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Tuesday: Fits and starts

I followed a link from Susie Madrak’s place yesterday to a post on AlterNet by Sara Robinson called Why Patriarchal Men are Terrified by Birth Control.  Robinson makes several good points that most of us probably figured out several decades ago.  The “scriptures” were written at time when transfer of inherited property depended on having the right credentials.  You could always be sure who your mother was.  Your father?  Ehhhhh, not so much.  And, so, for thousands of years, culture was pretty fixed around keeping an eye on the ladies.  Biology was destiny.  And I guess that the extinction of silphium complicated matters somewhat when it came to having a life outside of marriage.  (Hmmmm, I wonder if you can get an aloe vera plant to express silphium’s active ingredient in its resin?  Yeah, probably.  Now, that would make an interesting horticultural blockbuster.)

But that all changed with the pill and earlier forms of birth control like the diaphragm and the condom.  With reliable birth control, all those scriptures and cultural artifacts seemed anachronistic to those of us who came of age in the 70’s and 80’s.  Because they were.  That old time religion doesn’t apply to us.  I turned my back on the Old Testament probably as soon as I was able to reason out how inapplicable it was to modern times in every way from evolution to gender discrimination, slavery and birth control.  Why the heck we’re still expecting anyone to bow and scrape to these old rules is beyond me.

But Robinson says that we’re going to keep fighting this battle for a few more hundred years because the menfolk need some time to get used to the idea that they’re not alone at the top of the food chain anymore.  I’m not sure I agree with her there.  In Europe, the religious are getting more rare.  Oh, sure, there’s still gender discrimination and violence but that’s a function of how accountable we make the perpetrators.  When there is political will to crack down on it, that will start to fade away.  Of course, women will always be at a disadvantage as far as upper body strength is concerned and rape can be used as a method of control and violence.  I don’t know what we can do about that short of retrofitting our vaginas with taser devices.  But books have been written about how the human species has become less violent over the centuries and I see no reason why rape should be an exception.

Evolution is not necessarily smooth and linear.  Who would have thought just a century ago that the internet would put all of the knowledge of human civilization at our fingertips and change the world?  Look at how much damage we have accomplished just since 1993.  My youngest daughter has never known a world without google.  My oldest learned to read on a computer.  And yet, this year, we are fighting tooth and nail to keep SOPA and PIPA from turning the clock back on what we can do with the internet.  So, there are fits and starts with every new thing.  Birth control has had a profound effect on our culture and this is just a glitch, a short one.

I’m still of the opinion that there is an age factor at work in this latest push back on women’s bodily autonomy.  The most socially conservative voters are elderly and came of age before they had the chance to form their lives according to their own desires.  Many women in their 70’s had responsibility shoved down their throats and their opportunities spirited away by the era they were born into.  If they had been born only a few years later, their lives would have been so much different.  The men of this age, on the other hand, lived in the salad days of post war America where any hard working guy could own a house and a car and earn a pretty decent living with a pension.  Must have been swell.  The guys that came after them have seen their livelihoods diminish over the past 30 years.

I think as the older generation dies off and the newer generation who has thought through the Old Testament problem comes of age, the pendulum will swing away from the patriarchal fear of birth control and this will happen on a much quicker timeframe than several hundred years.  But what has happened to us as a culture, with our diminished expectations, is a result of an economic assault on us by some very determined conservatives.  And those predators have been with us forever.  We need to develop a pill that prevents selfishness and arrogance.  That will be the next modern medical miracle.


Check out this post about dyeing your macbook.  The third picture nearly gave me a heart attack.  I don’t know why you’d want to do this.  White goes with everything.

This macbook decal is a lot less permanent:

There’s more where that came from.  Check out more decals here.

19 Responses

  1. As soon as I read the line about retrofitting a vagina with what amounts to a security system, I immediately thought of this device: Rape aXe. It’s not a taser, but it does mark the perpetrator and must be surgically removed.

