Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Facebook for Fitness?

There are thousands of social media platforms out there, but it's not often you come across one geared towards fitness. Fitocracy provides just that, offering a fun way to track fitness goals, gain points, and compete with your friends.

With features reminiscent of Facebook, you can post statuses, share photos of your progress, and check in at your local gym. Furthermore, Fitocracy allows you to track your workouts with ease, using a large database with thousands of exercises. You find your exercise, input how many sets with how many reps, and input the weight/accessories used as well. You're then given a score for each workout, and the higher your points get, the more you level up.

Whether you're just getting started in fitness, or you're a hard-hittin' weight lifting machine, Fitocracy is a great way to stay motivated and socialize your workouts.


It's amazing what technology can do these days, especially when it comes to monitoring our own health. Just when I thought smart pedometers were the new big thing, I came across a little gadget called Tinké by Zensorium (Check out the website–the design is beautiful).
This pocket-sized iPhone accessory packs a lot of power, allowing the user to measure their heart rate, blood oxygen level, respiratory rate, and heart rate variability–all you have to do is place your thumb on the sensors. It even gives you a "zen index," indicating your stress level. The beautifully designed iPhone app provides detailed analytics and graphing, all while maintaining a simple user-interface.

This revolutionary product offers an at-home and on-the-go monitoring ability like no other, and it's sure to set a whole new standard for health & fitness gadgets.

Check out their video!


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Trying to kick the nicotine?

Long ago, I used to be a smoker. I know, I know. I'm a health-nut that used to smoke cigarettes–what a contradiction. Back then, I was naive to the power of technology, so I had to quit the old-fashioned way (by convincing myself). However, LiveStrong introduced a whole new way to quit smoking–via their iPhone app MyQuit Coach.

The app approaches the task of quitting nicotine from multiple angles. The first is through a personalized quitting plan. You set the date you want to quit smoking, and MyQuit Coach does the rest.  You're given daily allowances, and you must track when you have each cigarette. Ultimately, the plan is designed to wean you off of cigarettes instead of just quitting "cold turkey."

However, it doesn't stop there. The user gets daily motivational messages, and also has the option to upload their own personal motivational messages. You then earn badges and awards for good achievements, and are able to track your progress through charts. If you're a smoker and you find yourself saying "I'll quit tomorrow" too often, I highly recommend giving this app a shot.

Here are some screen shots:

(Images from

The Smarter Consumer

Shopping for the right products can be hard. The amount of options when walking into our local grocery store or drugstore is often extremely overwhelming. You can read as many labels as you want, but the companies are always going to try and make their product sound like the best one.

An iPhone app that I found–Consmr–offers a great solution to this dilemma. Consmr is a powerful platform where consumers can see product reviews and alternatives for thousands of products. It allows the user to simply scan the barcode of the product for an even faster and more accurate return, instantly bringing up the reviews and possible alternatives for that product.

I've used it myself to find the best products that I'm looking for, and I found it extremely helpful in the area of toiletries. I'm always trying to find better bath & hygiene products, and this app gives great insight into what I should try.

Below are some screenshots from the app:

Monday, December 3, 2012

Online Support Groups

One of the best aspects of the internet is being connected to millions of people. However, a lot of people don't know the variety of ways this aspect of the internet can be beneficial. A significant way is through the use of Online Support Groups. People who are faced with health issues are inclined to want to speak about these issues with someone, but in a lot of cases they can't find the time, resources, or gain the courage they need to speak with someone. This is where the internet can become a powerful tool.

Online support groups are created and maintained for virtually any health issue, easily attainable using basic search engines. For example, having grown up with Cerebral Palsy, I found myself searching support groups quite often. Having returned numerous results, I was able to sort through and find the support groups that were the most helpful to me.

