New book discussing Flibanserin: ‘Big Pharma, Women, and the Labour of Love’

There has been a lot of discussion recently about Flibanserin. In fact, I’m probably going to write something myself about about it over the next few days. In particular, what I think is the overlooked rise of Big Momma Pharma (mainstream women’s organisations pushing a particular matriarchal template of neo-liberal entitlement as exemplified by certain sexual health products). The Even The Score campaign with the American FDA over Flibanserin is a good example of this I would suggest.

In the meantime, here is a new book which discusses Flibanserin. As it has only just been published, the subject is very of the moment, I haven’t read it yet as the paperback doesn’t come out until September (though I may see if I can get a review copy and put a review up here):

“I’m excited to announce the publication of my book: Big Pharma, Women, and the Labour of Love.

It’s available through the University of Toronto Press website as well as on Amazon:

Description/ reviews:

In 2010, Thea Cacchioni testified before the US Food and Drug
Administration against flibanserin, a drug proposed to treat low
sexual desire in women, dubbed by the media the “pink Viagra.” She was
one of many academics and activists sounding the alarm about the lack
of science behind the search for potentially lucrative female sexual
enhancement drugs.

In her book, Big Pharma, Women, and the Labour of Love, Cacchioni
moves beyond the search for a sexual pharmaceutical drug for women to
ask a broader question: how does the medicalization of female
sexuality already affect women’s lives? Using in-depth interviews with
doctors, patients, therapists, and other medical practitioners,
Cacchioni shows that, whatever the future of the “pink Viagra,”
heterosexual women often now feel expected to take on the job of
managing their and their partners’ sexual desires. Their search for
sexual pleasure can be a “labour of love,” work that is enjoyable for
some but a chore for others.

An original and insightful take on the burden of heterosexual norms in
an era of compulsory sexuality, Cacchioni’s investigation should open
up a wide-ranging discussion about the true impact of the
medicalization of sexuality.

Thea Cacchioni’s book is well thought-out, beautifully written, and
important. Her research shows that women themselves are not clamoring
for a pink Viagra. If anything, they deserve a break from the labors
of love that they perform.

Meika Loe, Women’s Studies Program, Colgate University”

The ABC of Queer: A for Activist

Queer activism is one of the two or three most confused concepts in queer culture.

On a basic level a queer activist should be someone who is campaigning for the fair and equal treatment of queer people in society (the rebel with a brick against the the big straight person). They should also be promoting the increased visibility and awareness of queer people in society; usually by exemplifying queer lifestyles and modelling queer identities (queer people are everyday people). This seems perfectly laudable. It’s also seems clear that there are many people who identify as queer or queer-variant who still feel oppressed or silenced in society, despite claims for increasing tolerance.

The first confusing difficulty stems from the fact that Queer isn’t the same as Lesbian, Homosexual, Asexual, et cetera… Or for that matter Female, Trans*, Male… It’s neither a sexual orientation spectrum nor a gendered orientation spectrum identity, but a socio-political-cultural attitude embraced by certain sexual and gendered minority people to their identities.

In that sense, it’s remarkably similar to Gay which is probably why it has such a historical antipathy to it (younger sibling to older). It’s particularly embraced by people who have considerable economic, social and/or educational capital (so the simple rebel against the big man or big woman narrative is a bit problematic). You will often therefore hear such queer activists talking on behalf of queer communities (queers of colour, Irish queers, crip queers, et cetera) where it’s really unclear that they can actually speak for those communities (because it’s moot whether anybody, certainly not everybody, in those communities would define as queer).

The second confusing difficulty stems from the fact that queer activism is rarely about exemplifying queer lifestyles and modelling queer identities in themselves. Queer activism grew up as a politicized alternative to mainstream gay culture, critiquing what it saw as its lack of challenge to dominant, orthodox heterosexual norms and behaviors (heteronormativity and homonormativity). In particular, queer activism sought to incorporate insights from feminism, post-colonialism and post-structuralism to reject the sexual and gender orthodoxies of its time.

However, over the last 25 years, Queer activism has established its own orthodoxy often acting as ‘purity police’ for sexual and gendered codes of behavior and conduct (see CHARMED CIRCLE). Therefore queer activism in this mode is increasingly about judging others for their specific identities and behavior (so identity is never quotidian and everyday). The irony being that queer activism is now more concerned to attack LGBT identities they feel are unworthy (see WEBER) than heterosexual oppression, often quite viciously – in some situations it becomes difficult to judge whether the queer attack or the heterosexual oppression are more invidious.

Concurrent to this has been the development of a repertoire of contentious tools to judge other sexual and gender minority individuals (see CALLING OUT, CHECKING YOUR PRIVILEGE, THE POLITICS OF SNIDE, et cetera).

The Boys from the Brum: Establishing a male canon in the reinvention of the Birminham School

The Birmingham Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies project (to mark to 50th anniversary of the setting up of the original centre) has placed 55 CCCS stencilled occasional papers in their archive.

Given the place that the Birmingham School holds nationally and internationally in Cultural Studies it’s hard not to see this as establishing a canon for what was core in contemporary cultural studies that the Birmingham School was concerned with. It is suggested that other papers will be added, but these are the texts that have been chosen as representative of their time (spanning nearly two decades).

Looked at in terms of discourse and reception (something the Birmingham School was keen to emphasise) what comes across is a male obsession to marry Marxism and French Theory to study male subcultures (which is quite different from race or class). Popular culture is privileged (particularly if it involved new media), but sexuality and gender are peripheral (less than 15% of the chosen papers are by women).

I’m not meaning to be over-critical but work by figures such as Dick Hebdidge simply hasn’t worn well (yet he has four papers; more than half the number of papers accorded to women). It doesn’t place the Birmingham School in a good light; surely there was work by a broader range of researchers, with a broader range of interests and ideologies over nearly two decades, to present as representative?

Otherwise (for an early-career academic who admires the Birmingham School very much; Allon White is a particular influence of mine) it’s hard not to feel a curious whiff of sexism rise up from these stencilled papers.