Skepchick Quickies 1.3

  • Michelle Obama’s backside is your business how? – In which a congressman proclaims why should we support Michelle Obama’s healthy eating initiative when she’s got a “large posterior”? From Jamie.
  • Feministing interviews the founder of the home birth movement – Check out Dr. Amy Tuteur’s (the Skeptical OB) response in the comments. From Victor.
  • In New Year’s message, Scientology insider blasts “extreme” fundraising – “[Cook’s] strong reputation within Scientology brings new credibility to a growing movement, now more than two years old, to reform the church. She declared that Scientology staffers are pressured by church managers to engage in “extreme” fundraising campaigns for unnecessarily “posh” new buildings and to enrich the church’s membership group, the International Association of Scientologists, known as the IAS.”
  • Review of “Work It” – “I cannot over-emphasize enough how much this show is a freakish, insulting abomination. It thuggishly offends on so many levels that it’s hard to even remain clear-headed enough to piece together a simple review of an episode that deals with two men who dress like women to get jobs.”


Amanda works in healthcare, is a loudmouthed feminist, and proud supporter of the Oxford comma.

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  1. I really would love to see more attention given to the natural birth movement among the skeptical community. While a very small minority of women are embracing home birth, the movement is making a growing impact on state and federal regulations and in hospital policies. When they take hold, as they have in the UK, they put women and their children at risk.

    1. As a mom and a nurse, this is always a topic that interests me. Occasionally, I start to work up the energy to blog about it, but then I read something like the comments section on that post and I am well cured of the urge. The whole bundle of “issues” surrounding early parenting – from birth to breastfeeding to what brand of carseat you use and the fiber content of your kid’s onesies – is so fraught with emotionally charged shrieking that I can’t be bothered to go anywhere near it. I think there are a lot of smart people with important things to say who remain silent because they have no desire to bang their heads against that wall.

      1. is so fraught with emotionally charged shrieking that I can’t be bothered to go anywhere near it

        I totally understand. I stick to what I know. Depression and dead people.

  2. There needs to be a better balance between the woo-woo “Little House on the Prairie” form of childbirth, and the forms we currently have in place. Our rates of c-sections are awful. We intentionally induce just so the doc can schedule her vacation. Inducing is not healthy for the baby either, and increases the likelihood of needing an epidural, which increases the chance of fetal stress. However, that does NOT mean that home birth is safe. Alternative birthing methods should be mainstreamed, such as birthing chairs. At the same time, the medical community has to take a step back and reevaluate some of their favorite practices. I gave birth 9 years ago (in a hospital), the doc wanted to do an episiotomy because I was “going to tear”. I refused it, and he ended up sewing up a tiny 2 mm tear.
    So that’s what I think women are looking for in the home birth movement. They don’t want to be hooked up, drugged up, cut up, and shut up. At the same time, your only other option seems to be to have a woo-woo queen dance around you while you sit in a nasty baby pool, telling you to “feel the Earth moving inside you”, and who doesn’t call 911 for the 20 minutes your baby is stuck in the birth canal. Wow, I’m a little pissed about this. I suppose I’m saying that it’s more complicated that the dichotomy imposed by the article above. We have a choice, and it’s between risky hospital procedures and risky homebirth procedures. Not good.

    1. One thing that I think would really help is if we stopped giving birth-woo a leg-up by saying BS like “Our rates of c-sections are awful” or “We intentionally induce just so the doc can schedule her vacation” or “Inducing is not healthy for the baby either, and increases the likelihood of needing an epidural, which increases the chance of fetal stress”.

      1. Elective labor induction does increase the risk of c-section for low-risk pregnancies.

        We really do too many c-sections according to the World Health Organization. http://apps.who.int/rhl/pregnancy_childbirth/childbirth/caesarean/CD004662_abalose_com/en/index.html

        The rates of induction period are on the rise for data available through 2004, as are the rates of c-sections, but our rates of infant mortality are high, compared to Europe and Canada. I’m not supporting the woo. I’m supporting the evidence, which shows that the medical model in the US isn’t exactly the healthiest either (still significantly healthier than home birth, but…), which is possibly why so many women want the woo. We can’t ignore it, because we can’t really afford to. The medical community has to make some adjustments based on the research or we will continue to see women flocking to unsafe home birth practices.

