Happy Women’s History Month (whatever that means). Often, these month-long celebrations feel like superfluous spectacles for the mainstream to commodify marginalized identities (shout out to PRIDE X Tokenism every June). However, in effort to reframe and repurpose a month that's maybe missing the point, we will be launching content to debunk, debrief and help ya’ll understand that
if your feminism isn’t for everybody, it’s for nobody.
All month long we will be celebrating, supporting and sharing stories of women, folks and friends who are advancing inclusion and intersectionality in the spaces that are near and dear to our hearts.
This week our new bestie and Social Media Director Taylor Maness, shares stories of vaginal health history that are absurd, unsettling and just plain strange. The Vagina and Vulva have mystified and intrigued the masses since the world’s inception, and with immense fascination comes immense.. stupidity. This article will highlight just how crazy and sometimes infuriating the road to learning about our sexual health has been. Get ready: this ain’t your average history class.
Written By: Taylor Maness
Hysteria is Hysterical
Hysteria is the very first mental disorder ever recorded and it has only ever been attributed to women and femmes. Ironic, huh? Documentations on hysteria date back thousands of years, and have always been a way for medical professionals to dismiss female patients. Hysteria isn’t even a medical condition, it’s merely a state of intense emotions (and we can’t be having those now can we). Welp, it turns out that medical professionals took the creative route to find a “cure.” They did everything from prescribing healing herbs, promoting long walks, to giving them orgasms. Yup, that’s correct. One method to relieve women of hysteria was to manually stimulate the clit until the woman would come to climax. This was meant to relieve women of built-up tension and negative emotions…which isn’t not wrong. I suppose I’ll never have to worry about being hysterical.
READ MORE: The Intersection of Sexual and Mental Health. Our roundup of our favorite websites, apps, and people who have helped us better understand our bodies while reversing the negative connotations we have been taught to associate with our sexuality.
Problematic PeriodsAnother gem coming from the 1800’s has to do with menstruation. Periods were still an elusive concept at this time but medical professionals still let their concerns be known. It was believed the people who menstruated were less fit because of the limited blood supply in the body. Due to this, women were discouraged from doing things like going to school or getting jobs. This was framed as a way to protect menstruating people from overexerting themselves while in such a fragile state. Well look at us now, going out and living our best lives, all while bleeding from our vaginas.
Going for it at the Gyno
If you’ve ever been to the Gynecologist, you know what a fun and sexy time it is (SARCASM). There is nothing exciting about having a cold, metal clamp open you up while a stranger peers into your vaginal canal. It’s not surprise medical professionals used to warn about how these routine exams could actually ignite sexual passions in female patients, which was seen as a negative at that time. Supposedly, heightened libido in women was seen as detrimental to marital relationships. One man even reported that his wife’s frequent trips to the doctor was what caused their marriage to fail. The entire experience was said to be too titillating for women to handle and the over stimulation could even lead to (circling back) hysteria. We love a good call back.
READ MORE: Dr. Mare's OB/GYN checklist of what to do before your visit, plus questions to ask while you're there.
Excuse Me Ma'am You Dropped Your Uterus
Now I don’t want you thinking that these wild ideas only existed hundreds of years ago. There are plenty of pretty recent absurd claims made about our pelvic health. Let’s fast forward all the way to the 1960’s. Kathrine Switzer was the first woman to ever sign up to run the Boston Marathon (yay) but many men, including race officials, were reluctant to let her run (booo). She wrote in her memoir that men expressed concern over the physical effects of such a demanding run could do to her. Some men went as far as to say that her womb could fall out if she ran for too long. This obviously did not happen and Katherine did end up running in the marathon…once she was done dodging the men that tried to tackle her for being there.
READ MORE: What should your vulva actually look like?
Well there you have it, there are a few stories you probably didn’t read about in history class. As eye-rollingly ridiculous as these are, they do highlight just how much we’ve grown and how much has been learnt since then. We still have a long way to go, but I know we’ll get there. So keep standing up for yourself, keep telling people what you want, and keep using the word vagina in public. Happy Women’s History Month, Everyone. It’s going to be a hell of a month!