Support groups not only offer millions of options, but are extremely beneficial in the sense that one can (1) remain anonymous, (2) access these websites on their own time, and (3) connect to any number of individuals worldwide. There's no need to deal with making weekly appointments, having a limited number of local people with the same health issues, or having to expose your identity and attached health issues to other individuals.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Counting Calories - Mobile Style

There's a lot of emphasis in today's society on our caloric intake. It seems that every weight loss, weight gain, or nutrition-based diet uses calorie counting as its main function. The downside is - counting calories can be a drag. Especially when you can't just turn to the nutrition label to find out how many calories you're consuming. And you never want to be that person that asks the waiter to find out how many calories are in your meal.

However, thanks to ever-evolving technology, there are much easier ways to count calories using your phone. iPhone, for example, offers tons of apps designed to count calories. It can be a little stressful to try and figure out which one to use, so I'm going to focus on my favorite one:  Calorie Counter and Diet Tracker by MyFitnessPal.

The app allows you to search and add foods quickly and separates your meals, allowing you to save favorite meals to easily duplicate them later. The best part is, the database has millions of different products and restaurant items that you quickly add. That means that instead of just looking up the average calorie count for crackers, you can add the exact brand and flavor of crackers you ate. And if the database doesn't have what you're looking for - you can add it!

The tracker conveniently tells you how many calories you have left for that day depending on your stats (age, height, weight, how much you want to lose/gain, etc.) It's a personalized plan that provides goals and statistics to keep you on track. You can even track exercise and it will deduct calories from your daily intake based on the amount and type of exercise.

Here's a couple screen shots:

(Images taken from iTunes)

Friday, November 16, 2012

Hostess Closes Its Doors: Are people coming to their senses?

Just this morning, junk food powerhouse Hostess announced that they will be liquidating their company and selling off their portfolio of brands. The plummeting popularity of junk foods and a recent strike regarding a labor contract forced the company to face their bankruptcy and make some hard decisions. But don't fear, junk food enthusiasts, I'm sure if you go buy a ton of Twinkies they'll keep just fine on your shelf for a few decades.

I'm sure there are a good amount of people mourning for their Donettes, but I can't help but say that I am excited about this. Does this mean that America is shaping up and actually paying attention to the things they are consuming that might potentially be harmful? And I use the term "things" purposely–I don't exactly see Twinkies or Ho-Ho's as food, if you catch my drift. But what if the rise in people seeking health-related information online had anything to do with Hostess' bankruptcy? Now, they say Twinkies and the rest of the junk food gang won't necessarily meet their demise. Another owner could potentially pick them up. However, a plummet in sales must constitute a red flag for potential buyers, no? Now I'm no CEO, but it just doesn't seem smart to invest in junk food these days.

Much to my liking, health is on the rise and junk food consumerism is going down the drain. It's no wonder companies are coming out with all new lines of "healthy" food. New new media, and it's ability to allow people to share healthy recipes and surprising health statistics may just be to thank for this monumental change in the American lifestyle.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

YouTube Fitness

Let's face it--there's not a thing YouTube doesn't have. Just the other day, I spent literally 20 minutes watching some guy flush random foods down the toilet. Believe it or not, he gets paid for those videos! Absolutely ridiculous.

What's not ridiculous is the amount of health & fitness content on YouTube, and how beneficial it can be. For those who just want to exercise in the comfort of their own home, and don't want to pay ridiculous amounts for at-home programs like P90X or Flirty Fitness, YouTube can be a perfect tool. For example, I like to search for yoga classes, and the search typically returns a wide range of different types and lengths of classes or tutorials.

Here's a challenge for you: once a day for one week, go on YouTube and find yourself a different workout. Don't know what to search for? Be creative! Try yoga one day, Zumba the next, and maybe even throw some Tai Chi in there. I'd give you some examples, but I think it's more beneficial to search the endless limits yourselves. Happy hunting!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Negative Social Networking

If you spend a considerable amount of time browsing social media, you're often subjected to useless information about the lives of friends and family members. While people often update positive changes in their lives, it seems that for every positive post, there are two negative posts. Whether it's a way to seek pity or attention, or they're just plain pessimistic, reading negative posts can have a detrimental effect on your own mood. According to research, humans are more innately drawn to negative news, and are more likely to respond by changes in mood. 