        1. Where is this epidemic of unnecessary inductions? What evidence do you have that the rising induction and c-section rate is because “doctors want to go on vacation”?

          And why are you pulling out the old saw about infant mortality? It’s not a legitimate measure of obstetric care (that’s perinatal mortality, which is falling, btw).

          The link you cite is a comparison between two surgical methods for performing c-sections. It demonstrate that “too many” c-sections are being performed.

          Neither, for that matter, do any of the papers cited in its bibliography, including Villar et al. (http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(06)68704-7/abstract), which, after Betran et al. (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-3016.2007.00786.x/full) may be the most oft cited and least persuasive piece of literature addressing the question of “optimal c-section rates” ever written.

          They don’t make their case. And their math is bad. And their figures are dishonest.

          The WHO has not been a legitimate source of information on obstetric care since 1985, when they let Marsden Wagner hamstring doctors all over the world with an “optimum” c-section rate that he pulled out of his ass, and then refused to admit until 24 years later that there was not a shred of data to support his assertion.

          The idea of hitting the “right” c-section rate is not legitimate. There is no “right” c-section rate, there is no “too many” or “too few”.

          (Okay, there can be too few: http://www.fistulafoundation.org)

          (Way, way too few.)

          There are only appropriate indications and appropriate facilities, and those vary widely in every possible subset. From country to country, from region to region within a country, from hospital to hospital and from doctor to doctor.

          The “optimal” c-section rate is a fantasy. And it’s killed babies, cost women their uteri and wasted millions in misappropriated research funds.

          1. Agree passionately and dispassionately. I’ll believe that encouraging natural birth is not violence against women when I see encouragement of natural heart surgery.

    2. It’s very hard to prove that induction wasn’t necessary after a healthy baby has been born. And it’s hard to prove that a Caesarian wasn’t necessary after a baby has been born. I was immersed in this way of thinking and wouldn’t allow an induction. Result – baby born three weeks late, placenta deteriorated to the point of baby not receiving any nutrition the last few weeks of pregnancy – baby born very ill. Also waited too long for the Caesarian – baby born with brain damage. Saying a medical intervention wasn’t necessary is usually theoretical. It’s only when you don’t intervene (like the thousands of years when children and mothers died regulatory in childbirth)can you make a case about the necessity of medical intervention. The whole childbirth area has become a sad intersection of woo (women’s body’s know best) and female subjugation (suffering is best for the child). I get hell for my way of thinking even though I had to learn it the hard way.

  3. @ Work It..there have been way too many behind the scenes shows that show us how these shows are pitched and picked up to be too cynical as to the method applied.
    Focus groups, coffee and donuts, and a guy with a clipboard, asking questions like…IF you had a TV and this show was on and you had no way of turning it off, except by shooting an innocent child….. would you watch it!
    I’ll take that as a YES.. thank you..and NO!..you may not take the donuts home with you.

    1. I saw a blurb online about the show, and I was pretty skeptical. But it mentioned ‘two men end up learning about the problems of women in the modern workplace’, or something to that effect. So I thought, well maybe, there’s potential there.

      Damm me for giving the modern entertainment industry some credit.

  4. Kudos to Amy Tuteur. I’m always glad that she’s out there doing what she does, because sometimes it seems like she’s the only voice fighting back against the unscientific nonsense that appears to be rampant in the online birth community.
    I have wondered in the past why this issue doesn’t come up more often on Skepchick.

  5. It is absolutely true that woo-birth practices need to be examined critically. What the skeptical community has a tendency to forget is that hospital birth practices need to be examined critically as well. Inductions and c-sections really are used too often and too blithely. Women aren’t given the appropriate information to give informed consent to standard hospital interventions. And perhaps the biggest feminist issue is this: people focus on the perinatal mortality rates and ignore the health impacts on mothers. At least one study shows that home birth with a qualified midwife is safer for mothers, but no one seems to care about that – you should sacrifice your dignity, your sexuality, and risk your life if it increases your baby’s odds even slightly. That’s B.S.

