Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Women's Equalization? Are we the Same or is it Better to be "Different but NOT Less?" Women's Health "Equalization"/ Autonomy and Respect.

"Oh you are a Feminist." I have heard that statement more times than I can count, and it is often accompanied by a tone of derision, from mostly men, yet on the flip side of the coin from strong, fellow women I have heard condescendingly, "You are obviously not enough of a Feminist." Which one am I?

I am what I am, a product of my body, hormones, genetic make up, choices, environment and so much more...

Recently, we had a study in our home and the topic of Women's Rights came up. There was back and forth between the males of the group and the two only females of the group which included myself. I find I am often the female minority in Philosophy groups- a point I am still curious of. Is it religious demographic or is it a larger question of female and male? I don't know. Anyway, at one point in the conversation I became fed up and interrupted with, "It's like what we advocate for in Autistic communities....Autism is DIFFERENT but NOT Less. As Autistics we do NOT want the same opportunities as "normal" people. If you put us in an extreme sensory situation we will not measure up. If we are required to give the proper eye contact and the same socially acceptable behaviour as our peers, we will probably not be given the job. What we need instead is greater understanding that although we may have differences and weaknesses in some areas, we will have strengths equal to or surpassing in others. The same should be said for women in general. While it is true that some women can be stronger than men, in general this is not usually the case. But just because we are not physically stronger, does not meant that we should not have the same freedom to try certain jobs ect.

"Different and not less" is about respect for the individual. It's about autonomy and the ability to choose the life that works for us. It is about the ability to bring our certain skill sets and be acknowledged for them or given the time and patience for us to prove our potential in outside the box ways. It's about defying societal expectations instead of conforming to them, but it's also about trying, in our own way to achieve societal contributions and acceptance. It's that fine line between the Yin and the Yang. And it's more work than just general social acceptance and pushing everyone to achieve the same goals.

In Women's Issues, I am getting frustrated because even though we have made substantial steps toward autonomy, the suppression of our clear differences is being affected during these marches to freedom. While there are exceptions to all things and ways of Being, in general, there ARE biological, physical, chemical, psychological, and physiological, differences between the male and female body. These should be celebrated instead of ignored. Also, they are an important part of health and functioning.

In our day and age we still do not talk about the complications of prolonged menstruation and women's health. Women are starting periods as early as 8 years of age and sometimes bleeding into their fifties. This time of menstruating is longer than anytime in history- especially without the multiple breaks of pregnancy that were part of life before this century (which obviously came with other serious health issues.) While the pill has been toted as the "miracle pill", many women are finding after years of being on BC their health problems come back worse and complications arise from long term use, even if they didn't get the horrid side effects that can accompany birth control. Long term effects like increased blood clots, cancer, early death, infertility, hormone imbalanced conditions, and autoimmune diseases ect. Women's health is under researched and not discussed often enough. Even saying the word "period" is often met uncomfortably from both men and women! Yet, the jokes of male anatomy are often met with snickers from all sides at the very least. Birth and menstruation are essential to human life, both male and female and should be an accepted part of conversation in all circles. Until we get to a point where the women's body is treated as more complex in medical situations and with the respect we deserve, women have a long way to go in "equality." Equality does not mean that our bodies should be given the same amount of time as a male patient's doctors appointment, it means we should be given a longer slot of time to be equal in treatment. Fair is not fair. Equality should mean that menstruation and it's potential health effects should be as researched as male pattern baldness even though the money is not in it.

An example of un-equal treatment would be how women are treated when they have heavy bleeding but refuse Hysterectomy, Ablations or the Pill. See THIS ARTICLE. Our system is Male centric. The female doctors that have dealt with my issues often do not have the same issues I do...I honestly believe most female doctors are in the percentage of women who have experienced light, normal bleeding because they probably wouldn't have had the time or energy to get to that position if they had heavy, iron depleted, menstruation month after month. It IS limiting. One in 5 women experience heavy bleeding or complications from their cycles. It is a pretty hopeless situation for those who do not wish to compromise their body with the effects from birth control or have an Ablation and Hysterectomy.

