It is no secret that women’s health is an uncomfortable topic for many people, both males and females. I cannot count the number of times I brought up my period and men have told me to stop talking about it because it is gross, or girls tell me that it’s inappropriate to talk about. There is a stigma around women’s health like periods, abortions, STDs, sex, and so many more topics that we need to stop.
While all these things are natural and happen to most women around the world, not even my own father is comfortable talking about it. This to me is so surprising: for anyone who is having sex with a woman, how can you not be able to have a conversation about her health? This shame around women’s health is what makes people feel uncomfortable, and in turn, makes us less educated since we are less likely to ask questions.
Before I continue, I think it is important to point out that having these “feminine” features does not make you a woman. There are many women who do not have periods, cannot or do not want to have children, or do not have a vagina yet are still 100% female and are strong women.
Since half the population is female, it is not okay to have a stigma around these perfectly normal conversations. Girls are growing up not being educated about their own bodies and this creates many more issues for girls to face. For example, getting your first period can be very scary when you are never told what is happening. Girls may think they are hurt or something is wrong, and this can make them have a sense of shame and feel alone. In some countries, the lack of knowledge can cause girls to be treated differently when they have their period. Such as in India, women are not allowed to enter the kitchen since there is a belief that a menstruating woman in a kitchen will make the food go bad. In Burundi, menstrual blood is thought to kill family members. Furthermore, in Africa 1 in 10 girls miss school during their periods which causes a higher rate of female dropouts. All of this causes girls to feel isolated and scared when going through something very natural that nearly all women go through.
Growing up, you hear that men can have a lot of sex but for women, if they have a lot of sex they’re considered a slut. This in turn creates a lot of shame around sex and affects how we talk about safe sex. For the longest time, I was embarrassed to talk about being on birth control, though I didn’t take it to prevent pregnancy since there are many other benefits. Still, sex is what someone’s mind ultimately goes to. It is not a bad thing for girls to be practicing safe sex, but it’s the idea that girls shouldn’t be having sex that creates the stigma around birth control. There’s also an idea around abortions, usually which stems from a religious standpoint. I believe it should always be the girl’s decision because it is her body, but the problem is many girls base their ideas on what those around them are telling them. In states such as Alabama, girls think abortion is not an option since society around them is saying it is unacceptable.
Girls are not usually taught about things like birth control, periods, abortion, and sexually transmitted diseases. If we’re not taught about it, there is an overarching cloud of guilt and shame around the topic. This leads to girls not learning to practice safe sex, lacking of knowledge about how to properly take care of their own body, and realizing they have a choice as to what happens to their body. And girls should never be scrutinized for something that happens to their body naturally. It is a beautiful thing, the ability to create life, so it seems silly to have this stigma around it.