The world is currently run by men. What would a female utopia look like?
by Margaret Heffernan
I have just returned from the Women’s March on Washington D.C., an apt moment at which to introduce the essay I wrote on feminist utopias. To a degree I didn’t dare imagine, the March represented at least a utopian moment: a moment when women embraced all the marginalised, trivialised, overlooked, undervalued of the earth. Cynics would ask: what was the programme, what was the strategy, who are the leaders? There was no programme except: turn up. Be counted. Don’t be afraid. And don’t be silent. For many women, that in itself represents utopia: seeing and hearing one another and making an impact. Yes we did.
If you ask most women what their concept of utopia might be, they’ll mostly scoff and look at you as though you’re crazy: we raise the world’s children, wash the world’s clothing, take the world’s parents to the doctor. What makes you think we have time for daydreams? Since the poor of the world are disproportionately female, dreaming of intellectual utopias is a luxury few can afford.
So the literature of utopian thinking by women is sparse and the best of it does not present as idealism. Rather it charts the discovery of joy and vision that women attain through work, through real life – not away from it. The three women who’ve most captured my imagination were tough, rigorous thinkers who found their ideals in life, not away from it. Their utopian dreams aren’t toy cities with make believe rules but conceptual spaces in which they could find freedom. The freedom to be taken seriously. The freedom to think for themselves. The freedom to value what they loved, not what they could own. In their friendships, in their writing and in their work they crafted places and spaces where they could achieve the female utopian ideal: being themselves.
Many, if not most, utopias are defined by who is excluded – women’s utopias are about inclusion. They favour creativity over destruction, relationships over property, nurture over power, and inclusion over status. My three feminist utopians – Mary Wollstonecraft, Charlotte Perkins Girman and Shulamith Firestone – sought their utopias not in fantasies but in their lives. Against exceptional odds, they won freedom and friendships, reason and truth, not by destroying their enemies but creating their own, very real lives.
Most radical of all, Shulamith Firestone dreamed of the eradication of gender as a concept altogether. Decades ahead of her time, she discerned how profoundly the very concept of gender was driven by social norms, none of which was indispensable. She challenges us to imagine that we need be defined by no one but ourselves.
In Washington last weekend, posters and banners proudly quoted from the writings of Mary Wollstonecraft and her French contemporary Olympe de Gouges. The vigorously non-partisan nature of the March would have thrilled Charlotte Perkins Girman who always thought traditional party politics would never deliver for women. And the rich mix of men, women, gay, straight, old, young, transgender and unborn would have brought a smile even to the stern face of Shulamith Firestone. After all, utopias only matter when you bring them to life.
Sometimes people ask me why time seems to move faster as we age.
Recently the question has morphed into something closer to: Is there any way to harness this effect to make certain periods of time move more quickly? As in, for example, the next four years or so. How embroiled in the news should I be? Should I count days? Should I wear a watch?
I’m not a theoretical physicist, and I rarely claim to be. People tend to imagine I know everything about everything involving the nervous system because I went to medical school. So maybe that makes sense in that the “time” we usually talk about is a matter of perception. We conceptualize time through metaphors that project it along a straight line—before and after, long and short, earlier and later—as a function of how our perceptions relate to other perceptions. In the same way, the accuracy of any given clock is only relative to other clocks.
Because time doesn’t clearly exist outside of our own experience of it, there are ways to manipulate that experience. Take peyote, as an example. As one user put it, “Peyote makes time slow down, and at a certain point your whole perception of time vanishes, just because it is not important anymore.” There’s also sensory deprivation. We lose track of time when we’re removed from day-night signals from the sun. The French geologist Michele Siffre popularized this notion in 1962, when he ventured into a cave to study it for two weeks—and then decided to live for a while to examine what he called “the idea of my life.” Deprived of sunlight and clocks, it was an experiment in isolation.
Siffre spent his time writing and reading Plato, sleeping and waking as his body indicated he should. He thought he was doing a reasonable job keeping track of time. At the end of 35 days—by his count—he emerged to find that in fact it had been 60.
I can’t generally advise spending years on peyote or full-time isolation in a cave. The most practical examples of manipulating time perception come from the common observation that the more we think about time, the slower it goes. In his treatise The Principles of Psychology, William James wrote, “A day full of excitement, with no pause, is said to pass ’ere we know it.’ On the contrary, a day full of waiting, of unsatisfied desire for change, will seem a small eternity.”
This is the watched pot that won’t boil. As soon as you go down to the basement and start playing with your model trains, though, there comes the sound of water spilling over onto the stovetop.
That’s the answer that time enthusiast Alan Burdick gave me, too. He’s a staff writer at the The New Yorker, where he covers science. But his personal obsession has long been time––trying to understand it, to exist in ways outside of it, and then, eventually, to embrace it. He now wears a watch. All of this he recounts in his new book, Why Time Flies, and in this week’s episode of If Our Bodies Could Talk:.
