Wetlands and Wrecked : Book Review

                              
Over break, I finished Wetlands (about a mother named Elizabeth and her family, therapy, and sex life) and Wrecked (about a teen named Helen in the hospital, about sex, hygiene, and family), both by German author Charlotte Roche. While Wetlands become a best seller in 2008, the reviews are mixed, and the book itself is controversial. At best, it's been described as fuel for a sexual revolution, while harsher critics have dismissed it as disturbing and lightly veiled pornography.

These books made me flinch. I'll admit it. I had to repeatedly put them down and take a break. I felt disgusted. And I loved them. They're meant to disgust. As open as I consider myself to be, I still judge. In Wrecked, the protagonist Helen describes how she jump starts the growth of avocado pits by pushing them in her vagina and smears smegma behind her ears to smell more "natural". Did you just flinch a little? Me too.

However, she also addresses more relevant, though still finch-worthy issues, and that's what makes this book important. When she wakes in the hospital wearing a paper gown, she notices that  her clothes have been folded neatly beside her, her panties on top, the crotch slightly damp, and wonders how the nurse reacted to her discharge. Public school sex ed taught me that discharge was unnatural, a sure sign of an STI. And that's why I was convinced for a week in middle school I had gonnorhea.

In my experience, girls don't often (read: ever) talk about their discharge with others. But Helen does. She talks frankly, openly, repulsively, about what her body can do, what she does with her body, and what she does to other bodies. There were more than a few moments I let out a sigh of relief I didn't know I had been holding, "Oh, wow, so at least one other person has experienced that too."

Both protagonists are whiny, gross, offensive. Though they're meant to come off as multi-facested and complicated, they often fall short and end up inconsistent. But, more often than not, they're right.

These books are important. They challenge the deep-seated embarrassments about basic biology, and propose a much more realistic picture. This is the way we should be thinking. Maybe not, you know, the avocado pit or smegma perfume part, but the idea that women aren't hairless, douched, and sanitized. That's the type of thinking I can get behind. 

What's In a Name (Hysteria)

WanderingWomb has a lot of different meanings to me, and I figured I'd try to explain some of them.

Firstly, I'm a sucker for alliteration. W.W. Yum.

Secondly, I like the wanderlust it evokes. Wandering. Exploring. Discovering.

Thirdly, I like the feminine and comforting connotations of 'womb'.

Overall, and most importantly, it's a reference to female hysteria. In the 19th century, hysteria was a common medical diagnosis exclusively for women. Dizzy? Hysteria. Bloating? Hysteria. Experiencing sexual desire? Hysteria. Irritable? Sore? Tired? Hysteria, hysteria, hysteria. Not hungry? Nervous? Troublesome? You name it, it's probably hysteria, which often lead to asylum and hysterectomies in extreme cases.

Hysteria quickly became a catchall diagnosis. In 1859, one physician claimed that 25% of all women suffered from hysteria, while another listed 75 pages of possible symptoms and still believed the list to be incomplete*.

The history can be traced back to 4th and 5th centuries BC in ancient Greece, when Plato explained in his dialogue Timaeus that a woman's uterus is like a living creature that may wander about the body and cause trouble, interfering with other organs and such. Thus, the ailment of the "wandering womb" was born, along with the Greek word "hustera", meaning womb, and later serving at the root for "hysteric" and "hysteria". The Greeks believed it was caused by the retention of female semen, which was believed to become venomous if not regularly released through climax or intercourse.

Later, hysteria was treated with orgasms, technically called "hysterical paroxysms". Long story short, it lead to the creation of vibrators. Later post to follow.

What I love about the term "wandering womb" is just how ridiculous it sounds today. In the 20th century, the frequency of cases quickly declined as many past instances of hysteria were reevaluated as cases of anxiety neuroses, anxiety attacks, conversion disorders, or schizophrenia.

In summary, wombs do not wander about the body. The wandering womb is an misunderstanding and underestimation of women. Assuming that women must just be hysterical is a shameful part of medical history. This blog, WanderingWomb is meant to explore ways we're still mistaking women today.



*Briggs, Laura. "The Race of Hysteria: "Overcivilization" and the "Savage" Woman in Late Nineteenth-Century Obsterics and Gynecology"

Mixology

Instead of studying (oops), I took a break for a bit and watched the Bachelor. What followed was ABC's new show, Mixology. The shows description is as follows:

"One bar. One night. Ten single people. Welcome to Mix, a high-end bar in Manhattan's trendy meat-packing district and the backdrop for a sexy new high-concept comedy from the writers of The Hangover."

Ten seconds in, and I'm already overwhelmed by the sexist, racist, and appallingly offensive writing. The characters are cheap, the jokes fall flat. The show itself feels as seedy as the bar it's set in.

Just to give you a feel for the show, here's my favorite quote.

"The higher the heel, the looser she'll feel."

Other choice moments include rating women by their asses, rape jokes, the exclusivity of being  "real man" and a "nice guy",  making fun of a man crying for being a pussy, a blonde sleeping with a guy who can't remember her name because what the hell, he's hot.

I don't have anything else to say. I'm fuming. This show can't possibly last, can it?