Friday Double Dose: Skin Color and Money, Hot Pink Cigarettes, Body Image and Race

By Christine Cupaiuolo — February 16, 2007

Abstinence Only Sex Ed Finds Few Scientific Fans: “There is no good scientific evidence that teaching abstinence to teenagers will by itself prevent unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, say the authors of a recent study. Yet they found that comprehensive sex education is declining and that more youngsters are being taught nothing more than abstinence,” reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

States Fund Anti-Abortion Advice: “At least eight states — including Florida, Missouri and Pennsylvania — use public funds to subsidize crisis pregnancy centers, Christian homes for unwed mothers and other programs explicitly designed to steer women away from abortion. As a condition of the grants, counselors are often barred from referring women to any clinic that provides abortions; in some cases, they may not discuss contraception either,” reports the Los Angeles Times.

Love Marriages in India Break Usual Arrangements: “When Shilpa Shetty, a Bollywood star, won the ‘Celebrity Big Brother’ reality television show in Britain recently, her mother’s first piece of advice was predictable: Seize the moment! Land yourself a husband!,” writes Chicago Tribune foreign correspondent Laurie Goering. “Parents just about everywhere are notorious for urging their offspring to settle down and produce grandchildren. But in India, where family-negotiated marriages remain the norm, ensuring that their children marry well is an obsession.”

The good news is that as women gain education and financial independence, they “are financially empowered to move away from the doormat status they had in marriage in earlier times,” said Shobha De, a Mumbai writer of racy novels, authority on love and author of “Spouse: The Truth About Marriage.”

But at this point, newspapers are still filled with matrimonial ads written by parents seeking suitable matches for their children — the most desirable brides (and grooms) must come from high-status families and have fair-skin. Which leads us to …

Who’s the Fairest of Them All?: Over at Feministing, Ann points to an Indian commercial for Fair & Lovely skin whitener. She writes:

High-end whiteners are also sold by Chanel and Shiseido in the U.S. But they’re huge in countries like China, India and Malaysia, where they help perpetuate the idea that whiter skin = more respect = success in life. They also pose health risks.

As Salon points out, the popularity of Fair & Lovely (the best-selling whitening cream in the world) provides fodder for a debate about whether marketing to lower-income populations helps or hurts them. […]

But Fair & Lovely isn’t a step up or solution; it only enforces the prejudices that contribute to economic and social inequality.

Skin Color and Salary: Legal immigrants in the United States with a lighter skin tone made more money than those with darker skin, according to a new study by Vanderbilt University professor of law and economics. Using data from 2,084 men and women who participated in the 2003 New Immigrant Survey, Joni Hersch found that immigrants with the lightest skin color earned, on average, 8 percent to 15 percent more than immigrants with the darkest skin tone. After accounting for other factors, discrimination, said Hersch, was the strongest explanation for the salary difference.

Death is so Hot in Pink!: R.J. Reynolds introduces Camel No. 9, a “light and luscious” cigarette marketed to women. “Of course, advertising like this is nothing new,” writes Elizabeth Hemmerdinger. “Though it does seem even more ridiculous now that we know how deadly cigarette smoking is — and how particularly dangerous it is to women.”

Big, Beautiful and Not White: It’s the third week in a row for linking to a body-image story by the Washington Post’s Robin Givhan. This time around, check out the write-up by Tracy Clark-Flory.

St. Louis Surgeon Transplants Ovary: “A renowned infertility expert in suburban St. Louis transplanted a whole ovary from Lagos’ sister into [Joy] Lagos, a step that could enable her to have children. Dr. Sherman Silber completed the transplant Feb. 5, after performing the same procedure between twins last month,” reports the AP (via the Washington Post). Betsy Taylor writes:

The operations are believed to the first whole-ovary transplants ever done in the United States. Surgeons in China reported a successful transplant earlier this decade, but offered scant details.

The surgery could restore normal hormone function for women going through early menopause, whether because of cancer treatments or other, unexplained causes. It also could mean that one day, a woman with cancer could freeze an ovary, undergo chemotherapy and radiation, and have her own ovary returned later to restore her fertility.

Because the sisters are closely matched biologically, the recipient does not need immune-suppressing drugs to prevent organ rejection. “If they’re not a close match, we’re not ready to tackle that yet,” Silber said.

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