clothes and a beguiling giggle.

Even in our debatably socially-advanced 21st century, it is rare to find a girl valued for her intellect above her appearance. Chart-topping artists such as Maroon 5, Kanye West and Kesha endlessly encourage women to submit, succumb, just party and have fun, don’t think or care, just do. Innumerable films (specifically of the action genre, such as the “James Bond” or “Bourne” series) switch out girls with each new installment, instilling the idea that women are as replaceable as the cars the leading men drive.

However, not all media is bad. Character such as Katniss Everdeen in “The Hunger Games” or Hermione Granger in the “Harry Potter” series, or artists like Taylor Swift, often depict strong, intelligent and purposeful women, giving young girls worthy role-models that they can look up to.

Why is it so difficult for a girl to be both intelligent and beautiful? Why must we put pressure on women to adhere to this perfect ideal that we’ve made up over time? “Everyone in Hollywood is so damn skinny and you constantly feel like you’re not skinny enough,” says Scarlett Johansson, a successful actress most recently seen in Marvel‘s “The Avengers“, “But I have ‘fat days’ and I accept that I’m never going to be rail thin. It’s hard not to feel pressure in this industry and I already use anti-aging products on my skin. I try not to let the pressure get to me but Los Angeles is a very hard place to be unless you have people here that love you. It can be very, very lonely, and it can eat you up if you don’t take care of yourself.” Even someone known for their beauty and sex-appeal still feels inadequate in the insatiable eyes of the public.

This article is equally a call for men to look beyond a girl’s appearance as it is about encouraging women to fight social pressure and find value in themselves, seeing their true beauty and self-worth instead of falling for a smooth line or dashing smile from someone tall, tan and handsome.

In our modern world of broken families, everyday abandonment, low self-esteem and mediocre role-models, a world where we are all looking for love and acceptance, it is difficult to truly be yourself and give worth to your identity. But security and self-worth are attractive, and it will draw the right people in, the kind of people who will see you for who you really are, build you up, and treat you the way you deserve to be treated.

The Continuing War on Women’s Health

 

President Obama speaking

President Obama speaks to a group about Health Care on Wednesday

Written by: Katie Garren

 

Recently, President Obama made a statement on the subject of birth control that became a hotly contested issue. Recently, there seems to be an increased focus placed on the matter of women’s health.  This matter always seems to come up during an election year. This year has been no different, with a slew of Republican hopefuls bringing up the subjects of birth control and abortion.

In Obama’s policy, he stated that health insurance plans would be required to provide free birth control to all female employees, including plans for Catholic hospitals, universities and charities.  The President’s administration saw this as a matter of equality for women.  Kathleen Sebelius, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, said upon the policy’s announcement, “I believe this proposal strikes the appropriate balance between respecting religious freedom and increasing access to important preventive services.”  This policy was intended to provide even preventative medicine for both men and women.  The contraceptive requirement was accompanied by requirements for blood-pressure screening and childhood immunizations.

The speech quickly became a talking point, both for people who approve and those who do not approve of its requirements.  Religious leaders were not at all open to the concept of providing contraceptives to women.  Catholic bishops were outraged, saying that this requirement “continues to involve needless government intrusion in the internal governance of religious institutions, and to threaten government coercion of religious people and groups to violate their most deeply held convictions.” They later vowed to fight the legislation through the other two branches of government.  Many leading Republicans also saw an opportunity to attack the President’s speech and interpret it as anti-religious. “This attack … on religious freedom in our country cannot stand and will not stand,” Speaker of the House John Boehner said in a speech on the floor of the chamber.  Presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich added to the increasing ire having said, “If he (Obama) is re-elected he will wage war on the Catholic Church the day after (he is elected). We don’t trust him.”

On Friday, Obama changed his position. In a calculated measure, Obama sought to quell the controversy created by his policy.  In this revision, he states that religious organizations would not be required to provide free contraceptives to female employees.  “Religious liberty will be protected, and a law that requires free preventive care will not discriminate against women,” Obama told reporters.

To Be Monogamous or Not?

Written by: Jill Heagerty

I’ve heard both sides: we’re biologically meant to mate with many partners and that monogamy does not work for humans, and that after the lust and falling in love stages there forms an attachment between partners that leaves their brains more satisfied than any previous stage. So which is it? Are we supposed to be with one person forever, or are we meant to have various partners to quench sexual appetites?

The argument for polygamy lies with the two facts concerning our genetic similarities to polygamous apes and the men in our species being taller than women. We are most closely related to chimpanzees and bonobos, naturally promiscuous mammals. Men in these species want to “spread their seed”, something men in our species also desire, so they mate with as many females as they can to produce maximum offspring. If our DNA resembles these primates, are we living by the wrong sexual rules? Are we only monogamous because culture demands it, and we’re actually going against our true nature? The other supporting evidence for polygamy is attributed to the height and weight differences between men and women. In both primate and non-primate species, the more disparity there is in the sizes between the genders, the more promiscuous the species is. On average, men are 10 percent taller and 20 percent heavier than women, suggesting that while humans are not meant to mate as much as chimpanzees or bonobos, we are not meant to be solely monogamous.

