Category Archives: Women’s Health

Why the Term “Plus Sized” is Officially Out of Fashion

By: Jillian James

In the fashion industry in the United States, it has been a common practice to call any model that is above a size four “plus sized”. The official dictionary definition of plus sized is “clothing or people of a size larger than the normal range.” However, several recent studies have conformed that the average American women is a size 14-16.

 

The term “plus sized” is harmful and derogatory because it makes women with beautiful, healthy bodies feel like they are out of the norm or less desirable because they aren’t a size four or smaller. By this standard, the vast majority of women in America would be categorized as “plus sized.” The representation of women in the fashion industry is heavily distorted from reality, which can be harmful by causing low self-esteem and even eating disorders.

 

However, the fashion industry is finally starting to take notice of these issues. A recent movement called “Drop the Plus” has gained national attention. It calls for all women of all body types who work in the fashion industry to simply be called models. Other movements have urged companies to use models with a variety of different body types in their adverting. The lingerie company AERIE has vowed to stop retouching entirely and to depict a wide range of body types in their advertising.

 

Currently, one of the most famous models in the world is Ashley Graham, who is a size 14. She recently broke barriers by appearing on the covers of British and American Vogue, and is redefining societies’ standards of beauty. Hopefully this is the beginning of a lasting trend to stop using the word “plus sized” and to have true representation in the fashion industry.

 

An unretouched Aerie ad

 

Source:

 http://www.elle.com/fashion/news/a27425/drop-the-term-plus-size/

 

Your Biological Sex Could Be Treated as A Pre-Existing Condition

By: Nicole McLaren

 

The American Health Care Act (AHCA) that recently made it through the House and will now be voted on by the Senate treats the female sex as though their anatomy is a burden that they should carry the weight for. This bill was designed by 13 men, not a single woman had a say in it. Maybe that is why the pre-existing conditions that disproportionately effect women. It leaves it up to the individual states to determine what a pre-existing condition is and how they will be covered by insurance companies.

Some of these “pre-existing conditions” include: c-sections, domestic violence, sexual assault and postpartum depression. These are clearly forms of gender discrimination since these “conditions” effect mostly people who identify as women. The AHCA claims that it does not allow insurance providers to discriminate based on gender, although that is clearly not the case when they have taken away coverage for preexisting conditions.

Before the passing of the Affordable Care Act this was the case for women in the U.S. who faced discrimination from insurance providers because they were seen as more costly to insure. In 2002, The Huffington Post shared a story from Christina Turner, a woman who was denied health insurance after being raped and taking medication to prevent HIV. Even though she did not develop HIV the insurance company would not insure her because they viewed her as too much of a “risk”.

When insurance companies are allowed to put profits over providing healthcare to people, discrimination against women and other at risk groups will continue to occur. The AHCA bill allows states and insurance companies to decide what is a pre-existing condition and to make a profit off of the misfortune and unpreventable circumstances that happen to so many women, like having to have a c-section, being a victim of rape or abuse, and suffering from postpartum depression.

Why should having a child or being a victim prevent someone from obtaining health insurance? That is the question we have to ask our Senators now that our House representatives have failed to use their power to oppose this bill.

 

https://www.women.com/angie/lists/trumpcare-targets-women-could-deny-coverage-due-to-assault-or-c-sections

Transforming the Narrative Around Gender Confirmation

By: Nicole McLaren

The U.S. has seen an almost 20% rise in gender confirmation surgeries in 2016. There were more than 3,200 transfeminine and transmasculine surgeries last year. This is only one part of the process for a transgender person and there is a variety of surgeries available for the individual.

Access to gender confirmation surgeries is improving and in 2014 Medicare’s ban on using funding for these surgeries was lifted. Now Medicare will pay for surgery on a case by case basis. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) prohibited insurance companies that receive federal funding from treating gender identity as a preexisting condition. This was a major win for the transgender community that is now at stake because of the new healthcare bill that is now in the senate. The rise in gender confirmation surgeries can be tied to access to health care thanks to the ACA which is now threatened because the new administration.

While 2016 saw a rise in gender confirmation surgeries there was also another record broken in the trans community, at least 22 trans people were murdered. A trans rights activist, Gearah Goldstein, said that this is due to the “hyper-focus on the transgender experience.” The current administration has also removed the Obama’s transgender bathroom guidelines, which makes life harder for those who do not conform to gender norms.

The narrative around the transgender community is facing both wins and losses but the visibility of trans folks is on the rise and allows them to control their stories.

Female Circumcision aka Female Genital Mutilation

 

By: Cassandra Hedrick

Female genital mutilation, also known as female circumcision, is a procedure that removes part or all of the outer part of the female genitals. It is very painful and dangerous, causing pain throughout the victim’s life. It happens mostly in eastern Africa and parts of Asia, but can happen to girls anywhere.

