A is for Anxiety B is for Bold

Kali Nelson

A metal arch that was lit up with pink lights for breast cancer awareness.
An Arch light up pink for Breast Cancer Awareness

 

Disclaimer! I am not a scientist, I am not a biology major. What I report in this post is what I have found on my own. I am learning about this along with you, so if you see something wrong let me know. Thank you.

Since October is breast cancer awareness month, I am going to continue with the breast cancer theme. According to breastcancer.org, a nonprofit dedicated to providing reliable, complete, and up-to-date information about breast cancer, one in eight women in the USA will be diagnosed with breast cancer. It also states that breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among women; in 2017 it was estimated that about 30% of newly diagnosed cancers in women will be in the breast. Another fact on their website states that in women under 45, breast cancer is more common in African- American women than white women, while in Asian, Hispanic, and Native women the risk of developing and dying of breast cancer is lower than African American women.

There is not much of a focus on the women that breast cancer effects in the media, the media that comes out in October is pink ribbons emblazed on everything. There are two main examples that I want to talk about. The first one is The Bold Type, specifically the episode titled “The Breast Issue” and a book I found called A Breast Cancer Alphabet.

The Bold Type is a tv show on Freeform in its first season. There are currently only six episodes, but the one that I want to discuss in more detail is the episode titled, “The Breast Issue.” The main characters are friends named Jane, Kat, and Sutton who work at Scarlet magazine, which is much like Cosmo in our world. Jane is the journalist one of the group who aspires to be the finest feminist writer. Kat is the social media coordinator and is a very big feminist. And finally, there is Sutton. She works in fashion but her story in this episode is not relevant to my post so I will be excluding it. We start with the girls going to what I think is a #freethenipple rally.

Jane, the journalist of the three friends, faces her past in this episode when the editor of the magazine wants her to write about the BRCA test and why women in their 20’s should or should not get the test. This may seem like a run of the mill article to write considering this is a women’s magazine, but for Jane, this is personal because her mother died of breast cancer. Jane does not believe that women in their 20’s should get this test.

But what exactly is this test?

The BRCA gene test uses a blood sample to look for harmful changes to a person’s DNA (that’s the stuff that makes you, you). It can be used for both breast and ovarian cancer. It looks for mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. These genes are the breast cancer susceptible These proteins help repair damaged DNA, but if there is something wrong (aka a mutation) then the protein cannot do their job right, and cells can develop more alterations as a result. The harmful versions of these genes can be inherited by a person by either their mother or father. For specifics on your risk of getting breast cancer, please see a professional.

This test is recommended to anyone who is likely to have an inherited mutation, and is based on your family history or a specific kind of breast cancer. Even if a person receives a positive result, that does not mean that they will develop breast cancer. Your doctor can help you understand your risk.

The free the nipple hashtag is the story arc for Kat, the social media coordinator. She is a forward thinking, go-getting feminist who decides that since she can’t post women’s nipples on Scarlet’s Instagram, she will go around taking photos of men’s nipples and post them instead to challenge the Instagram rule that men can show their nipples but women cannot. She does this because she is getting ready for Scarlet’s breast health issue. Although she doesn’t use the free the nipple hashtag, I think it is important to talk about this because women’s breast are sexualized in today’s society and then women get breast cancer and their breast which women are taught are a private part of body, are everyone’s business. Society tells women that they need to cover their breast, that the breast is a sexual organ, not secondary sex characteristic. This is exemplified in the debate over women breast feeding in public. People say that women’s breasts are for male pleasure and therefore cannot be shown in public. Shame is placed upon women who dare to breast feed in public or show more of their breast than society has deemed appropriate. So basically anything above the areola (the circle around your nipple) or below it is A-Okay. Just don’t show your nipple.  But once there is a cancer diagnosis, your breast become public property. People ask you questions, doctors take photos, nurses examine. They invade the privacy that society used to force on you.

A Breast Cancer Alphabet by Madhulika Sikka talks a little bit about what it felt like to have her breast go from a private part of her body to something that everyone discusses when she dedicates a chapter to breasts (B is for Breast). After a cancer diagnosis, a woman’s personal space is invaded in the name of her health. Sikka talks about reconstruction, and how that affected her. I thought it was a nice reprieve to read this book because Sikka did not give me facts and figures. I saw next to no numbers and that is what I wanted. Sikka said her reasoning behind this book was because she wanted something that was easy to read and wasn’t too scientific or self-indulgent and I feel that that is what she wrote. Reading this book is like reading a letter from my mother, comforting and not too shallow. A Breast Cancer Alphabet covers topics that might not be found in the literature, like what it feels like to shave your head and lose your hair, what it feels like to have a mastectomy and how cancer can affect your sex life.  Sikka even has a tumblr where anyone can submit a sentence or photo to create your own breast cancer alphabet.

Advertisements

My mother’s disease is not a game

By Kali Nelson

 

A black and white photo of a woman smiling at the camera, she has short hair and wears glasses.
A photo of a woman smiling at the camera.

 

 

Today I want to talk something that is close to my heart and that I don’t talk about a lot, but I will since it’s October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Right now little pink ribbons and surround us as reminders to check your breast and remember anyone can get cancer.

A pink ribbon that folds on itself
The pink ribbon of breast cancer awareness.

First I would like to share some information about breast cancer in general. Please remember that I am not a biology major; I do not study this in my spare time. One, because I don’t have any spare time and two because it’s not how I want to spend my time. Breast cancer is when cells in the breast start to grow uncontrollably and then form a tumor. Although there are many tumors that are benign, meaning that they are not harmful. But some are malignant, meaning that they are harmful. Cells become uncontrollable and cause tumors because of damage between three to seven genes. Then the cells grow and multiply and can escape the body’s defenses leading to the cells spreading. Just think, one cell; it only takes one cell to change your life. Continue reading “My mother’s disease is not a game”

Sexism in STEM

 

red code for a computer that says end patriarchy.
A sign written in code.