So the answer, it seems, is to follow whatever activities really get you lost. I think that means something purposeful and not mundane. Though it may also be mundane. Getting into that sort of state—flow, what the psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls “the secret to happiness”—where you’re totally lost in the moment. When you’re spending more time there, it tends to mean you’re less stressed and more productive, and more likely to be doing something purposeful. Something that makes you feel you’re having an impact on other human lives, ideally in a positive way.
The reason testicles hang outside of the body in the first place is that optimal sperm production requires a temperature roughly 2 degrees lower than in the rest of the body. If it raises to 98 degrees or higher, Shteynshlyuger says, sperm production ceases, which can negatively impact fertility for months. That’s why the penis and scrotum are both designed to control climate.
Shrinkage occurs when tiny muscle fibers in the penis and scrotum automatically contract to draw them closer to body heat. It also takes place whenever the body sends more blood to vital organs — your heart, lungs and brain foremost among them — to preserve heat and energy in the cold. The reason why? Less blood is now sent to your appendages — namely, your fingers, toes and penis, which can wither to half of its normal flaccid size.
There’s no denying it that alcohol over-consumption, binge drinking and alcoholism can have some devastating effects. Nonetheless, alcohol has become so normalized in our society that moderate drinking is considered normal. Now, a new comparison between binge and moderate drinking has raised the question. Is moderate drinking much worse for the body than many of us think?
Moderate consumption – up to 1 drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men.
Binge drinking – 5 or more alcoholic drinks for males or 4 or more alcoholic drinks for females on the same occasion (i.e., at the same time or within a couple of hours of each other) on at least 1 day in the past month.
Heavy alcohol use – binge drinking on 5 or more days in the past month.
It is important to consider that “1 drink” equals to no more than 0.6 ounces of pure alcohol, 12 ounces of beer, or 5 ounces of wine.
The statistics are even more staggering when you consider USDUH’s estimate that 86% of people 18 or over who live in the U.S. consume alcohol. 56% of survey respondents reportedly drank within the last month.
How Harmful Is Moderate Consumption?
Statistics about alcohol misuse may be quite scary. But if you’re not a heavy or binge drinker, do you have to worry? New evidence suggests that even moderate alcohol consumption can be quite harmful.
In the BBC television segment below, doctors explored the difference between binge drinking and moderate drinking. Identical twin brothers each consumed 21 alcohol units. One brother drank 21 units in one night. The other had three drinks per day over the course of one week. The experiment continued for four weeks.
Doctors compared medical tests before and after the experiment. They discovered that moderate drinking was actually quite harmful to the body. Liver stiffness increased by about 25% for both the binge drinker and the moderate-drinking brother. This type of inflammation can lead to an irreversible condition called liver cirrhosis.
Drinking alcohol is very common, regardless of the negative effects on the body. But let’s consider the potential dangers. Mercola reports that alcohol consumption:
Depresses your central nervous system, including the limbic system that controls emotions, the prefrontal cortex that governs reasoning and judgment, and the cerebellum that plays a role in muscle activity and impacts balance.
Increases liver stiffness, which increases your risk of liver cirrhosis.
Diminishes the formation of memories due to ethanol buildup in the brain. Alcohol also causes your hippocampus to shrink, which affects memory and learning.
Promotes systemic inflammation. In other words, your body reacts to alcohol in the same way as it reacts to injury or infection.
Increases stress on your heart, raising your risk for cardiomyopathy, arrhythmias, high blood pressure and stroke.
Significantly increases endotoxin levels. In other words, alcohol causes gut damage allowing bacteria to escape from your gut into your blood stream.
In terms of chronic disease, studies have linked excessive alcohol consumption with an increased risk for poor immune function (which raises your risk for most diseases), pancreatitis and cancer.
A more detailed listing of how alcohol affects all of the body’s systems can be found on Healthline.
Mitigating Health Risks
The effect that alcohol will have on a person differs depending on various factors. These include body weight, amount of body fat and genetic makeup. Other important factors that can mitigate the effects of alcohol consumption are lifestyle choices such as diet and exercise.
“Exercise is a foundational aspect of good health, but may be even more important if you drink alcohol on a regular basis. According to recent research chronic drinkers who exercise five hours a week have the same rate of mortality as those who never drink alcohol, in large part by counteracting the inflammation caused by alcohol.” (source)
Furthermore, alcohol depletes the body of vital nutrients. It is important to ensure that if you drink alcohol, you eat foods rich in nutrients such as Vitamin C, Magnesium and B Vitamins, or take a supplement.
