It's been an interesting few months for the media. A rejuvenation of sorts has taken place and since Mr. Trump's election, support for the media and its freedom of expression has grown inexorably.
Only where does that support stop?
Perhaps when, instead of squealing adulation for a powerful speech made to the U.N about ISIS genocide, they focus primarily on Amal Clooney's baby bump and Prada dress.
If the media coverage of Amal Clooney's speech at the U.N has told us anything, it's that we never learn, and the most important question now is will we?
And while I wish it was just tabloids that got involved in the outfit critiquing and heel commentary, the fact is, it wasn't. It was credible news sources, estimable outlets and that's the very reason why the commentary is so crushing.
I recently attended a U.N Women's event with the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) addressing the #freebeingme campaign propelled in combination with the Dove Self-Esteem Project. The campaign has been running since 2014 and is centred around the need to reclaim the woman's body image in the public eye.
'The Image Myth' has plagued women for as long as the press has been in existence. Why? Because to sell papers and magazines, the press have utilized every means necessary to create unattainable beauty standards so copies will sell. Because human condition rules that we always want what we cannot have. It's a human failing - a flaw in our make up. It's how greed came to define Shakespeare's oeuvre and how both world wars began. The media play on this need to aspire - to dream, and thus manifests the image myth, whereby the women and men you see in publications are not actually real.
They are fictitious beings, transformed by lighting, makeup, sculpting, and since 1988, the great power of Photoshop. They are unrealistic portrayals of humanity, and of course therein lies the problem. If that which you seek to replicate is unreal, your goals are consequently unreachable, and you will forever be disappointing yourself by not reaching them.
And until recently, the problem with all of this has gone veritably unnoticed and unrecognized. Nobody appears to care, because, apparently, it hasn't done much harm. What women are doing isn't as important as how they look - right?
The underlying problem here is that no matter what we do, it's how we look that defines us, still, as women in the 21st century. Here of course, it was motherhood that most came to define Clooney, which in itself is problematic because if we are only ever to be considered as potential mothers or wives, women will never be elevated to those same positions men achieve daily throughout the world. To be seen through the lens of the mother or caregiver only is detrimental to the future empowerment and recognition of women on the global stage. If we're only ever seen as pretty, homely, petite - we lose the potential to be serious, intelligent and informed.
Representing Nadia Murad, an IS survivor, Clooney delivered an impassioned and eloquent speech about the U.N and Iraq's neglecting to bring to court the terrorists that have indeed been tearing apart the lives of millions of families for years now. Not one has stood trial for international war crimes. And yet, this abhorrent fact seemed to slip the minds of those who coined headlines such as "Amal Clooney Puts Her Growing Baby Bump On Display In Chic Yellow Dress For U.N. Speech" or "Wearing 4.5inch heels at 6 months pregnant... Is that wise Amal?"
“Mass graves in Iraq lie unprotected," Clooney said in her address to the U.N, “Witnesses are fleeing, and not one ISIS militant has faced trial for international crimes anywhere in the world."
Dove, together with the #freebeingme campaign collated results from a survey done in 13 countries throughout the globe and found that over half the women in the entire world have body image issues.
Why are these two events connected? Because until we start recognizing women for the real work they're doing, not the fake portrayals of people on the internet or in magazines lounging around on fake holidays - women will never be self-assured or confident enough to do anything else. What we should have been talking about the other day was Amal's speech; her client, her words and the corrosive inaction of the U.N. Instead I am painfully aware of the designer of her dress and the height of her slick black heels.
I do not want to be aware of these insignificant details. I do not care for how far along she is in her pregnancy - if she's showing a bump or not, because frankly, that is not what she was there for nor what she would have hoped people would be reporting on.
How do we fix it?
By reporting what matters; by fixing the image of the female in the public perspective; by rectifying the mistakes of those writers, advertizers, editors before us.
We are no longer household objects - we work, we build, we lead, we talk.
And what we have to say, is important.
