We Have a Voice // Aurelia Gooden

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Women are taught to be modest, endearing, and chaste in traditional society.  For some women, this is simply a decision to separate themselves from behaviors that could cause them to be labeled as “broads” or other derogatory terms; for others, keeping these ideals in focus is a religious or moral decision.  Many of the ethics that relate to the aforementioned adjectives may be upheld for the long haul, until the inevitable occurs: a visit to the doctor’s office.

The repetitive embarrassing questions, glares of judgment, and being forced to be completely devoid of clothing all in the name of protection from the rare and elusive cervical cancer diagnosis manipulate women into thinking that they have no choice - except to submit.  They feel that they must give details about intimacy, undress as quickly as possible upon demand, and live their lives according to that which the modern society has imposed.  Unlike traditional society, the modern society suggests that women are to become intimate by a certain age; otherwise, she is inferior to other women or simply lying about her lifestyle choices.  This situation leaves no room for women who choose to wait for marriage or women who choose other lifestyles that do not include intimacy.
While a woman would expect some of these awkward situations to occur if she is attending a previously scheduled appointment for a pelvic examination, this is not the case.  Many times, when a woman visits a doctor’s office or clinic for allergies, musculoskeletal issues, or even visual and auditory tests, she is automatically questioned about the date of her last pelvic examination and her intimate history.  If she does not answer these questions to the satisfaction of the nurse or technician, she is automatically scheduled for a pelvic examination.  Oftentimes, the examination is demanded offered impromptu.  Diagnosis of the issue that caused the woman to visit the practice is often delayed until she has submitted to the unrelated and unexpected pelvic examination. This tactic removes her options; this proposition invalidates her choice.

Notwithstanding the fact that this examination has little to do with the reason for the visit, the medical worker making the decision to send the woman for the examination is often uneducated in regards to the purpose of the examination.  Pelvic examinations serve one purpose: to screen for HPV (human papilloma virus) – the virus that has the potential to cause cervical cancer.  Nevertheless, the development of cervical cancer is extremely rare and may only develop in those having exposure to the virus.  Thus, chaste women or women refraining from intimacy for other reasons have no chance of exposure to HPV.   Furthermore, men are not asked to have their nether regions examined on the spot while reporting unrelated health issues; yet, society has deemed this treatment acceptable for women.

The treatment of women is even shaming for those who have scheduled an appointment for a pelvic examination.  The woman is instructed to remove everything and lie down with her legs separated as far as possible.  If she only removes enough clothing for the examination and nothing more, technicians and/or nurses often refuse to allow the doctor to know that she is “prepared” for the examination.  Having her upper body exposed in such a manner throughout the entire examination is completely unnecessary and only speaks to society’s perception that anyone and everyone must have access to a woman’s body upon demand.  She is thereby violated. Also, those electing to have this examination are often misinformed; these women are told that pelvic examinations offer screening for ovarian, uterine, and cervical cancers.  This is not true; only cervical cancer screening is provided by such an examination.

We must not allow a misogynistic society to dictate our lifestyles and choices.  A woman should not be given a pelvic examination at an unrelated doctor’s appointment via manipulative and impromptu methods.  She should not be questioned over and over again about her lifestyle choices – answering once per visit should be enough.  She should not receive judgmental stares regarding her answers to the questions.  Finally, the women who have decided to have the examination at a scheduled visit have the right to privacy.  We should not have to completely undress and only those required by law or requested by us should be in the room for the examination. 

We have a voice; let us force society to be an ear.

American College of Physicians. (2014, June 30). ACP recommends against pelvic exam in asymptomatic, average risk, non-pregnant women. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 4, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140630193407.htm

Written by Aurelia Gooden

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