It's been a tumultuous 12 months since our last International Women’s day - much has changed and even more has been gained in the last year in terms of equality and women’s rights.
The day has historically been one to celebrate - its origins however were born of necessity rather than celebration, at a time when women were second class citizens and at a crossroads in their fight for equal rights.
In 1914 for example, IWD was held in Germany and England and was dedicated to women's fight for the right to vote. Women marched from Bow to Trafalgar Square in London. The noise was raucous and undeniable - women were desperate for change. In many countries it was indecorous for a young woman to go out in the streets without a male consort or female elder - the first World War would of course change this. Nevertheless it was a source of deep perturbance for women who were secretly plotting a female revolution the likes of which the world have never seen previously. Unfortunately, it wouldn't be for another four years that they would get the right to vote in both Germany and England.
Photo: The Week.
The very conception of a women’s day brought with it much difficulties, especially at a time when women were free from the shackles of war. Wartime accounts detail how “unaffected” the women were by the trenches, often demonized for their exemption from the fighting - even though of course they were barred from participation.
"There are so many occasions when a woman is in a tight spot which only she herself can face, that it is rather rare to find her trying to share her burden or ask for assistance on the ground that she is a woman" - Eleanor Roosevelt, My Day, 1939
It’s a day that has come to represent defiance, derision, unity and inclusion, a day that resembles for SWAAY, a Christmas of sorts, where we’re allowed a pause to reflect, not only on the merits of our female peers, but on those of our ancestors - on the women that began the revolution to get us where we are today. It's day that we can look forward to a future where perhaps a women’s day need no longer exist - because women and men will live equally - unburdened by ubiquitous differences that science and molecular biology determined we would have.
Change is a scary and mutilating concept - 1. because it is mostly irreversible; and 2. because life cataclysmically shifts.
Developing women’s rights became a cataclysmic, irreversible and inexorable change rang in by the twentieth century. And now here we are into the second decade of the twenty-first century and we are allowed the luxury to stand still and admire how far we’ve come.
Yet there are those, most recently perhaps in the European parliament that would still propose women as the inferior, more undeserving of the sexes. In order to belie my repulsion(and many of my peers) - I wish to very proudly announce the achievements of women in the past 2 months in possibly the most braggadocios way possible, while also gleefully regaling the tales of the women who got us here.
Katherine Johnson, pictured above, was the subject of one of the year's most celebrated movies Hidden Figures. Johnson was one of the 'human computers' used by NASA for Alan Shepard's record-breaking flight in 1961, for which she provided the trajectory analysis.
I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass.
— Maya Angelou
After the October Revolution of 1917 in Russia, Vladimir Lenin made Women's Day an official holiday in the Soviet Union. Women participated in wartime efforts, and a figure much celebrated in Russian World War II accomplishments is that of the female sniper Lyudmila Pavlichenko. She is credited with 309 kills and is perhaps one of the most renowned snipers in history. Wartime women have since become normalized because female participation in armies and warfare is a modern adaptation of the history we no longer have to abide by. While there still lingers a stigma attached to female soldiers, it is becoming normalized, especially in the past year with female legions forming to counter the patriarchal and consuming threat of ISIS.
Photo: Lean In
Marne Levine(pictured above) is Instagram's COO and is representative of a generation of women no longer accepting the demonstrable glass ceiling rule of thumb for women in tech. It has been a breakout few years for female executives in growing industries such as tech and design and Marne's achievements both at Instagram, and Facebook are a testament to the future of women in these industries that are finally realizing the benefit of female influence at the helm.
The demonstrations held by women across the world after the Inauguration in January were the largest ever by women in written history. Much has been said about the significance of the marches and whether or not they were merely tantamount to a fleeting anger with Trump's win and Hillary's loss.
This is not the case.
March 8th 2017 is not about the 2016 election and it is certainly not about protesting the man who currently holds the oval office. Rather, it is about where women can go from here - what we can do to ensure equality and how we can achieve it. So whether you're participating in 'A Day Without A Woman' strikes, abstaining from laundry or cleaning duties, calling your boss out on sexism in the workplace or simply wearing red and luxuriating in your feminine glow - enjoy the day. It's all yours.
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.