Personally, I know this to be true because I have also been treated with derision, condemnation and rudeness in multiple medical situations because I refused to go on birth control or to have an ablation. I have been heavily anemic for most of my life and have spent the last decade with a Ferritin ranging from 2-9 ( and never higher than 9.) I have been on birth control once and it made my issues worse and my bleeding lasted for months. After extensive reading, many anecdotal stories and the limited research on the long term effects on Women's health, I will never go back on it. That said, I do believe it has a place in society and that for a select few it is the best choice. The doctors are not kind when they realize you will not easily be fixed. It is rare to find a Doctor who advocates for root cause or takes the long term, long hours of digging and care to diagnose the complexity of women's health issues. I have also found women doctors to be especially unkind about this because if the pill worked for them, why wouldn't it work for me? Some of these same women march in Women's Rights rallies which I find slightly ironic. I guess I find acting upon beliefs in the day to day more substantial, although there is a place for marches too, but if we are going to march, we should know the full scope of women's experiences and engage in understanding.

THIS ARTICLE sites, "Recently, Hormones Matter has begun to explore the legalities of the medical informed consent, here and here. With all the adverse effects associated with endometrial ablation, especially the need for hysterectomy later, one must question whether women are informed about those risks. As I have found when investigating this topic, there are few long term studies on endometrial ablation. Many of the articles cited for this post come from paywalled journals that are not readily available to either the patients or the physicians – the costs are prohibitive for both. So it is not clear whether the physicians performing these procedures are aware of the long-term risks associated with ablation. And as one physician suggests, neither the pathologists nor radiologists responsible for diagnosing post ablation pathology are trained to recognize these complications. Without data or access to data and without training, one wonders whether it is even possible to have informed consent for a procedure like ablation." 

Why is it, that in 2019, we still do not have involved informed consent on Women's health procedures? Why is this so under researched? Why are Doctors so prone to slap a "hypochondriac" label or "Anxiety" label on women who are suffering with hormonal issues or bleeding issues that are legitimate and need new cures? Thus far, there are no long term cures for Endometriosis nor for PCOS or Hypothyroidism or many issues that mostly belong to women. We are in an age of scientific discovery and so called "rights" yet we have not even made huge strides in these areas. Or what about the scarily high rates of death and longe term affects in maternal health care? Yes, we have made large strides, and yet most causes of mortality or morbidity are from Doctors mistakes in the Health care system. See THIS, THIS, THIS, THIS and THIS article.

I hear men talk about abortion and the injustice of it and yet I do not hear them talk about the injustice of the rising mortality rate in pregnant women or infant death. Why is that? Every day approximately 830 women die of PREVENTABLE causes of death in childbirth. Until you can talk to me about that issue, I will not listen to arguments of equalization between males and females. Until you can discuss the 4.8 million (as of 2016) females and children being sold into the sex trades and the whopping 85% of women in domestic abuse situations as opposed (to the also sad statistic) of 15% men, you can not talk to me about abortions. 

In my personal birth experiences I had a doula twice to advocate for my rights, and in these situations my rights were still ignored in some regards. My body wasn't treated as my own in my first birth and I suffered severe post partum depression for years after, along with heavy bleeding for 12 weeks and health issues. Nurses were often worse then the doctors. It is a travesty that women are cold to other women and treat these tender issues between life and death as trivial. While birth is an everyday part of life, it is in no way trivial.

Having female genitalia and hormones IS different from having male genitalia and hormones. Equalization would not be fair. We NEED to be treated differently. But that does not mean that we should not have the same amount of opportunities that men have enjoyed in the past. We should have access to our own decisions, and the ability to make a good life, whatever that entails, with personal power.

With my anemia and blood loss every month, I could never hold down a regular job. Other women in my experiences have either understood that because they have been there too, or are generally pretty harsh about it. Are we not all on the same side? Should we not be fighting FOR each other instead of WITH each other? If I choose to stay home and have my husband work, and he is happy to do so, should that not be acceptable? (*If my daughter wants to work and is capable of doing so and her partner wishes to stay home, that should also be a right celebrated.) Am I not still working and still legitimate in the social order of things? If my husband protects me when I am vulnerable and bleeding and can barely get out of bed does that make me weaker or incapable of making my own decisions? Does it mean that he "rules" over me? I am proud that my guy feels compelled to protect me when I am physically vulnerable. FYI that physicality does not mean I am weaker, on the contrary I'd argue it makes me stronger in some aspects to deal with what I do and still BE, but it does mean he has different strengths I rely on during different parts of the month. And I have strengths and protect him in other ways. I want him to open the doors for me. I want to lean on him when I can barely make it to the next room because I am so depleted of oxygen and iron. I want him to advocate for me and stick up for me when the male or female doctors are not listening to me but they will listen to him. It doesn't make up for the injustice of the situation but I'm grateful he is around. And what of the women who do not have a stronger partner or advocate for them (be it male or female?)

