The Trump Effect on Sexual Health in Africa

By Robert Wyrod

As the Trump presidency enters its third month, we are beginning to see the implications for the U.S. role in promoting global sexual health. Trump’s reinstatement and expansion of the Mexico City Policy, aka the global gag rule, has rightfully received much attention. By prohibiting U.S. foreign aid from funding any organization providing or promoting abortions, it severely limits America’s ability to improve sexual health in the Global South. For the many health clinics across Africa that rely on U.S. funding for reproductive health and family-planning services, this may likely mean dramatically scaling back services or shuttering clinics.

Efforts are underway to challenge the reinstatement, most prominently the Global Health, Empowerment, and Rights (HER) Act led by Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH). But there is another, less-discussed issue that could have an even greater impact on sexual health worldwide, especially in Africa. Will Trump defund the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief? The PEPFAR program, launched in 2004 during the George W. Bush administration, is the largest health initiative in history focused on fighting a single disease. To date, over $70 billion has been spent on PEPFAR programs, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa. This makes PEPFAR a tempting target for the current administration, especially given Trump’s deep skepticism of foreign aid. In mid-January, the Trump transition team sent a series of pointed questions to the State Department about U.S. aid to Africa, asking “Is PEPFAR becoming a massive, international entitlement program?” Continue reading “The Trump Effect on Sexual Health in Africa”

Advertisements

Fix your Face!

Featuring: Erynn Masi de Casanova & Kjerstin Gruys

Last fall, the New York Times ran an op-ed piece (here) about beauty, or really, about ugliness.  We asked scholars, Erynn Casanova and Kjerstin Gruys, to write responses to the article and comment on the 2013 book that prompted the NYT commentary.  Both responses are below. We thank them for graciously contributing to this intellectual conversation.   Blurry face_2.25.16


By Erynn Masi de Casanova

Ugly.  Some words sound like what they mean.  We avoid calling people ugly in polite conversation, but are usually bold enough to whisper it behind their backs.  Julia Baird’s recent op-ed in The New York Times raises the question of how children are socialized into beliefs about and reactions to a less-than-lovely appearance.  As a case study, she chooses a children’s book based on the real-life experiences of its author, Robert Hoge, which is a memoir recounting his childhood with a large facial tumor and distorted limbs. His book is simply titled Ugly.  Baird wonders how children come to learn about and take part in a system of “looksism,” and “why we talk about plainness, but not faces that would make a surgeon’s fingers itch.”

Surgery came immediately to my mind on reading Baird’s column.  Elective surgery to alter the human body’s appearance goes by many names.  Plastic surgery emphasizes the malleability of the body and its parts.  Aesthetic surgery makes it sound as if we can turn our bodies into works of art.  Cosmetic surgery conjures makeup rather than sedation and scalpels.  And while Baird acknowledges that surgeons might want to fix faces like Mr. Hoge’s, she doesn’t mention that the possibilities cosmetic surgery opens up also affect social judgements of appearance in everyday life. Continue reading “Fix your Face!”