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Friday, January 30, 2009

Call for papers


The Gender & Ecology Papers

We are excited to announce the launch of The Gender & Ecology Papers, a
new online paper series of the National Network on Environments and
Women's Health.

The Gender & Ecology Papers is a student-generated paper series,
designed to facilitate discussions of gendered environmental health and
engage students in applied ecology research. This paper series is
committed to supporting and publishing academic research that
contributes to a greater awareness of the interrelatedness of gender and
ecology. We encourage creative and thought-provoking submissions from
all academic disciplines, including environmental studies, women's
studies, anthropology, chemistry, biology, geography and sociology.

The Gender & Ecology Papers is a refereed paper series that is produced
by the National Network for Environments and Women's Health at York
University. The series will be published 3 times a year during the
winter, summer and fall semesters and each issue will be available to be
downloaded free from our website in PDF format.

Stephanie Peleshok
Administrative Assistant.
National Network on Environments and Women's Health
5021 TEL Building, York University
4700 Keele Street
North York, ON M3J 1P3
tel: 416-736-2100 Ext. 55772
fax: 416-736-5986



Abstract Deadline: January 30th, 2009

Gender, Food and Agriculture

The Gender & Ecology Papers series is seeking submissions for its Winter
2009 issue on Gender, Food and Agriculture, which will feature academic
works that contribute various data, analysis and perspectives on
subjects related to farming and food using a gendered lens. In recent
years, both academic and public concern has grown over issues related to
agricultural practice, food safety and human health. Scholarly research
can contribute significantly to this discourse by highlighting the role
of gender in these relationships, as well as the social, physical,
biological and environmental factors that influence how food and farming
are understood and managed. Possible topics include, but are not
limited to:

· Pesticides and women's health

· Developmental/health effects from agricultural chemical exposure

· Gender and reproduction as they relate to agricultural chemicals

· Food additives and men's health

· Organic food and women's health

· The reproductive health of male farmers using industrial
farming techniques

· Bio-tech/GMO foods and gendered health

Papers on virtually all related topics and themes will be considered,
and submissions are encouraged from both undergraduate and graduate
contributors. Theoretical and applied works are welcome and should be
accessible to a wide range of readership. Paper submissions should be no
more than 2500 words (approximately 10 pages). The Gender & Ecology
Papers will also accept submissions of visual art (video length 5-10
minutes), poetry and photography for online publication. It is through
these multiple forms of expression that we wish to promote creative
thought and discourse surrounding this issue's topic of gender, food and

Deadline: Article abstracts are due by January 30th, 2009. Final
submissions are due by February 28th, 2009.


Abstract Deadline: January 30th, 2009

Gender, Health and Chemical Consumption

The Gender & Ecology Papers series is seeking submissions for its Summer
2009 issue on Gender, Health and Chemical Consumption, which will
feature academic works that examine various aspects of the relationship
between gender, health and chemical consumption through various pathways
and routes of exposure. The growing discourse surrounding food additives
and toxic cosmetic ingredients has raised interesting questions about
chemical consumption and its implications for gendered health. Academic
analysis and discussion can play an important role in contributing to a
greater awareness of the gendered health consequences of chemical
consumption. Possible topics include, but are not limited to:

· Women and cosmetic use

· Household products and gendered health

· Chemical consumption through personal care products

· Maternal health and pesticide exposure

· Artificial food colouring and children's health

· Chemical additives in the food choices of teenagers

Papers on virtually all related topics and themes will be considered,
and submissions are encouraged from both undergraduate and graduate
contributors. Theoretical and applied works are welcome and should be
accessible to a wide range of readership. Paper submissions should be no
more than 2500 words (approximately 10 pages). The Gender & Ecology
Papers will also accept submissions of visual art (video length 5-10
minutes), poetry and photography for online publication. It is through
these multiple forms of expression that we wish to promote creative
thought and discourse surrounding this issue's topic of gender, health
and chemical consumption.

Deadline: Article abstracts are due by January 30th, 2009. Final
submissions are due by February 28th, 2009.

Association for Women's Rights in Development

If you are interested in feminism and development I suggest taking a look at AWID and signing up for their e-mail listserv. Incredible resource.

- Vivian

Their voices back: Pro-choice organisations ungagged

"The global gag rule has been a feature of the United States of America’s foreign aid policy since 1984, when Ronald Reagan was the country’s Conservative president. The policy is more formally known as the Mexico City Policy, because it was announced during the United Nations International Conference on Population which was held in Mexico City in 1984. It was nicknamed the ‘global gag rule’ because it restricted the discussion of, or the passing on of information about abortion..."

- Vivian

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Confidential Abortion Clinics in Toronto

Here is some general information about abortion procedures and abortion clinics in the city of Toronto from the hassle free clinic's website. Please feel free to contact us if you live outside of Toronto and we will help you find a clinic near you. The clinics listed on this page are confidential and do not require parental consent. They are covered by OHIP but will take women without health cards for a fee (depending on the procedure).