The mutilation can range from just the removal of clitoris and lips (clitoridectomy) to sewing the lips over the vagina (infibulation). It happens to girls in infancy or adolescents, but can also happen to older women as well. The immediate consequences include severe pain, infection, shock, and sometimes death. However, the effects are lifelong. Long term consequences include urinary and vaginal problems, need for surgery later in life, and psychological problems, such as depression and low self-esteem.

Female circumcision is most popular in western and eastern regions in Africa, the Middle East, and some countries in Asia. In these places, it is considered a social norm and believed necessary to raising girls. It is also considered a way to keep women sexually pure by stopping them from wanting to engage in sexual behavior. It is also supposed to increase marriageability.

Female genital mutilation is considered a violation of human rights. Recently, there has been a wider international effort to stop it through more political involvement in countries where it is popular. These  efforts include strengthening the health sector involvement in this issue and education people on why female circumcision is harmful. Stop FGM Now is a campaign working to stop female genital mutilation. You can learn more about how to get involved and save women from female genital mutilation at their website.

Education Rights for Women (Or lack there of)

By: Cassandra Hedrick

In first world countries like America there is not really a gap between boys and girls school attendance. However, in many countries around the world there is an issue with girls not being able to get an education. In Afghanistan, girls only make up 1/3 of students and they make up 2/3s of illiterate adults worldwide. While we are moving in the direction of gender equality when it comes to education, we are not quite there. There are many factors contributing to this lack of education for girls, the main ones being poverty, race or ethnicity, and location.

Kids in poverty stricken countries are less likely to attend school. Girls are 2% less likely to go to school because they tend to stay at home and help with household duties. Similarly, girls from rural areas are less likely to attend school for the same reason, as well as because of the distance they live from schools. In parts of the world where there is a lot of war and violence, girls may not be able to attend school because it is dangerous for them to go. However, no matter where are in the world, racial and ethnic minorities always attend school at lower rates. This means the gender disparities are accentuated.

We need to pay more attention to gender inequality in education. Just because we don’t see it very often in America, doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen all over the world. There are gender disparities in education, caused by poverty, location, and race. If you want to help fix this, you can visit the United Nations Girls Education Initiative to find out more.

Women in Prison: It’s nothing like Orange is the New Black

By: Cassandra Hedrick

Men and women’s prisons are very different from each other. For example, men’s prisons tend to have higher security than women prisons. But even though men and women are separated in prison, there is still an issue of gender inequality. There are only 170 women’s prisons in America and they are not funded as well as the men’s prisons. This causes women prisoners to return to prison at a higher rate, which is known as recidivism.

Even though women’s prisons tend to be more comfortable, they are not as good as men’s prisons. Women tend to stay in dormitories or cottages, rather than cells. Also, like I said before, they have much less security and therefore more freedom. However, they lack in rehabilitation programs. This is a serious issue because many women inmates have substance abuse problems and mental illnesses. Meanwhile, men’s prisons have more rehabilitation programs due to the amount of violent offenders; prisons feel as though they need to rehabilitate them for the protection of the community. This lack of rehabilitation programs is what causes the much higher rates of recidivism for women prisoners.

While the rate of women in prison has tripled since 1980, the funding has not. Just because women get more freedom in prison and the facilities may look nicer, they still aren’t as good as men’s prisons where is counts. Their severe lack of rehabilitation programs causes the inmates to suffer once they leave prison, and inevitably go back. Women need more rehabilitation programs in order to become successful after leaving prison.

Protections for Transgender Women Or lack Thereof

By: Cassandra Hedrick

Transgender women are one the least protected demographics in America. They are often murdered but it is rarely investigated. In many states, Transgendered individuals can be discriminated against in both housing and employment. However, they are still people and American citizens and there for are entitles to the same rights and protections as cisgendered individuals.

While things are getting better for the trans community, they are still missing many of the same rights most Americans enjoy. They are often targeted for unnecessary questioning and random pat downs by police and are not allowed to ask for an officer of a different gender. When they are in prison, Male to Female transgendered individuals are often housed in male prisons. Not to mention the fact they can be arrested for using the bathroom that does not match their biological sex.

In addition, insurance companies can refuse to cover someone who has been diagnosed with gender dysphoria (feeling as though they are a gender other than the one assigned to them at birth). Also employers are not required to provide transition related medical treatment as a part of employee insurance policies.

That being said, we are on the right track. California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia all have protections for transgendered individuals. There have also been several court cases that have provided protections. For instance, the department of Housing and Urban Development is not allowed to discriminate against anyone from the LGBTQ+ community and Title VII protects them against employer discrimination in some states. Things can continue to get better if we all come together and accept trans people as people and treat them as such.