Here's what you should take from this:  If you think you might be someone who is guilty of posting too much negativity via your social networks, try to cut down. If you find that your news feed is littered with complaints and unnecessary negative posts, either hide those people from your feed, or simply unfollow/unfriend them. Communicating via social networking and establishing/maintaining relationships is meant to be a positive experience, and a couple of negative posts can subtly throw off your psyche. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Integrating Healthy Inspiration into your Online Life

For many of us, social media is a way to get away from things we should be doing. In the context of exercise, it's much easier to spend your free time at the computer instead of going for a run. But, social media can be used as a tool to get you inspired and informed. Here's a few tips to using social media to your advantage:

"Like" some health & fitness companies and organizations on Facebook. As you sit and idly scroll through your news feed to see what nonsense your friends are posting, you could find yourself coming across healthy recipes or inspirational exercise photos that are frequently posted by many health & fitness pages. It might just be enough to get you out of your computer chair. Some good pages to "Like" are Greatist, Everyday Health, and MindBodyGreen.

Start a health blog! There's nothing more motivating than being able to share your positive experiences. Keeping a blog about your health and fitness goals and progress can help keep you on track and give you something to be proud of. Tumblr is a good blogging site that has a whole community of health bloggers known as "fitblrs." With the ability to follow other blogs, you'll have an endless supply of ideas and inspiration at your fingertips.

Do as much research as you can. An enjoyable and rewarding way to pass the time while sitting at the computer is to try and discover new health & fitness resources. You'd be surprised how many sites are out there that are dedicated to catering to a healthy audience. There are even social media platforms designed as communities for fitness enthusiasts (Try Fitocracy, for example). Finding new things is a great way to stay motivated and inspired.

Go ahead and try out these tips. Let me know what you find! Also, if you're not at all inspired by what you find, let me know why!

Monday, October 22, 2012

"You don't need to be on a diet..."

Things ignorant people do not understand about my decision to be healthy:

I do not think I am overweight. More importantly, not all diets are designed for weight loss. Yes, I initially wanted to lose weight, but what I was more concerned with was my percent of body fat. Cutting out unhealthy foods meant that I wouldn’t be consuming the unhealthy sugars and carbs that contribute to belly fat, so the weight loss is an indication that I am sticking to my healthy eating habits.
Eating healthy boosts my immune system. Before making the commitment to be healthier, I had an awful immune system. I had initially blamed it on other factors (lack of sleep, genetics, etc.). However, what was really to blame was my poor nutrition and exercise habits. While I used to get very ill at least three times a year, I have not had a fever or bad cold in almost a year.
My digestive system greatly benefits. I am not ashamed to say that I have struggled with poor digestion since I was very young. Again, it was something I blamed on genetics, and I thought that since it was a lifetime issue, there was nothing I’d be able to do about it. It really got in the way of my daily life, and it was something that was constantly on my mind. Only about a month into eating healthy, my digestion was almost normal, and I couldn’t believe it. I resolved an issue I’ve been having for 20 years just by changing my eating habits.
My work habits have increased. I’ve always been the worst procrastinator when it comes to school work. I’d push everything to the last minute, get really stressed out, and then when I sat down to actually do the work I could not focus on it at all. Since becoming healthier, that has changed. I’m more motivated, have the necessary energy to get stuff done, and I can focus much better. Best of all, I am a lot less likely to stress out. 
I am 10x happier. If this isn’t a good enough reason to be healthy, I don’t know what else to tell you. Not only do the positive changes in my body and daily routine make me happy, but eating healthy foods directly effects the chemicals in the brain that influence mood. When you eat unhealthy foods consistently and dont get proper nutrients, you create an imbalance that contributes to mood swings and depression. Not only that, but feeling healthy increases confidence and motivation. You need to feel good about yourself in mind, body, and spirit before you can truly be happy. For me, being healthy and active does that. 