    • Yep, that’ll learn’em. But does it cause enough discomfort that the rapist is more concerned with detaching it than beating the victim to a bloody pulp? See, a taser would incapacitate him all over.
      It’s really too bad that such a thing is even necessary.

  2. I’m part of the older generation, and I agree completely with you that until my cohort is GONE, modernity is still not within reach. I am furious about the current war on women and can’t believe more people aren’t outraged about it. Do they not see?

    • You are ahead of your time.
      I’m sure they can see but for the vulnerable, I think there is a certain amount of resentment that the right wing has been able to tap into. It has been very successful at attaching religion and morality to this resentment and working it for all it’s worth.

  3. I first read about this Eastern Mediterranean counter-pregancy plant through Ran Prieur’s blog. If any dried plant or extract samples can be/ have been found in any East Med tombs or other archeological sites then at least the chemical constituents could be maybe identified. Then the chemicals of current alleged plant-relatives can be studied to see which are most similar and could be bred and selected upward. If any DNA sequences could be extracted from any dried samples found, if any; those could be worked with; perhaps back-inserted into living plant relatives. That seems more attainable than trying to breed or engineer the expression of these chemicals into such a wildly dissimilar plant as aloe.

    • LOL! You have no idea what you can express in what system these days. It would astonish you.
      As it turns out, asafoetida comes from a relative of silphium. Asafoetida is derived from the giant fennel plant. Queen Anne’s Lace or wild carrot is also a relative. They all have substances that are considered estrogenic. An enterprising biologist could probably find out what it is, identify the gene, clone it, and get it to express in a wide variety of expression systems. I have no idea if aloe vera has been played with but since the active ingredient of silphium was collected from the resin of the plant, aloe vera was the first one that came to my mind. Plus, almost everyone can get their hands on one. Botany is not my thing but last year I went to a protein conference and saw the future. It will amaze you.

      • I hope it will amaze me in a good way and not just leave me appalled. If “they” could identify the gene –> protein expression chains and systems behind chestnut blight immunity in Chinese chestnut and transplant those into the American chestnut while leaving the American chestnut American in every other way, I would welcome that improvement to our future. (In the meantime, breeders have shown a lot can be done with crossing, backcrossing , back-backcrossing, etc. and have come up with a nearly American chestnut with strong blight resistance. Even as the proteo-future is advancing, breeders could still work with the fennel-family of plants in the meantime).

        • Why not let nature take its course? Here in the Princeton area, we have the most gorgeous elm trees. They’re called the Princeton elm because they are more tolerant to Dutch elm disease. There’s one street in Princeton, Washington Blvd, that is lined with them and the are amazing trees, tall columns that spread out at the top like a vase and form a green leafy canopy over the road below.
          Here’s a pic of what an American Elm tree looks like:
          Princeton Elm trees on Washington Blvd
          They found the mother elm a few years ago. I think it’s located near a cemetery? The mother elm is affected by Dutch elm disease in parts but it’s developed some resistance to the disease as well. So now the Princeton Elm is the source of American elm trees here in the US. They’re not immune, they’re tolerant. They’re weathering the infection and still growing. And they are lovely. A few weeks ago I read that there are American chestnut trees that are doing the same thing, I just can’t remember where. So, cross your fingers and maybe the tolerant ones will come back, and stick around to propagate.
          Of course, I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that bioengineering is already happening.

          • Well, in a philosophical sense, since people build things and breed plants the way beavers build dams; deliberately breeding plants for this-and-that “is” nature taking its course . . . acting through the targeted-manipulation expression of human nature.

            But back to practical earth, we may have just got lucky with that dutch elm disease resistant mother elm. So far as I know, we have not got lucky in the same way with spontaneously resistant American chestnuts . . . though I have heard rumors of slightly blight-tolerant chestnuts.
            And since we know how to do plant breeding ( crossing/ back-crossing/back-back crossing/etc.), why not do what we know and raise the chances of a functional near-American blight-resistant chestnut to save the American chestnut genes in a near-American-chestnut treeform both to re-establish funtional forests of functional chestnut and also someday maybe be able to achieve a funtionally and effectively pure American chestnut with blight immunity?