    Overall, I think both Gaskin and Tuteur are whackaloons who are more interested in their agenda than in skeptically reviewing the facts.

    1. As always, modern medicine is a dynamic field that is changing as we speak. Traditional midwifery does no such thing, throwing out advances in disease detection and injury prevention as “men invading on women’s intuition.” When there is a poor outcome in a hospital, there is a department review that results in changes in practice.

      Also, “at least one study?” Is that all it takes when it supports your ideologically based conclusions? Good to know. Further, it should be noted that only a tiny minority believe that their sexuality and dignity are in danger through appropriate medical care, and they all seem to have been exposed to ideological training.

  6. As horribla and wrong Michelle Obama’s initiative is body-shaming her is hardly the right way to voice critic..

    1. Since when is telling people that a healthy diet and exercise is a good thing been horrible and wrong? Particularly in a country where most adults are overweight and nearly a third are obese. We can debate whether being a little overweight is unhealthy, I think it isn’t, but there is no question that obesity contributes to a large number of health problems.

      1. Well, as I can tell from my own experience as a child, being put on a diet screws with your self esteem, your metabolism and pretty much everything else. I was put on diet after diet and at 15 I finally developed bulimia from the constant dieting cycling. Now, 20 years too late they realize I got a metabolism disorder. Oopsie, no biggie if you could give me back those years of my life I’ve been shamed and blamed and told “you cant be a vegan, you’re fat!”, “you can’t be good at sports, you’re fat!”

        Being fat is not a disease, if anything it can be the symptom of a disease. Tackling it by dieting is statistically the dumbest idea of all.

        If she wanted to do something for the health of people she would promote healthy food regulations, not dieting. Dieting is unhealthy, leads to weight gain and possible mental issues. Plus, let’s not forget the whole stigmatism shit. Yes, those kids sure have not realized they’re fat before in a society where they’re told fat means lazy, idiotic and incapable.

        Am I for healthy eating? Hell yeah. bring on the subsidies for vegetables and fruit, acknowledge the benefits of plant foods and stop putting more money in factory farming. But battling the food industries? Oh no, let’s just act like the president of the united states of america is incapable of making healthy food available to everyone, let’s instead blame fat people some more for being “lazy”. Putting up with people who’ve got the money somehow would be a lot more dangerous and helpful than blaming fat children who are shamed and made out as a target anyway.

        Seeing as I’m still in recovery and just trying to learn to eat again, I’d prefer, if you still have questions or anything, you’d read through this first: http://kateharding.net/faq/but-dont-you-realize-fat-is-unhealthy/ as a general backround and this regarding the specific topic:

        Promoting sports? Awesome! Promoting healthy food/the benefits of nutritious foods? Great! Marginalizing children who are already statistically under the most social pressure and have the lowest self esteem? Eh… not so cool.

        Every mother who reads this and thinks “oh, I’ll put my child on a diet then!” sets up her child for some serious shit. But are they to blame when the first lady says so? Nope.

    2. Maybe I’m missing something, since I’m not American and I don’t know the details about Michelle Obama’s initiative, but as I understand it, she’s just promoting healthy food and regular exercise. What exactly is horrible and wrong about that?

      1. See comment above. I’m not American either, just very interested in nutrition, eating disorders (sadly, but it helps in recovery) and the politics behind “weight loss”.

      2. I like some aspects of the program but as is pretty typical, the focus is less on exercise and eating good foods, and more on dieting and “FAT IS BAD AND YOU NEED TO LOSE WEIGHT BEFORE YOU DIE, YOU LAZY PERSON YOU!”

        Not all healthy people are going to be skinny, and not all fat people are going to be unhealthy, but that is rarely, if ever, acknowledged in such programs.

