Dating as a Woman: Balancing a Desire for Intimacy with the Threat of Violence

Smiling woman and man on a bench

“Why don’t you date?”

My therapist’s comment took me aback. After a difficult relationship, why didn’t I put myself back out there? After all, meeting new people would be a healthy distraction, enrich my social life, and build up my confidence by reminding me how ridiculously charming and attractive I am.

Okay, maybe I don’t have a problem with confidence.

I have never been shy or reluctant to meet new people. But the idea of dating left me exhausted. More sexist men, more risk of sexual violence, more worrying that — Cat Person-style — a seemingly innocuous date would reveal a shock of coercion under his charm.

Continue reading Dating as a Woman: Balancing a Desire for Intimacy with the Threat of Violence

International Women’s Day: Speaking Out Beyond #MeToo

Silhouette of sexist man and woman

Originally, I was asked to write this piece about a time I felt empowered as a woman. All day I sat with the prompt, but nothing came to me. How sad is that?

Over the next couple of days, I asked a few of my female friends if they could think of a time they felt empowered. They couldn’t think of a specific time, either. I felt sad for them. I felt sad for myself.

Of course, all these other thoughts came flooding into my mind — about all the times I felt like my power was threatened as a woman (e.g. most of the time). All the times I’ve been in situations that made me feel like a piece of meat — something to look at and touch, but not a human to be communicated with, respected or honored.

Continue reading International Women’s Day: Speaking Out Beyond #MeToo

How Much Effort Do Women Put Into Coping With Sexual Harassment in a Day?

women at work uncomfortable with male co-worker touching her on arm

It’s that knot of anxiety in the pit of your stomach when you walk down the street. You step off the train, your bag in front of your breasts, flinching lest the next passerby brush you “accidentally-on-purpose.”

It’s never knowing whether your boss is leaning just a little too close.

It’s turning the music up loud so you don’t hear the catcallers, or turning down an invitation to a work outing because the coworker who’s going has a reputation for getting handsy when he’s drunk. Continue reading How Much Effort Do Women Put Into Coping With Sexual Harassment in a Day?

Here’s How Street Harassment Affects Women’s Mental Health — and How We Heal

two men cat calling woman on street

I remember what I was wearing: A blue tank top with a picture of a peacock, jean short-shorts, and flip-flops. I remember the weather: High summer, sweet grass scenting the air and the sun just beginning its slow descent to the horizon. I was walking down a country road, lost in my thirteen-year-old daydreams, when suddenly —

Honk honk!

A car horn split the air with its grating clamor. A group of men in the car waved their hands and heads out the windows, hollering at me.

It felt like I jumped a mile. My body flooded with shock. Fear. Self-consciousness. The moment before, I was at ease in my space, my body, my summer daydreams. Now, my sense of peace was ripped away like a wax strip torn from the heart. Continue reading Here’s How Street Harassment Affects Women’s Mental Health — and How We Heal

Women Share Slut Shaming Stories — and Admit Why They Do it Themselves

still not asking for it poster woman at rally

In an era when it seems we’re celebrating feminism more than ever, and sharing stories in solidarity of abuse and assault, why are people still tearing women down over their sexuality? Both in person and online, slut shaming is way too common an occurrence — and oftentimes, the perpetrator is a fellow female! It’s so common that the term is in the Oxford Dictionaries, defined as: “The action or fact of stigmatizing a woman for engaging in behaviour judged to be promiscuous or sexually provocative.”

I took to a secret women-only Facebook group to get some input. Only minutes after asking “Does anyone want to share stories about being slut shamed?” responses were pouring in. Even in just this 200 person group, it seemed a majority had stories to share, ranging from accounts happening only days before to experiences going back years. Continue reading Women Share Slut Shaming Stories — and Admit Why They Do it Themselves

Why Mental Health Is A Feminist Issue

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When I told several people in my life I would be writing about feminism and mental health, they didn’t understand. “Why is mental health a feminist issue?” they asked. So let’s talk about that F-word, feminism.

To review, per bell hooks, an acclaimed feminist theorist, “Feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression” — for everyone.

The feminist movement has worked to earn women the right to vote, the ability to seek careers, and to make decisions about their reproductive rights, for example. Feminism endures, however, because it’s much more than that. The feminist movement also works to incorporate an intersectional understanding of identity by including race, sexual orientation, gender identity, ability, class, and age into its politics.

