"Before I moved to college, seeing my cervix was the last thing on my mind. I never really saw the importance of looking down there. In fact, I never really took the time to look down there at all. My vagina was a place that was easily forgotten and hardly understood. I moved away from home at eighteen and at that point was still trying to understand what my own inner sense of woman-pride meant. I didn't understand that I was a young feminist in the making; I felt ashamed that some of my ideas seemed radical in comparison to those around me. By a simple twist of fate, I entered into a class appropriately titled "FEMSEX." In order to enroll in this class, I had to write an intent essay. In this essay, which was more of a letter, I explained that I wanted to get to know myself more. I wanted to understand what I chose not to for so long. Apparently, the instructor found this intriguing and I was hurdled into a world of women-centered talk. It was amazing! We talked about everything from the clitoris to gender. I never knew that other women wanted to know about these topics too! At the final chapter of our reader, the instructor announced that our last project was to get to know ourselves better. She wanted us to perform self-help. She wanted me to see my cervix. Now, I lived in the dorms... so this was not easy. I panicked and figured I would just skip out on the experience, but for some reason, I was still intrigued. Finally, I found time when my roommates were gone. I laid on my back and inserted the speculum, which was significantly more comfortable because I was in control of its handle. The flashlight was steady as I looked deep into myself. I looked at something I had chosen to believe was forgettable. At this moment I realized that this cervix, this pink doughnut, defined me. It made me what I am so proud to be. I am a woman and there is no forgetting that."
All this time I have seen so many women's cervices by assisting a nurse practitioner or doctor. Every cervix being the same but, in a unique way, different. I have had two wonderful girls and the doctor never offered me to see my cervix. So, finally, about a month ago I did my pap and the nurse practitioner offered me to see my cervix... and I did. It was nice that I finally got to see my cervix. I really want to say thanks to WHS for offering that opportunity to every woman.
"You hear about cervixes. You know they are in there somewhere and have something to do with your uterus. You know that it's the cervix that you feel getting hit sometimes during sex. But you don't really THINK about cervixes. At least I didn't."
For Katie's story see: My Perfect Cervix, by Katie Hodges.
"Now I am a dedicated self helper and always will be. I urge women to join or start a group. Look at your cervix, talk about your feminism, learn about yourself in anyway you can. IT'S LIBERATING." For her story see: My First Self Help Experience, by Shyla Black.
I am so excited for the Self Help Giveaway, honoring Dido Hasper, the amazing woman who founded WHS. I encourage any woman reading this to take advantage of this wonderful day and visit the clinic or call our phone counselors. I have been feeling very jazzed and vocal about self-help ever since my experience a few months ago at a conference on the east coast. I had the privilege to assist in leading a self-help workshop, where 48 women were introduced to self-help for the first time. I am a self-helper, but it was my first time participating in self-help as a group. It was powerful seeing the wonder and discovery and the "WOW!" on everyone's faces as first they viewed my cervix and then viewed their own. What I loved the most is one after one, a woman would realize her vagina and cervix and everything was right there in her eyesight, and in that moment her vagina stopped being this mysterious cavern and became her own!! The connection and demystification that self-help creates and brings to light is unique! We must all keep championing this powerful tool of liberation!!
The first time I saw my own cervix was at the Chico Feminist Women's Health Center in 1975 (now Women's Health Specialists). A health worker in the clinic demonstrated on herself how to insert the speculum, and using a flashlight and mirror, she looked at her cervix. She beckoned me over to look too. I was enthralled with how beautiful it was, and how open she was in sharing this with me. I was next, and when I finally saw my cervix, I felt this overwhelming sense of awe, and relief, because years of mystification and shame about my body were washed away. Many years later I had a hysterectomy (removal of uterus and cervix), and always felt a little sad that I couldn't see my cervix anymore. I was in a self-help group about two years ago, and a very dear long-time friend and collegue helped me with inserting the speculum and looking at my "cervix." I was apprehensive, and a little sad because I thought I would see a scar where my cervix had been. To my delight, I saw a rounded almost doughnut shaped protrusion. I just kept saying: "Really? That's it? I don't have an ugly scar". I burst into tears of joy and felt normal and a release of sadness that I had carried around, on some small level, about my surgery. Evidently the surgion had sort of tucked up where the cervix had been, giving me a little cervix. The power of this experience, and sharing it with the group of laughing women, was like seeing my cervix for the first time-again. I guess I'm a lucky woman to have seen her cervix for the first time two times. For readers unfamiliar with self-help, please visit this web site's section on self-help. Make sure you click on the cervix pictures - they are informative and beautiful.
As always, it is wonderful to share another woman's experience of seeing her own cervix. We learned at our first meeting that everything about our bodies is beautiful and of interest to the rest of us. I remember seeing my first menstruating cervix. I don't know what I thought I would see;maybe just a big bloody, smelly bunch of mush. That's certainly how it sometimes felt when I menstruated. Instead I saw a beautiful cervix with a thin red line of bright, red blood flowing slowly down into a small pool of bright red blood. That's when I realized that the disagreeable odor that I associated with menstrual blood was due to the meeting of the air with the blood and not a characteristic of the blood itself. I've never felt the same way about menstruation.