One thing is for certain: You won’t understand the innumerable benefits to eating healthy until you actually try it. So try it. Even after a week, you’ll start to notice the differences. And don’t let anyone tell you that it’s pointless.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

3 Health & Fitness Resources I Love

By now we all know I spend a bulk of my time being nerdy when it comes to health & fitness, that is to say while other people are reading tabloids, I'm scrolling eagerly through the Health section of Mashable. Needless to say, the collection of sites I've bookmarked is staggering. Here are a few of my favorites:

1. Greatist

I've said it before, and I'll say it again:  This website is perfect for everyone. Split into three main sections--fitness, nutrition, and happiness--these articles are written in a way that is informative, easy to read, and funny. Their ability to cater to a large audience really drives home the importance of remaining healthy in all aspects of life. Whether you're trying to make a few healthy choices here and there, or you're going all-out Health Guru, Greatist is absolutely worth checking out. Oh and before I forget... #imagreatist. Don't worry, you'll get it.

2. PaleOMG

Run by the hilarious and amazingly athletic Juli Bauer, this blog is your go-to spot for Paleo recipes. Not on a paleolithic diet? Don't worry, me either. I am, however, gluten-free, and that's a major component of the Paleo diet. Gluten-free or not, these recipes are amazing. I promise, you won't even know that you're eating healthy. Not to mention, Juli is hilarious. I can't even get through a recipe without cracking a smile at her random anecdotes and sarcastic remarks. As a matter of fact, I'm reading a post about Pumpkin Pie Bars right now, laughing and drooling all at the same time. Check it out!

3. Fitsugar

This site has a category for everything. From beginner fitness tips to vegan recipes to even celebrity weight loss, you'll always find yourself learning something new. Best of all, they have many articles geared towards those leading a busy lifestyle, who maybe doesn't have a lot of time to change their habits or incorporate a new diet. For example, an article published today:  3 Mantras to Make your Commute a Meditation. Take a little tour and explore all the different categories. It'll keep you busy for hours. Makes for a great Friday night! Well... maybe that's just me.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Thryve - A new way to track meals

A new app, Thrive, for iPhone was released this week under the Health & Fitness category. While it may seem Thryve is much like some apps that were released before, this app has a different feel and a different purpose than others. Focusing primarily on food logging, Thryve allows the user to track the foods they eat, however, what makes this app different is that the purpose is to not count calories but rather to track your meals and how they make you feel. Having a digestive system as frustrating as mine, I was thrilled about this app and downloaded it right away. 

Right off the bat, I loved the look and feel of the app. After taking a picture of the salad I had for lunch, the app asked me to input the ingredients of my salad. What is usually a tedious process in other apps took me only about 30 seconds. Then, it asked me how big of a portion my meal was. Finally, it showed me a breakdown of the different types of food I was eating and gave me a score based on my balance of foods. Later, it will ask me to record how I feel. I then pulled up my graph for today to see the breakdown of my food for today, which will adjust with each meal. Even more impressive is suggestions of what to eat more of today, which in my case is fruit and protein. Below are a couple screen shots that I took.

Monday, October 1, 2012


About a year ago I went gluten-free because of some stomach problems I've been having since I was young. To my surprise, this actually solved the problem. I had initially started reading about the benefits of going gluten free and the symptoms of a gluten intolerance via one of the health websites that I follow. Ever since, the internet has been my main resource for maintaining this diet, which can be insanely difficult while at school. Because of my gluten intolerance, I can't eat almost 80% of what is served here. Luckily, I follow many websites that not only keep me informed on better ways to eat healthy and gluten free, but also keep me motivated. Some of the websites I follow are PaleOMG, Nom Nom Paleo, and PaleoAtCollege.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Scholarly Decisions at the Campus Dining Hall

This may be specific to the University of Hartford dining halls, but the takeaway can be applied to many college campuses. 

Our dining hall, offering unlimited food and multiple options, is called the University Commons. Upon entering Commons, you surrender your appetite to the Aramark chefs. Passing by those plates of stale food, you scan your options, hoping for your favorites. Three grilled cheeses and two baked potatoes later, you’re ready to vomit into your bowl of banana cream pie. Sure, you want to eat better, but that means heading for the salad bar each and every time you go to Commons, right? Nope. Just making these simple swaps can prevent you from slipping into another Commons Coma:

Water it up. Yeah, you’ve heard it a million times, but this time it includes kicking those diet sodas and iced teas to the curb, too. A study out of Yale shows that artificial sweeteners used in diet drinks may actually contribute to weight gain and cause you to crave unhealthy foods. Water, on the other hand, promotes faster metabolism and regular digestion, and we all know those factors are key when it comes to Commons.

