My First Self Help Experience
by Shyla Black
I worked at the Feminist Women’s Health Center for just under a year before I had ever heard of self help. When the information finally found its way to me I was very curious but I also had the ‘why do I need to look “DOWN THERE”?’ attitude that some of us may have. As I kept coming across tidbits of women’s stories in the health center I grew more and more curious and decided I wanted to look at my cervix (the opening to the uterus). I took a speculum from the clinic and went home. The speculum sat around for a little while until I finally got the courage. I inserted the speculum and started moving it around a little looking for my cervix. I couldn’t find it and after ten minutes or so I gave up, a little upset and disappointed.
The first time I attended a self help group I had heard a little about it and knew what to expect but only on a very basic level. We held my first one at the health center after we were done providing services for the day and we could turn the lights down a little, take off our shoes, and roll up our sleeves and start working on liberating ourselves, at least that’s what I felt it was like, and how I will always remember it being.
Some of the women who were there had been in many groups and had been practicing self help for quite sometime. This made me a little nervous but also thankful that there was somewhere there to guide us through the first meeting. We started by going over what a self help group is, how it functions as a cohesive unit, as a tool for empowerment and revolution, and ultimately how to learn to take control of your own body. By starting off with discussion we were able to loosen up a little and make ourselves feel a little more at home in the group. When it got to actual cervix showing a woman I know got up on the couch, found her cervix and let us all see without shame or embarrassment. I made a note of this and wanted to be able to do the same with being embarrassed about my imperfect body.
I looked at her cervix and was amazed that this tiny little thing got so much action: birth, menstruation, infections, etc. This one place in your body was so complex and it inspired me to definitely get to know my own body. I didn’t want it to be “Down There” anymore, or even a place I forgot about all the time. I continued with the self help group for awhile and learned so much about myself and my feminism because I was able to talk to women about so many different aspects of our lives, our bodies, and our perceptions. In the self help group I felt real sisterhood. I knew that I could call anyone of my group members at any time of the night or day with a question about anything. I learned that the movement is continuing and I felt it building because of the barriers we were able to break down that exist between us because of the patriarchy. 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 feminisms, learn about yourself in anyway you can. IT’S LIBERATING.
This article was published in Women's Spark, the newsletter of the Associated Students Women's Center, CSUC, Women's Bodies Week, October 2006.