Anatomy of a Female: Sorry, Not Sorry

An Open Letter to Lady Parts.

(since no addressee ever seems intended to receive these open letters people write, i figured i’d pen one to the vagina, vulva, cervix, uterus, and ovaries, which, to my knowledge, cannot actually read. but they could surprise me).
hello, lady bits.
boy, are you popular in the news lately! not because you’ve committed a crime or starred in a summer blockbuster across from tom cruise or anything (definitely not that), in fact, you haven’t changed at all. but there’s this intense discussion over who’s responsible for your health and safety and upkeep and your reproductive capacity and associated contents within. it has a lot of people yelling.

which is actually sort of exciting, even as it is frustrating. because it shows that people are angry and desiring change and are tired of the status quo. anger and apathy can’t live together, right? so at least the pot is being stirred and voices are getting louder about changing assumptions and perceptions of women and their business.

there’s been for many years- (since the beginning of civilization? of ours?) impression that a lot of things about you lady parts are bad. or at least that you are a compromised version of the parts that male humans wear- and that somehow your functions and physiology make women weaker than men.

so, i’m done apologizing for any of you or feeling embarrassed by you or acting like/receiving the message that you are bad or weak or unpleasant or something. you are what i am biologically supplied with and the things that you can do is pretty amazing. i will start defending you better. my apologies for not catching on sooner.

 
i finally realize, after a lifetime of being sort of ashamed or annoyed by you, and your bleeding and your reputation, that you’re doing exactly what you’re built to do. and that’s fine. 
so, i was going to title this something like “women’s bodies are different and that’s ok” but i thought…different THAN….? why do men’s anatomy and their hormones get to be the status quo and women’s bodies/hormones be the “other?” why are men baseline?
 
women are constantly being punished and reduced for our biological functions. we’re tragically taught that our bodies are useful tools for other people to enjoy and also our burden with which we have to cope. women are being underserved and brutalized for functions of their bodies. from the staggeringly common practice of female genital mutilation to the fact that tampons are not available, taxed and prohibitively expensive for women around the world, and here in the U.S. including especially prisoners and homeless women. that means issues of hygiene, health, humiliation and powerlessness and consequently diminished educational and financial success and autonomy. 

women’s bodies aren’t gross. they shouldn’t be a threat or something to hide. if the things that happen to our bodies in the course of the month or the lifetime are misunderstood, let’s educate. not fear. and let’s protect and provide.

my dearest lady bits, you do have a different set of complications and maintenance requirements than men’s more consistent parts. let’s be straight with it. men go through puberty and then have a really slow crescendo and decrescendo with their hormone levels over their lifetime. mine have to do a complete 360 change every single month. you’re preparing me to grow a new organ to provide nutrients for ANOTHER FREAKING HUMAN you can grow inside you. and then, every month, if that doesn’t work out, you’re setting everything back to normal and preparing for it again next month. 

when everything is working *perfectly* we bleed for 1/4 of our lives between puberty and menopause. it’s pretty annoying, but your parts and the hormones that drive you are doing your job. 

AND!!! and since the scientists have done THEIR  jobs, i don’t have to bleed anymore at all, really, if i don’t want to. and that’s pretty bitchin.’  (i’m doing a contraception happy dance in my chair right now. you can’t see it but it’s pretty slammin’).
real quick on the topic of contraception- outside of a vasectomy (permanent sterilization for a male) the most effective methods are all used by women. so this is again, a huge health/time/stress responsibility and financial burden on women and not men. for some people it’s difficult or, even sometimes, dangerous, to use. method options have gotten better and access is getting incrementally easier with healthcare reform, but still it is difficult to obtain for low income/underinsured women. (not men. not an issue for men. i feel like i need to keep repeating this because it’s another example of YES, men and women are different. men and women together are enjoying the intercourses and enjoying the prevention of pregnancy through those intercourses, but the huge majority of the responsibility of actually employing the prevention falls on the women).