When I am pregnant and I choose not to go to war, am I less than a man? If a woman wants to go to war for her country she should. But she is generally in the minority and I think that is ok. If we actually look at the health stats of women in general, we see why that is. Millions of women suffer from minor to major hormone and cyclical or pregnancy/birth related life complications. We ARE at a disadvantage this way. But we also BIRTH life and create in ways that men can't. Men are not less because they do not do this, and we are not less because we can.

Because my health issues are more complex in this female body I am housed in, am I less legitimate? If I am suffering and find myself at the mercy of the medical system to try to find the root cause is it just female hysteria? History says we have made progress, and certainly there have been baby steps, but personal experience along with a majority of anecdotal evidence, has proven we have a long way to go.

I do not want to be equal to a man in body. That's not how I was made. I know a few women who could possibly be equal in the hormonal concoction or perhaps in strength they surpass many men, but in general it is the exception and not the rule, so why are we advocating for this? It will do us a huge disservice. Many middle aged women are stuck between wishing to come off strong to maintain their jobs but also dealing with the hormonal affects of cycles and aging. Before this time men have been the majority in the work place and women have proudly and rightfully found their places, but now we have to ask ourselves, how do we make work places and society more women centric too? Not just females fitting into the male prototype of being able to be constant, instead of a woman who is cyclical and should be proud of her ties to the moon, nature and nurturing? Yes some women are not and that is okay too but for the majority who are - where is our cyclical society? Where are the peer reviewed studies on our long term health affects and hormones? Where are the damaging statistics on many of the archaic procedures and medicines still harming us? Where are the work schedules that allow for our cyclical flexibility?

Anytime this conversation comes up, a man usually brings up the subject of the "de- masculinity" of boys in our culture. While I do believe there are some concerns with the pendulum swinging too far the other way, due to our recent patriarchal past and rightful reactions to this, I still feel the same rule applies to men. I want my boys to be different not less. They can have whatever expression of their lives that they chose. And I wish for them to respect the women in their lives and be aware of cycles, changes and differing health concerns. I also want the women in their lives to respect their different struggles, strengths, health and weaknesses. I am not a man and can not speak for one. However I have and CAN advocate for my husband and boys in many situations. That is what I wish for them to also do for me. We are all human and in that we are equal. Yet, we all have our differences and in this time in history, it is important that we do not ignore these facts, while making crucial steps onward into growth and hopeful change.

Song Choice: Wonder Woman- Kacey Musgraves....I chose this out of a myriad of songs because of this lyric "Don't you know I'm only human? And if I let you down I don't mean to. All I need is a place to land, I don't need a super man to win my lovin' cuz baby I ain't wonder woman." And yes, that is it. WE are the human scope of brilliant diversity...yet we also have distinct challenges in our genetic make up that need to be acknowledged in places of health and the work place. It's complex, it's tricky and it involves the rights of many, but with a case by case approach and societal expressions of different NOT less, it CAN be accomplished. We all can rise to complex life challenges and come out celebrated. ( On a side note Congrats to Kacey for winning the Grammy's Album of the year as it is probably the record I have listened to over and over the most since I bought it the day it came out...YAY!)

Post Edit: I AM grateful for the tests, procedures and birth control we DO have, however in this time of history I think it is reasonable to push for advancements. The realm of Women's Speciality health is still fairly new and we have further to go. Birth Control pills gave us freedom and many countries could still benefit from remedying the lack, however, the side effects and the long term effects need to be more researched and I am SURE there are better alternatives yet to come! For those of us who do not have those options due to family history of blood clots or excessive bleeding or whatever, there should already be ongoing progress into alternatives (Depro Provera alone needs an entire post on it's own about it's dangers and research ect....) Another entire post could be on the comfortability and support during scary tests for women. We could also do better in this department even if it means a few more health care dollars thrown into cheery paint, waiting room art and kinder technicians...I digress because I could go on and on....:)