Peace, grill line. In case you haven’t noticed, Commons kicked the grilled chicken off the grill and into the sandwich and salad bar. That means the only chicken you can get from the grill comes deep fried and covered in bread. How about this: ditch the grill line, and get yourself a grilled chicken wrap stuffed with all the healthy essentials. Your stomach will be happy, and you won’t be burping up that extra grease in your next class. Besides, I think it’s fair that we all boycott the grill line for taking away our beloved quesadillas.

Cheerios for dessert. Good move, Commons, placing the dessert buffet so we’re forced to walk by it at least three times. Those cookies can be pretty tempting, but are they really worth all that extra sugar? Turn right around and head for the cereal bar, but be sure to avoid those sneaky sugar-packed cereals. Even raisin bran has an unnecessary amount of sugar. Cheerios have only 100 calories per serving and have less than a gram of sugar. Best of all, they have whole grains and protein that keep you healthy and feeling full.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Blog Change

So I've changed the general topic and title of my blog. Since I had a broad range of interests, I figured I hone in on one interest and then relate it to social media. Since I typically am aiming for a career in the health and fitness industry working with social media, it makes the most sense to blog primarily about that.

Health 2.0 is the new title (which is apparently also the name of a conference), and the posts from now on will pertain to the impact social media has on the field of health and fitness.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

My World of Text

So the other day I found this website called Your World of Text, and it's pretty much a collaborative empty space where people can type anything. You create a "world" and you can share the link with anyone, giving them access. Some people use it as a guestbook so visitors to their website can sign it, and some use it as a private log for their thoughts, setting the visibility so only they can view and edit it.

Thinking that this was a pretty neat idea, I created a world of my own. My initial expectations were that if I had shared this link through my various social media outlets, I would have a mess on my hands in terms of immature content and people just trying to be funny. Either way, I shared the link and sat at my computer ready to erase any vulgar things people were bound to write.

However, only two hours later I came back and was completely surprised at what people had written. People shared inspirational quotes, fears of theirs, and simple thoughts that they otherwise might have kept to themselves. The end result had me thinking a lot about the benefits of the internet and social media as an outlet for feelings and ideas without having to reveal your identity.

Click here to see the page. However, it's no longer editable. People wrote some pretty awesome things.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Minimizing Cost; Maximizing Rewards

In my communication theory class this week, we talked about the Social Exchange Theory. With this theory, the idea is that we are constantly seeking to minimize cost and maximize rewards with our relationships. The "minimizing cost" aspect of this theory doesn't necessarily refer to the amount of time, effort, or money put into a relationship (although it could), but rather the negative aspects of a relationship or the other person in the relationship themselves. A lot of people will be quick to defend themselves in saying that they don't look for a significant other that's better than the one they're currently with. However, in this theory and in human nature it is a lot of times our instinct to be always looking over our shoulder for the next best thing.

Naturally, this got me thinking a lot about social media and computer-mediated communication. Has the introduction of social networks and online dating sites increased the presence of the Social Exchange Theory? Online dating sites are all about maximizing rewards and minimizing cost, aren't they? People log onto those sites hoping to find the person that they are the most compatible with, and they'll browse through hundreds of profiles looking for that perfect person. Does the search really stop when they find a significant other?

Avoiding the "Freshman Fifteen"

The summer leading up to your big debut as a college student, you were probably forced into having the same monotonous conversation with every friend and relative about your plans for college. Along with the amount of times someone thought you said "Harvard," even more frustrating are the amount of jokes made about the dreaded "Freshman 15." Before long, people have you thinking it's not only an epidemic, but that it's completely unavoidable.