Let me share with you a female doctor and CEO's life hack: if you are not trying to 'make' a baby, you do NOT have to bleed every month. As doctors, we have seared into women's minds: you must have a period every month (if you are not on any medications). However, we now have the technology to safely and effectively "turn off" periods.
The idea of #PeriodsOptional first came to me when I was trying to get pregnant with my first child. Each month the uterus builds a rich blood filled lining to accept an embryo. But without an embryo, that lining gets shed, and the whole process starts over again. Basically, the only reason that we (those with uteri) bleed each month is because we didn't get pregnant. An average woman will begin her period at 12 years old, have two children in her lifetime, and remain fertile until the age of 50. That's approximately 35 years of incessant menstruation for no good reason.
Each time you build up that lining (endometrium) and slough it, you risk endometrial cancer. And each time you pop out an egg for that lining, you risk ovarian cancer. The only way to prevent ovarian cancer that we currently know of (short of taking out your ovaries) is to turn off the monthly egg-popping using birth control. Women who used birth control pills for 5 or more years have about a 50% lower risk of developing ovarian cancer compared to women who never used oral contraceptives.
Dr. Beverly Strassman, who studied the Dogon tribe in Mali, found that it might be "more natural" to have fewer periods. In the old days, we had about 100 periods in our lifetimes. Now, we have 350-400. Historically, we'd start periods at 16 (we now start at 12 years old), we'd have eight babies (we now have two on average), and we'd breastfeed for 20 months (we now do zero to six months at best).
Since the creation of the birth control pill, doctors have known that the one week withdrawal bleed (aka "period") is optional. Dr. John Rock, one of three co-founders of the birth control pill, was the one that pushed for a bleed one week out of four. It was to see if he could get the method through the Catholic Church. He said it was just to make the periods regular and thus Catholics could better utilize the rhythm method. He also thought that women would be more likely to accept the method if it was consistent with what they were used to. Thus since the beginning the birth control pill, women have been forced to bleed one week out of four. Needless to say, if I were one of the co-founders, I would have pushed for #NoPeriods or #PeriodsOptional.
Let's explore other benefits of skipping your monthly bleed:
- You save money – we use 12,000 feminine hygiene products in our lives.
- You save the planet from landfill.
- You decrease your risk of certain medical conditions – ovarian cancer, endometrial cancer, and anemia
- Certain diseases do better on stable hormonal levels – acne, PCOS, diabetes, seizure disorder, depression/psychological conditions.
- Increased productivity – the number one cause of missed work/school in a woman under the age of 25? Her periods.
Using birth control to skip periods:
- You can use the hormonal IUD, the implant, the shot, the ring, the patch and the pill. Note: You cannot use the patch for longer than 12 weeks in a row, because too much estrogen will build up in the blood.
- You do not have to use "special pills" that come in 84 or 91 days packs. You can use any pill and just skip the last week (if it is a four week pack) or go straight into the next pack (if it is a three week pack). Though if you are paying cash, those are sometimes cheaper.
- If you get breakthrough bleeding and have taken at least three weeks of active pills in a row, then you can stop the active pills for five days, have a bleed during that time, then restart on day six whether or not you are bleeding. This "cleans out the uterus" and allows you to start fresh.
- There are 40 different formulations of the birth control pill. So if one doesn't work for you, there are at least six other progestins and two levels of estrogen to play with.
- To skip the bleed on the pill, you want a progestin with higher progestational activity. Go to this chart that I created to review the options.
As the only female founded/led reproductive health company in the birth control delivery space, Pandia Health set out to make women's lives easier by sharing cutting edge, evidence-based women's healthcare. We commissioned a study of 1000 women ages 20-35 in the US to see what they knew about the topic. We found that:
- 66% of women had never been informed by a doctor that they could skip their periods safely.
- 46% have missed school because of periods.
- 58% would turn of their periods if they knew it could be done safely.
So make your uterus a happy uterus. A happy uterus is one that is not "crying" unnecessary bloody tears.