It is totally, exceptionally beautiful out today, and I’m sitting on the back patio at Aroma in a tank top, skirt, and kneesocks. The high today is 71 – 71 in MARCH. Ridiculous – but I’m not going to complain.
This morning, following a week of great trepidation, I performed my first pelvic exam. I was lucky to have a very particular and detail-obsessed instructor walk me through everything, which was really helpful, and I impressed her by not cross-contaminating at any point in the exam (this sounds horrifying to any woman, I’m sure, but believe me, we’re WAY more careful than most).
We use a technique called ‘wet hand dry hand’ to make sure that at no point in the exam do either the woman or the room become contaminated with things from the other. In practice this is frequently called ‘clean hand dirty hand’, which is interesting to me. In class the other day we talked about how everything is political, even things like birth control, which are nominally empowering to women, but which still require a male-dominated industry to dole them out. The terminology of ‘clean hand dirty hand’ is problematic in the same respect – which do you think is the clean hand? The one that is touching the woman’s body in the most intimate and private places? Or the hand that is touching the equipment, the sheets, or the lights?
The ‘dirty’ hand is the one that touches the body.
As a woman, I don’t want to be told that my body is ‘dirty’. As an instructor (or, thinking as a doctor), I don’t want to be introducing anything ‘dirty’ into a woman’s body. ‘Wet hand dry hand’ is much more straight forward and apolitical – the ‘wet hand’ touches the woman (and NOTHING else), and the ‘dry hand’ touches the equipment. There is no cross-contamination, and no politics or offense.
I expressed earlier that I was intimidated and unsure about this program, but the more I think about it, the more empowering and important I believe it is. This is an opportunity for women to advocate for themselves, for their physical health, and for the appropriate, polite, and caring treatment of other women. This is a way to be an advocate and to celebrate our bodies as women that isn’t just raising a fist to the sky and celebrating our gynecology. I am proud to be a part of it.