Archive | February, 2008

Have an eating disorder? Don’t expect any privacy.

2 Feb

I was just having a look at the Consumerist, where there’s an article about a court ruling in which a judge required that the families of New Jersey girls suing Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield turn over records of all the things they had written about their battles with anorexia on MySpace and Facebook, and to turn over records of e-mails that included discussions of the disorder. Apparently, the insurance company refused to cover the girls’ illnesses, claiming that anorexia and bulimia aren’t real diseases. So, since the girls’ diaries might provide evidence that their eating disorders were caused by emotional problems rather than biological factors, the company, under New Jersey law, is not required to cover the treatment that the disorders required.

I don’t think anyone thinks that there is a biological cause behind eating disorders. But are they purely psychological? I’m pretty sure that when you have a psychological disorder that causes you to do something that physically harms you, you’ve moved beyond the psychologist’s office. Still, as a joke, let’s say that anorexia is just a psychological disorder. When someone has gone so long without eating that their organs shut down and they have to go to the hospital, should the treatment that they receive be covered by health insurance? Guess not. These young girls who have been told from the second they were born that the only thing that matters about them is how closely they resemble an increasingly unrealistic and distorted beauty standard are now apparently to blame for a disorder that stems entirely from their attempt to control their lives in the only way that they see available to them.

This case points out some serious problems in American institutions and social structures. First, what the fuck are we doing when we are warping girls’ minds to the point that their desire to fit into the beauty mold is so strong that it overrides the instinct toward self-preservation? Eating disorders, along with plastic surgery, are the most striking examples of how distorted and grotesque our ideas of beauty, femininity, and sexuality have become. We now have an entire generation of young women who believe that sexually titillating men should be their priority numero uno, and that the way to do that is to look as much like a cross between a concentration camp inmate and a Bratz doll as possible. Fucking awesome. Second, we’ve allowed insurance companies to gain such a firm grip on our medical system that it has become nearly impossible to get proper care. That’s self-evident and I don’t think I need to go into it. Third, our medical system has somehow fragmented to the point that our minds, which reside in our brains, are considered entities completely separate from our bodies. Of course, that development is also a result of the fact that insurance companies control our access to medical care and will cover only that which will keep us alive (sometimes) and save them future expenses. But it also stems in part from the long-standing idea inherent in western culture that the body and the mind are indeed separate entities, and that the body is on a permanent quest to lead the mind astray. But despite adages like “mind over matter,” people seem reluctant to believe that the mind has the ability to cause dysfunction within the body. We really need to rethink the way we are treating the interaction between mental and physical disorders. Finally, it’s pretty clear that the law in this case is really not protecting these girls. The original order stated that the girls would even have to turn over their own personal writings, including their diaries, to the insurance company’s attorneys. I’m pretty sure having their innermost thoughts, feelings, and fears dragged out before scores of fairly unsympathetic strangers isn’t going to help these girls overcome whatever they need to overcome in order to get well again.

Overall, it seems like a lot of big institutional and cultural forces have lined up to make things suck as much as possible for these girls, and that those forces are created and perpetuated by, that’s right, the motherfucking patriarchy.

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Flomax to men: You don’t want to pee like a faggot, do you?

2 Feb

I’m of the general opinion that the pharmaceutical industry is fundamentally and systemically uncool. It’s pretty obvious that the aims of pharmaceutical companies are at odds with the general aims of Americans (and, I suppose, other people) when it comes to their health. We want to have fewer health issues, to cure ourselves of the the ones we do have, and to not have to spend huge amounts of money on drugs to keep ourselves from dying/being in pain/feeling like shit/going bald. Pharmaceutical companies, on the other hand, want us to have more health issues, to take drugs to treat our health problems forever without ever curing them, and to go on indefinitely spending huge amounts of money on their drugs in order to keep ourselves from dying/being in pain/feeling like shit/going bald. In other words, pharmaceutical companies are in the business of inventing disorders and creating drugs designed to treat them over long periods of time. Long-term treatment equals long-term profits, while cures equal dick. Anyone who believes that there’s a pharmaceutical company out there looking for a cure for anything probably also believes that there’s opium in Jagermeister and that you can get high by following the advice in the Anarchist’s Cookbook.

Enter Flomax, the latest drug in a long line of elixirs designed to treat disorders that didn’t exist before the drug designed to treat them got patented. You know, drugs like Requip, for that terrible disease known as Restless Legs Syndrome. Do you know what Flomax does? It treats a disorder called BPH, which I don’t care to research because the symptoms are fucking unbelievably silly: waking up to go, stopping and starting, going often, and, the best one, WEAK STREAM.

Are waking up to take a piss, stopping and starting, or going often really so disruptive that we need a pill? I wake up to pee every night, and I didn’t even know I needed medical help. I wonder what else I put up with that’s slightly inconvenient that I ought to be taking a pill for. Is there a pill that will make my hair so impervious to tangles that I need not brush it? Something I can take that will arrest the growth of my toenails so I’ll only have to clip them once a year? Stopping and starting has never really been a problem for me, but I don’t imagine that it hurts, or that it even really matters AT ALL.

I guess going often would be a problem if one had to find a toilet every hour or so, or at least that’s what the Flomax commercial implies. The ad features a group of middle-aged men on a mountain biking trip, their jocularity heavily stifled by the fact that one candy-ass member of the group has to stop every hour or two to have a slash. Then they’re out kayaking because, you know, old dudes love to get together in groups of 8 or so and do some extreme outdoor sports. Imagine the horror of having to pee while out kayaking! The whole adventure would be ruined! Unless, of course, you had a penis or something. Maybe the only thing about being male that I envy is the ability to pee anywhere, anytime, without exposing your ass to the cold and the public, and without running the risk of peeing all over yourself. But apparently Flomax forgot that men have that ability and invented a drug that will regulate their weak little bladders so that they only have to pee when they want to. Because a real man is in charge of his bladder! Only girls and faggots let their bladders get in the way of their good times!

But Flomax isn’t all about curbing frequent urination. It’s also about preventing the embarrassment that comes with a weak stream. Real men are powerful, and what better way is there to demonstrate your masculine animal power than with a urine stream that kicks rocks up off the floor of the forest where you’re mountain biking or kills the fish in the water below your kayak when you aim your stream at them? You don’t want Jim coming over after you’ve just peed on a redwood and saying, “Bob, we’ve been friends for a long time, and I like having you out on these bike trips, but something about your stream is making me wonder if you’re man enough for what we’re trying to do out here.” Seriously, there’s a pill that makes the stream of urine coming out of the penis stronger, because a weak stream is so embarrassing that it requires medical treatment.

I don’t mean to get on a soap box or anything, but I’m pretty sure that there are a few actual disorders out there that warrant a little more attention than weak stream. You know, stuff like cancer, AIDS, asthma, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, etc. But then, this is the same pharmaceutical industry that has produced three drugs that allow old people to get boners and engage in sexual activity that might (and often does) kill them and has given us Botox and more baldness drugs than there are snarkily-named microbrews in Oregon. I’ll leave the interpretation to you.

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