From theories of women’s “wandering uteri” to the insistence that womanhood is a purely social construct, and from the witchhunts to female genital mutilation, female anatomy has been under attack. This anatomy is necessary for reproduction… and patriarchy and capitalism both have special incentives for commodifying reproduction: It produces the soldiers that either further dreams of empire or guard against it, and it produces a labor force—the larger, the cheaper. And, of course, our bodies are commodified for the paid and unpaid rape experiences to which a huge percentage of men feel entitled.
How do men get away with this? Well, for starts, raw power. They very blatantly legislate control over our persons. Just in the last two centuries this meant we could not vote, serve on juries, own our own children, inherit, have professional careers, get formal education, get credit in our own names, own our own wages, terminate unwanted pregnancies. We could be legally raped in marriage, sexually harassed with impunity, and a husband could have his wife locked up indefinitely on the recommendation of a doctor, who didn’t even have to examine the woman personally. Raw power.
A third prong of this attempted totalitarian control over women’s anatomy is data bias. Men in the sciences operate under the assumption that “male=human.” The result of this is the skewing of data that erases half the human race. Women must move through a world that favors males. The book Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed For Men by Caroline Criado Perez documents the high price women are forced to pay for this willful erasure of female anatomy
SNOW REMOVAL. Yep. Snow removal. There is an order in which municipal snow removal occurs. The priority is usually the major arteries used by drivers who commute to work. These roads get plowed first, then the bus routes, then the pedestrian routes. But guess what? Women are more likely to take public transit or to walk. Part of this is our substantially lower income, but also because we are far more likely (25%) to “trip chain,” that is to make a number of stops on our way to a destination: drop the kids at daycare, pick up the cleaning, pick up groceries, etc. And, of course, this difference is rooted in our anatomy. How? Well, 80% of women exercise our reproductive capacity, which results in almost two decades of primary caregiving as young adults, with attendant interruptions in career-building. We make about 20% less than men. And we constitute a sizable majority of the poor and working poor. Not surprisingly, women comprise 69% of the snow injuries from falling on uncleared streets and sidewalks. Is this just theory? No. In cities where bus routes and sidewalks are cleared first, women’s injuries go down. But… the funding priority still remains commuter roads, not public transit.
TOILETS. Studies show that converting men’s and women’s bathrooms to “gender neutral,” with the men’s room retaining urinals, results in men using both bathrooms and women using only the former women’s room. Which means our lines will be even longer. The 50/50 law that mandates equal floor space for men’s and women’s facilities fails to take into account that women use cubicles exclusively, where men use urinals, greatly increasing the number of men who can use the facilities at the same time. And bathroom safety for women and children is a huge issue. WaterAid reports that women and girls around the world spend 97 billion hours a year seeking safe places to relieve themselves. Because of our anatomy and social sanctions, we cannot “go anywhere” when we need to urinate. And, of course, there is rape. Women often will avoid using public bathrooms after dark, for fear of being ambushed and assaulted. Public bathrooms around the world are notorious sites for harassment. To manage this, women often don’t drink enough water, risking dehydration and heat illness. Invisible Women has an entire chapter titled “Gender Neutral with Urinals.” It’s huge.
Medicine… where to begin? That our heart attack symptoms are radically different from those of men, and for this reason thousands of women, not recognizing them in time to seek emergency services, are dead. Or the fact that colon cancer occurs higher up the colon in women, rendering the do-it-yourself, at-home screening kits less effective for women. Are we told this when considering alternatives to colonoscopies? No. Again, more female fatalities.
I actually did some crowdsourcing for examples of medical misogyny and the examples were too numerous to include. But drug testing has historically been conducted on males, resulting in the horrors of birth defects from thalidomide use by pregnant women. The horror here is that pregnant women were being specifically targeted, because thalidomide was a sedative promoted for use in third trimester sleep disorders. And ME/CFS (myalgic encephalomyelitis or chronic fatigue syndrome) is an autoimmune disorder that affects females more than males. Needless to say, it has been treated as psychosomatic: the “lazy/crazy disease.” Also Female Anatomy Matters with Lyme disease. Women tend to have more atypical rashes from the tick bites, resulting in missed or misdiagnoses. Commercial Lyme testing favors men over women, because men have more positive ELISA tests and more positive Western blots.
I’m really not doing this subject justice. Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez, y’all. It just might save your life.
The point I want to make, as a lesbian and as a feminist, is this: Our LGBT community, in it’s admirable intention to make the world more tolerant, inclusive, and equal has overreached with ideologies that lend themselves to this “Invisible Women” oppression. In a rush to validate trans identities, we have become guilty of contributing to the disrespect toward and diminution of the significance of female anatomy. Disappearing the reality, the historical oppression, and the lived experience of female anatomy will not pave any kind of path forward toward acceptance and equality. Female Anatomy Matters is the way. This does not mean that trans identities and anatomies don’t matter. In fact, understanding why and how Female Anatomy Matters is a touchstone for liberation for all.