So where does mental health fit into the picture? Continue reading Why Mental Health Is A Feminist Issue

The History of Hysteria: Sexism in Diagnosis

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The female body has long been misunderstood. Women are often misdiagnosed by doctors, either due to the belief that they are over-dramatizing symptoms or because of a lack of adequate research on illnesses predominantly faced by women. As frustrating as this is, it’s no new phenomenon.

Dating back to 1900 BC Egypt, an ancient medical document known as the Eber Papyrus contained references to hysterical disorders thought to be caused by abnormal movements of the uterus. In the 5th Century BC, Hippocrates was the first to coin the term “hysteria” and agreed with his predecessors that this so-called condition — attributable only to women — was due to a “wandering womb,” believed to be caused by sexual inactivity. Recommended cures were, naturally, that women should increase sexual activity within the bounds of marriage. This diagnosis was not founded in science or medical research (though that may seem obvious now), but in gender bias against women and their experience of emotions and the perceived lack of sexual interest.

As currently defined by Merriam-Webster Dictionary, hysteria is, “behavior exhibiting overwhelming or unmanageable fear or emotional excess.” An alternate, psychiatric definition is, “a psychoneurosis marked by emotional excitability and disturbances of the psychogenic, sensory, vasomotor, and visceral functions.” While the definition of hysteria might seem broad, it has also altered over time. While medicine and mental health have changed a great deal over the centuries, hysteria is a historically gendered diagnosis that often served as a catch-all when doctors couldn’t identify another illness. It was extremely common to find women labelled as “hysterical” defined more by their stature as women than by their symptoms. Continue reading The History of Hysteria: Sexism in Diagnosis

5 Celebrity Women Who Spoke Out About Domestic Violence

kerry washington red carpet

About 20 people are victims of domestic violence every minute in the United States. Domestic violence is an enormous issue, and we need powerful voices to address it.

We wanted to salute those in the spotlight who have spoken about their personal experiences with domestic and intimate partner violence. Because survivors often suffer in silence, we hope these public voices offer inspiration and courage to those who might need support.

Tamron Hall

Tamron Hall, a host for NBC’s “Today” show, has been an advocate for survivors of domestic abuse for many years. Hall’s sister died as a result of her abusive relationship. This was the catalyst for Hall’s advocacy. Her sister’s death is still unsolved.

Hall has been open about her struggles with guilt about her sister Renate’s death. Her feelings echo those of family members across the world who have struggled with having a loved one in an abusive relationship. She started the Tamron Renate Hall Fund with her sons to help survivors of domestic abuse. Continue reading 5 Celebrity Women Who Spoke Out About Domestic Violence

Anxiety Symptoms in Women: A Quick Guide

latina woman anxiety

Anxiety symptoms in women are generally the same as in men:

  • Thoughts about everything that can go wrong or something that might be wrong already
  • Obsessive thoughts
  • Insomnia (sometimes a result of the thoughts)
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Becoming stressed quickly and easily
  • Sudden fear of death, embarrassment, illness, etc.
  • Fight-or-flight responses to something that can’t cause physical harm
  • Repeating ritual behaviors more than necessary (checking locks, grooming, etc.)
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Heart palpitations
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Chest pain
  • Feeling like you’re choking
  • Numbness
  • Chills
  • Hot flashes
  • Muscles tightening
  • Muscle aches
  • Headaches
  • Hairs standing up
  • Hives and rashes

The differences lie in how women tend to express and process these symptoms, and how they often focus their anxiety on certain issues more than men. There are also genetic, biological and neurological differences that make women more likely to develop anxiety and experience symptoms more frequently. Continue reading Anxiety Symptoms in Women: A Quick Guide

It’s Time to Screen All Pregnant Women for Depression

asian pregnant woman in hospital depression

We all know postpartum depression is a serious issue, but many people do not know about peripartum depression: symptoms of depression during pregnancy, especially in the weeks approaching birth.

Roughly one in five women experience an episode of depression during pregnancy or in the year after giving birth, according to a report by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality [AHRQ]. About half of these women have “serious symptoms,” The New York Times reported.

The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force [USPSTF] issued a recommendation in The Journal of the American Medical Association that urges primary care doctors to implement depression screenings for pregnant women. These screenings will improve depression symptoms by encouraging women to proactively seek treatments such as psychotherapy, the USPSTF said. They involve questionnaires and scales designed to evaluate symptoms of depression. Continue reading It’s Time to Screen All Pregnant Women for Depression