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Wednesday News: Invention revolutionizes women’s health in India; Maya Banks hits...

The Indian sanitary pad revolutionary – Okay, this is one of the most riveting and inspiring stories I’ve read in a while (which may say something about how little I’ve been able to read lately). Arunachalam Muruganantham, who has no college education or specific training — spent years (seriously – he started in 1998) researching, experimenting, innovating, designing, and building a machine that could cheaply manufacture sanitary pads for women in rural India. His commitment to this process is nothing short of extraordinary (some – including his wife, who left him during the process, although they are since reconciled – might call him obsessive). At one point he even fashioned a bladder of goat’s blood on himself so he could test out his prototypes. Subject to gossip, rumors, and ostracism, Muruganantham persevered, and managed to build a machine that is not only easy to use, but it’s easy to learn, which means that it has provided both a product and a source of employment for the women it is meant to help. The only sad part? Muruganantham hasn’t seemed to earn very much from his invention, although now he is focused on a global market.

When Muruganantham looked into it further, he discovered that hardly any women in the surrounding villages used sanitary pads – fewer than one in 10. His findings were echoed by a 2011 survey by AC Nielsen, commissioned by the Indian government, which found that only 12% of women across India use sanitary pads.

Muruganantham says that in rural areas, the take-up is far less than that. He was shocked to learn that women don’t just use old rags, but other unhygienic substances such as sand, sawdust, leaves and even ash.

Women who do use cloths are often too embarrassed to dry them in the sun, which means they don’t get disinfected. Approximately 70% of all reproductive diseases in India are caused by poor menstrual hygiene – it can also affect maternal mortality. –BBC News

Maya Banks Makes It To Jeopardy – Not the author herself, but her books. It’s pretty cool, and possibly an indication that The Book That Shall Not Be Named is helping mainstream other Romances. –Twitter

Highbrow media’s sexist blind spot: Romance novels – Although this post contains no byline, it’s an intelligent meditation on the way the cultural marginalization of Romance reflects a larger issue with the cultural marginalization of women’s voices, as reflected most recently in the new VIDA results. Read it.

The typical excuse for that exclusion is genre, not gender. But those two words have a common root, and are intertwined in many ways. Romance is seen as unserious and frivolous because women are seen as unserious and frivolous, and romance is written largely by women, for women, about concerns traditionally seen as feminine (Jennifer Weiner and Jodi Picoult have made a similar argument about commercial fiction by women). I wouldn’t argue that the LRB and similar publications need to cover romance if they want to get more female book reviewers. But I would say that the mind-set that says that romance novels are automatically trash is linked to the mind-set that prevents these venues from publishing more women writers. –Salon

Berlusconi’s Publishing House Launches Pope Weekly – Am I the only one who’s surprised that the Pope doesn’t have his own magazine? In a marketplace where Christian publishing continues to grow and grow, this isn’t really surprising. And given the fact that the publisher also puts out a gossip magazine, I imagine that part of the agenda here is to reinvigorate the Catholic Church’s popularity among the younger generations. It will be interesting to see how well it sells, and if it will be distributed outside Italy.

Editor Aldo Vitali said Francis’ election a year ago has generated new interest in the papacy and moral and ethical themes that will be highlighted. –ABC News

isn't sure if she's an average Romance reader, or even an average reader, but a reader she is, enjoying everything from literary fiction to philosophy to history to poetry. Historical Romance was her first love within the genre, but she's fickle and easily seduced by the promise of a good read. She approaches every book with the same hope: that she will be filled from the inside out with something awesome that she didnʼt know, didnʼt think about, or didnʼt feel until that moment. And she's always looking for the next mind-blowing read, so feel free to share any suggestions!

10 Comments

  1. Rose
    Mar 05, 2014 @ 04:32:46

    If you use the regular article link rather than the mobile one (or whatever that format was, I’m not sure…) the Salon piece does have a byline – it was written by Noah Berlatsky and published last week.

  2. Helen
    Mar 05, 2014 @ 05:58:04

    I read the story about the sanitary pads yesterday. I was fascinated by the last line of the story. It never would have occurred to me that a product that I can buy without a second thought could have such far ranging consequences.

  3. Kim in Baltimore
    Mar 05, 2014 @ 07:18:26

    Congrats to Maya on “making” it to Jeopardy! Historic romance fans are routing for Eileen Dreyer, who has posted on Facebook her efforts for a tryout on the game show. Eileen brings her publishing knowledge, ER experience, and world travels to the podium …

  4. marjorie
    Mar 05, 2014 @ 08:01:43

    Ah, Rose said what I came here to say. Here’s a better link for the Berlatsky piece:

    http://www.salon.com/2014/02/25/highbrow_medias_sexist_blind_spot_romance_novels/

    It’s really good!

  5. Darlynne
    Mar 05, 2014 @ 10:01:33

    Dave Barry took on 50 Shades in a fairly scathing kind-of review/what I learned piece in Time magazine. While he waded into the trough of “porno for women” (too easy and handy to avoid, apparently) his observations were laugh-out-loud funny. The graphic of Ana’s inner goddess (quoted directly from the book, which I haven’t read) is priceless.

  6. Rebecca (Another one)
    Mar 05, 2014 @ 11:02:00

    I was amazed to find out how much women’s life is controlled by their menstruation without sanitary products. Can’t let people see you bleed, so stop going to school; don’t go to the well for water. A very eye-opening article.

  7. Janine
    Mar 05, 2014 @ 14:34:38

    @Rose: You’re right, the one with his byline recently surfaced on Twitter. The one Robin linked to was one I stumbled on while searching for a different book-related piece in Salon’s search engine, using my laptop, not a mobile phone.

    Incidentally, I’m happy to see Noah got something out of Black Silk as I recommended it to him on Twitter a few months back, along with a couple of Cecilia Grant’s books (one of which he also wrote about at Salon) and one of Pam Rosenthal’s.

    His observations that a sexist blind spot exists where romance novels are concerned are nothing new, but I’m glad to see such a piece at Salon.

  8. Melissa
    Mar 05, 2014 @ 15:28:07

    Thank you for the link to the article on sanitary pads in India. It’s quite shocking and frustrating that such basic needs for women’s health are slow in coming. It reminded me of a news segment I saw on TV about providing solar light to labor clinics in Africa and how that has increased mother and infant survival rates. In places without electricity, women give birth in pitch darkness and their (often minimally trained) midwifes and clinicians must also do the best they can with few supplies and sanitation, while in near total darkness. Here’s a link to an article about the solar suitcases gaining traction in Africa: http://www.cnn.com/2013/02/28/health/cnnheroes-stachel-solar-power/

  9. Ruby Baxx
    Mar 06, 2014 @ 12:56:57

    Wow! That is wonderful but also sad that so many women today don’t have access to so much stuff you and I take for granted. Feeling really blessed and so happy for Maya to do this. Women are on the rise everywhere and I love it! Let’s keep it that way shall we :)

  10. Stumbling Over Chaos :: Lacuna linkity
    Mar 07, 2014 @ 02:01:12

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