The truth is, switching to a college lifestyle is a shock to the system in many ways. Sleep patterns are thrown through a loop, stress is at an all-time high, and you're left to fend for yourself. So while people are quick to blame dining services for their unintended weight gain, it's not so much the quality of the food as it is the change in habits and lack of good choices. If you're adamant about proving your relatives wrong and coming back for the holidays looking better than ever, there's just a few things you need to avoid.

First off, rid your dorm room of any unhealthy snacks. Procrastinating and eating go hand-in-hand, and it can be pretty impossible to focus on work when you know there's a full bag of Chips Ahoy under your bed. Instead, try keeping healthy snacks in your room. All natural foods like raw nuts and granola can satisfy that mid-study craving without sending you into a sugar rush and throwing your mind off track even more.

Perhaps one of the biggest mistakes college students make is eating late at night. Irregular sleeping patterns cause the body stress alone, and when the metabolic cycles are also thrown off it just makes sleep patterns more irregular. But while it's not always so much what time you eat that makes a difference, it's the types of food we're likely to eat late at night that are the problem. Next time you're feeling that itch to go get a Konover sandwich at 1 in the morning, try to distract yourself. Better yet, avoid the late-night hunger pangs by adding more protein and fiber into your dinner. An extra helping of chicken or beans are likely to keep you satisfied longer.

While eating healthier is a challenge in itself, it's also important to stay active. Even though you might think the hike to Auerbach and back is more than enough exercise for one day, it's not enough to keep off the pounds. Besides, exercise has great benefits that might even boost your GPA while lowering your BMI. Exercise releases endorphins, which are known fighters of stress. Going for a short run every day can be enough to melt away the stress, keep off the fat, and leave you feeling energized and ready to work.

Back to those jokes you're hearing about the "Freshman 15." It's likely Uncle Johnny wasn't referring to all the over-eating you'd be doing, but rather all the over-drinking. Thus we have the culprit in so many cases of the Freshman 15: Alcohol. If the risk of slipping grades and getting written up isn't enough to sway you from drinking three nights a week, let it be the risk of the slowly developing "beer gut."

It's not so bad. All you have to do is avoid unhealthy snacks, late night eating, lack of exercise, and excessive drinking. It may seem like a challenge, but you'll be well on your way to having the last laugh at the family holiday party.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

CMM 290: Intro to Social Media

This semester I'm taking a Social Media course that's being offered for the first time at the University of Hartford. I'm really excited about it, as I've been leaning more and more towards a career path based around social media. One of our assignments is to start a blog in which we will be required to post in at least twice a week for the rest of the semester.

I think I'll take this opportunity to delve a little deeper into the areas of study that I haven't had courses in lately, specifically with my Gender Studies minor. While I'll still be focusing on communications, it'll be a good way to challenge myself to encompass all of my academic interests. For instance, instead of just blogging about sexual politics, I could blog about how people are using social media to communicate about sexual politics and the ways in which the messages are interpreted via CMC.

Anyway, this is the first post of many. All of the posts for the course will be tagged with #cmm290.
Here we go!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Stigma & HIV/AIDS

This is also a paper I wrote for my Sexuality & Social Conflict class at the University of Hartford in Fall 2011.

I only knew my Uncle Danny for the first three years of my life. Memories I have are hazy, and most are emotional anecdotes from before my time. Even though I did not get a chance to get to know him, my uncle remains an integral part of my thinking, and a heavy part of my heart. You see, when Danny was young, he began to question his own sexuality, noticing that he was attracted to other boys instead of girls. Even at such a young age, he knew that what he was feeling went against the morals of society, and he knew it was something he must keep hidden. However, this forced the emotional damage to cut deeper, and horrible bouts of depression ensued. By the age of 15, Danny was running away from home for long periods of time. “We had no idea when he’d be back. Sometimes we even began to think he was dead,” my mother recounts. Danny found refuge in various underground societies of people like himself: oppressed and depressed homosexual men forced to live a life of shame and secrecy. So many of these lost individuals participated in recreational drug use and unprotected sex with relatively random men. It was in the early 80’s, only a matter of years later, that Danny was diagnosed with one of the biggest threats to humanity at the time: HIV. With the lack of healthcare or knowledge about the disease, and with very little support from society, Danny was left in his final years to battle the disease in his own bed at home. My entire family watched as his body became increasingly emaciated, and finally his painful death in 1993.

