Within Women’s Studies, there is an understanding that our bodies can be used as pillars of political movements through the scrutiny of the public. If you were around in the sixties and seventies or have kept up with the Women’s Rights Movement in recent years, you’ve probably heard the mantras “The personal is political” or “My body, my choice!” Since there is such heated debate about whether women should be able to have abortions, what the stipulations are when they do receive them, and how they can be controlled legally because of these queries, people have been attempting to cleave through patriarchal norms with research evidence since the 20th century. Discrimination can occur within the workplace because of one’s appearance (skin color, body shape, age, height, perceived attractiveness or sexuality). Women’s Studies without intersectional recognition would be useless, so studying the body in relation to workplace practices is only natural. The next step after finishing my Bachelor of Science in Women’s Studies is to obtain my doula certification next spring and to work through the Master of Public Health Promotion and Education program at Eastern Virginia Medical School. My hopes of being a public health educator have become particularly heightened in the past year after deep reflection on the sex education that I received growing up. Body studies are immeasurably important to Women’s Studies, doulas and public health educators alike with their underlying connotations of politics, health benefits and illness, religion and the right to personal choice.
Furthermore, most religions consider sex to be a sacred practice for married couples and attempt to deter people away from breaking their chastity with fear. Thus, many parents that subscribe to religions heavily give their children little to no sex education, for it is considered taboo and crass. Rather than giving factual information about STD rates, birth control and safe sex practices, many religious parents teach morality. According to catholicparents.org, “Children don’t need sex ed., they need chastity ed.,” reinforcing that it’s better to teach children about no sex than safe sex (Catholic Parents Online 2016). There’s a dire need to teach people about safe sex practices because young adults often make hasty decisions when they are constricted for too long. Teen pregnancy rates within very conservative states have actually increased as a result of religiosity and an absence of sex education (Strayhorn 2009). Lacking sex education is not the only way that a conjunction between religion and politics occurs though. Abortion in itself has been a source of intrigue for feminist scholars because it’s so highly regulated and feared by many. If you’ve ever driven past a Planned Parenthood facility, you have probably also seen religious protesters standing outside with propaganda about murder and a straight path to Hell. Planned Parenthood serves the public through extensive services like abortions, abortion referral, sex education in person and online, STI testing, birth control information and services, breast exams and pap tests with abortion services only accounting for 3% of the 2016-17 report (Planned Parenthood 2018). Major pushback from religious communities has put up barriers for this organization’s free and reduced price services since their start. Aiming to give factual information about sex without hedonistic ambitions has become increasingly difficult.
Doulas work as natural healers through the birthing process that use careful consideration of both parents to decide aspects of the prenatal, maternal and postnatal processes. There are some misconceptions about their necessity in the birthing process, but having a doula often decreases both the need for medication during delivery and the infant mortality rate (American Pregnancy Association 2017). Methods practiced include prenatal massages, lactation consulting, deep breathing techniques and a close partnership with the mother at the heart of pregnancy. Each woman’s body is incredibly different; one woman may prefer to use epidurals where another may vehemently oppose it. Using knowledge of pressure points on a very pregnant woman can make a natural delivery simple. Studying the body to figure out lactation techniques for a fussy baby that may not latch immediately is also necessary. Having a cheerleader for you throughout the childbearing process assists with a mother’s mental well-being and society’s need for healthy citizens to sustain the economy long-term. Consultation of a child bearer’s body, health history and preferences can make communication with doctors go smoothly for the benefit of all parties involved.
A body-centered focus is interwoven in the very fabric of Women’s Studies thanks to political oppression and policing of women’s bodies. Modification, sexuality and fashion practices are also adaptive to the body-centered focus within Women’s Studies from patriarchal structures of normality. Doulas work to garner individual trust in the birthing process from a personal standpoint rather than a sterile, medical one. Some women may choose to have natural home births because they feel that the American birthing process is one with capitalistic interest for insurance companies. Others may desire a doula’s assistance because of past negative experiences with doctors. Sex education has been a source of contempt within religious groups for centuries, and Women’s Studies majors debunk fear-mongering myths with factual evidence. You cannot talk about Women’s Studies, becoming a doula or public health educator without recognition of the body’s complex political ties. Researchers dedicate their lives to giving factual evidence to benefit society and body lore embodies this with punctual ease.
“Having a Doula: Their Benefits and Purpose.” American Pregnancy Association, 22 July 2017, americanpregnancy.org/labor-and-birth/having-a-doula/.
Planned Parenthood . “2016-2017 Annual Report.” Https://Www.plannedparenthood.org/Uploads/filer_public/d4/50/d450c016-a6a9-4455-bf7f-711067db5ff7/20171229_ar16-17_p01_lowres.Pdf.
Strayhorn, Joseph M, and Jillian C Strayhorn. “Religiosity and teen birth rate in the United States.” Reproductive Health, BioMed Central, 17 Sept. 2009, reproductive-health-journal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1742-4755-6-14.
“TEN GOOD REASONS TO OPPOSE PUBLIC SCHOOL SEX EDUCATION.” Catholic Parents OnLine, 22 May 2016, www.catholicparents.org/ten-good-reasons-oppose-public-school-sex-education/.
Mikalah Lake is a student at Old Dominion University pursuing a B.S. in Women’s Studies with a minor in Psychology. Causes that are particularly important to her are women’s rights, environmental awareness, leadership, civic duty, and mental health awareness. After completing her B.S. degree, her dream is to pursue a Master of Public Health Education degree at Eastern Virginia Medical School.