What is Intersectionality, and Why Does it Matter?

By: Jillian James

There has been a lot of discussion among feminists lately about the topic of intersectionality. But what does it mean, and why is it important? Simply put, intersectionality is the conversion and consideration of different cultures and people that are a part of the feminist community. For example, a young Latina feminist may have different priorities than a middle-aged white woman who considers herself a feminist. Being intersectional in your thinking means considering the voices and needs of ALL groups who stand by your cause.

 

The feminist community has been criticized in the past for only including the voices of white women. Scholar and professor Kimberle Crenshaw introduced the topic of intersectional feminism in a 1989 paper that she wrote entitled “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory, and Antiracist Politics.” She stated that black women had been excluded from feminist activities and feminist theory, and that a black woman’s race and gender could not be seen as two separate entities.

 

A key part of understanding intersectionality is comprehending that feminism is not one-size-fits-all. It is a very personal thing for each woman who decides to call herself a feminist, and every woman will have certain issues that are close to her. Some women may be concerned about he gender pay gap, while others are worried about issues like paid maternity leave or abortion access. Considering the experiences and voices of every woman of every social, racial, and economic background is the key to making feminism as inclusive and representative as possible.

SOURCES:

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2017/01/19/feminism-intersectionality-racism-sexism-class/96633750/

http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/01/why-our-feminism-must-be-intersectional/

 

Defunding women’s healthcare worldwide

By: Nicole McLaren

https://mic.com/articles/173529/this-week-in-reproductive-rights-trump-defunds-the-un-s-maternal-health-fund#.qmpHqXwjV

The U.S. is in the position to have an impact on many issues all across the world, one of these being access to healthcare for women. The current administration has attacked women’s reproductive rights already with both words and policy not only in the US but globally. They have decided to defund the United Nation’s Global Maternal Health Organization.

This is an organization that provides reproductive healthcare including abortion services to women all over the world. According to the administration this is to prevent the UN from conducting “coercive abortion and involuntary sterilization”. This claim is baseless according to the as there is no evidence that the organization does either of these two things.

George W. Bush used the same argument to defund the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), claiming it was supporting China’s one child policy with these funds. Even though the UN has expressed that they do not support the one child policy and no funds are used to support it.

The UNFPA and UN Global Maternal Health Organization provide contraceptives, family planning services, prenatal care, abortion, sexual and reproductive health services as well as education for populations all over the planet. This will take away over $70 million from the organizations but this only makes up 7% of the organizations budget. This is not the first attack on international women’s healthcare that the administration has committed. They have reinstated the Global Gag Rule which is a ban on U.S. funding to be given to any organization that provides safe abortions.

It is important for women to have access to reproductive healthcare, including abortions, not only in the U.S. but across the globe. The current administration is working to limit access to these services for all women and we must combat that by standing up for the rights of women. One way we can do that is having access to information. The UNFPA has a newsletter that anyone can sign up for so that you can be informed about these issues. Here’s the link https://visitor.r20.constantcontact.com/manage/optin?v=001-YNFZmXHhSP25d9kiBTi0ZxtEwaeIcM-UeLsaXPKYoHs5SAGE1WbNakIrfhkc_3wTTkXkKXbHJpBnXtbqkTATg_O174jFAyLQdNkQkPKQAk%3D&MERGE0=

How Justice Gorsuch’s could impact your ability to access healthcare

By: Nicole McLaren

The battle between Republicans and Democrats for the Supreme Court seat is officially over as Gorsuch was sworn into the lifelong position earlier this week. He is replacing Scalia who passed away and left an open seat for more than a year. There are some key things that you need to know about his views that could impact your rights to healthcare.

  • His views on abortion are unclear

He has not ruled on a case that deals with abortion. Although we can make some assumptions from his book in 2006 about assisted suicide where he states “the intentional taking of human life by a private person is always wrong”.

  • His stance on maternity leave is also not clear

Two former students have stated that he accused women of using their companies for maternity benefits. He has claimed the students misunderstood him and that he was trying to teach young women about the unfair treatment they will receive in the work place and during the interview process.

  • He has a record of putting corportations over women’s reproductive health rights

      In the Hobby Lobby case he ruled that closely held businesses are not required to provide their employees contraceptive coverage that conflicts with the religious beliefs of the owner.

With this knowledge we can work to combat the rhetoric against women’s right to access reproductive healthcare services by working in our communities to try to ensure the safety and rights of all women. This can be done through volunteering with organizations like Planned Parenthood or even sharing the stories of how women have benefited from access to reproductive healthcare services. The US federal government has a blog that shares these stories here is the link https://www.womenshealth.gov/blog.