          1. I thought you did a wonderful job! No hysterics at all. You were fine and explained it quite well.

            I think Michelle’s heart is in the right place and I totally understand what she’s trying to do. I just wish it wasn’t so focused on “weight loss” and “fat” and more on “let’s eat good things and exercise, but it’s okay if you aren’t skinny!”

  7. I am confused. What is wrong with having a big booty? Where I am from, this is considered a good thing and not associated with being out of shape. How does big booty= not in shape? Idk if this is a case of cultural difference, but the booty comment makes absolutely no sense to me what so ever.

    1. Plus, yes, while she does have a fairly large booty, it’s also a REALLY toned booty. I mean, look at her arms! (Man, I love her arms.) That woman is not out of shape, in the least. She’s not stick-thin (not that there’s anything wrong with that,). She’s got muscle. Definitely nothing wrong with that.

      1. When hearing about the OMG MICHELLE’S GOT A BIG BUTT!! hogwash, I wasn’t aware it was in the context of her health kick. Because of the sources, I assumed it was yet another “HOLY SHIT, THE FIRST LADY IS BLACK!!” epiphany.

        Either way, it’s fucking stupid.

      2. When hearing about the OMG MICHELLE’S GOT A BIG BUTT!! hogwash, I wasn’t aware it was in the context of her health kick. Because of the sources, I assumed it was yet another “HOLY SHIT, THE FIRST LADY IS BLACK!!” epiphany.

        Either way, it’s fucking stupid.

  8. Both Rush Limbaugh and Jim Sensenbrenner have called Michelle Obama fat.

    The only way Sensenbrenner would eat a carrot is if you wrapped it in a twinkie and deep fried it.

    1. Nay on your assumption that fat people don’t eat vegetables.

      On to your main point: They are OBVIOUSLY allowed to say that about her, because she is, uh, a woman! They are men who have to think hard and actually have “personalities”, not just bodies to be judged by.

      1. Those two particularly fat men probably *don’t* eat vegetables. I really don’t want to body-shame but, man, those two men are pretty typical meat-and-potato eaters, I’m sure. They also probably drink a fair amount, and I doubt they lead especially healthy lives. They just put out that vibe. They are vile human beings, above all else.

        Rush is not new to this hypocrisy, though. He spent years making money off of blasting drug addicts, while he himself became one. But that’s ok ‘cuz he’s a white, rich male, and not poor or a person of colors. So his addiction si somehow not as awful?

  9. I know this is kind of redundant to say, since people are already thinking it and saying it, and the title explicitly SAYS it, but my rage is threatening to bubble out:


    As people have pointed out, Michelle is firstly, in amazing shape, and secondly, the size and shape of her butt isn’t anyone’s business but her own. Fucking tossers. I’m so fucking tired of women’s physical characteristics being used to assassinate any serious topics that they’re trying to bring up. Can’t we just discuss the issues at hand instead of denigrating someone’s physical appearance?

    1. Seriously, THIS.

      Also, why the hell is this guy wanting the whole country to know that he’s been watching her ass? She’s the First Lady, not Playmate of the Year.

      It’s almost like the hubhub about their oldest daughter shooting up in height. Yes, people, kids tend to do that when…when…when they’re kids. Why was that news?

  10. The birthing business (both the HomeBirth and hospital birth sides) in the US is, from what I can tell, completely bonkers. On the one side, you have hospitals that appear to be intervening just so that they can have more to bill. On the other side, you have ideologues with almost no real medical training telling you that you’re doing it wrong if labour isn’t as pleasurable as conception.

    For some perspective, I gave birth in Ontario and I laboured in a private hospital room. My husband was my coach, although we were attended by two educated midwives (one for me, one for the baby) who kept tabs on the medical stuff but otherwise did not interfere. When my blood pressure got to high, I had the OB standing in the hall outside my room, ready to help out if she was needed. When meconium was found, I had the hospital’s respiratory specialist right there to make sure everything was okay with my son (a process that took less than a minute before my son was brought to my breast). When my pain got too strong, I had an epidural. After it was all over, a cot was brought into the room so my husband and I could sleep together with our baby.

