Why is Women’s Health Still Taboo?

By Isa Herrera, MSPT

Why is Women’s Health Still Taboo?

This may be a tad bit uncomfortable…

It’s 2021. Half the world is female. And yet, our bodies, body parts, and our health issues are still somehow considered embarrassing or taboo.

My case in point:

  • When 236 college students were surveyed, 80% of men and 62% of the women who participated couldn’t correctly identify the vagina on a diagram. (1) 
  • A recent study of Britons showed similar levels of miseducation. About half of the survey respondents could neither identify nor describe the function of the vagina, labia, or urethra. (2) 
  • In another survey of British women, 73% couldn’t explain what a vulva was. And when they were told what it was, almost half of the group admitted to feeling embarrassed showing their vulva to a doctor. (3)
  • Research shows half of the women feel they should be silent when it comes to their health issues. (4)

Can we agree that these statistics are more than a little scary? And downright unnecessary?

It’s time to get uncomfortable

For way too long, we’ve allowed the mainstream narrative that treats women as purely sexual objects but dismisses our female anatomy to persist.

Why is Women’s Health Still Taboo? 2• It’s time we take back the stories that surround our bodies.

• It’s time we prioritize using the anatomically correct labels for our body parts.

• It’s time we get comfortable talking about our health issues with each other and our doctors.

Words like urinary incontinence, fecal incontinence, and prolapse are deemed “uncomfortable” to talk about. 

But these conditions affect one-fourth of the female population. (5)

Words like vagina, labia, vulva, and clitoris are treated like dirty words.

And yet half the world has these body parts.

The longer we allow ourselves to be pushed into a quiet corner with our suffering, the harder it becomes to get the help we need. The more our body parts are relegated to no-no words, the more difficult real conversations about our health become.

Ultimately, it should be the responsibility of the medical community to end the tendency to dismiss or underestimate female health issues, and end the stigmas and awkwardness surrounding a proper discussion of female anatomy and symptoms…however, if we keep waiting for traditional medicine to step up and make these changes, we’ll be waiting for a long time.

We have to use our voices to start speaking out now.

Why is Women’s Health Still Taboo? 1

Easy ways to talk about your pelvic health

I get it, I know I’m more comfortable than many talking about vaginas and vulvas. I’ve been on this mission for a long time.

And it may feel like a huge stretch to start using these terms and have meaningful conversations about your pelvic struggles. 

But rather than suffer in silence, try using any of these descriptions when you’re trying to communicate about your health down there. Think of these as intermediate baby steps on your way to breaking down the conditioning you’ve been programmed with regarding your own body and work your way up to more robust terms:

“I feel like I always have to find a restroom.”

“I can’t enjoy jumping or exercising because I’m afraid I’ll leak.”

“I feel uncomfortable being intimate with my partner.”

“Sex is painful for me.”

“I have pressure in my pelvis.”

“I feel like I’m sitting on a ball.”

Any of these phrases can help a practitioner pinpoint what is going on and possibly get you closer to an effective treatment plan. 

Let’s reframe the conversation around female aging

Why is Women’s Health Still Taboo? 3

While we’re at it, let’s break down this narrative that women are less valuable as they age.

In her book, The Slow Moon Climbs: The Science, History, and Meaning of Menopause, historian Susan Mattern argues that menopause and the transition to grandmother status wasn’t always this dreaded condition that needed to be hidden away and treated. In fact, she demonstrates that for most of human history older women were revered and in many ways responsible for the continuation of our species — since they played critical roles in raising grandkids. (6)

We already know that you can thrive well into your post-reproductive years and frankly, the absolute freedom from fertility in many ways is a gift. 

Let’s begin a positive reframe here and start embracing our feminine power and energy, and hold the older female members of our society in high regard once again.

Don’t forget the power of community

When we share our experiences and find others who feel the same as we do, we satisfy deep psychological needs and we’re able to share the heavy burden of pelvic floor problems. Especially when we’ve been dismissed, misdiagnosed, and mistreated for years.

Finding a community of like-minded women to talk to about your experiences can truly change your life.

Having others around who feel the same way you do can help you gain the courage, confidence, and motivation to start speaking out.

The age of the internet has made this so much easier to do! 

And if you need a little extra support, you know I’m always there to provide it via my Pelvic Wellness Collective. 

BTW you can check it out for $29. Click here to explore the first and only community dedicated to women’s pelvic health and well-being.

Why is Women’s Health Still Taboo? 4

 

Take back control of your Queendom and never feel alone again? Click Here to take that first step with The Pelvic Wellness Collective for Just $29/month- Cancel at anytime

 

References

  1. “Gynecologic Knowledge Is Low in College Men and … – PubMed – NIH.” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23518361.
  2. “Results for Internal (Women’s Bodies) 065 8.2 ….” 8 Feb. 2019, https://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/bxrj4xtd02/YG-Archive-WomensBodiesInternal-070219.pdf.
  3. “73% of women still confused about what a vulva is.” https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/73-of-women-still-confused-about-what-a-vulva-is-so-heres-the-diagram-you-need_uk_5c9b5970e4b072a7f6022a74
  4. “Over 50% Of People Say Women’s Intimate Experiences Aren ….” 4 Jul. 2020, https://www.forbes.com/sites/alicebroster/2020/07/04/over-50-of-people-say-womens-intimate-experiences-arent-talked-about-openly-finds-study/.
  5. “Roughly One-Quarter of U.S. Women Affected By Pelvic Floor ….” 17 Sep. 2008, https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/roughly-one-quarter-us-women-affected-pelvic-floor-disorders.
  6. The Slow Moon Climbs: The Science, History, and Meaning of Menopause. Mattern, S.

About ISA HERRERA, MSPT, CSCS

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