I would consider myself to be fairly forthcoming about the details of my existence. There is little I am ashamed of or embarrassed by and, for the most part, I have no qualms about discussing personal details with genuinely interested and non-judgemental individuals. The prime example is my reproductive organs. My uterus and ovaries, most specifically. See, in 2010 I was diagnosed with PCOS and suspected endometriosis(they can’t confirm the endometriosis until they do an internal scope, which they won’t do because I am ‘too young’, but that’s a story for another day). These are both disorders that seriously affect my life with varying frequency, and when they do explanations are often required. Most usually it’s “Why are you crying uncontrollably, cursing in the general direction of your abdomen, and pouncing on that T3 like a hungry lion on a fresh antelope carcass?” or “Are you actually wearing sweatpants in public?” PCOS and endometriosis both cause debilitating pain, which ‘cramps’ doesn’t even begin to cover. I used to just politely smile through the agony and tell them I needed to go home because I had cramps or felt sick, but found that excuse being met with suspicion or disbelief after awhile. I have found it’s so much more effective to help give people a visual of cysts on your internal organs rupturing and hemorrhaging, filling your abdomen with fluid and blood. Did it work?
Needless to say, I have become quite comfortable discussing my ovaries and uterus in public spaces. Whenever I am in the hospital, I get to tell usually about 4 different strangers in the medical profession about my symptoms, my periods, fascinating details of the passing of bodily fluids, and my sex life. After the hospital I usually relay all of that to my parents, friends, and partner along with all the juicy details of the invasive tests, poking, and prodding I am subject to. There are some people who ask just to be polite and some who are really, genuinely interested. I’m going to go ahead and share all the gory details anyways. You know why? Because women need to start talking about our bodies and men and women need to start listening to women talk about ours outside of our weight, outside of how fat we feel, outside of whether or not a garment makes our boobs/butt/waist/arms/legs look bigger/smaller/more round/’too slutty’, outside of how much we hate our nose/freckles/earlobes/nail beds. We need to talk about bodies that are visually or non-visibly disabled, bodies that started out as male bodies, bodies whose color makes them and the folks inside of them pre-disposed to violence and prejudice and oppression. We need to talk about bodies that ache from bending down to pick up a baby all day and breasts that are tender from feeding that baby. We need to talk about bodies that are menopausal, that are pregnant, that are unable to be pregnant, that are fat and healthy, that are terminally sick, that are arthritic, that are strong and capable. We need to talk about how all this obsession with one kind of body affects the women inside of all these different types of bodies. For while we are much more than our bodies and greater than the sum of its parts, we kind of rely on our physical self to navigate ourselves through the world and to be the vehicle for our ideas, theories, love, and brilliance.
Women’s bodies are up for public consumption - whether they are visually appealing to us or not. It is perfectly acceptable to fawn over and idealize some bodies and criticize and pick apart others. However, heaven forbid we talk about the actual function of those bodies and the complications of such. Society wants to talk about female bodies all day long until those bodies are menstruating, sweating, flatulent, sagging, defecating, hairy, breastfeeding - anything which gives us away as being real, human and less than the object we are expected to function as. If you want to talk about women’s bodies, you should be prepared to talk about all of it - even the parts that make you uncomfortable. I am really fortunate that the people I am in close contact with are awesome about this - my friends, my partner, my family, my roommates, my employers. My partner even once called my uterus awesome. I know. So, women, let’s do it. Let’s feel free to work the real struggles and triumphs we have with our bodies into discussion. It might be uncomfortable at first, but there is nothing wrong with feeling a little discomfort. Talk about your body hair, ask for a tampon if you need a tampon, brag about your 10 k run, talk about your cancer, bring up breastfeeding, and don’t shame or shy away from other women who do so. Our bodies are complex and amazing and fill a multitude of functions - from merely keeping us alive to functioning under incredible stress to looking beautiful. Those things are not mutually exclusive. So, if we can talk about someone’s rack, we should be able to talk about their ovaries. I won’t shut up about mine until we do.