- Alice

Vulvar Vestibulitis (Vaginal Pain)

I was checking out the women's area of the hassle free clinic's website and I stumbled upon an interesting topic "painful sex". I had dinner with a friend of mine a while back who confided in me that she had pain during penis in vaginal intercourse. She and her partner had tried many different kinds of condoms, with no success. Even lambskin condoms which are recommended for individuals who have genital sensitivity did not help stop the pain. Vulvar Vestibulitis could have been the reason why she experienced pain.

According to the link that I've posted, Vulvar Vestibulitis is a condition where women experience irritation of the vulva due to swelling of the glands in the vestibule. It is very difficult to diagnose as many doctors do not know about this condition, and since a concrete way to test for this is not available. Moreover, treatment for this condition is totally up to the doctor's discretion and will vary.

If you have pain in the vaginal area when inserting fingers, penises, toys, tampons etc. it may be a good idea to speak to your doctor.

"Women may be told they have a low tolerance for pain or that their pain is caused by vaginismus (an involuntary tightening of the vaginal muscles making it difficult or impossible to insert anything inside the vagina). In many cases, this frequent misdiagnosis leaves women feeling frustrated and humiliated."

Be persistent! If they don't have an explanation for you, don't let them convince you that your pain doesn't exist. You feel pain, therefore it's exists!

- Alice

Friday, January 16, 2009

5 Myths About Sex

1. A woman cannot get pregnant when she's menstruating.
- Everyone's menstrual cycle is different and not completely stable. It is true that ovulation tends to occur before one's period; however, ovulation can periodically occur during or shortly after menstruation. Moreover, sperm can live in the vagina between 5 and 7 days.

The final verdict: pregnancy is extremely unlikely but always a possibility.

2. Withdrawal (pulling-out) is a safe method of contraception.
- This method is only about 19% effective, in comparison to using condoms which is about 99% effective. According to, pre-ejaculatory fluids from the penis can contain thousands of sperm. A friend of mine swears by this method because he hasn't gotten his long-term partner pregnant yet. But there could be other reasons why pregnancy has never occurred (ie: fertility, endometriosis, no sex during/near ovulation etc.)

The final verdict: Why take the risk when you could be covered up to 99% sans hormonal birth control? But if this has worked for you without any problems, power to you lol. Please not that this method also does not protect individuals against STIs & HIV.

3. Only people who sleep around get STIs or HIV.
- First of all, the assumption is that monogamous relationships are safe relationships. This is not true. There are people who are married for years and then suddenly contract HIV. I'm not saying that you shouldn't trust your partner, but that you shouldn't be under the impression that you are ever 100% safe.

- Secondly, I can't excuse the underlying value judgment inherent in this statement. I'm referring to the idea that "sleeping around" is somehow dangerous or bad (and skanky or slutty for women). Sometimes sex is just...well, sex. If you're uncomfortable having more than one sexual partner at a time then that's right for you, but that's not right for everyone.

The final verdict: if you have a sexual partner(s) you are always at risk of contracting something.

4. Hormonal birth control ensures the safety of your sex.
- Although these are very effect methods of contraception (anti-pregnancy), hormonal birth controls do not protect individuals from STIs & HIV.

The final verdict: protect yourself!!!

5. Oral sex isn't "Real" sex so I won't get an infection or disease.
- Firstly, there is yet another value judgment inherent in this statement. That "Real" sex is only that which occurs during heterosexual penis in vagina penetration. This devalues any sexual relationships which are not heterosexual, and any sex that falls outside this definition.

- Secondly, there are different risks for different sex methods and individuals. Here's an STD chart that we posted last month which outlines what to expect when engaging in sex. The risks involved in giving or receiving oral sex for women include herpes and possibly genital warts. This risks involved for giving or receiving for men include chlamydia, gonorrhea, hep a, herpes, genital warts, shigella, syphilis, hep b, hiv, and possibily hep c.

The final verdict: Sex is not limited to heterosexual intercourse. Masturbation, oral stimulation, anal sex, hand stimulation etc. etc. etc. are all sex! All sex (even masturbation if you have warts on your hands) can cause infection.

- Alice

How to put on a condom

Here's a really straight forward tutorial on how a condom should be used on a penis/toy etc.

Remember, it can also be placed over fingers to prevent STI's through skin contact (ie: warts on hands can mean warts on genitals). A condom can also be cut length ways and placed over a vulva or anus for oral stimulation! :)

- Alice

Getting Tested: Things to know

Not all doctors test for the same STD/Is. During one of my first pap tests I had to practically beg my doctor to test me for gonorrhea and chlamydia. Her initial response when I asked her to test me for "any and all STD/Is possible" was "Why, are you worried you might have something?". No. I wasn't. That wasn't exactly the point. Either way, our compromise ended with a gonorrhea and chlamydia test in addition to the pap smear. No hepatitis test. No syphilis test. No HIV test.