            The American chestnut used to be to the mid-American forest what the buffalo was to the plains and the cod was to Newfoundland. It would be good to have that restored, on purpose if necessary if letting nature take its course doesn’t do it alone.

          • (And if indeed there are “blight-tolerant” American chestnuts arising, the “chestnut patriots” are looking for them and will hopefully find them and propagate them and work with them.)

    • Just for fun, I searched on aloe vera expression system and it looks like it’s been done already :

      Lavender is non-susceptible to infection with a TMV-based expression system; thus we are turning to various other plants, including Nicotiana benthamiana, Beta vulgaris and Aloe vera. To our surprise and given that A. vera is known to contain microbicidal compounds, we have expressed the human papillomavirus major capsid protein. Further work will aim at increasing the yield, so that production of this potential A. vera-derived vaccine against cervical cancer could be mucosally administered in various forms.

      We are still continuing evaluation of two systems producing vaccines and antibodies in plants:

      temporary infection of the plant with a plant virus fused with an antigen and
      stable transformation of a plant using systems which we have employed successfully in the past.

      The crunchy granola types are going to totally freak out when they see what genes are going into which system.

  4. Into what age range do second wave feminists fall?

    • I’m not sure. I thought I was a 2nd waver but maybe I’m a 3rd.

    • Oh, wait, wikipedia says second wave spanned 1960s-1990s. So, I guess I’m a second waver. It says the second wave ended over sexuality and pornography and that’s what brought on the third wave. And I have to say that the third wavers are a weird bunch. Sometimes I wonder how they ever get laid.

      • The second wave spanned 1960s-1990s. However, to be politically active during that time you had to be born quite a bit earlier, making second wavers in the 60 to 100 year old range presently. These women fought for gender equality. They are not the ones you want to be hurrying into their graves.

        • Hmmm, I guess that does make me a third waver.
          The people I was referring to as dying off are the Betty Friedan era women who missed the feminist revolution. I’ve met these women. I’m sure you have too. They became housewives and they were raised in a highly conformist culture where you didn’t step out of line and were shamed if you did. They’re the ones who vote Republican because of the abortion issue. In fact, that’s the only reason they go to the polls. Abortion angers them so much that they would vote for Pol Pot if he promised to imprison people for life for having one. They watch Fox. They watch 19 Kids and Counting. They’re religious and in love with the idea of an idyllic American landscape where everyone goes to church and stays home with their kids. And they love this because they had it pretty good and still have it pretty good. They’re living off pensions and social security, they have houses that are paid for, they have good health care. And their media sources have convinced them that the reason they have it so good is because they played by the rules and were virtuous. That’s why their old age is so good for them. They were chaste except for one partner, never had an abortion, never did oral sex, they were sexually pure. Fox has them convinced that the reason the world is going to hell in a handbasket is because *other* people were misbehaving and God is not pleased.
          And I’m saying that that generation in their 70s-80s is not going to be around too much longer. I think the reason the Republicans are pulling out all of the stops recently is because they’ve seen the demographics and they know they don’t have much time to continue to trick these people into voting for virtue while undermining everything that makes their retirement so comfortable.
          Yeah, we could use more second wave feminists. The third wavers are just peculiar.

  5. “(Hmmmm, I wonder if you can get an aloe vera plant to express silphium’s active ingredient in its resin? Yeah, probably. Now, that would make an interesting horticultural blockbuster.)”

    Oh, I hope some laid-off scientists get to work on this…!

    • There are some really good projects out there just waiting to be financed. I just got hold of a paper for a very druggable target that could potentially make someone very rich. But it takes funding.

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