Wednesday News: Invention revolutionizes women’s health in India; Maya Banks hits Jeopardy; Salon defends Romance; and the Pope gets his own magazine

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