By Kali Nelson

I am learning. I am not an expert in where and how sexism exists. And I am trying to understand one of the fields that I study. While I focus on a gender binary, that does not mean that non-binary and trans men and women do not face discrimination, that means that there may not be information, or that I was unable to find it. Please note that this only covers sexism, women of color do face racism on top of sexism. This is not something that I do not had to experience.

Sexism is a problem that almost every woman has or will face in her life. She can face it at school, at work, and in everyday life. It may not be as prevalent as it was in the past, but it is still there. I was part of a discussion about sexism in STEM fields a week or so ago in which everyone who had a story to tell about sexism, could or if they had a problem, they could share to see if anyone had a solution. This discussion opened my eyes because even though I know it’s real, it doesn’t quite hit me that it really happens. My brain knows but my body doesn’t, does that make sense? Continue reading “Sexism in STEM”

We need to talk about Earth

2223340202

By Kali Nelson

Let’s take a moment to think about all the problems the US is facing today. We have wildfires consuming the Pacific Northwest, Montana, and California. Hurricane Harvey is flooding Texas and Hurricane Irma nearing Florida. The whole country either needs water or it has too much, and that’s only in the US. Here in Moscow, where I live, there’s so much smoke in the air that we are now at a hazardous air quality. The world has become a gray haze outside my windows. I can’t enjoy the breeze at night or else I risk waking up in a cloud of smoke and hurting my cat’s lungs.

I can’t help but wonder if  we need to take a step back and think about the impact we have on our planet. Maybe we need to have a serious and grown up conversation about climate change. Continue reading “We need to talk about Earth”

Conservation and Feminism: Not Mutually Exclusive?

A photo of the Earth from space, a large blue marble on a black background
                      A picture of the Earth from Apollo 17

By Kali Nelson

Last semester I wrote a post about Ecofeminism. It was tied to the idea that women and nature are linked and that for women to be free, nature must also be free. Today I wantto go more in depth with that idea.

Where did Ecofeminism come from?

Ecofeminism came into its modern state in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s in an academic setting. Ecofeminism could be found mostly in the academic world for most of the seventies and then in the eighties, ecofeminism became for prevalent outside of the academic world. It is very popular in India, where the Chipko movement exists, this movement was for the protection of forests against deforestation. The term was coined in 1974 by French feminist Françoise d’Eaubonne and combines the ideas of gender equality, of nonpatriarchal and nonlinear structures, and of the world that respects organic processes.

The main book that I used as a base for much of my last post was called Healing the Wounds: The Promise of Ecofeminism which is a collection of essays edited by Judith Plant. It was published in 1989. There are more recently published books on this subject, the most recent one I can find being published in 2014. Although I am very certain that there are more recent books.

Continue reading “Conservation and Feminism: Not Mutually Exclusive?”

Who am I? A Reintroduction.

the author wearing white sunglasses with the sun on her face while riding in a car
The author, riding in a car

By Kali Nelson

                As many of you know, I wrote for the blog last semester, and I loved it so much I decided to come back. If you don’t know who I am, let me introduce myself a little better. I am currently a sophomore at the University of Idaho studying Journalism and Environmental Science. I play on the Quidditch team and in my spare time, I like to knit and crochet, I have a passion for reading, and I whole heartedly enjoy watching shitty horror movies, especially with vampires. My other passions include Trevor Noah’s stand up and caffeine.

I lived most of my life in Caldwell, Idaho, but a few years ago I moved to Colville, Washington, and I have found a second home in Washington. It was there that I found my love for the outdoors and the environment.

This summer I got the wonderful opportunity to work in the technician field studying Western Grebes.  Grebes are a water bird that lives in Mexico, Canada, and the United States. For this project, we spent the summer in Cascade, Idaho watching the grebes on Lake Cascade. I was part of a program here at the University of Idaho, called the Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program, that is in other schools like the University of Florida, University of Arizona, Cornell, and North Carolina State. I made so many friends, and I really loved what I did this summer.

I take a special interest in women’s issues because, I am in fact a woman. And even though I come from a place of privilege, I believe that every woman deserves a chance to be heard. And still, I believe that I do not have much experience with some issues. I will try my best to not mess things up. But if I do make a mistake, please let me know; I am still learning. I want to expand my views and fully understand a topic.

I want to talk a little about what I would like to cover this upcoming semester. I want to explore the ecofeminism idea that I wrote about last semester a little more and a few other things that come into my head. This semester I want to explore the many faces of feminism and how it doesn’t have to be about just the normally talked about issues. Feminism is a diverse topic, and I feel that sometimes we forget that feminism can cover many different things.

Girlfriends

By Kali Nelson

A woman with a big piece of cardboard.
My friend with a piece of cardboard.

As my time here on the blog dwindles down, I would like to write once again about a topic near and dear to my heart. Girl friendships. This post may sound a lot like a post I wrote earlier about Galantine’s day. But it is not, this time I want to focus on how sometimes the media does not know how to get a girl friendship right.

Three friends standing on a dock looking at the camera. There is a lake behind them.
My friends Brooke and Sierra and I.

The friendship between women is something else. I cannot quite encapsulate the feelings that I have for my friends, or how they have helped me in more ways than I can even count. But my girlfriends are my rocks, they are my best friends, I cannot think of life without them.  While there can be bad friendships that cause more harm than good, there are also friendships that enrich lives and make life so much better.

Continue reading “Girlfriends”