Short Cuts: Nothing is as it seems edition

By | June 30, 2011

Me and Savannah Dooley, making silly open-mouthed-smile faces, and dressed in a startlingly similar fashion, in printed dresses and cardigans.

Love at first sight, OMG.

First, let’s talk about me. Over on xoJane, I’ve written about dudes’ urge to take pictures of their junk, and a really annoying Yoplait commercial (talk about redundancy!), and storing stuff in my bra, and my ongoing sadness over the loss of Huge, and the disgusting misogynist and homophobic rant from a Southwest pilot. Also, on Gaga Stigmata I wrote an analysis of the video for “The Edge of Glory”, using its emphasis on individualism as a theme.

Oh, what’s that picture, you ask? It’s just me and Savannah Dooley, the giant awesome brain behind the aforementioned Huge. I got to have lunch with her and my new West Coast Mom Winnie Holzman while visiting Los Angeles earlier this month, and I am not overstating the matter when I say that they are two of the smartest and nicest people I have ever had the privilege to meet.

Commenter Medea has pointed out this fascinating NYT article about identifying the sex of spotted hyenas. Did you know that female spotted hyenas have erectile appendages that look — and function and even feel — just like a penis and testes? It’s true.

In contrast to a vast majority of mammals, including other hyena species, female spotted hyenas are substantially more aggressive than males, and they are also socially dominant over males. Females are roughly 10 percent larger than males, and this too is a pattern reversed from that seen in a vast majority of other mammals. In these and many other respects, spotted hyenas appear to violate many of the accepted “rules” of mammalian biology… In contrast to other female mammals, including female striped and brown hyenas, the female spotted hyena has no external vaginal opening. Instead, the female’s clitoris is greatly elongated to form a fully erectile “pseudopenis” that is nearly indistinguishable from the male’s phallus.

…Astonishingly, the female spotted hyena urinates, copulates and gives birth through her pseudopenis.

Nature is fascinating, y’all. Medea points out a commenter’s criticism over the use of the term “pseudopenis”, and I have to agree — it sure seems like a functional organ to me. More to the point, this is a wonderful example of how cultural ideology about sex and gender is forcibly applied even in circumstances that seem to defy everything we assume we know about these subjects. We can’t call it a “real” penis not because it doesn’t work like a “real” penis, but simply because it exists on a female animal, and females can’t have penises. It’s almost nonsensical, but it demonstrates how attached we are to our comfortable methods of classification, even when dealing with freaking hyenas.

In Stupid Medical Tricks news, commenter thirtiesgirl has brought us an article on a British study showing that they can “cure” type 2 diabetes by starving people for eight weeks. I mean, they can “cure” some of them, for three months at least, as the researchers only followed the results for that long.

Machiavellian medicine at its finest, folks. Any health issues caused by starvation are irrelevant, as are any long-term effects on metabolism. It is totally cool to abuse the bodies of fat people because obviously fat people can’t be trusted with their bodies in the first place.

There is a colonialism joke in here somewhere, but I’m too depressed to make it.

Diet Coke-heads, be sad: your beverage of choice apparently makes you fatter and may put you at greater risk for type 2 diabetes. This is an interesting companion piece to another recent report showing that faux fats — like the anal-leakage-causing Olestra — also make people fatter.

The data didn’t say why diet sodas might play a role in weight gain, but previous research suggests it has to do with the disconnect between the taste of artificial sugars and their lack of calories. The brain is wired to expect a big load of calories when foods taste sweet or fatty. But because diet foods fail to deliver, it throws the brain out of whack. Studies in animals suggest that artificial sweetener consumption may lead to even more eating and weight gain, perhaps in part because it triggers the body to start storing more calories as fat.

To be clear: I am not into policing people’s food choices for any reason, not even their hypothetical health consequences. However, I do have a problem with diet foods, and my problem is that by buying and eating them, we participate in a culture that disdains good food eaten in self-determined portions, and support an industry that profits by its exploiting customers’ guilt and shame over what they eat and, by extension, how they look. That said, I’ve never been much of a soda-drinker or chip-eater, so it’s fairly easy for me to be principled on this front.

The recent exception to this is Mexican Coca-Cola, which is made with real sugar instead of gross high fructose corn syrup, and which I only just discovered on my last trip to Los Angeles earlier this month. I’ve since learned my local grocery store has them too. So right now I’m drinking like three or four of these a week, which feels deliciously self-indulgent.

Got any links I missed? Drop ’em in the comments.


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