Countering Everyday Extremism Against Women: The Other Pandemic — Hannah.Nazri.org

The Weeping Women by Pablo Picasso (1937). Picasso, in today’s world, would have been labelled a misogynist. But have our values changed? I’d like to think that my generation does not tolerate bullshit.

An insidious form of extremism

But we do not have to be imaginative or travel far to witness day-to-day extremism against girls and women. An insidious form of extremism is society’s lack of recognition of women’s pain. 57% of 940 UK women [14] admitted that their period pains affected their ability to work. However, only 27% told their employers that their lack of productivity was due to period pains, echoing a similar Malaysian study [15]. Period pains leading to absenteeism could be due to endometriosis, a condition where uterus-like lesions are found outside of the uterus [16]. The fact that endometriosis pathophysiology is unknown, the lack of a non-invasive test for diagnosis (surgical diagnosis is gold standard) [17] and period pain normalisation, leads to an approximately 8-year gap [18] for women to be diagnosed with endometriosis. Women’s health remains understudied and underfunded. Indeed, there are five times more erectile dysfunction studies than pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS) studies, when only 19% of men experiencing erectile dysfunction and 90% of women experiencing PMS [19].

No age is too young

To tackle extremism against women, we must start young and from home. A concerted effort by all parties should be made to challenge gender stereotypes. The education on fundamental building blocks of a positive relationship should complement sex education. Children should be encouraged to refuse hugs, kisses or any forms of touch so that they learn about consent and healthy personal boundaries. The correct anatomical genitalia names must be taught to children to promote a healthy body image and the openness of asking about their sexual development and describing inappropriate touch. Periods should not be taboo, and boys should treat girls on their periods with care and respect. Contraception, STDs and medical complications of being pregnant young and young parenting, should form the syllabus because abstinence-only education is ineffective in reducing teen pregnancy rates [26]. The 2009 UNESCO [27] review of 87 studies found that none of these sex education programmes led to an earlier sexual activity onset, with a third found to reduce sexual activity frequency, and more than third led to less sexual partners. Additionally, teens should be taught about the dangers of sexting, online pornography (in promoting unhealthy body image and biases against women) and sexual harassment, as well as child marriage, FGM, their rights, and resources for seeking help. Gender inequality and its present issues should be taught with an emphasis on the toxicity of hegemonic masculinity. These must be complemented with laws and policies that empower girls and women to seek help should they suffer discriminating practices.

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Medical Doctor & DPhil candidate in Obstetrics & Gynaecology at the University of Oxford. Youth education & women's rights advocate.

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Hannah Nazri

Hannah Nazri

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Medical Doctor & DPhil candidate in Obstetrics & Gynaecology at the University of Oxford. Youth education & women's rights advocate.