    THAT is an empowered birth. I could focus on getting through it and on welcoming my son without ever having to worry about either my or my son’s safety. I had all the comfort of a home birth with none of the risks.

    You Americans need to get your heads out of your orifices and get yourselves some socialized medicine!

  11. The birthing arguments always get to me, especially when Amy Tuteur gets involved. I know that she means well, and in this case her reply was orderly and appropriate. All too often however, the woman is utterly abrasive, rude, and even at times cruel. Some of the things that she has written come off as almost celebrating the death of an infant as a win for her team.

    In my experience, there needs to be far more humanity in women’s healthcare. I do not have children yet, but I have experienced extreme disregard for my own feelings on multiple occasions when seeking treatment for reproductive health problems. By having people like Dr. Tuteur tell women that they are essentially meaningless in comparison to their babies it is easy for me to understand why some people turn to woo. I’m very glad that in some places there are alternatives for expecting mothers to explore. Where I live there are two options: birth in a normal hospital room in a normal hospital bed or at home with somebody who doesn’t have even have a nursing degree. Neither of those sound appealing. Yes, safety should come first, but there should also be a place for the mother’s thoughts, feelings, and comfort.

    1. Unfortunately, I agree with this. Amy Tuteur’s information is sound, and I truly believe that her heart is in the right place, but she is AWFUL at online communication.

      The Parenting Within Reason podcast (now sadly defunct, I think) had a terrific long interview with her and in that format she comes across as compassionate, reasonable, AND crammed to the gills with scientific stats that back up her points. I wish she could find a way to convey that tone in her written communications, because what she has to say is so important.

  12. Both my kids were born in hospitals and delivered by OBs – one experience was the kind of godawful “over-medicalized” birth story that home birthers trot out in order to prove why giving birth in your backyard hot tub is so awesome (short version: pitocin, epidural, pitocin pitocin pitocin, emergency C). The other was absolutely fantastic in every way (drug-free vbac, aw yeah). The main difference was that my first OB was a paternalistic asshole who didn’t want me to give birth on one of his days off, and the second was a wonderful woman who actually listened to her patients.

    (And I don’t mean to imply that male OBs are bad and female OBs good, that’s just how it worked out in my case. As it happened, my doctor was delivering someone else’s baby when I went into labor, so my daughter was delivered by one of the male docs in the practice anyway.)

    If I’d only ever had one child, I’d be nodding along with the naysayers who say “Oh yes, hospital births in the US are just terrible, look at our rate of c-sections compared to Europe / doctors here don’t care about women, we’re just seen as incubators for the baby” etc etc. Confirmation bias is really hard to shake, especially for an experience so intensely emotional as giving birth, and especially when it does seem like *so* many mothers are telling the same tale.

    But we shouldn’t be fighting against hospital births because sometimes hospitals are shitty places to spend three or four days. We should be fighting for OBs who listen to their pregnant patients, and for hospitals to make themselves more welcoming places to give birth.

    For example, another major difference with my daughter’s birth is that the hospital provided a doula to coach me through the contractions and final stages of pushing, and also to feed me ice chips and listen to me complain. I know some doulas are heavily entrenched in woo, but it was immensely helpful to have someone in the room who had a lot of experience with birth, and whose top priority was ME (obviously the top priority of the doctors and nurses in the room was the baby).

    1. That’s why Ontario midwives always come in pairs – one is there for the baby (to keep track of everything medically), while the other is there to hold mom’s hand. It’s a very good system.

      Anyways, I totally agree with you. I totally agree that birthing is a feminist issue, but the issue is making hospitals more childbirth-friendly (at least the maternity ward), NOT to take away what few laws remain in the US to prevent woo-filled ideologues with no medical education from practising medicine.

  13. Some states will not allow you to be a midwife unless you have a nursing degree (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nurse_midwife).

    My husband wants to be a nurse midwife (there aren’t many male midwives, but he’s hoping to break in). Ideally he’d work in a hospital or the local birth center (right down the street from the UNC hospital).

    When I got my IUD at the local planned parenthood a nursemidwife put it in. She was very professional and not full of the woo at all. It takes all kinds.

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