Monogamy’s side comes from the pleasure hormones released in the brain when we form deep attachments to one partner and the evolutionary benefit for raising children. There are three stages to long-term mating: lust, falling in love, and attachment. The first stage lust is caused by a general increase in estrogen and testosterone levels. Falling in love releases specific neurotransmitters in the brain associated with pleasure, including pheromones, dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. These hormones act similarly to amphetamines, giving us intense feelings of excitement. The last stage is attachment, releasing oxytocin and vasopressin in the brain, giving a constant satisfaction that the other pleasure inducing hormones don’t. It’s not possible for humans to be high on love all the time, so the body gives pleasure that can endure. The purpose of oxytocin and vasopressin is to keep families together, an evolutionary benefit to children in today’s society. In the beginning of time it was okay for males to have multiple mates because children were raised in tight knit communities, but with single families there needs to be two partners providing support for children to flourish.

There is no clear cut answer. Whether we are monogamous or polygamous lies in individual needs, as there are arguments to support both sides. The question becomes, do you want the crazy rush of passion associated with having many partners for life or do you want the quiet satisfaction of having one person to drive you crazy?

Here’s to Your Health! Drink Red Wine to Beat Cancer


Written by: Fruzsina Molnar
Two glasses of red wine

Drink a glass of red wine to beat breast cancer, study reports.

While most scientists and physicians have widely held the belief that all alcohol consumption increases the risk of breast cancer, a new study in the Journal of Women’s Health has found one alcoholic beverage that’s the exception to this rule: red wine. Glenn Braunstein, M.D., and his colleagues at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles have shared results showing that the skins of red grapes contain certain chemicals called Aromatase Inhibitors (AIs), which can actually decrease the likelihood of a premenopausal woman developing breast cancer.The results, published online on December 7, 2011, may indicate good news to those women at-risk for breast cancer who still like to have a glass of wine with dinner — they will just need to choose the red over the white, which does not contain the AIs.The study compared the effects of drinking one 8-ounce glass of Cabernet Sauvignon versus Chardonnay each night with food for 21 days, and then switching so that the groups drank the reverse for another 21 days (the women were instructed to abstain from consuming either wine during their periods). Braunstein and his co-authors found “evidence that red wine, through the hormonal shift patterns, may not elevate breast cancer risk like other alcoholic beverages.”

The way that the AIs work is by preventing “the conversion of androgens to estrogen,” and they “occur naturally in grapes, grape juice, and red, but not white wine,” said the article. Other alcohols have been previously determined to raise estrogen levels in women, which is a key risk factor for breast cancer.

But these good results do come with a warning from Dr. Braunstein himself, who wrote in a Huffington Post article about the importance of taking your wine with a grain of salt, so to speak. He cautioned, “The choice to drink moderately will depend on who you are. A fit 25-year-old marathon runner with no family history or cardiac disease and no additional risk factors who doesn’t drink now probably won’t gain anything by joining a wine of the month club. Meanwhile, a man well into his AARP membership with little risk of cancer and some concerns about heart disease, may as well keep his nightly glass of wine with dinner if that’s his lifelong custom.”

The most recent statistics from the Center for Disease Control note that in the U.S. in 2007, over 200,000 women were diagnosed with breast cancer, with over 40,000 of those women died of the disease. “Except for skin cancer,” writes the CDC website, “breast cancer is the most common cancer among American women.”

The Journal of Women’s Health study’s co-authors include Chrisandra Shufelt, M.D., M.S.; C. Noel Vairey Merz, M.D.; YuChing Yang, Ph.D.; Joan Kirschner, M.S.N., N.P., Donna Polk, M.D., Frank Stanczyk, Ph.D., and the late Maura Paul-Labrador, M.P.H.

Casual Gaming Appeals to Women

Women are increasingly drawn to casual gaming

When we think of video games, we generally think of boys—or young slacker men—shooting ‘em up, mowing ‘em over, and gawking at the curvaceous cartoony women gracing the screen for hours on end. In fact, researchers from the Stanford University School of Medicine have shown that the part of the brain that generates rewarding feelings is more activated in men than women during video game play. If the man (or boy) in your life is “hooked” on gaming, this probably explains why. However, women are increasingly drawn to video games, although generally of a different sort known as casual games.

As reported in the New York Times, a recent Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) study found that 65 percent of women in the 25-34 age bracket play video games. The key factor involved with these findings is the increasing popularity of casual games. Casual games typically are played on a personal computer or online, although they now are trending on game consoles and smart phones as well. The typical casual gamer is older and more predominantly female.

Microsoft’s Solitaire was likely the first known casual game. Similarly, Tetris was originally bundled on the Game Boy and its popularity made Nintendo’s portable gaming system a success. Bejeweled is a current casual game played widely on smart phones and on Facebook. In fact, Facebook hosts a number of casual games that have become a firestorm of mostly female casual players; Farmville alone has over 63,000,000 active users every month.

Women gamers are also increasingly drawn toward adventure and hidden object games, generally played on PCs and consoles. Many of these games are much like an interactive mystery novel that involves exploring spooky settings, gathering inventory of useful items to manipulate in order to escape from jams, and solving cryptic puzzles. These games are usually non-violent and feature interesting characters, intriguing storylines, and excellent graphic artwork. Engaging examples of these games include Benoit Sokal’s Syberia with its amazing, lush graphics and mesmerizing story; and the point-and-click Carol Reed Adventure series that take place in Sweden with actual local photography used as backdrops and real people (not models or graphics) as characters. These casual adventure games are deceptively serene as evil lurks around every shady corner.

While casual games are not exclusively women’s domain, they are the backbone of increased gaming popularity from this sector. And it appears that the part of the brain that generates those rewarding feelings isn’t just for men anymore.