Monica Potts

Monica Potts is a freelance writer, and former staff member of The American Prospect. A fellow with the New America Foundation Asset Building Program, her work has appeared in The New York Times, the Connecticut Post and the Stamford Advocate. She also blogs at PostBourgie.

Recent Articles

Legislating Motherhood.

A few posts down, a commenter took issue with the idea that ordered bed rest was unequivocally bad in the case of a woman who smoked in the beginning of her pregnancy, had problems, but wanted to leave the hospital because she had a job and two young kids. The doctor went to court, which ordered she stay at the hospital because the fetus was endangered. She is now appealing. Weboy says: As a feminist, I'm loath to suggest that judges should have this kind of control over women... and I think our attempts to micromanage how women act during pregnancy is coercive in the extremes... but ... but... it's the smoking that's hanging me up here, I have to admit. And I don't think the justified outrage of judges' ordering women around quite answers the questions raised about health risks related to smoking here. I wish it did, at least for me. While smoking is a really bad thing to do while you're pregnant, you can't say it's absolutely deadly. If it were a generation of kids, including me,...

Learning to be Bad at Math.

A University of Chicago study has found that girls may be learning math anxiety from female teachers who have qualms about their own math skills. Sian L. Beilock , an associate professor in psychology, and her colleagues studied students of both sexes in the classes of 17 different teachers, most of whom were women, and found that the female students of the female teachers who thought they were not good at math were more likely to agree by the end of the year that boys were better at it. Those girls also scored worse on math tests. "It's actually surprising in a way, and not. People have had a hunch that teachers could impact the students in this way, but didn't know how it might do so in gender-specific fashion," Beilock said in a telephone interview. Part of what drove the study was that elementary education majors in college are more anxious about math than students in any other college major, Beilock said. If anything, this is an argument for better teacher training. It wold be...

Smoking While Pregnant Now a Crime?

A Florida woman ordered by a court to stay on bed rest in a hospital she wanted to leave is still waiting for a ruling on her appeal. Samantha Burton had a miscarriage three days after a judge ordered her to remain at the hospital. But the Associated Press updated the story with the new information that Burton smoked during the first six months of her pregnancy and the doctor had told her to stop. What if any role smoking played in the miscarriage is probably hard to tell, but it's clear now that it may have played a role in her doctor's disapproval. And it reinforces the asymmetry in the case: Smoking is just as harmful for an adult as it is for a fetus, but no one orders you to stop smoking and resorts to the court system when you refuse. Adults have a right to refuse medical treatment, but if this order stands, women don't have a right to refuse any as long as they're pregnant: The judge ruled the best interests of the fetus overrode Burton's privacy rights, but (her attorney)...

Exercising and Transportation Policy.

It doesn't take much exercise to maintain health. Several studies have shown that, and the newest is published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. It found that women who walked at a moderate pace through middle age were healthier in their post-70 years, and women who walked at a brisk pace regularly had even more benefits. That's all it takes: walking. Which is why our image of an ideal healthy person -- the women on TV with six-pack abs and the gym rat men who are always guzzling protein shakes -- can sometimes be counterproductive. If you want to be really fit, you have to work out a lot, and the workouts have to be strenuous. But if you just want to avoid a heart attack, the steps are really easy. Moreover, the studies boost lifestyle changes more than they do to gym memberships. Office workers might find bringing sneakers and walking to work or during their lunch breaks more convenient and realistic than rushing to the gym in the evening and finding an empty treadmill. It also...

Giving Parents Information on Food.

Perhaps not surprisingly, a study published in the journal Pediatrics shows that parents choose meals with fewer calories for their children when calories are posted on the menus. The study found the meals parents chose when given calorie information had about 20 percent fewer calories than those chosen when parents were not presented with calorie information on the menu. Lack of information is where the personal responsibility argument usually breaks down. Once parents make the decision to go to a fast-food chain, it's hard to expect them to know the difference between one type of kids meal and another. But those little differences can add up to a big change over time, not to mention the benefits from just making parents more aware of the calories food actually contains. If parents start to see how high in calories the lowest available options actually are, then maybe they'll start checking out some new places to take their kids to lunch. -- Monica Potts

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