I still don't know whether or not she did a HPV DNA test (which, for women, is done with a swab of the cervix). There is still no HPV test available for men aside from visual inspection/biopsy of warts if present.

Herpes are usually only tested for if sores are present - there is no fully accurate test for the herpes virus. Blood tests can be done but are often not clear and depend on the stage of the infection and the sensitivity of the test.

If your annual doctor's appointment includes a pap test this does not mean that you are being tested for any or all STD/Is or HIV. Some doctors do a routine gonorrhea and chlamydia test along with the pap. This is usually either done through a urine test or with a couple of extra swabs of the cervix (or, alternately, swabs inside the penis).

Your doctor will only screen you for HIV (and other STD/Is such as hepatitis) if
a) you specifically request the test
b) you have tested positive for gonorrhea or chlamydia and are thus at a greater risk of syphilis, HIV and hepatitis

If you are concerned that you have been exposed to the HIV virus you should definitely request the test. Anyone who has had a new sexual partner since their last screening, has used IV drugs, or is concerned that they have been exposed to HIV is recommended to take the test. Regardless of anything, knowing your HIV status is always beneficial.

There is a 4 month window that you must take into account if your HIV test is related to a specific incident. This means that if you are tested before the 4 month window period, it is very likely that HIV antibodies will not have started forming in your system and thus, if you are HIV+, it will likely not show in your results. So, if you are being tested regarding a specific incident in which you feel you might have been exposed to the HIV virus, you must wait at least 4 months before your HIV test for the most accurate results.

When choosing where to be tested for HIV (your doctor's office vs. an anonymous testing site) please consider this:

"Doctors and laboratories are required to report the names of people who test HIV positive to the Medical Officer of Health. The test result also appears on your medical record, which can be obtained by a variety of groups and individuals. There have been cases of discrimination in employment, housing, insurance and immigration because of these requirements - even with a negative test result.

Anonymous testing uses a number or a code on your lab slip - not your name. Only you will know your test result, or even that you were tested."

AIDS Committee of Toronto

In 1992 anonymous HIV testing was legalized by the provincial NDP government. Following this, the Ministry of Health began providing support for anonymous testing - a huge step forward in funding, training and accessibility. Today there are various anonymous HIV testing sites. Here are a few located in Toronto:

(please refer to websites for hours of operation and supplementary info.)

Hassle Free Clinic
Women's Clinic: 416-922-0566
Men's Clinic: 416-922-0603

Bay Centre for Birth Control

Centre Francophone
416-203-1220, Ext. 222

Women's Health in Women's Hands

These are only a few of several sites which provide anonymous HIV tests. If you live outside Toronto and would like assistance locating a place where you can access STD/I & HIV testing (anonymous or otherwise) please contact us at

- Vivian

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Perspectives on Breast Self-Examination

I'm a strong advocate of breast self-examination. Here are some links which might be helpful to understand what BSE is, why it is recommended and how you can do it:
Breast Self Exam
Breast Self-Examination: A Handbook for Women with disAbilities

I was intrigued upon finding this article which argues that breast self-exams are not useful and in fact, may do more harm than good (i.e. in leading to unnecessary biopsies/treatment, psychological distress).
Do Breast Self-Exams Do Any Good?

It is an interesting perspective but I continue to stand by the idea that BSE is absolutely useful in the early detection of breast cancer/abnormalities, especially for women under 40 who do not undergo regular mammograms. Speaking from personal experience, I have gone to my doctor on two separate occasions regarding "lumps" I found through BSE. The first time I was sent to have an ultrasound which revealed two harmless cysts. The second time (currently) my doctor reassured me that the lentil-shaped lump I have discovered is likely a subcutaneous nodule (which is not attached to my breast tissue - a good thing) and most likely nothing to be concerned about.

Neither of my instances have involved benign tumors, mind you, and thus have not required biopsies. I think it's problematic to discourage women from forming the habit of BSE based on the possibility of unnecessary treatment or incorrect diagnoses. I would argue that BSE is an important way to understand one's body - its shape, its changes, its variations - in order to detect when something is not right. Early detection does make a difference.

- Vivian

Monday, January 5, 2009

Can christianity and sex coexist?

Pastor Carnell Borden and his wife have created an online sex shop for married couples who need to spice up their intimacy. They sell sex toys, lubes, massage kits, books etc. with an emphasis on the teachings of the bible. Here's an article with some more information.

"We pray about things before we add them to our site," she says. "We live our lives very openly in front of Jesus, so we just kind of pray for direction about which way he would have us go."

When I took a look at their site, I felt kind of conflicted. In one sense, it's kind of unsettling that they only condone certain sexual practices but not others, but on the other hand, they're opening up a space for individuals of the christian faith to challenge the sex*** taboo (even if it's only for those who are married). In any case, I hope that they have inspired and continue to inspire individuals to embrace their sex***!

***I use the term sex to refer to any sexually pleasurable activity that includes but is not limited to heterosexual intercourse (ie: masturbation, oral stimulation etc. are all sex in my books).

- Alice