Milk thistle is another beneficial supplement. It contains antioxidants known to help protect the liver from toxins, including alcohol. Researchers found that the antioxidant silymarin found in milk thistle may help to regenerate liver cells.
Alcohol Misuse Impacts More Than the Body
In the U.S. alone, alcohol misuse and alcohol use disorders carry a significant social cost. An estimated $249 billion is spent on lost productivity, health care expenses, law enforcement, and other criminal justice costs.
In addition, there is the issue of codependency. What is codependency? It is a behavioral problem where people in the lives of those who are afflicted with alcohol or drug dependency engage in mutually destructive habits. It typically affects family members, friends or coworkers of heavy drinkers.
Alcohol consumption is a personal choice, similar to the foods one eats and the amount of exercise one gets. It is important to understand, though, that alcohol has many negative health effects. Even though moderate alcohol use is widespread, it does not necessarily mean that it is safe for everyone. Limiting consumption or abstaining altogether is the best way to mitigate the harmful effects on the body.
Some of America’s richest people are spending billions quietly preparing for a global Apocalypse and building boltholes in New Zealand. They include the billionaire hedge-fund pioneer Julian Robertson (third from left) and the Hollywood film director James Cameron (third from right).Others, like Mark Zuckerberg (far left) and Larry Ellison (far right), have chosen Hawaii. They fear nuclear war (inset) and the collapse of western civilisation. Steve Huffman (second from right), co-founder of Reddit, has had laser surgery because he does not want to rely on post-apocalyptic opticians.
You’re all set — your bags were packed long ago, there’s a dozen solid gold coins stashed inside your belt and a pistol strapped round your waist.
There’s no need to say goodbye to the wife and children as they’re already waiting for you 6,000 miles away in New Zealand, having slipped off quietly at the first whiff of global catastrophe.
Now, they’re making themselves comfortable in that fortress home you’ve spent years preparing. They’ve got store-loads of food and enough guns and ammunition to start World War III – which might, anyway, have begun by the time you arrive.
The high-powered motorbike you’ve never used is waiting outside to whisk you to the private airport where your plane sits waiting.
A helicopter-ride at the other end, pull up the drawbridge — yes, you have one — and you’re ready to wait, for years if necessary, for civilisation to return.
Never mind the warnings about stocking up on vegetables after awful weather has ravaged the Mediterranean farming belt. Some of America’s richest people are spending billions quietly preparing for a global Apocalypse.
The world of Doomsday survivalists or ‘Preppers’ — those preparing themselves for total social collapse — is usually associated with wild-eyed eco-beardies hiding in the woods.
Nuclear war is just one of the fears driving the billionaire ‘refugees’
But the existence of a very different group of Preppers was laid bare by a political row in New Zealand this week.
Attracted by a remote First World country that has the potential to be self-sufficient and is on no one’s list of nuclear targets, the super-rich kings of Silicon Valley and Wall Street are buying up vast tracts of its land — in anticipation of the day when they may need to live there.
The controversy has revealed the extraordinary precautions being taken by the mega- rich to ensure that WTSHTF — a crude survivalist acronym for ‘when the **** hits the fan’ — they and their loved ones will be safe and comfortable.
What the catastrophe will precisely be remains unclear, but possibilities include a devastating asteroid impact, giant earthquake, nuclear war, civil war, pandemic, zombie invasion and the Second Coming.
Tellingly, the geeks of Silicon Valley appear to be most worried that it will be a struggle between rich and poor in a world economy turned upside down by new technology — with them as the main targets.
The row in New Zealand involves scores of mega-rich Americans but has specifically centred on Peter Thiel, the billionaire founder of the internet payment system PayPal and an early investor in Facebook.
Thiel, a libertarian supporter of Donald Trump, paid $10million for a 477-acre lakeside estate in the country’s beautiful but isolated Southern Alps, which provided much of the staggering landscape in the Lord Of the Rings and Hobbit films.
Amid a public outcry over the invasion of U.S. internet and finance billionaires, the New Zealand government has released papers detailing the ‘exceptional circumstances’ under which the American tycoon was quietly given a New Zealand passport.
It is difficult to understand how this complied with the rules, including one that insists foreigners must live there for three years beforehand.
Mr Thiel has gushed about his ‘great pride’ in his new citizenship and how he has ‘found no other country that aligns more with my view of the future’.
Perhaps what he really meant was exposed, after one of his Silicon Valley chums, the venture capitalist Sam Altman, revealed that, at the first sign of global disaster, he and Thiel would fly to New Zealand.
Other uber-rich Americans who have recently bought homes there include the billionaire hedge-fund pioneer Julian Robertson and the Hollywood film director James Cameron.
Local estate agents say their U.S. clients rarely intend to live in New Zealand, but cite reasons for their purchases such as the toxic presidential election and the spate of mass shootings in America…