 So, yes, I had mentioned that Danny remains an integral part of my thinking, and in me his story ignites anger, fear, and a yearning to understand and change the way society thinks and reacts. The important thing to remember is that I am not alone in these feelings; that events and stories like these have incited anger in people throughout history, sparking social movements that rise up against the values that have been ingrained in our society for so long. So begs the question, how can a simple opinion shared by a majority of people have such a devastating and revolutionary effect on a society? I’ll illustrate my interpretation using two of some of the biggest major threats to the sexual freedom of American society: HIV/AIDS and the more contemporary debate over marriage equality. Social movements, especially those on HIV/AIDS and marriage equality, involve a constant power struggle between multiple structures on both sides of the debate, and both sides are ignited and influenced by the all-too-powerful existence of stigma.

The Road to Abortion

This was a paper I wrote for my Sexuality and Social Conflict course at the University of Hartford in Fall 2011.

Imagine you are outside of a Planned Parenthood, walking towards the entrance on a casual afternoon. You are greeted first by a mob of angry people, yelling and chanting against the murdering of innocent children. A woman is holding a sign that reads “Abortion is murder!” Another contains a picture of a 2-week-old fetus. A girl calmly walks up to you and says politely, “did you know that a baby begins growing fingernails after only 4 weeks?” Trying your best to ignore this, you walk inside. The waiting room is just like any other waiting room at any other physician’s office, with an assortment of people: some of them looking anxious; others calm. On your left is a girl of only 18-years-old. She's a sex worker. She’s there because during one of her sessions with a regular client, the condom broke, and she was impregnated. Not being able to afford to have a child, and feeling hopeless, she’s deciding to get an abortion. On your right is a young, middle-class married couple. They have three kids and a beautiful home, but after an unintended pregnancy, they decide that they can’t financially support another child, so they too decide to have an abortion. You sit down next to a middle-aged woman, who after long thought decided it was a big health risk for her to have a baby at 48-years-old. Overwhelmed, you think to yourself, “who is right?” Is it the people outside telling you that abortion is murder? Is it the 18-year-old sex worker? Are the decisions made by the married couple and the middle-aged woman responsible ones? You realize that maybe this whole abortion debate isn't just about abortion itself. The debate over abortion is underlined by the very complex subject of sexuality in society, and is shaped by discourse and multiple power structures within our society.

When one thinks of the word sex, it is often that we conjure thoughts and images of the biological makeup of what makes a male or a female, or the sexual act of reproduction. However, when we think of sexuality, we’re often confronted with a myriad of thoughts, because although not everyone knows the actual depth and impact of the concept, most know that it’s a pretty heavy subject. What’s important to know is that sexuality is socially constructed, and as Jeffery Weekes describes it, sexuality is “a bundle of social phenomena that shape erotic life: laws, religion, norms and values, beliefs and ideologies, the social organization of reproduction, family life, identities, domestic arrangements, diseases, violence and love...” (Seidman 2011, p. 19). This social construction of reality creates a discourse about sexuality, which correlates with a number of different social issues on sexuality, shaping it and changing the discourse over time. Foucault explores how discourse about sexuality has changed throughout history and how it affects society as a whole and webs out to affect other aspects of a culture. One of the burning questions Foucault poses is “what led us to show, ostentatiously, that sex is something we hide, to say it is something we silence?” (p. 9). This silence he is implying not only affects the way we think about sex as a society, but it also affects the way we express political and economic power–and as Karl Marx would explain, economics play a leading role in shaping the discourse on sexuality throughout history. What I’m going to explore in this paper is not just how sexual expression has changed over time, but how sexuality has forged a strong connection with power, economics, science, and other aspects of a society mainly through the regulation of reproduction, feeding into the long and heated debate over abortion.