Right after the DOT Summit last week, I headed off to meet my cousin and aunt in Atlanta for the 2010 Reproductive Health conference put on in part by the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals. There are quite a few things I could say about it, but I will just highlight just a few:
- There was a session about talking to clients about sexuality in which a woman tried to convince practitioners that it was a good idea to talk to their clients about sexuality in addition to reproductive health issues. This blows my mind; I did not realize these were two different topics or that you could separate reproductive health from positive sexuality, violence against women, consent, sexual orientation, etc. In college, teaching sex ed included educational information about STIs and contraception (I certainly handed out my fair share of condoms at AU...), but no one would show up if you didn't talk about positive sexuality, too (read: condoms protect your health...and can make oral sex taste like strawberries, too!!). And time was totally wasted if you didn't talk about consent and what makes for a good relationship (e.g. it is hard to protect yourself from STIs or have fun having sex if your partner is abusive/coercive). When I brought up my confusion with my aunt and cousin, their response was that they don't really teach the counseling skills necessary to have these conversations in med school. And since you only have 5 minutes to talk to each client, unless they bring up a specific question, you don't really have time to start talking to them about all these issues. So much for holistic , woman-friendly, health care.
- Ditto on domestic violence/contraceptive coercion. A speaker urged the group to have conversations with any clients presenting risk factors about contraceptive coercion (a partner negatively influencing a woman's ability to make her own reproductive health decisions). Aren't providers doing this already?!?!?!! Apparently, most providers ask if there is any history of domestic abuse but if the answer is no, they don't really pursue it either because they have time or because some clients get offended if you seem to be pushing.
- Here's one that I should have been prepared for: Atlanta doesn't suck. I am a true believer in the fact that DC is the best city on earth: not too big, not too small, decent public transportation (don't argue with that, folks. I haven't driven in over a year and haven't been inconvenienced in any major way because of it), politics, night life (if you want it...), art, music, FREE MUSEUMS (why isn't stuff free everywhere? I just don't understand), people that I like to hang out with. Why would I want to go anywhere else? Generally I don't. But as far as not-DC goes, Atlanta wasn't bad. We skipped the touristy stuff (although I did walk by CNN Center and the Centennial Olympic Park) and just checked out neighborhoods. Decatur and North Highlands seemed extremely livable. And despite us never figuring out what combination of trains and buses were needed to get us to Emory (we didn't try THAT hard), the public transportation worked pretty well for our basic needs.
- Exploring Atlanta, I noticed something about myself, too. DC has caused me to build this pretty tough city-shell that doesn't really work very well in other locations. I am pretty off-putting to begin with (I function on a scale of "I'm bored" to crazy feminist), but DC has taught me to distrust anyone approaching me on the street, to be on guard against street harassers, and to expect taxi drivers to be more likely to hit you than stop for you. People in Atlanta are nice. I mean, walk-you-to-your-destination-instead-of-just-pointing-you-in-the-right-direction nice. I assume there are other places where friendliness abounds, too. I am going to need an adjustment period if I end up leaving DC for grad school.
|Dunno if you can see this, but the shirt is 3D with what can only be described as a built-in slinky around the collar. Can you see the look of desire on my face?|
|CNN Center: where arrrrrre yoooooou, Anderson Cooper????|
|Centennial Olympic Park (like the National Mall, only without the monuments or all the lost tourists)|
Because really, how do you change a system that starts with the way we educate doctors, continues by making health care too expensive both for clients and providers (requiring providers to treat 5-10 clients an hour to be able to pay their staff), and is facilitated by poor sex ed for kids and adults? How do you change a system when the political climate is tough, when hospitals and doctors are trying to limit their legal liability in ways that have questionable or negative benefits for clients, and when we don't think of reproductive health, posititve sexuality and violence against women as interconnected issues to be dealt with simmultaneously?
Gosh I need to get that grad degree, don't I?