When Did We Lose Our Voices & How Do We Get Them Back?

Tue, 11/22/2011 - 08:57
Submitted by Anonymous

The first time I met Betty and Carlin, we talked about the process of finding our voices and learning to speak up. I said I had learned through being a doula and speaking up in large medical environments for other women first.

Through this I learned to speak up for myself in all different environments. Betty said she went to art school because she could express herself without needing to speak. It was in later years that she learned to use her voice. Carlin said she went to law school so she could learn to speak up.

So here we are, three women dedicated to speaking up for ourselves and supporting and guiding other women to speak up for themselves, and we all needed to take indirect routes, of sorts, to get there.

Point is – we as women in this culture aren’t taught to speak up for ourselves, especially when it comes to our bodies and our needs.

My job as a birth doula gives me a constant window into women’s challenges and triumphs in advocating for themselves. A lot of the time, it is heartbreaking. Some of the time it’s beautiful.

The question I keep returning to is: when did we lose our voices and how do we get them back?

I don’t have an answer to this question. I don’t know how to make it easy to speak up on your own behalf. I don’t know a secret formula. But I do believe it’s important. I do believe there are few things as amazing as being in a vulnerable place (lying on the gynecologist’s exam table with your legs spread, being in a hospital room as you give birth and people you’ve never met before come in, lying on an operating table while your baby is born into the hands of a surgeon, etc.) and discovering that you can voice what you are feeling in your body, what you need, and having what you say be heard and responded to.

When I write about this, I’m not talking about natural birth vs. epidurals, vaginal births vs. cesareans. I’m talking about knowing that a doctor or nurse or midwife are not there to have control of you or to tell you what to do regardless of what you are feeling, but rather that they are there to provide you with care; care in which you have the right to be an active participant.

What would it be like if your doctor or nurse or midwife was about to do a vaginal exam on you (in labor or in an annual visit), you didn’t feel ready and you said “I’m feeling pretty tense about getting this vaginal exam (or pap smear or…). Can I have a minute to take a deep breath and prepare myself?”. And what if your care provider responded by saying, “Of course. You let me know when you are ready. I’m happy to wait.” And then he or she looked you in the eye and smiled and waited.

What if the first time you ever went to a gynecologist as an adolescent girl, your mom (or sister or friend) had told you that it was up to you to decide when you were ready for a vaginal exam and the speed of it?

I think if we were all told that we have the right to hand select our care providers, to ask them questions, to decide on the pace of the exam, to say no to something that doesn’t feel comfortable and yes to something that does, to say “no thank you” to a care provider we aren’t feeling comfortable with and switch to someone with whom we do feel comfortable, a lot would be different for us as women, for us in our sex lives, for us in gynecologic care and childbirth.

Just something the think about. When is the last time you felt uncomfortable during a visit to the gynecologist's office and said, "Can you slow down a little bit?"

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Women claiming our power is vital in all areas of life.

Wed, 11/23/2011 - 12:06
Betty Dodson

I clearly remember when I became sexually active again after my divorce when I was 35. I kept saying to myself, "Open your mouth and tell the next guy he's doing your clit too hard." After many futile efforts, I finally got up the nerve and practically shouted, "Stop using so much pressure on my clitoris!" My voice was so loud it shocked even me. Then I apologized for saying it so harshly. Needless to say that was our last date. But I'd finally made the breakthrough and the next time I was able to show my partner how I liked to be touched. He was very thankful for the information and we ended up having a sweet orgasmic affair that lasted until he moved to the West Coast.

My visits to the doctor are okay for the most part...

Thu, 11/24/2011 - 20:59

I never had trouble with starting a pelvic exam although I felt that the post partum exams were too intrusive and lasted too long even though I know the doctor was checking to make sure there were no prolapses going on. I didn't want to slow down, I wanted it done, and probably said, "Hey, let's get this done!"
As to what Betty said, I'm still working on educating my husband to the importance of lube on my clit. It took about a year for him to get a really good technique on me (and watching me definitely helped) but getting him to realize I don't want callouses on my clit is a learning process punctuated by "Hey, my clit needs some lube", "WTF, are you trying to give me friction burns on my clit?", or "Hey, need more lube, hold up and then do what you were doing but just a little lighter."