and of course more available, effective contraception means fewer unplanned pregnancies, means fewer interventions to end those pregnancies (since i think that’s what everyone is yelling about, right?) and again, more power to the women…… clinics that provide this service on a sliding fee based on income are rare and there are lawmakers trying to shut them down.

many of my female friends, including lots who are financially independent contributors to society and some providing the primary income in their homes-first used the chain of healthcare clinics for women currently on society’s spit- planned parenthood – for contraception when they were having intercourse (as humans do) while uninsured or still on their parents’ insurance.

how different would their paths have gone or what difficult decisions would they have been faced with if they did not have discrete clinical care and reliable birth control available for cheap? (not to mention the STI testing and prevention and cancer screenings, etc, etc, etc. i could literally go on all day about this).

and, of course, there’s still much debate over who is responsible for the contents of a uterus and that is just a nightmare pile of angry. “pregnancy” is a biological function that happens sometimes when sperm and egg find each other and because it’s a potential whole new person inside the normal anatomy of a woman that we’re talking about, there’s no comparison we can use to men’s biological functions….i mean, really, what happens during the course of a man’s lifetime that anyone might want to exert any influence over? what healthcare choices does he make that might affect anyone else? seat belt wearing? smoking? managing impotence or erectile dysfunction, i suppose, and the law/healthcare has gotten involved in that some….but i’m scratching my heads for comparisons we can make. we totally interfere with hair growth and loss….we totally interfere with unwanted cysts and prevent and manage unwanted conditions….but because in women the ‘condition’ we’re talking about might be an undesired pregnancy- and that means we’re talking a possible new LIFE LIFE LIFE, it’s different and more complicated. and maybe because of this difference- our uterus/life boat thing for another potential human being- maybe we’ll always be at the mercy of the policy makers.

sigh. i don’t know. i’m not going to solve this emotional debate. i’m sure wherever we fall on the topic, we can find loud people and also rational people and also data to prove our points.  i just know that you don’t get an unwanted pregnancy if you’ve prevented the pregnancy in the first place. so women’s healthcare is important. and you can’t talk women without women’s healthcare and you can’t talk women’s healthcare without reproduction because that system is a biggie in us.

again with the chorus- women and men ARE different. and that is what it is and that’s OK.

ANYWAY. i digress.

back to you, lady parts.

you ovaries make hormones. thank you. i am a product of the chemicals coursing through my body. of course my hormones impact me. but it’s not mystical. it’s science.  that estrogen, progesterone, testosterone affects all my systems. because my hormones cycle fairly dramatically through the course of a month, sometimes the affects can make me seem inconsistent- in adolescence. typically the intense fluctuations have regulated in adulthood.  i have control over what i do with them now that i’m a grown-ass person, but it does take a while during maturation. that’s ok.

 
since we’re sort of on the topic of mood. i am just too exhausted of apologizing for women being “moody.” my emotions are not something to be ashamed of. they make me compassionate, empathetic and whole. they are complex and compelling.

they are good. they are solid. 

politically- there’s been “concern” about the effect of having estrogen in the white house (which is actually pretty stupid anyway because when does anyone under 50 (premenopausal) win a presidency?  

i would argue that high testosterone has caused way more wars than high estrogen levels ever could. 

i’m still kind of amazed at how ‘women’s issues’ are taking the stage in social media and political discussions right now.  like breast feeding in public and whether there should be mandatory maternity leave.  daaaaaaamn. these are baby issues and lady-baby issues. not a high interest in those two populations in the past. yeah, let’s get it all out there and yell until we change some stuff. i like it.

in conclusion (already? geez, you’ve only written 1,000 paragraphs), we need to stop being shocked that women’s bodies and their healthcare requirements are different from men’s and we need to support all our citizens equally in achieving their healthcare goals and ambitions.

so, lady bits……you go, girl.  (oh, no she didn’t! that was totally like a samantha pun from ‘sex and the city.’ that was terrible. really. stop).

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