Female Problems

I’ve been writing a lot lately about my uterus. I’ve never been particularly subtle about it, to be honest. I’ve always had bad cramps with my periods, and I remember complaining when I was younger that my “uterus hurt.”

This was not always a welcome revelation. Most people, women included, preferred to use euphemisms to talk about their monthly cycle. My mother used to call it “the curse.” (She was referring to the Biblical story of Eve, of course, but that’s a topic for another time. Because technically, Eve was the only one in that story who wasn’t cursed. But I digress.) When women had endometriosis or fibroids or heavy bleeding or horrible cramps, they often used the umbrella phrase “female problems” to explain what was going on. As though they were ashamed of their own bodies. As though it were something irrelevant that could be dismissed and forgotten. Oh, it’s just female problems. Glad it’s nothing serious.

When I recently searched for books about hysterectomy and the uterus on Amazon, I was relieved and pleased to see a number of memoirs by women who had undergone hysterectomies, most often due to cancer. Of these, about half were described as “humorous.” One title was compared to Erma Bombeck. I have to say, I have mixed feelings about this approach. On one hand, I know the power of humor in difficult times. It can be healing and bracing and help us bear the unbearable. Sometimes. But I also have to wonder if a humorous approach would be encouraged to make the subject matter more palatable to readers. No one wants to read about the angry hysterectomy patient. Let’s at least be entertaining.

This brings me back to Eve, which I guess I’ll write about now, after all. I don’t even want to get into the argument of whether she ever actually existed. (My stance is that it was a myth, a metaphor explaining why life is hard for us humans.) But unlike my mother’s take on it, I don’t think Eve caused us all of this pain and heartache. I do, however, think the story of Eve has done a lot of damage.

I think it would be good to understand that when the ancient Hebrews told this story (for it was an oral story long before it was ever written down), they were surrounded by people who worshipped, among other things, the Goddess, the feminine divine. The serpent was actually a sign of wisdom and healing in that older tradition, but the Hebrews didn’t want their people taking up those beliefs, so they made them bad. I can get much more cynical about the motives behind dis-empowering women, but I think this will do for a start. Don’t believe in a female god, that’s bad. Believe in Yahweh, that’s good.

And so institutionalized sexism began. Women have been referred to as “sinister,” on the left side of the body. The weaker sex. Even the phrase “hysterical woman,” comes from, you guessed it, the uterus. (Maybe once my uterus is removed, no one can accuse me of being hysterical.) This sexism can be extended to include “Mother Earth,” if you want to go there with me. The word matter comes from the Latin mater, meaning mother. And there are schools of thought that argue that matter, the body, is evil, while the spirit, the mind (the so-called masculine aspects of existence) is the only good.

Here’s where we get ourselves into even more trouble. Because if we see the earth, like women, as something to dominate and control, we treat it a lot differently than we would if we believed it to be holy, equal in goodness and divinity to the masculine traits of mind and spirit. If we rape the planet like we’ve raped the women on it, what will happen? Nothing of course, we thought. The earth can’t do anything. It submits. The Bible says so. The feminine part of creation can’t do anything to hurt us. It’s not powerful enough.

Sure. Tell that to a hurricane.

And I sense among the female members of the human species a similar swell of power. We have always been stronger than we appear. (Try childbirth sometime.) But I feel a movement back to the Mother, a growing to critical mass. In books from Margaret Starbird and Sue Monk Kidd — and in our intense and growing interest in them. In our ever-increasing awareness of climate change and its already obvious effects on our environment, our economy, and our lives. In the drive around the world to decrease carbon footprint and turn to renewable sources of energy. In the larger understanding and support for women surviving breast cancer.

Let’s talk about it. You can be funny or serious, angry or accepting. But talking about it will change the game. Join me.



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