Thursday the House of Representatives narrowly passed a measure to repeal the Affordable Health Care Act, and the Huffington Post referred to the proposed bill as a “’Coordinated Attack’ on Women’s Health Care.” While this round of legislation appears particularly harmful to women, the state of women’s health services have been at the mercy of men and a male-dominated medical profession for too long.
Artist activist Terrilynn Quick recognized this problem and began to address it through her work. She started the Uterus Flag Project in 2010, which is an investigation into the socio-political concerns around women’s health issues, looking specifically at the overuse and misuse of hysterectomies in America. The project serves as a beginning point of conversation for women who are often silent about their health concerns and too trusting of doctors, who may recommend a hysterectomy without considering other options or a woman’s long term health plan.
The project is based on the idea of the sit and stitch, which is grounded in the feminist ideals of “sharing, conversation, consciousness raising, and craft.” It’s a time for women to create but to also engage with each other about their health concerns and other issues that women face in society today. Women have a long history of this type of collaboration but have not engaged in hand-work like this as much in the late 20th and early 21st centuries as in the past. The Uterus Flag Project is just one attempt at bringing this type of collaborative coordination among women back.
Like all craftivism, it is yet another way of giving a voice—both visually and through testimonies of participants—to issues of social justice. In this case by bringing awareness to unnecessary hysterectomies, especially for women who are unaware of the options available besides uterus removal. About 600,000 hysterectomies are performed annually in the United States and it is the second most common surgery performed on women of childbearing age (cesarean sections are the first.) By the age of 60, more than one third of all women have had some form of a hysterectomy.
While some hysterectomies are necessary, such as with invasive cancer, many are not, and the surgery carries risks that many women are not made aware of, such as damage to other organs such as the urinary tract or bowel, that can cause long-term complications. Additionally, young women who have hysterectomies are at an increased risk for heart attacks, stroke, and early menopause. The surgeries have also been associated with serious urinary issues, sexual dysfunction, and depression.*
Thoughtful consideration and conversations should be engaged in prior to a woman’s consenting to a hysterectomy. Many are avoidable, especially if the condition is not causing any problematic symptoms. Learn more about the risks and alternatives to hysterectomies at the National Women’s Health Network.
Find more images of the Uterus Flag Project at www.howtocopewithtrump.com
Check out this video about the uterus flag project.