Early in March I was afforded the opportunity to lecture at B.U. for a Women and Health in the 21st Century class. A room of women at varying ages from 19ish to 50ish had been studying with their professor, Inga Schowengerdt, Phd., about the challenges facing women and their personal health care today.
In a nutshell, I learned, ahead of my class, that the professor had covered the abuses that women suffer while incarcerated, especially pregnant and birthing women. They learned about the continuous, and longest demographic in human history, atrocities suffered by women worldwide and how that affects women who live in nations like the United States. The students in the class were comparing the media's attention on highly sexualized women as a commodity versus women portrayed in the media as whole, intelligent, strong, and just as fallible as men.
Professor Schowengerdt and I saw eye to eye about most concerns to women at all stages of their life. It is always really nice to sit and talk with someone who is up on the research, the facts, the stories, and the same concerns I have about the women who came before us and those who will come after. If we aren't talking about these issues, who will?
What could possibly improve the statistics of maternal health care here in the U.S. (statistics that would shock you to learn that women in the U.S. have a 15% INCREASE in maternal mortality than countries like Germany, Switzerland, Norway, Denmark, Australia, and more. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/has-maternal-mortality-really-doubled-in-the-u-s/) if no one tries to eliminate the causes?
When will women feel comfortable speaking up for themselves and asking questions about their health instead of accepting an anti-depressant and the panacea to all?
What effects do statements that we toss so easily around like: "she's bat-shit crazy", "resting bitch face", "she's a butter face" (as in, she's hot, but-her-face... is not), "apple shaped, pear shaped, celery shaped (celery, really?!) do to all women, not just the growing minds of young girls? Everyone is listening, but how many are standing up and saying STOP!?
Again, if we aren't talking to women, who is? Well, t.v. commercials certainly do a lot with no one intervening anytime to say hey, maybe we shouldn't shove Erectile Dysfunction ads in our face every other ad without also reporting how abortion in the U.S. is becoming harder and harder to safely receive.
And what about advertisements for the birth control pill to relieve PMS? Anyone receive the warning when you were prescribed, or your daughter was prescribed, that there are other solutions to minimize or eliminate the discomforts of your moon-cycle or menopause?
Or that long term use of birth control can be disastrous when a woman is trying to conceive? Nope, I am guessing not...
I am guessing that in the 5th, 6th, and 7th grade, when "the puberty talk" was given, boys and girls were separated to cover their changing bodies, but never brought back together to talk about sex, contraception, what a woman's cycle is for, where all our anatomical parts actually are, and how a mutual respect for each others body is the very best way to avoid unwanted pregnancies, STDs, and the feelings of sexual trauma for girls and for boys.
I have so many thoughts on these topics having stood in front of many classrooms full of men and women preparing to have a baby, coaching a varsity girls sport for 13 seasons with teenage girls completely detached from their bodies, and consulting with doula clients from pre-conception to postpartum about their sexual body mind spirit.
By and large, the majority of people know very little and have bought into every ad, juvenile article in a men's or women's magazine, and over the shoulder statement (like"do your Kegels") from their doctor hook-line-and sinker.
In preparation for my lecture I asked for the women in the class to write out questions regarding conception, pregnancy, childbirth, and the 4th trimester or first 12 weeks postpartum. In reading through the questions I was happy to see how much they had learned about health care in this country and where it goes right and where it goes wrong. We had an engaging 3 hours of dynamic conversations about menstruation, the over use of the birth control pill, what happens in childbirth, the data around postpartum baby-blues, vs. postpartum depression, vs postpartum psychosis, and more. I was once again saddened by how little these women knew about where their reproductive parts are, what they do, and how to support them. But overall, I thought the evening went well and all left having learned something.
Here is what Professor Schowengerdt had to say afterwards, " When Marissa was a guest lecturer in my ‘women and health in the 21st century’ class at Boston University, she not only imparted enormous amounts of invaluable information, but also inspired students to self-educate and advocate to maximize their reproductive health and agency. Marissa is brilliant and engaging, and it was pleasure to watch students soak up knowledge that they will indubitably use to promote own their wellbeing as women and share with their peers. True educators inform and empower, and Marissa was an outstanding addition to our classroom because she encompasses both with ease, wit and enthusiasm. On behalf of myself and my students, thank you Marissa."
I truly look forward to more opportunities to speak to men and women, as well as young boys and girls about how their bodies were designed, how they operate, how to help and not harm themselves, and about the inherent wisdom each body was born with to create homeostasis and how not to distrust or throw it away.