The Women’s Congressional Hearing (with apologies to Nellie McClung)

With apologies to the indomitable Nelly McClung

SCENE

[Interior of congressional hearing chamber. Behind a large and impressive wooden table sit three middle aged women in well-tailored suits, hands neatly folded in front of them.]

CHAIRWOMAN: Welcome, all, to this House Oversight and Government Reform hearing on the insurance coverage of erectile dysfunction medication and religious liberty. The chair recognizes the esteemed panel.

Today we are here to discuss the recent White House proposals regarding pharmaceutical coverage. The Obama administration wishes to force private insurance companies to provide coverage for erectile dysfunction medications. I’d like to ask the panel to provide an opening statement.

REV. CHASTITY: Thank you Ms. Chairwoman. The Obama administration has put a stranglehold on religious liberty in this country by forcing all Americans to accept practices antithetical to Christian doctrine – that is, that we should all pay for men in this country to be having recreational sex. The Bible clearly condemns sexual activity that is not for procreation – in Genesis 38:9-10, it stats “He spilled his semen on the ground to keep from producing offspring…What he did was wicked in the Lord’s sight.”

These men are sinful, and the people of America should not be held financially captive by the lustful, wicked ways of the godless left wingers of this country. Jesus said, “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” We, as Christians, should not be forced by an overbearing government to fund mortal sins!

CHAIRWOMAN: Thank you, Reverend. I’d like to now ask the panel to comment on whether this medication could be seen to be medically necessary.

DR. PROSTATE: Oh, definitely not. Sexual activity is entirely optional. In fact, erectile dysfunction isn’t so much a medical condition as just a normal part of aging. Men have lived for centuries without drugs that allow them to have sex for purely recreational purposes and I certainly don’t see why they have suddenly been rendered unable of coping. Indeed, it seems that popular media portrayals of older men like Hugh Hefner as sexually active has lead to a move away from traditional values. There is really absolutely no medical reason why individuals would ever need to have sex beyond their child-raising years. It is excesses in the medical system like erectile dysfunction treatments that are sending health insurance costs skyrocketing.

I’d also like to preemptively counter the point that sometimes erectile dysfunction medication can be given for legitimate medical issues and say: the majority of erectile dysfunction drugs are given to people who want them for recreation, not people who need them. Sexually transmitted infections in elderly populations have been on the rise since the introduction of erectile dysfunction medications. Adding barriers to access will prevent people from being sexually active and prevent the spread of STIs. The best way to prevent erectile dysfunction is to abstain from sexual activity. Everybody wins and nobody needs to pay out of pocket for somebody else’s jollies.

CHAIRWOMAN: Thank you, Doctor. And now, could we have a final word from Senator McClung?

SEN. MCCLUNG: We have heard men speak out in support of the Obama administration’s proposed coverage, and although some may be well-spoken and seem capable, we must remember that men are ultimately weak at heart and easy to be persuaded into sexual activity by women and the media. Supporting the use of erectile dysfunction medications puts these vulnerable men at risk of being preyed upon by women, and promotes irresponsible usage of the medication. This could lead to promiscuity, STIs, unwanted pregnancies, abortions, and other horrors that plague our modern society. If I may be so bold as to paraphrase the words of my great grandmother:

If men were all so intelligent as these representatives of the downtrodden sex seem to be it might not do any harm to allow them access to erectile dysfunction medication. But all men are not so intelligent. There is no use in allowing men to have Viagra. They wouldn’t use it. They would let the pills spoil and go to waste. Then again, some men would have sex too much…Giving men Viagra would unsettle the home….The modesty of our men, which we reverence, forbids us giving them Viagra access. Men’s place is in the workplace, not the bedroom..It may be that I am old-fashioned. I may be wrong. After all, men may be human. Perhaps the time may come when men will be responsible enough to have sex with women for reasons other than procreation–but in the meantime, be of good cheer. Advocate and Educate. [adapted from Nelly McClung, The Women’s Parliament]

[Thunderous applause erupts]

CHAIRWOMAN: Well said, Senator McClung. If there are no further opinions-

LONE MAN IN CROWD: Wait, don’t we get to-

CHAIRWOMAN: I’d like to thank the expert panel for their time and we will await the committee’s decision.

[The hearing chamber noisily clears out.]

END SCENE

If you have no idea what this is about, read here. If you are horrified that the words of a suffragette 99 years ago resonate today as much as they did then, SPEAK UP!

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This is why we need women in skepticism!

There is a lot of post-Elevatorgate buzz about women in skepticism, including the announcement of a conference to specifically deal with women in secularism, more specifically the lack thereof. A lot of people who think that this is a non-issue have said that women (and other minorities in skepticism) will join the movement when they want to, that women simply aren’t interested in hearing about it. (And if you don’t think people actually believe this, please read the comments on the “Women in Secularism” announcement.) Since secularism is about self-improvement and education, I’m going to call Bullshit! on that. Yes, part of the problem is an environment in secularism that is intimidating to women, a lack of prominence for female skeptics, and so on. But the inverse of that is the amount of woo that is promoted to women.

