What’s wrong with being confident? You’re gonna hear me roar. I dream it, I work hard, I grind ‘til I own it.
Rallying cries of the modern American woman? No, just recent lyrics by some of the world’s hottest pop stars. Demi Lovato’s done being cool for the summer and Katy Perry is so over kissing a girl. And Beyoncé already told us that girls run the world. So are we just living in a time when female artists are becoming socially aware or are we just becoming more sensitive to it?
According to Dustin Kidd, Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies of the Sociology Department at Temple University, there’s really nothing new about women singing songs with empowering lyrics. He lists Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots are Made for Walking” in 1966 as a prime example. Of course, Madonna has been pushing the envelope with her lyrics for decades. And we can’t forget the Lilith Fair concert tour that started in 1997, named after the mythical first wife of Adam who refused to be obedient or inferior to him.
Kidd states that society is in part to blame. “The question is really why have we been so slow to listen to their music and let them challenge our social hierarchies, including the patriarchy,” he tells SWAAY. “The reason first is that men have a lot to lose and therefore work hard to ridicule and undermine messages that empower women.”
He adds that sexism often goes hand-in-hand with racism, class inequality, and other systems of oppression so many “privileged” women may be worried about when it comes to dismantling the current status quo. “Tremendous cultural and economic forces are working against these messages of empowerment,” Kidd says.
The difference now is the visibility of our current pop sensations.
But that doesn’t mean that these inspiring lyrics can’t or won’t have a real impact on today’s women. Especially in the wake of the recent election where America had its first female presidential candidate to be nominated by a major U.S. political party, many women and men are having their preconceived notions of the status quo challenged.
Kidd believes that messages in pop culture become resources to help us frame our behavior and how we confront certain situations.
“If all the messages you hear frame a woman's purpose and identity in terms of a romantic relationship, then a break-up is likely to be devastating,” says Kidd. “But if some of those songs also tell her that she is strong and that relationships do not make or break her, then she has access to an alternative message that may help her confront a difficult situation.”
And a major difference between now and when Nancy Sinatra, a young Madonna, or even Ani Di Franco were shouting their messages from the roof, or MTV, is social media. Thanks to the advent and extreme growth of social media (in various forms and aimed at multiple generations), music is like an octopus with tentacles into everyone, everywhere, and at all times.
So maybe recent events have us opening up our ears a little more to what our favorite singers are proclaiming, but Kidd says that while the topic of empowering lyrics is very important, it’s really nothing new. Now it’s just up to us to figure out what to do with them.
Here at SWAAY we believe anything that raises conversation or pushes the needle, even slightly, is part of the solution towards gender equality. We hope women entertainers continue riding the empowerment wave, and release music and music videos that raise us up, one song at a time.
With so many groundbreaking medical advances being revealed to the world every single day, you would imagine there would be some advancement on the plethora of many female-prevalent diseases (think female cancers, Alzheimer's, depression, heart conditions etc.) that women are fighting every single day.
For Anna Villarreal and her team, there frankly wasn't enough being done. In turn, she developed a method that diagnoses these diseases earlier than traditional methods, using a pretty untraditional method in itself: through your menstrual blood.
Getting from point A to point B wasn't so easy though. Villarreal was battling a disease herself and through that experience. “I wondered if there was a way to test menstrual blood for female specific diseases," she says. "Perhaps my situation could have been prevented or at least better managed. This led me to begin researching menstrual blood as a diagnostic source. For reasons the scientific and medical community do not fully understand, certain diseases impact women differently than men. The research shows that clinical trials have a disproportionate focus on male research subjects despite clear evidence that many diseases impact more women than men."
There's also no denying that gap in women's healthcare in clinical research involving female subjects - which is exactly what inspired Villarreal to launch her company, LifeStory Health. She says that, “with my personal experience everything was brought full circle."
“There is a challenge and a need in the medical community for more sex-specific research. I believe the omission of females as research subjects is putting women's health at risk and we need to fuel a conversation that will improve women's healthcare.,"
Her brand new biotech company is committed to changing the women's healthcare market through technology, innovation and vocalization and through extensive research and testing. She is working to develop the first ever, non-invasive, menstrual blood diagnostic and has partnered with a top Boston-area University on research and has won awards from The International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering and Northeastern University's RISE.
How does it work exactly? Proteins are discovered in menstrual blood that can quickly and easily detect, manage and track diseases in women, resulting in diseases that can be earlier detected, treated and even prevented in the first place. The menstrual blood is easy to collect and since it's a relatively unexplored diagnostic it's honestly a really revolutionary concept, too.
So far, the reactions of this innovative research has been nothing but excitement. “The reactions have been incredibly positive." she shares with SWAAY. “Currently, menstrual blood is discarded as bio waste, but it could carry the potential for new breakthroughs in diagnosis. When I educate women on the lack of female subjects used in research and clinical trials, they are surprised and very excited at the prospect that LifeStory Health may provide a solution and the key to early detection."
To give a doctor's input, and a little bit more of an explanation as to why this really works, Dr. Pat Salber, MD, and Founder of The Doctor Weighs In comments: “researchers have been studying stem cells derived from menstrual blood for more than a decade. Stem cells are cells that have the capability of differentiating into different types of tissues. There are two major types of stem cells, embryonic and adult. Adult stem cells have a more limited differentiation potential, but avoid the ethical issues that have surrounded research with embryonic stem cells. Stem cells from menstrual blood are adult stem cells."
These stem cells are so important when it comes to new findings. “Stem cells serve as the backbone of research in the field of regenerative medicine – the focus which is to grow tissues, such as skin, to repair burn and other types of serious skin wounds.
A certain type of stem cell, known as mesenchymal stem cells (MenSCs) derived from menstrual blood has been found to both grow well in the lab and have the capability to differentiate in various cell types, including skin. In addition to being used to grow tissues, their properties can be studied that will elucidate many different aspects of cell function," Dr. Salber explains.
To show the outpour of support for her efforts and this major girl power research, Villarreal remarks, “women are volunteering their samples happily report the arrival of their periods by giving samples to our lab announcing “de-identified sample number XXX arrived today!" It's a far cry from the stereotype of when “it's that time of the month."
How are these collections being done? “Although it might sound odd to collect menstrual blood, plastic cups have been developed to use in the collection process. This is similar to menstrual products, called menstrual cups, that have been on the market for many years," Dr. Salber says.
Equally shocking and innovative, this might be something that becomes more common practice in the future. And according to Dr. Salber, women may be able to not only use the menstrual blood for early detection, but be able to store the stem cells from it to help treat future diseases. “Companies are working to commercialize the use of menstrual blood stem cells. One company, for example, is offering a patented service to store menstrual blood stem cells for use in tissue generation if the need arises."