My final book launch event is next Friday September 22nd at the amazing Women and Children First Bookstore! I’ll be in conversation with Heather Corinna of Scarleteen. Please note that WCF requires masking and vaccination at all their events and that you need to register to attend. I hope some of you can make it!
I have an interview up at Broad Agenda that I really enjoyed. I went heavy on the snark so know it’s full of my unfiltered opinions. Perhaps my favorite pull-quote:
“Equating menstruation with weakness or emotional instability is such a tiresome, tired way of conceptualizing the uterus. I mean, if you’re going to be sexist, at least try to be clever about it."
My 2024 dance card is starting to fill up. If you think your campus or organization might like to host me for an event, workshop, or talk, please reach out to Katie Stileman (respond to this newsletter and I’ll give you her email) or use this form at PUP Speaks.
Mini update to anyone who cares about how much Doctor Who I’ve been watching: So I’ve finished the last of the regular Tenth Doctor/Tennant episodes and am on to the specials he is in before the Eleventh Doctor/Smith. And I was DEVASTATED by what happened to Donna. Devastated I tell you! To do that to someone who had had her worth questioned so often… oh it just made me so sad. She better get at least some episode or mini arc in a later season or I’m going to be furious.
And mini update on my House of Sickness. We are, for now, out of the covid woods. My spouse and son are finally testing negative. My daughter’s adenovirus has finally cleared. And yesterday, I wrote almost 3000 words of the next book, and I have plans to write more today. It feels good to be (sort of) back (knock on wood).
Not that our region, or any region of the US, is out of the woods.
Anyway, let’s get to some links!
I really enjoy Moira Donegan’s social media presence and her writing. She has covered the Kutcher/Kunis non-apology after they wrote on behalf of Danny Masterson after he was convicted of rape. I didn’t know anything of the connection between Masterson’s crimes and Scientology until I read this story.
A ProPublica story on a similar topic: a Columbia obstetrician was allowed to practice for decades despite more than 245 reports of sexual assaults against him by his patients. I share these types of stories because as a researcher who studies sexual harassment I still hear so many people ask “why didn’t they report it?” The thing is – people do report. In the first story here with Masterson you see a massive campaign by a religious organization to retaliate against victims to silence them. With the second story you see decades of reports that went nowhere. We need to stop thinking that eliminating harassment and assault can be solved by a victim making a report. Reporting doesn’t work – here are a few stories of researchers pointing to why, as well as how to make things better.
A few dude-only lists have been going around lately (in SFF, in that rock and roll book, in a neverending loop for all eternity) and new-to-me follow, Didi Chanoch, shared this 2017 talk by Martha Wells on “Unburying the Future” as a response. It’s fantastic – as is her Murderbot series.
Iron and periods are in the news again. A research letter in the Journal of the American Medical Association analyzed iron status in a sample of girls aged 12-21 from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) longitudinal cohort study. They found almost forty percent of the sample had low iron (this is not the same thing as iron deficiency anemia, which accounted for only six percent of the sample). They show that the risk of low iron was higher in those who had started menstruating… but iron was still low in over 25% of girls who had not yet gotten their period.
The study also shows that additional risk factors for low iron were being not white and/or of Hispanic ethnicity.
So why were so many people, especially among the menstruating group, low iron, given that I’ve already written how this is kind of a bullshit association?
Well, let’s consider the other things that could be going on:
Some number of these participants may have heavy menstrual bleeding, which would increase their risk of low iron.
Being a menstruating person also means you have recently hit your peak growth velocity, and even though it’s slowing down, you’re still growing. Then there’s also the added stress/energy needs of finishing growing and closing those growth plates.
Some number of these participants may not be getting enough to eat, or they may be athletes. Adolescent athletes have higher iron needs than full grown athletes which can be challenging to get via diet alone. On top of that, if they are playing a sport that involves running (soccer, cross country) they can experience what’s called “foot strike hemolysis” which simply means that every time your foot slaps the ground you’re going to kill some red blood cells. This isn’t a bad thing, and if you’re a runner it’s happening to you, too. But it means that on top of the additional iron needs an adolescent has from growing and being active, they may also have this additional way by which their iron could be depleted.
The race and ethnicity findings suggest there are some major social determinants of health at play too – likely related to systemic oppression, healthcare access, the stress axis and its effects on the body, and more. This study only looked at “girls” (which usually assumes they are all cisgender girls, and I have no idea how frequently they ask in the longitudinal study… which means some number of participants could have a different gender identity than assumed as this can change over time) and does not report on sexuality. So we don’t know anything about the social determinants of health that relate to being LGBTQIA+.
I’m not trying to say there is never a time that menstruation has absolutely zero role in iron stores. But I will say that it is very, very hard for me to believe that menstruation in the typical range of blood loss, on its own with no other risk variables, could cause someone’s iron to dip below the typical range.
Source: Weyand, A. C. et al. Prevalence of Iron Deficiency and Iron-Deficiency Anemia in US Females Aged 12-21 Years, 2003-2020. JAMA 329, 2191–2193 (2023).