Manitoba women use the health care system more than men, averaging 5.4 physician visits annually (4.4 for men), and 85% of women see a physician at least annually (79% for men.) Even healthy women of reproductive age receive birth control from their physician, have annual Pap tests, get mammograms, have prenatal consultations, and use health care services before, during and after childbirth. Women who are sick visit their physicians more frequently than men with similar illnesses. Women are more likely to be injured due to domestic violence (1 in 5 Manitoban women have been victimized by their partner in the last five years). Women are more likely to be proactive with their health, seeking screening and taking preventative measures more often than men. Now here’s the scary bit: almost 1 in 5 women in Manitoba consulted a CAM practitioner in 2003 (the most recent data). Only 1 in 10 men did the same! These statistics are in reality even worse, as the analysis excluded chiropractic, which partially covered by the province and therefore “not alternative.” Women are more preoccupied with their health, more concerned with prevention, and therefore more likely to be taken in by quacks.

Here’s a figure from the report I’m getting my data from:

The higher the household income, the more likely the women would seek CAM (here denoted CAHC for "health care"). Men did not seek more care as it became financially feasible.

In other words, as women were able to afford it, likely due to both increased income and increased private insurance coverage with the better paying jobs, more women were using CAM. I certainly would be interested to see if the discrepancy is access in lower income brackets, or a lack of awareness.

Well, maybe, you helpfully offer, chronically ill women are more likely to use CAM, and the wealth changes represent their ability to try unproven treatments for their disease! Nay nay….

The majority of women using CAM are healthy!

So what now? We have a bunch of healthy, wealthy women who are out there spending money on homeopathy and reiki and healing meditation and detox regimens and spiritual communicators. Why is it our problem if women want to waste their money on unproven crap? Well, because it’s not right, and it’s not fair. We don’t teach girls to ask questions, we tell them to trust authority, we tell them that their problems aren’t important, we tell them that they’re not an important part of the skeptical community, and then we proceed to laugh at them for finding a sympathetic ear and falling prey to placebo effects!

Worst of all, thanks to “integrative” “medicine,” woo is pervading our hospitals. While walking through the Women’s Health Centre, I saw a poster for upcoming health workshops being hosted at the Centre that made me do a double take. Yes, sponsored by Alberta Health Services, you can take a $40, 2-hour workshop in Reiki (“massage for your soul!”), a $190, 12-hour class in Feng Shui, or a $48, 3-hour workshop entitled, I kid you not, “Talking to Your Angels and Learning How to Listen,” run by Sandy Day, who claims to be a Reiki Master, Shaman, and Intuitive Healer. This is not some backwoods hand-waving Natural Healing Centre Of Happiness and Puppy Dog Kisses, this is at the biggest teaching hospital in the city, the centre for the high-risk pregnancies, for breast cancer: the medical hub! Or, on Wednesday, September 17th from 7-9 pm, the classroom for “Energy Medicine – The Internal World.” Oh but don’t worry, in tiny text:

Women’s Health Resources does not support, endorse or recommend any method, treatment, product, remedial center, program or person. We do, however, endeavour to inform because we believe in the right to have access to available information in order to make informed individual choices.

Now, call me skeptical, but I’m pretty sure if I wander over to the Urology clinic, I somehow doubt that I will see the same advertisements promising healing touch lessons for prostate problems.

For more than one reason, really. (zpeckler@flikr)

If we don’t teach our girls to question, and if we don’t ask our women to think, stuff like this is only going to get worse. No amount of half-assed disclaimery is going to change the fact that misinforming anyone is the opposite of giving them an informed individual choice. Talking about the dangerous of being teleported to Neptune by devious extraterrestrial cows does not come into discussions of which car you’d like to buy. Yes, you should be aware of the pros and cons of every car, and yes you should be free to make that choice, but having some random loon come in off the street to convince people that our Bovine Neptunian Overlords only abduct people who drive Chevies is pretty much the opposite of informed consent, particularly if the random loon also happens to sell Toyotas. Why is the Women’s Health Centre not bringing in drug companies to give presentations on why everyone should be taking Lipitor? Perhaps because there is a major conflict of interest when you are essentially charging people to sit through a sales pitch? And this is actually a bad example, because at least Lipitor actually has demonstrable, independently reproducible benefits!

So yes, we do need more women in skepticism. We need women standing up for themselves, saying that they are tired of all this bullshit being thrown at them. Without female allies telling Oprah to go stuff herself and Dr. Oz to take his reiki elsewhere, the skepticism movement will never succeed at exposing fraud in CAM. Women’s voices don’t just deserve to be heard in skepticism, they need to be heard, for the sake of everyone’s health.

Mommas don’t let your babies grow up to be Fundamentalist Christians

For all those interested, the following story is worth reading. http://motherjones.com/politics/2011/08/new-bethany-ifb-teen-homes-abuse

When I was young I went to a bible camp. I can say it was nothing like what Kathryn Joyce wrote about, per say. I think the worst I had to endure, other than the constant Christian subliminal brainwashing, was the milk served at meals. Every meal came with a glass of powdered milk. Every drop had to be consumed or you where not allowed to leave the table. I wonder what was in that “milk”.

Archie and the Gang are up to no good. Tune in next time when Jughead eats all the wafers.

I nearly died in that camp as well. The camp was located next to a lake and there were daily swimming sessions which were monitored by an adult. When walking along the bottom of the section designated for swimming I lost my footing and went under water. Luckily I was pulled out, resuscitated and proceeded to cough out water.

Still, nothing I can relate to compares to the horror that these young women go through. Young girls may rebel, may fight and swear, but no one deserves this torture. I you know someone who is currently rebelling, help them. Just talking about issues may actually accomplish something. Refer them to secular counselling that will look at what is actually going on, rather than attempting to exorcise demons.

If you know of a parent who is thinking of sending their child to a place like this, forward them this article. Hopefully they cringe and decide to see professional help as opposed to spiritual help.

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